Always Look On the Brightside

Emily Brady |

Jessica was walking into work one morning at a large distribution center in rural Illinois when something caught her eye. It was an advertisement for a benefit her company was offering called Brightside. 

“If you need financial help, reach out,” the ad said.

As she went about her work that day, using a semi-trailer to move containers full of goods to and from the loading dock, Jessica thought about how her debt was impacting her life. She owed $20,000 on her credit cards—some carried interest rates of nearly 30%— and $25,000 in student loans for a for-profit college that had been shut down.

“I needed help to try and get my credit score up,” Jessica recalls. 

Though she lived at home with her parents and her 8-year-old son, Jessica yearned to buy a house of her own and needed better credit to do so. Shortly after she saw the ad, Jessica reached out to Brightside to learn about how they might be able to help her.

Brightside is a company that was created to improve the financial health of working families, whose financial needs are often underserved. An estimated 61% of Americans live paycheck to paycheck, and 71% say that money is their biggest source of stress. Americans pay $120 billion in credit card interest and fees every year, that’s around $1,000 for every U.S. household.

These financial struggles affect employers too. Financially-stressed employees miss 16 more days of work per year, on average. They are 2x more likely to look for a new job, and their healthcare costs are around 30% higher. That equates to $4,200 lost per employee per year for employers. 

All of these reasons are what prompted Tom Spann to co-found Brightside in 2017, after a long career in the healthcare industry. Spann realized how much a person’s financial health affects every aspect of their lives and saw an opportunity to help.

“We call ourselves financial care,” says Spann. “We’re not only financial wellness, we’re urgent care and primary care for financially sick people.”

The idea behind Brightside is to make it easier for people to do the right thing, he explains. That means everything from enabling employees to start a savings account with just a few clicks to helping them figure out which of their bills to pay off first, among other things.

In Jessica’s case, the help started with easy communication. After she downloaded the Brightside app, Jessica could message with a financial assistant at almost any hour of the day.

“I always use the app on the phone due to my busy work schedule and being a mom,” she says.  

After Jessica shared her bills and credit report with her Brightside Financial Assistant, the company made an action plan for her that included consolidating her credit card debt into a single loan at a lower interest rate. Brightside also helped her refinance her car. In total, Brightside helped save Jessica more than $15,000 in future interest payments. 

Brightside is now working with Jessica to help her understand how she can access federal student loan forgiveness. Her credit score has increased by 30 points since she started using Brightside, and Jessica has opened a savings account and started setting aside money on a weekly basis to save for a downpayment on a house. 

While Jessica’s story is certainly a happy one, fortunately, it’s not unusual for people who use Brightside. Brightside users payoff debts in collections on average 5x faster than people who don’t use the service and save an average of $1,200 per household per year. These are some of the many reasons Jessica sings their praises.

“I’ve been trying to tell my coworkers about Brightside. I tell them they will help you figure out what bills are due when, and if you have credit cards, they will help you figure out what card to pay off first to help you save interest,” Jessica says. “They will sit there and talk to you like they are your genuine friend and try to help you with whatever situation you are facing.”

Emily Brady

Emily brings 20 years of experience in investigative journalism, writing, and content strategy to Obvious Ventures.

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