About half of Americans would have to borrow money to pay an unexpected $400 bill, the Federal Reserve Board says.
Financial anxiety can also be a big work distraction, leading to absenteeism and lost productivity, adds consulting firm PwC.
Comcast Corp agrees that it's a big problem.
And now Comcast Ventures — an arm of the Philadelphia firm that seeds start-ups — thinks it has a solution, launching a start-up called Brightside to help people deal with personal finances. The service, described as a "employee financial health platform," will be offered for free as a Comcast employee benefit — just like health insurance or vacation.
Comcast's human resources department is Brightside's first client. Brightside also will offer the service to other corporate HR departments to be included in employee benefit packages.
"Financial health is the next big thing," said Michael Yang, a managing director of Comcast Ventures. Comcast Ventures envisions Brightside as an "unbiased and trusted companion" for an employee, saying there would be a privacy firewall between Brightside and Comcast so that the corporation can't peek into employees' personal finances.
Yang described the Brightside as "nudging people to do the right thing" with bills and loans through an app, as well as Brightside representatives speaking to employees about financial issues.
It could handle such questions as how much money should workers put into their 401(k)? How can they improve their credit scores? How can they save for children's college? And what should they do about taxes?
Early-stage funding for Brightside is $4 million, split between Comcast Ventures and Trinity Ventures, a Silicon Valley investor in early-stage companies.
Brightside is conceptually similar to Accolade, another Comcast Ventures firm that helps employees navigate their health-insurance benefits in what some have described as personal advocacy.
Founded in 2007, Accolade has 1.2 million members and about 500 employees in Plymouth Meeting. Clients for the Accolade service include Comcast, United Airlines, Lowe's, Temple University Health System and AmeriGas.
Accolade has raised $210 million in funding . The company's executives split tine between Seattle and Plymouth Meeting offices.
Comcast was looking for a service such as Brightside to offer its employees to improve their financial well-being but couldn't find one, leading Comcast Venture to help launch Brightside, Yang said.
Shawn Leavitt, senior vice president of Comcast Total Rewards in the human resources department, said that Brightside will give Comcast a competitive advantage as an added employee benefit. Comcast and NBCUniversal employ about 160,000.