You Don’t Want Randy Quaid to Kidnap You on Christmas Eve, Do You?


I was watching the movie “Christmas Vacation” recently and a big part of the plot reminded me of how millions of consumers approach a plan for using their holiday bonus:

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) ordered a new swimming pool for his family, assuming that the annual holiday bonus would be more than enough to cover the costs. Unfortunately for Clark, his holiday bonus turned out to be membership in the ‘Jelly of the Month Club,’ leaving him stuck with a bill he couldn’t pay and in a jam with his family (pun intended).

A similar scenario plays out every day in many households across the country. With economic challenges facing most employers, the annual bonus often is a fraction of what it used to be, if there is a bonus at all. When times were good, many people became so conditioned to receiving an annual bonus that it became an integral part of their cash flow. Rather than viewing the bonus as a nice windfall, too many people developed a dependency on this annual check.

It’s truly a double-edged sword for employers. You want to reward employees when times are good. But, as soon as that spigot is shut off, it can cause significant employee morale issues. recently published some noteworthy stats from a survey:

More than half of the U.S. workforce lives paycheck to paycheck.

  • 61 percent of workers say they usually or always live paycheck to paycheck.
  • Increased income does not necessarily solve the problem as 30 percent of people with salaries over $100,000 also live paycheck to paycheck.

Many people save little, if any, money at all.

  • 36 percent of workers do not put any money into a retirement savings plan.
  • 33 percent of people don’t put any money aside for personal savings each month, and 30 percent save less than $100 each month.

At Levanto Financial, one of our primary missions is to make sure our clients are financially healthy, which for many means: they have visibility in WHAT they spend, and are living well within their means. It sounds like a simple concept, but in reality, 40 percent of Americans spend more than they make. Step one is to get our clients to take a look at their NET pay, then to make sure their expenses fit under this cap and that they’re planning for those ‘unplanned’ expenses. By helping them better understand their spending issues, their overall cash flow will improve, making them less dependent on an elusive bonus.

From an employer’s perspective, this is extremely helpful. Having employees who are financially stable improves employee productivity and it means enjoyment next year when they do get a holiday bonus (or less angst if they don’t).

Right now, we are working with several companies, large and small, to provide Levanto Financial’s personal finance coaching & planning services as an employee benefit. In addition to improving their employee’s financial stability AND reducing health care costs, it also shows that they care about the team members’ well-being, which will pay dividends down the line (For more information about the ROI on financial wellness in the workplace, visit

Besides, you don’t want your employees to resolve their holiday bonus the way Clark Griswold did. His crazy cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) kidnapped Clark’s boss and made him reconsider the employee bonuses… I’m sure that’s a scenario you’d like to avoid!