Sun Life Financial Inc. (NYSE: SLF, TSX: SLF) today announced a powerful partnership that marries the financial services company’s commitment to advancing financial literacy education and workplace wellness with one of the nation’s foremost financial literacy advocates to eradicate America’s culture of debt.
dfree®, developed by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr. and featured on the CNN documentary, “Almighty Debt,” is an ambitious movement that aims to emancipate American workers, students and employers from one of the biggest challenges facing our country’s economic prosperity – the crippling $2.635 trillion in U.S. consumer debt1.
Sun Life is partnering with dfree® to galvanize the public to overcome this epidemic through the Breaking Free Workplace Tour, a public awareness campaign that educates audiences across the country, challenges them to pledge to lead debt free lives and provides a solution through free financial literacy education training and tools. The goal is to encourage consumers to become financially self-sufficient, greatly improving their quality of life while helping companies increase workplace productivity, morale and loyalty along the way.
The economic and societal costs associated with ill-informed financial decisions and the resulting feelings of powerlessness can be devastating. 76 percent of workers cite the state of their personal finances as a major cause of stress2 leading to decreased productivity and higher absenteeism.
“Debt is becoming embedded in our society and our partnership with dfree® speaks to Sun Life’s commitment to reverse this trend by encouraging financial self-sufficiency and empowerment,” said Sun Life Financial U.S. President Wes Thompson. “Our goal is to help employers and employees understand the causal relationship between financial stability and health and prosperity, while providing them with the knowledge and resources necessary to achieve financial freedom.”
Through the Breaking Free Workplace Tour, which will include visits to select cities and to historically black colleges and universities this fall, Sun Life and dfree® will help U.S. workers, students and employers assess, pay down and manage debt through a variety of user-friendly money management tools and resources. This includes the Breaking Free Workbook, which will provide participants with interactive activities and evaluation tools to help them achieve financial self-sufficiency. People will also be encouraged to join the Billion Dollar Challenge, a free grassroots campaign started by Dr. Soaries to reduce consumer debt by a total of $1 billion. The Challenge will be operated through a confidential, password-protected web-based program, in which users can create and track personal debt payment goals and form support groups.
Sun Life will roll out financial literacy training programming to all of its U.S. based employees. As part of the program, each employee will receive the Breaking Free Workbook and participate in interactive training seminars led by Dr. Soaries. In addition, Sun Life will provide its current and prospective clients throughout the U.S. with the opportunity to offer dfree® programming to their employees.
“I have witnessed first-hand how debt and financial stress, particularly in the workplace, can cause serious suffering and ill health, so I’m excited to partner with a successful company like Sun Life that is committed to financial wellness and security for all people – students, families, workers and its own customers and employees,” said Dr. Soaries. “Together, Sun Life and dfree® share a deep commitment to helping low-income communities and individuals change their financial futures through education, technology, new tools and mentoring. I look forward to working together to spread our message and challenge more people across the country to live debt-free lives.”
Dr. Soaries, who served as New Jersey’s 30th Secretary of State and currently sits on the board of the Federal Home Loan Bank of New York, first introduced dfree® to his 7,000-member congregation at First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, N.J. Soaries’ program emphasizes living without debt, within your means and paying bills on time: no debt, deficits or delinquencies. The pastor is specifically focused on the predatory lending practices of the high-interest “payday loan” businesses, and on the spiritual, health and community benefits of economic empowerment and self-sufficiency.
In addition to providing support to Americans through the tour, Sun Life will provide the free financial education curriculum to its Sun Life Rising Star Awards program recipients. The company’s signature philanthropy program, now in its third year, addresses low high school graduation rates in large urban school districts by providing financial resources and education to students and nonprofit organizations committed to increasing success in high school and beyond, as well as promoting financial literacy as a means to achieve life-long financial wellness and stability.
About Sun Life Financial
Sun Life Financial is a leading international financial services organization providing a diverse range of protection and wealth accumulation products and services to individuals and corporate customers. Chartered in 1865, Sun Life Financial and its partners today have operations in key markets worldwide, including Canada, the United States, the United Kingdom, Ireland, Hong Kong, the Philippines, Japan, Indonesia, India, China and Bermuda. In the United States and elsewhere, insurance products are offered by members of the Sun Life Financial group that are insurance companies. Sun Life Financial Inc., the holding company for the Sun Life Financial group of companies, is a public company. It is not an insurance company and does not offer insurance products for sale in the United States or elsewhere, and does not guarantee the obligations of its insurance company subsidiaries. In the United States, Sun Life Financial provides a range of products and services to employers and their employees. The U.S. Employee Benefits Group Division of Sun Life Financial offers group and voluntary life, disability, dental and stop-loss insurance products. These products are issued by Sun Life Assurance Company of Canada in all states except New York. In New York, these products are issued by Sun Life Insurance and Annuity Company of New York. Product offerings may not be available in all states and may vary depending on state laws and regulations. For more information please visit www.sunlife.com/us. Sun Life Financial Inc. trades on the Toronto (TSX), New York (NYSE) and Philippine (PSE) stock exchanges under the ticker symbol SLF.
In 2005, Dr. Soaries began a ministry at the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, NJ designed to help church members eliminate their debt, pay their bills on time and live within their means. After five years of using the dfree® strategy to motivate families to use resources that facilitate financial freedom, Dr. Soaries decided to share his strategy with the country in his book: dfree®: Breaking Free from Financial Slavery. His goal is to help one million families live a debt-free lifestyle. The dfree® strategy was designed as a response to our culture of debt. It provides tools and resources to help individuals and families become financially free. It is a holistic strategy that makes it popular to pursue economic freedom. It is delivered through education, celebration and support and is used by churches, organizations and ordinary people with their friends. A dfree® lifestyle gives us peace of mind, economic power and most of all; it allows us the opportunity to focus on life’s real purpose and the achievement of dreams without the distraction and burden of bills and debt.
SLPC 24175 04/2012 (Exp. 04/2013)
1 The Federal Reserve Bank of New York Quarterly Report on Household Debt and Credit, February 2012. Excludes mortgage and home equity line of credit balances
2 American Psychological Association 2011 Stress in America Report, January 11, 2011.
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