Unexpected Hope for Unexpected Expenses

New tires for your car.

An emergency medical bill. 

Your landlord increases your rent.

Unwelcome and surprising expenses happen to everyone, but to the 28% of Americans who have less than $1,000 in personal savings, they can lead to immense financial difficulty and debt. Molly Ray observed this reality over and over in her role at Saturn Five, a Denver-based holding company that invests in small businesses and their employees. “If you don’t have [extra buffer money], it can cause a lot of stress and fear of unexpected expenses, and then if an unexpected expense does happen…what do you do?” This question was in the back of Molly’s mind as she started the 5280 Fellowship through Denver Institute in the fall of 2023. The Fellowship experience prompted her to address that question by researching and testing new financial savings tools to support employees at her workplace.

Molly’s previous work in international missions had a direct link to her faith–more people came to know Jesus. But, when she transitioned into the business sector at Saturn Five, she struggled to articulate the role of business in God’s work in the world. The 5280 Fellowship helped her realize that whatever she does in obedience to God is valuable, whether discipling young people or investing in small businesses. She left equipped with ideas and language to show how business can bring hope and life to those it impacts. Molly says, “If you do your work with excellence, it benefits your customers, your employees, and the broader community, and I think [it] can push a lot of good forward.” Businesses can provide a safe work environment, fair and ethical pay practices, benefits to support the whole person, outstanding customer service, and environmentally responsible practices, to name a few. 

This belief in business as a catalyst for good and the financial insecurity experienced by many employees inspired Molly’s professional project during her time in the Fellowship. As part of the program, fellows complete a professional project that challenges them to take redemptive action in their workplaces, or in Molly’s words, to acknowledge “when something is broken or not working properly [that] we can help make it better or make closer to what God designed.” She recognized and admitted, “We have employees living paycheck to paycheck who don’t have any buffer, and that’s not God’s intention of how people would live.” 

Her goal was to research, test, and select platforms for administering an Emergency Relief Fund and Emergency Savings Plan that companies across the Saturn Five portfolio could opt into. 

  • An Emergency Relief Fund provides money for employees in crisis with no expectation that the money will be paid back. The money in the fund is supplied by the company itself, outside donors, and often employees themselves who contribute. 

  • An Emergency Savings Plan creates easily accessible individual savings accounts that employees contribute to via payroll deductions. Often, companies offer matching contributions up to a certain amount as an incentive for participation. These plans help employees build their savings and support staff retention. 

In a trial run at one of the Saturn Five’s portfolio companies, employees contributed $500 to an Emergency Savings Plan and if they left it untouched for a year, the company would triple their savings. Over 75% of the employees participated and had their money tripled. 

While this was a small-scale effort, Molly was encouraged by the outcomes and looks forward to exploring these plans with other companies. She reflects, “It’s a simple way to help make someone’s life a little bit better. I don’t think an Emergency Savings Plan is going to completely change someone’s life, but I think it is a way to bless people, and it’s relatively easy [as a business].” While there is an administrative cost to implementing a plan like this, it often leads to greater loyalty and higher retention rates for employees which saves the time and energy of hiring and recruitment. According to one study administered by Voya, 55% of employees would be more likely to stay at their current job if it offered an emergency savings plan benefit.

Workplaces are being transformed because workers like Molly and companies like Saturn Five have the imagination, opportunity, and compassion to challenge the status quo. As she was working on her project, Molly kept coming back to the story of the Good Samaritan: “He saw something and did what he could. We do have the capacity as businesses and leaders to do something, so why wouldn’t we?” 

In his book The Economics of Neighborly Love, a deep dive on the parable of the Good Samaritan, Tom Nelson echoes this idea: “loving our neighbor in need involves both Christian compassion and economic capacity…Properly understood, [it] calls for truth, grace, and mercy to put on economic hands and feet” (15). The Emergency Savings Plan and Emergency Relief Funds are the economic hands and feet of Molly’s compassion for her coworkers. Her daily work is a conduit of care, a tangible expression of God’s provision for others through his people.

At the end of the parable of the Good Samaritan, Jesus commands his listeners to “Go and do likewise” (Luke 10:37), a command to go and demonstrate compassion through practical means. For Molly, that looks like offering financial tools to employees. What could it look like for you?

Molly Ray

Molly is a Denver native. After completing a business degree at CU Boulder, she moved to Australia to work with a non-profit in Perth, Australia for 7 years. She worked with young people and local churches in Australia, Asia, and Europe. Now, she is back in Colorado and grateful to be a part of the Saturn Five team.


We are taking a sabbatical year with the 5280 Fellowship in Fall 2024–Spring 2025. This will allow us to focus on launching several new initiatives within Denver Institute and give us time to redesign the 5280 Fellowship experience.