The Nonprofit Unlocking Millions in Savings

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The Nonprofit Unlocking Millions in Savings

6 min read May 11, 2020

“Something most people don’t understand,” says Carolyn Doyle, SaverLife user, “is that it’s terribly expensive to be poor. In our society, it feels like people who have wealth are rewarded and the poor are punished. SaverLife is doing something to fix that.”

Developed by EARN, a fintech focused on improving the financial health of working families, SaverLife helps Carolyn and thousands of others across America put a little money aside each month to prepare for life’s unexpected costs. By incentivizing people to regularly save a small amount of money, SaverLife sees people take their savings accounts from empty to a small cushion to protect them from car breakdown costs, medical expenses or overdue electricity bills.

Research from the Federal

On a mission to empower people

EARN, the nonprofit parent company of SaverLife, launched in 2001 as an organization to support savings in lower-income families. “Our mission is to empower people on lower incomes and help them to save money,” explains Shana Beal, EARN’s Director of Communications. “We’re fortunate to have ongoing support from MetLife Foundation as one of the founding funders of SaverLife. We set up the SaverLife platform in 2017 and so far we have 150,000 members using it.”

So how does it work?

On sign-up, new savers link their existing savings or checking account with SaverLife, which then enables the platform to see money going into their accounts. Savers can access saving tips and tricks, set their goals, make saving pledges and even receive digital financial content developed by a certified financial coach.

“SaverLife is dynamic and it’s always changing based on feedback from our savers,” says Shana. “We offer a lot of ‘incentivized savings’ – this includes prizes and cash rewards for people who manage to hit their savings goals. This type of prize-linked saving is really successful – and our data proves that. It helps people to think about how much they’re saving – especially if there’s a chance to win prizes.” Research shows that people who play the lottery spend about $514 per year – regardless of their socioeconomic status. SaverLife has helped to channel some of the excitement around winning into positive reinforcement for creating a savings habit.

EARN teamed up with Commonwealth, another innovative nonprofit and MetLife Foundation partner, to launch Scratch & Save for SaverLife users. For each week that members save at least $5, they receive a digital scratch card with the chance to win $5 or more. Just like a physical scratch card, savers scratch away the front of the card – but on a screen with their finger, not with a coin – to reveal if they have won a prize. At the launch, each member got a free scratch card, and the results showed that the people who took a chance on the original card were 14% more likely to save in any given week than those who didn’t play the original card. In fact, people who saved and scratched a card were 30% more likely to save again the following week compared to those who didn’t.

Saving money is about creating a discipline - a new routine in my life. - Carolyn Doyle, saver

A life-changing routine

“It’s not about how much I’ve saved or what I’ve been able to pay for,” explains Carolyn. “For me, it’s about the journey, not the destination. Saving money is about creating a discipline — a new routine in my life. I’ve always chosen to work for nonprofits so money has always been tight, and I have kids with special needs so I would like to not worry about money. SaverLife has helped me save and I don’t get discouraged if I’m only saving $5 – that’s $5 more than I would have saved otherwise.”

Savers’ habits haven’t gone unnoticed by the SaverLife team. Over the last year alone, members have saved a staggering $24 million. “It’s incredible,” Shana says. “As soon as people realize they can get prizes and rewards for putting money into their own accounts, they create that habit of saving. It can be hard to get started saving, but this really helps people. Our savers say that they carry on saving their money because it gives them a real confidence boost.”

SaverLife in numbers

Before saving with SaverLife After saving with SaverLife
Only 64% have a savings habit… Now 91% are saving and continue to save
Only 72% have a plan for a financial emergency…    Now 81% have a plan
Only 27% spend what they can afford… Now 52% spend what they can afford
Only 24% stick to a monthly budget… Now 42% stick to a monthly budget

A larger social issue

Many people from low- to moderate-income backgrounds are drawn to SaverLife because it can help them balance their household costs. Many low-income workers across the US are paid bi-weekly, so keeping on top of cash flow can be hard. “SaverLife is inviting everyone to the table and educating people on how to be smarter with money,” Carolyn explains. “Financial strain can become a real mental health issue, but knowing how you can help yourself can bring real peace of mind.”

Our savers say that they carry on saving their money because it gives them a real confidence boost. - Shana Beal, EARN

Big data on small savings

EARN is also looking at how they can continue to help people save once they’ve created better habits. This is where MetLife Foundation steps in. MetLife colleagues shared their expertise with EARN as part of the Foundation’s Inclusion Plus competition, but the help didn’t end there. Big Data on Small Savings, supported by MetLife, is a series of articles and research features that EARN publishes on its site to share information with other organizations working in the financial health space. Studying the data helps give EARN a deep customer understanding to anticipate future trends and inform future programs they can run through the SaverLife platform.

“EARN is sitting on a goldmine of user data,” explains Sarah Willis, Director, Financial Health and Inclusion at MetLife Foundation. “What they really excel at is changing behaviors. Let’s face it, behavior change isn’t easy. Saving isn’t sexy — people want to spend in the US’s very consumer-driven economy.

“With insights on why and how people can save money, that data can influence programs at EARN and SaverLife in the future. That’s why we support Big Data on Small Savings – so that EARN can innovate in real-time and in response to how their users behave. They’re such an exciting partner to have.”

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Nothing in these materials is intended to be advice for a particular situation or individual. These materials are for general information purposes only.