The average¹ American doesn’t have a substantial savings account to rely on. And in Anastasia Martin’s case, being short on backup funds went beyond the usual anxiety of what to do in the event of a medical emergency or a layoff. She was stuck in an abusive marriage, and without the funds to escape, she felt trapped.
“How [was] I going to pay rent? Bills? Internet? Phone?” she said, remembering her worries. Her situation is just one way in which the danger of living paycheck to paycheck can manifest itself, and it’s a danger that many people throughout the nation live with every day. The Federal Reserve reports that, last year, Americans’ personal savings rate fell to 3.1 percent, the lowest since the Great Recession.
This might explain why a growing number of companies are stepping in to help people out when they’re in a financial bind. When Martin won a court order of protection against her husband, for instance, New York’s Family Justice Center referred her to EARN, a nonprofit organization dedicated to “creat[ing] prosperity for working families by helping them save and invest in their futures.” EARN’s SaverLife program helps low- and middle-income families achieve financial security through a combination of small dollar incentives and online financial coaching; through SaverLife, Martin was able to build up an emergency fund, which she says makes her feel more at ease.
On the other side of the country, in San Francisco, Trina Wise faced her own financial predicament. She dreamt of sending her son to college, but with her modest wage working in public transportation in the country’s most expensive city, she had little left over in her budget for savings. One day, she spotted an ad on a bus for SaverLife—which launched with the help of a $1 million, three year grant from JPMorgan Chase. The organization pays participants a small reward for saving consistently, and this incentive helped Trina develop better saving habits.
“Now I [view] saving just like my rent or utility bill: an expense that I have to pay every month,” she said. Call it the secret sauce to SaverLife: Small rewards can make a difference in encouraging savings, and when combined with high-quality, free financial coaching, they can be life-changing.
Luckily, technology is enabling better accessibility to these services; fintech companies are developing financial solutions to help reach those who need it most, and enterprises across the nation are leveraging innovation to give financial assistance to underserved populations.
For instance, the Financial Solutions Lab, managed by Center for Financial Services Innovation with founding partner JPMorgan Chase, is dedicated to supporting the next generation of financial service products that serve those who can most benefit from them. Colleen Briggs, the Head of Community Innovation at JPMorgan Chase, believes that companies need to innovate in order to effectively reach populations in need. So she helped launch the Lab, which supports technology that gets financial resources to underserved populations; to date, it has boosted 26 groundbreaking fintech companies.
Programs like SaverLife and the Financial Solutions Lab are the start of a movement that is utilizing tech-driven creative thinking to help people get better at saving—and, hopefully, help all Americans build more secure financial situations.
“Financial inclusion is a problem that one company, government or organization cannot solve on its own,” said Janis Bowdler, Head of Financial Capability Initiatives at JPMorgan Chase. “[But] online and mobile platforms can be powerful tools for reaching the underserved and help them build better financial habits and meet their long-term goals.”
And if something as simple as SaverLife can help Martin find her way out of a bad situation, the potential to help even more people is promising. Naomi Camper, head of JPMorgan Chase’s Office of Nonprofit Engagement, sees the company’s investment in programs like SaverLife as just the beginning. “Our investment in EARN is really an investment in the American people,” Camper said. “Communities thrive when their residents are financially secure.”
Read more from JPMorgan Chase here.