100,000 Members and the Meaning of (Saver)Life

We just hit a major milestone: 100,000 members have now joined SaverLife. This is cause for celebration. EARN is proving the strong demand for savings products specifically designed to meet the needs of low-income consumers. We think our members would agree – almost 90% of Savers report that they are putting aside money in savings every month they can and are living within their means.

But, like all major milestones, this is also a time for reflection. 100,000 Members is an impressive number – but what does it really mean? When we talk about technology we mostly focus on tech’s speed and scalability, but speed and scale aren’t worth much without meaning and impact. While I’m inspired by the opportunity to scale out to reach large numbers of consumers, I believe we must also scale deep and ensure that the products and services we deliver are providing real benefits to the people who use them.

People like Carolyn. For years, Carolyn had $5 in her savings account. But when she saw an ad for SaverLife on a San Francisco MUNI bus on the way to work, she signed up that same day. SaverLife’s emphasis on small savings helped Carolyn change her relationship with money.

“Now I feel like saving isn’t this big exhausting thing where you’re failing all the time. It’s manageable and it allows me to have more freedom,” she says.

Encouraged by her success with SaverLife, Carolyn is aiming to build a $2,000 emergency fund and then eventually to save money to help her daughter go to college.

I don’t just want 100,000 Members. I want 100,000 Members like Carolyn, who came to SaverLife and found something of value, something that mattered.

I joined EARN because I saw a powerful opportunity to apply emerging technologies to deep-rooted problems – in our case, widespread financial instability that is preventing too many Americans from experiencing economic mobility. I also recognized that as new tech-driven financial products and services emerged, the communities we care about were once again at risk of being excluded and left behind. I want to bring the financial needs – and the financial power – of low-income people into the fintech conversation.

If we can’t make life better for all consumers, then we aren’t living up to the promise of technology. Technology when placed in the right hands, can influence both personal behavior and drive systemic change. We need to build our capacity to do both if we are going to see the change we need to see to build a more equitable economy in this country.

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PS. This was a major milestone week for another reason: my husband and I welcomed our first child on Tuesday. I’ll be taking some time off over the summer to care for our new daughter and the EARN blog will feature some fun guest bloggers. I’ll see you in the fall!

Leigh is the president and CEO of EARN.