The “Never Broke Account”

A much-needed car repair. A headstone for the grave of a loved one. A ticket to send a child to senior prom. Getting a driver’s license back. To never be hungry or homeless again.

These simple and deeply personal financial goals, set by real EARN Savers who are gaining a foothold on financial stability by saving $20 each month, may seem small and inconsequential to many of us. But for the one in two American families who struggle to cover a $400 financial emergency, even the little things often seem out of reach.

When you live close to the financial edge, a routine life event like a flat tire, a parking ticket or a few days off work with a sick kid can quickly lead to ruin.

A recent study from the Urban Institute found that residents’ financial insecurity costs cities anywhere from $8 million to $18 million in New Orleans to $280 million to $646 million in New York City. That’s because financially insecure families are 14x more likely to be evicted, 3x more likely to miss a housing payment, and 3x more likely to fall behind on utilities. It’s not just the very poor who suffer — when we talk about the financially vulnerable, we are talking about 50% of us. In EARN’s hometown of San Francisco an estimated 170,000 of the 360,000 families living here are financially insecure.

To tackle the savings crisis head-on, EARN and the San Francisco Bay Area are putting our money where our mouth is with SaverLife. SaverLife combines financial technology, small cash incentives, inspirational financial content and the support of employers, community organizations, and many others to put more people on solid financial ground.

SaverLife is simple: Save $20 a month, and we’ll match you $10. We believe that this investment is a smart way to transform financial fragility into community prosperity. And early results prove us right — in a pilot of SaverLife, savers set aside $558 on average in just six months.

You may be wondering how a couple of hundred bucks can make a difference, especially in a high-cost city like San Francisco. But the Urban Institute research proves that having just $250 to $749 in savings means a family is less likely to be evicted or receive public benefits after a financial shock. More importantly, regular savings is one of the top three predictors of low-income people experiencing mobility out of the bottom 20% of the economy, according to Pew Charitable Trust.

Income alone will not solve the challenges facing low-income families working to escape poverty and attain lasting financial security. A savings habit, and the stability it brings, is equally important. We need to buy into our community, so our families can buy into a better future.

EARN will be bringing data-driven SaverLife campaigns to more cities and regions across the country. To learn more about how you can Buy Into Your Community, visit SaverLife.org.

Leigh Phillips
Leigh is the president and CEO of EARN.