2020 unfolds with the US economy in (slow) growth mode, unemployment rates at historic lows, and stock market indexes at record highs. Given this economic environment, you might think that the financial health of Americans is fine and dandy. In truth, research from the Financial Health Network indicates that around 70% of all low- and moderate-income Americans are either struggling to get from paycheck to paycheck or are currently financially vulnerable.
Here are some other recent data points to consider:
40% of Americans would struggle to cover a $400 unexpected expense. (source)
1 in 3 Americans have less than $5,000 in retirement savings and 1 in 5 have no retirement savings at all. (source)
Americans have a combined total of $1.64 trillion in outstanding student loans and $1.19 trillion in outstanding auto loans. It is vital to note that both loan types are growing at a pace that is far higher than US median income growth and defaults for these loans are at or near historic highs. (source)
The richest 10% of US households hold 70% of all total US household wealth while the bottom 50% hold just 1%. Under current policies, the massive disparity in household wealth (the "wealth gap") continues to grow with reckless abandon. The wealth gap is even wider for black and Latino households. (source)
The federal minimum wage in 2020 is $7.25. It has not changed since 2009. Note: 29 states and 44 municipalities have enacted laws that increased the min. wage employers located in these states and cities must pay their employees. (source)
Policies that create a more equitable and just economy will go a long way towards improving the financial health of many Americans. (Register to VOTE!)
Low- and moderate-income families and individuals can also substantially improve their financial health through the use of common-sense tech-aided interventions.
AFH believes that the best financial health tech for low-income users will follow some basic best practices (see below). These best practices come out of our work with so many amazing and insightful financial health service providers during a decade spent developing, implementing and nurturing the MyBudgetCoach financial health online platform, which has been used by almost 200 organizations in the Unites States.
Financial health interventions must be accessible to all and need to be embedded into the trusted online or in-person programs, products and services that low-income families and individuals are already using.
Appropriate tech-based services must be supported by readily available and highly-qualified human interactions (in-person OR remote).
Financial health interventions should be offered to people on a "just-in-time" basis. Context is key!
These best practices represent just a sample of our financial health tech product design expertise. Contact AFH to find out how our deep experience, knowledge, and network can help you!
About Peter Rubenstein
Peter Rubenstein is the Founder and CEO of About Financial Health. A veteran of the financial health field, Peter spent nearly a decade leading the development and growth of the MyBudgetCoach (MyBC) online financial health platform which has been used by nearly 200 organizations in the United States and South Africa. MyBC users have been able to save or pay off debt totaling more than $2 million since 2016 and have been able to measurably improve their financial health through the use of MyBC's online tools and content with a trained financial coach.
Peter and his team initially created MyBC in 2011 at a community-based nonprofit in Hartford, CT with the generous support of the Financial Health Network (formerly known as CFSI). A research study by the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison revealed that MyBC not only facilitated meaningful financial health improvements, but it did so even when clients and coaches worked remotely and never met in-person. The study validated the success of remote delivery of financial coaching for low-income individuals, which has advanced the financial health field.
Peter holds a Master of Public Administration from New York University and a BA in Public Policy Studies and Political Science from Syracuse University. Peter and his family live in Philadelphia, PA.