Program Management

Incentivized Savings

Overview

Savings are widely understood to stabilize workers and decrease their financial stress, supporting their attendance, productivity, and sustained engagement in the labor force. Workers can also use savings to accumulate additional assets or to weather financial shocks. Incentives can motivate and increase savings.

Social enterprise can encourage and reward saving by its workers by adding additional funds to the savings of workers who achieve designated savings benchmarks or demonstrate consistent savings behavior.

Implementation

Workers demonstrate that they have achieved set savings benchmarks or have demonstrated desired pro savings behavior (e.g., consistent savings contributions). They are rewarded with additional resources of either a fixed amount or some percent of what they’ve saved. There can be variation in the amount of the incentive, amount of savings required to earn the incentive, and in the types of accounts, delivery mechanisms, and whether and which partners.

Assessment

Effectiveness and relevance

A structured incentivized program has been demonstrated to support positive savings behavior, including among low-income individuals.  Although rigorous research on workplace financial wellness programs is limited, savings are widely understood to stabilize workers and decrease their financial stress, supporting their attendance, productivity, and sustained engagement in the labor force.

Availability of public resources

There are almost no public programs that allow for their funds to be directed to an individual’s savings. However, there are potentially some public resources available to support financial education and coaching that build financial capability around savings.

Regulatory barriers

Although there has been significant progress in recent years, workers receiving some public benefits may be limited in how much savings they’re allowed to accumulate and still remain eligible for public benefits (can vary state by state).

Upfront coordination and time required

Some upfront time is necessary to determine amount of  incentive and policies and timeline for eligibility and accessing. Additional time may be required if the SE is also planning to provide relevant financial education, coaching or products. Less time is necessary if the SE is just providing an incentive or if managed by a partner or if only an incentive is offered.

Examples

Juma Ventures offers a match to savings for its social enterprise workers.

Hot Chicken Takeover matches savings up to $700.

Further Reading

This report summarizes findings from the American Dream Demonstration which concluded, among other things, “that a structured program with incentives, information, and facilitation may increase savings of the poor“ and that “Higher match rates are positively associated with being a “saver.”

This study found that higher matching rates encouraged more low and middle income tax clients to contribute to an Individual Retirement Account and increased the amount that they contributed.

This case study describes a matched savings program for hourly workers at Levi Strauss & Company’s retail and distribution centers.

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