Written By: Shana Beal
It’s no secret that many people in America are struggling. Inflation, inconsistent income, and the aftershocks of the pandemic continue to make financial prosperity an uphill battle for many people across the income spectrum, but particularly for those earning low incomes.
At SaverLife, we see these realities every day, and the pandemic exposed deep fault lines along which many of our members live.
Almost immediately, we set out to track the impact of the pandemic on the financial lives of SaverLife members through data and storytelling. Our research showed a different reality than was often receiving headline coverage.
More than half of our members were unemployed or furloughed–and this number jumped as high as 83% in June 2020. Seventy percent of SaverLife parents reported earning less money, and only 43% could work from home.
These data points are an essential tool for understanding what members were facing, however, they only tell part of the story. Our work isn’t just about research; it’s about individual stories of struggle and resilience. It’s about people. People who, throughout the pandemic, have shared stories with us about being evicted. People who lost loved ones and jobs. People who struggled to care for their children and feed their families.
We wanted to provide a megaphone for those stories, which is why we created Hard Hit. Through this project, we told the stories of five women who were hard hit by the pandemic.
These are the stories of real women–not just data points.
These are women like Tara, a small business owner who lost her husband to COVID-19 and then had to fight to bring her business back from the brink, and Michelle, a caregiver with a chronic illness that leaves her in unimaginable pain. They are women like Shelly, who has changed jobs three times to maintain her hours, and Brittany, whose high-risk pregnancy has prevented her from working, or Rhiannon, the mom of an immunocompromised daughter making difficult decisions to keep her family afloat financially.
In the midst of impossible circumstances, these women gave birth to children, started new careers, turned a profit in their business, and continued to care for those most important to them.
We shared these stories to change existing narratives about people living with low incomes. Specifically, we wanted to reach an audience that believed in hard work and personal responsibility for poverty. By testing our language and calls to action, we created highly successful ads with our target audience. To reach these “tough cookies,” we used language focused on perseverance, fighting for a family’s well-being, and a hopeful tone.
The resilience of these women and the stories that affected our target audience are not unique among our members. Despite the challenges they face, our members are committed to building financial security for themselves and their families. Since the pandemic began:
- 50% of members have been able to increase their balances in a given month.
- ⅔ of members who have joined since the beginning of 2020 have deposited at least $500 in their first six months as members.
These numbers might not seem like a lot, but our research shows that even a $100 savings increase can make a huge impact. In 2020, we partnered with the FINRA Foundation to conduct a study shedding new light on the role savings plays in shaping financial well-being and stability for lower-income households in the United States.
Our research found that savings amounts as small as $100 correlate with members being able to avoid high-cost borrowing, being significantly better able to pay utility bills, and experiencing greater financial satisfaction.
As people with low incomes continue to deal with the financial fallout from the pandemic, SaverLife is committed to amplifying the lived experiences of people like Tara, Shelly, Rhiannon, Brittany, Michelle, and the more than 600,000 people we serve.