We all know building habits is hard.
And few are harder to build than the habit of saving money.
But what if someone paid you to save? Would that get your attention?
We recently discovered a program that’s paying 14,000 people to save money. And you could be next…
Why Saving Money Matters
In 2001, a nonprofit organization called EARN was founded in San Francisco.
Its mission? Help local low-income families save for big-ticket items like a house or a college education.
Over more than a decade of running the program, however, EARN discovered its users weren’t motivated by those big goals. They were motivated by having something to fall back on.
“What changed for them the most was having that money in the bank,” says Shana Beal, director of communications for EARN. “It gave them confidence and hope that things could be better.”
And they were right to feel that way.
Families with savings between $250 and $749 are less likely to be evicted, miss housing payments, or receive public benefits after a job loss or health issue.
“We call it the ‘savings cushion’ of $500,” Beal explains. “Without that, if you get a flat tire and you use your car to get to work, you could end up getting fired. Having that money in the bank really increases your financial resilience.”
How SaverLife Pays You to Start Saving Money
Unfortunately, nearly half of Americans don’t have access to such a savings cushion. So EARN decided to help people build one incrementally, and on a national level.
In October 2016, it launched the EARN Starter Saving Program, which incentivizes people to save small amounts of money. Since the program’s inception, it’s helped users save more than $1 million.
The platform recently rebranded as SaverLife, and now has 14,000 active savers.
Its flagship program is called “Save $20, Get $10” — and just like it sounds, it’ll give you $10 for every $20 you save.
I know, I know; it sounds too good to be true. But stay with me… here’s how it works.
- After signing up for a free SaverLife account, you’ll connect your savings account from your current bank. (The same way you would with, say, Paypal or Venmo.)
- For six months, you’ll put at least $20 per month of your own money into your savings account. You’ll also receive weekly emails with tips and strategies from SaverLife’s financial coach.
- At the end of each month, SaverLife will analyze your bank account to see how much you managed to save.
- When the six-month period is over, it’ll deposit an additional $10 for every month you successfully saved at least $20.
In other words? If you were vigilant in saving every month, you’ll end up with a total of $180: $120 of your own money, plus $60 from SaverLife.
“What’s crazy is that most of our savers go way above that amount,” says Beal. “The average increase in wealth is $465.”
Even better, you could gain a long-lasting financial habit. Six months after finishing with the program, 84% of participants say they’ve developed a savings habit and are saving more than when they’d started, Beal explains.
How to Start Saving Money With SaverLife
The best part about SaverLife? (OK, aside from the free money?) It’s super easy to join.
The only eligibility requirements are that you’re at least 18 and have an email address and U.S. bank account.
SaverLife connects with more than 9,000 institutions, so if you don’t have a bank account yet, check out this list for some solid suggestions.
As for security, the site “uses the same encryption and security standards as banks,” says Beal.
“SaverLife only tracks your transaction amounts, and doesn’t store your online banking credentials.”
And, if you don’t want to participate in the program anymore, you can unlink your account at any time.
Ready to sign up? Follow these steps.
- Visit SaverLife and enter your name and email address.
- Connect your savings account by logging into your bank’s online portal.
- For the next six months, deposit at least $20 per month into your savings account.
- End up with $180 — and hopefully a savings habit to last a lifetime.
Right now, SaverLife is also offering a special bonus: Save at least $50 from your tax return, and you’ll be entered to win weekly prizes of $100 each through May 11, 2018.
Then, when tax season is over, you could enter its essay contest to win an additional $5,000.
What’s the Catch?
I know what you shrewd Penny Hoarders are thinking: There must be a catch. But I’m happy to report there isn’t one.
“We’re not trying to make any money,” says Beal. “We’re not stealing anybody’s data or trying to sell anybody’s product. Our mission is to see more people feel financially confident and stable — and make a better life for themselves through saving.”
The organization doesn’t need to charge fees because it’s privately funded: mostly through grants from organizations like The MetLife Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, J.P Morgan Chase and Capital One.
And though SaverLife is a fairly new program, EARN has been around for nearly two decades. It received a score of 70.91 (out of 100) from Charity Navigator for “financial health” and a score of 100 for “accountability and transparency.” It also has an A+ rating with the Better Business Bureau.
“Saving is something that everybody wants to do tomorrow,” says Beal. “It’s something that’s really long term and may not be at the top of your priority list when you have to feed a family tonight or get to work tomorrow…
“But if you sign up and commit to finding that $20, it will change your life — it will give you that freedom and peace of mind today.”
Susan Shain is a freelance writer and digital nomad. She covers travel, food and personal finance (basically, how to save money so you can travel more and eat more). Visit her blog at susanshain.com, or say hi on Twitter @susan_shain.