People across the globe struggle to save money that can be instrumental for withstanding financial shocks or unforeseen emergencies. There are many reasons for this—in some cases it may be structural, like not having access to a bank account, but often behavioral factors are at play, like the present bias that makes us more likely to spend today than save for tomorrow.
In Chile, many people can do their banking at familiar local shops thanks to CajaVecina, a correspondent bank for the country’s state-owned bank, BancoEstado. Because CajaVecina operates simplified bank branches in every municipality in the nation, nearly everyone has access to its services. More than 7.8 million people, 30% of the total population, use these branches. When people visit a local store that has a CajaVecina point-of-service device, they can (and do) make withdrawals and deposits, pay bills, or transfer money. One thing people rarely use this valuable and convenient service for? Saving.
Places like Chile demonstrate that even in areas with widespread access to financial services, account balances can remain stagnant. We know from insights into human behavior that having access to financial products is just the first step on the road to saving. The next step is addressing the behavioral barriers that make saving money challenging.
That’s why we have partnered with CajaVecina, thanks to the generous support of MetLife Foundation, to apply a behavioral lens to savings among CajaVecina customers. Because it is widely accessible and easy to use, we believe CajaVecina is an excellent tool for helping people accumulate consistent savings for emergencies and surprise expenses or other shocks. We are currently interviewing customers and observing transaction processes to try to identify specific barriers to savings. Over the next few months, we’ll use these insights to design and test interventions aimed at helping people in Chile use this service to build a financial cushion for when they need it most—when they’re least expecting it.