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National Credit Union Foundation research shows simple email can increase savings and sense of financial well-being

Start at Home

MADISON, WI (November 15, 2022) – A new report published today by the National Credit Union Foundation (the Foundation) shows that credit unions can measurably increase their employees’ financial well-being through initiatives as simple as a prompting email.

The Foundation’s Start at Home report summarizes a two-year long grant project that explored whether positive saving behaviors—primarily splitting an employee’s direct deposit so a portion goes directly into savings—could be established through basic prompts.

Three credit unions participated in the project: Alabama Credit Union, Credit Human and Educational Employees Credit Union. Researchers from Duke University and the University of Southern California oversaw program design, data collection and final analysis. The project ran from June 2020 to May 2022.

Employees at each credit union were randomly assigned to a control or a treatment group. The median increase for split deposits within the treatment group was 7.5 percent, compared to just 1.65 percent in the control.

Additionally, while not an intended output of the study, Start at Home provides directional evidence that taking action like allocating a fixed percentage of income to savings can have a positive effect on an individual’s subjective financial health. One participating credit union saw a 20 percent positive increase in their employees’ response to savings-specific metrics.

“We know credit union employees are just as financially vulnerable as the millions of members they serve, every day,” said Michelle Bonner, the Foundation’s Senior Manager for Financial Inclusion and Impact. “Credit unions are looking for ways to help their staff, and our Start at Home grant project shows that significant, measurable improvements can be made with essentially cost-neutral interventions.

“This initiative is absolutely replicable at other credit unions. Our hope is the report and its findings can be the spark that catalyzes others to take similar action.”

All three of the participating credit unions have confirmed their intent to continue and/or expand the current intervention.

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