Real Money, Real Experts

Under-banked and overlooked: Helping our vulnerable populations with Leigh Phillips

September 24, 2021 AFCPE® Season 1 Episode 36
Real Money, Real Experts
Under-banked and overlooked: Helping our vulnerable populations with Leigh Phillips
Show Notes Transcript

What does it truly mean to be unbanked or under-banked? What unexpected impacts can it have on the financial security of our clients?

We dive into these questions on this eye-opening episode of Real Money, Real Experts with Leigh Phillips, President of SaverLife, a national nonprofit that helps working families achieve prosperity by taking small savings steps. From lack of access to emergency funds to predatory debt traps, Leigh shares the serious barriers to financial stability that come with being unbanked or under-banked and shines light on the steps AFCPE professionals can take to help.

Don’t forget, SaverLife will be one of our keynote sessions at our upcoming 2021 AFCPE symposium, sharing powerful stories about the struggles and resilience of those hardest hit by the pandemic. If you enjoyed this episode, you don't want to miss it!

Show Notes:

00:52 Leigh Introduction
01:40 Leigh’s Journey into the Field of Finance
05:08 History of Bank on San Francisco
08:43 Financial Implications of Being Unbanked or Underbanked
11:12 Inspiring Individuals to Start Saving with SaverLife
17:50 How just $100 in Savings can Change your Life
22:26 Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic
26:04 How AFCPE® Professionals Can Help
28:48 Connect to SaverLife & Access Resources

 Show Note links:

Get in contact with Leigh and SaverLife:

Twitter: @wearesaverlife and @twoleighp
LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/saverlife
www.SaverLife.org

Resources:
www.About.saverlife.org 
https://about.saverlife.org/research-posts/finra
https://joinbankon.org/
https://www.fdic.gov/analysis/household-survey/index.html
https://cfefund.org/
https://www.hardhit.org/
https://www.hardhit.org/data
www.afcpe.org/career-and-resource-center/certification-scholarships/
www.afcpe.org/symposium 

Intro:

Welcome to Real Money, Real Experts, a podcast where leading financial counseling and coaching experts share their stories, their challenges, and their advice for helping people manage money in the real world. I'm your host, Rebecca Wiggins, Executive Director of the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® or AFCPE®. And I'm your cohost, Dr. Mary Bell Carlson. I'm an Accredited Financial Counselor®, or AFC®, and the CEO of Chief Financial Mom. Every episode, we're taking a deep dive into the topics that the personal finance professionals care about: helping clients, building community and your professional growth.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Welcome everyone to the Real Money, Real Experts podcast. I'm Rebecca.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

This is Mary. Thanks for taking the time to join us today.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Today on the show we are talking with Leigh Phillips. Leigh is the President & CEO of SaverLife, which is a national nonprofit that helps working families achieve prosperity through savings. They serve over 170,000 clients across all 50 states! Prior to joining SaverLife, Leigh was the founding Director of the San Francisco Office of Financial Empowerment, where she spearheaded several “first in the nation” programs to increase financial inclusion, such as Bank On San Francisco, the first city led effort to bank the unbanked and Kindergarten to College, the first universal and automatic college savings program for public school children. Leigh is the author of two lifestyle books published by San Francisco’s Chronicle Books. She received both her Bachelor of Arts in English Literature and Social Sciences and a Masters of Economic and Social Sciences in Women’s Studies from the University of Manchester, in her native United Kingdom. Welcome Leigh. We're so excited to have you today.

Leigh Phillips:

I'm so excited to be here. Thank you so much for having me.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Leigh, please tell us more about your background. We're intrigued about how you got into this field.

Leigh Phillips:

Like many good stories, it mostly happened by accident. I had moved back to the Bay Area from, from the UK, so my family had moved out to the bay area a couple of years before, and I had got some great advice that said, if you want to work in nonprofits , you should learn how to raise money because then you'll always have a job. So I got a job at the UCSF Foundation , helping fundraise for a variety of different programs there. And just by coincidence, I happened to work with the husband of the newly appointed San Francisco Treasurer , Jose Cisneros, and Jose's husband said, you know, Jose has just taken this job and he needs some great people to go and work for him. And I said, job in City Hall sounds really interesting. I'll take it. And, you know, at the time I didn't know what it was really going to entail, but I thought it sounded like an exciting place to be. So I went initially to work as a , an Aid, as an assistant to the San Francisco treasurer. And within the first couple of weeks on the job, some advocates that have been working on a variety of issues came to the treasurer and said, we are launching this tax credit program with the City to help people to drill down more of their tax refunds. And you're the Treasurer Tax Collector, so we think you should run this program. And so we actually launched what was then the Working Families Credit, which was a local match to the income tax credit. That was back in 2004. So that was kind of the first financial empowerment, financial inclusion effort that we worked on. And then a couple of years after that, or a year after that, really the same group of community advocates came back to the treasurer and said, you know, there's a big problem in our community where people don't have access to basic financial services. So they're unable to open bank accounts for a variety of reasons. And the Treasurer's Office manages all of the City's assets and , and the city's portfolio, as well as all the City's banking relationships. Do you think that there's something your office could do to help more San Franciscans to access affordable and safe and healthy checking accounts? So that was then the beginning of Bank on San Francisco that then went on to become a national model. So then all of that did fast forward. We asked also working with our colleagues in New York and New York had an Office of Financial Empowerment. So we thought, well, if they have an Office of Financial Empowerment, we should have an Office of Financial Empowerment. So we created a , I believe was the second Office of Financial Empowerment. And now there are many more across the US. So that's just a bit of background about how I got started in financial inclusion. It was again, somewhat by luck, but once we started working on these issues and realizing just how important it is for people to have access to healthy financial products and services, to be able to have access to financial advice and information, which is obviously where, where you guys come in and then to really look at the tools that people need to use to save and to build assets , I'm really kind of seeing how important those issues were. I was just really drawn to this work of really understanding that it's, it's foundational to so many other things, to be able to manage your money and to have opportunities to, to build wealth. And that's what really struck me and drew me into wanting to spend my career working on these issues.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Wow. It's amazing to hearing your background, how just a few small steps in the right direction can open up, just lands that you would never have known about otherwise. I think that's so true for many of us in our own careers, but also I think in this field of financial empowerment, that it's really small steps that can make a big difference. And so one of the things I would ask is many are not familiar with this Bank on and the Kindergarten to College Programs. Can you share more about the work and the impact that those have on people's lives.

Leigh Phillips:

Bank on really came about when we looked at the cost to people of not having a check, a checking account. So the cost of having to go to the check cashing place, and we estimated that our families were losing anywhere from five to 10% of their income, every year, just to access their own money. And that related to that obviously is the ability or the inability to manage your money. If you think about how we pay our bills and how we save and tools like direct deposit, all of these things that are really important and valuable to helping people have financial stability, we're really not available to people who've been locked out of the banking system. So when we started looking at that issue more in depth, we were finding things like, you know, about half of the people have never had an account. So people who maybe have a negative view of the banking industry, didn't think they had enough money to have an account , maybe were , newer immigrants to the US and didn't think they were able to open an account or they lack the right identification. And on the other hand, the other 50% were people who have been banked at some point, but either by choice have left their account behind because it was just too expensive for them to maintain, or they've been pushed out of the system because of , overdraft fees and other penalties. So what the City really did was bring together the bankers and again, using the , the position or the bully pulpit of local government . So the mayor at the time was Gavin Newsome. Who's now the governor of California. So using the influence of the mayor and the treasurer to pull together banks and credit unions in the, in the community, and to say, you know, this is a community wide problem that has a big impact on our families. What can we do to look at the barriers to banking and really overcome them? So over a period of probably about 12 months, we sat down with our bank partners. The Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco was another partner in that effort. And coincidentally, so was EARN, which is the organization that I now lead that since became SaverLife. So again, these are all kind of inter interwoven stories, but , and over a period of months, we sat down and we looked at the data, we talked to families and understood more about their perspectives and got most of the banks in San Francisco, we had about 15, I think, at launch to agree that they would offer a lower no-cost account that you could open if you needed a second chance of banking. So even if you had a , had a prior negative experience with banking. And that we would join together to really advertise this to the community and help the community understand the risks of being unbanked and the costs of being unbanked . So we had a goal of reaching, I think , 10,000 people over two years, we hit exceeded that goal within the first 12 months and went on to then help many other cities across the country to launch Bank on Program. Eventually that became a national effort. Its now led by the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, which has launched , I think over a hundred Bank ons now across the United States and actually has national Bank on account standards in place with many, many banks and credit unions who have agreed to offer these safe and affordable accounts to people. So it really was a game-changing initiative that we were proud to work on here in San Francisco, and to help scale that nationally.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Leigh, help us understand when we talk about the unbanked, how big of an issue is this? Do you have any quantifiable data to help explain the prevalence of it?

Leigh Phillips:

Yea, so the FDA actually issues a study, I think is every two years on the, on the un-banked and under-banked. So there's kind of two groups of people that you really want to look at. First off would be the unbanked. And last I looked and I haven't, it's been a few years since I worked on this. So I may have to update you on the most current information, but that typically is hovered around 7% of adults. So , across the country of people who are lacking access to banking services completely, you don't have any formal relationship with the banking sector. And again, that, that looks much worse if you're looking at lower income people and communities of color. So again, it's not an issue that is equally affecting everybody. It's a , an issue that is more prevalent in certain communities who have not been traditionally well served by mainstream financial services. The other group that we want to consider is as a larger group, and I think more like 20% of the population, again, I have to check my facts, but it's what we call the underbanked . So those people who may have a checking account or savings account with a bank or credit union, but also rely on alternative and oftentimes costly services. So that may be using payday lending in order to solve liquidity issues or credit crunches, still using check cashing for some services. So maybe going to check cashes to pay bills, maybe turning some checks into cash at a check cashing place, also titled lending, expensive forms of all, of all to other types of alternative lending that we may see. So people who really aren't necessarily well served by the financial market that many of us may participate in so most of us probably have a primary relationship with a bank or credit union. Yeah. And use that to manage our finances, but that's not really the case for a quite significant amount of folks. And I know we're going to talk a little bit as well about the recent experiences of the last 18 months during the COVID-19 pandemic. But where that really became problematic is if you're trying to get money to people quickly, like in , in an emergency, like we've been experiencing, and you're unable to do that when people don't have access to things like banking, where you kind of just, you know, through electronic transfer, send funds to people. So there's a lot of reasons why that's problematic. It's costly for people. It does tend to trap people into expensive debt or predatory debt. And it also makes life you know expensive and inconvenient for folks.

Rebecca Wiggins:

So Leigh, that actually takes us into the next question that I had for you is really just to tell us more about SaverLife. How did it start? What do you do and who do you serve?

Leigh Phillips:

So SaverLife is actually a relatively, an older organization that many people may not know. So the organization was actually founded back in 2001 as EARN and EARN was one of the largest providers of individual development accounts in the country. And the mission of the organization was to help scale asset building. So around about the time the organization was founded in the late nineties, early two thousands, the kind of body of evidence that income alone won't help people exit poverty, that you also need to help people assets and, and wealth. And those assets typically look like a home an education post-secondary education or a small business entrepreneurship. So the organization was created back in 2001 to help people access these quite generous match savings programs that were around at the time where a family could save a dollar, receive a dollar and match from the federal government, additional dollar and match from philanthropy. And that was a very impactful program. But the big challenge with the program was it wasn't scalable. It was expensive and it was quite complex to run. So, you know, fast forward 10 or 12 years, and the organization made a decision that half of America, as we know from the Federal Reserves data, at that time, didn't have $400 in savings, but really was struggling to have any kind of savings of any kinds. And that's, you know, quite shocking, you consider that , you know, now it's around 40%. It may be actually changed now because of the pandemic. But you know, the time when we went down, this, this new path, it was around , somewhere between 40 and 50%. And so the organization really took a hard look at it. Well, what it was doing, the impact it was having and thought, well, we know that low-income people can and will save when given the right incentives and supports to do so. We also know that the number one reason people can't stay on track for saving is , financial emergencies, whether that be loss of income or unexpected expenses. Being here in the Bay Area, it wasn't a hard thing to, to connect the dots to . We really should be challenging ourselves in the nonprofit field to start using technology to advance these types of solutions at scale. So the general, the major kind of pivot that happened in a roundabout 2013, 14 was the organization decided that we would focus on helping people build a habit of saving, focus on helping people build that emergency fund and to try and use technology to do that at scale. So I , myself had been working with the organization when I was at the City of San Francisco. We worked a lot with EARN, so I kind of knew what they were, what they were up to. I had also really seen through that work firsthand, the impact of , of not having an emergency fund. And, you know, maybe on the surface, it seems like what would a couple of hundred dollars really do to help someone, but we know , that it really does a lot. So having a relatively small amount of savings in the bank , is the difference between being able to pay your utilities on time. We know that having just a hundred dollars in savings significantly impacts people's ability to stay on track, paying bills. W e've recently found that $250 in savings has a significant impact on housing stability. So people are 70% less likely to be evicted from their home with just a small amount of savings, $ 250. So if you're really looking at these types of issues and how they connect, you're looking at things like, you know, a traffic ticket that turned into a fine, that turned into a lost driver's license, which turned into a lost job, which turned into an eviction. So that's the kind of circumstances that many people find themselves in. And so we, as an organization really wanted to start addressing those issues. So I actually left my role as, my, my much loved job at the City of San Francisco as Director of the Office of Financial Empowerment, because I had become very interested in how technology, and in this case, specifically, financial technology could be applied to these types of social issues and whether or not it was possible to do something like this as a n onprofit, and a t s cale. So I became CEO towards the end of 2015. And a couple o f years later, we actually launched a campaign here in San Francisco that we called SaverLife because, you know, we wanted lots of people to be able to join in and participate. That brand actually really resonated with people. They l iked the uplifting nature of it, the idea that you can identify as a saver. So we actually rebranded the whole organization as SaverLife b y the end of 2019. So SaverLife i s a n onprofit, financial technology and advocacy organization that's focused on helping the, you know, almost half of Americans who s truggle to save, to build a habit of saving. So we do that by connecting people through technology. We have over 570,000 people now who have joined SaverLife over the last five years. And when they join, they can connect their savings account to our platform. And then they enter into savings challenges for the opportunity to win money. So one of the things that w e found is really encouraging is what we call what is called Prize Link Savings. And there's been a lot of research on this from groups like Commonwealth, who really has spearheaded this idea that you can motivate people to take positive actions by the chance o f, of winning money. So people join SaverLife and they can enter into different challenges. They can engage in different activities to earn points so they can play a t games on the platform to win cash. We do a lot of work around tax season to encourage people, to pledge, to save, and also they can win money for saving tax refunds. Right now we're doing a big push around the c hild, the child tax credit expansion, and encouraging people to save that. So, we have a lot of content on the website. Some of your members actually help us create that content. We have a policy where only certified professionals are allowed to share information and resources on the SaverLife platform. So really it's a , it's a lot of activity you can join. You can, you can learn, you can join savings challenges. You can do prizes. We have a community forum where people can share their stories and tips and things with each other, but really look what we're hoping to build or a re building is a uplifting experience for people who may have struggled with financial issues in the past t o, to really start making progress. And it looks like it's working. So as we monitor the, obviously the performance of the platform over time and a re finding that people increase their savings on average b y about three times within the six months after joining SaverLife

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Let's get a little bit more into the research. You mentioned that just a small amount makes such a big difference in an emergency fund. What is that amount and why is it important?

Leigh Phillips:

That's a great question. We actually wanted to ask that ourselves a little bit more in depth. So I'm sure a lot of people listening to this approach, are you familiar with the often cited Federal Reserve statistic that 40% of Americans lack $400 and why that's a problem. But what we get asked a lot in our work is exactly that, well, surely having $400, what differences that really make when you're looking at these kinds of bigger issues? Well it turns out quite a lot and we published some research on this at the end of last year that we did with the FINRA Foundation. So what we did was we looked at SaverLife members who had managed to save a hundred dollars or $250. So we benchmarked it quite reasonable dollar amount . And then we looked at who had achieved those goals and compared them to people who had not achieved those goals. And we launched a pretty large survey to kind of understand what people had achieved and the impact that had on people's lives, I should say, when they had achieved those goals. And just having a hundred dollars in savings. What we found was people were much more likely to stay on track towards keeping their lights on literally. So they were more likely to be paying their utility bills on time with just a hundred dollars in savings compared to people with less than a hundred dollars in savings. And they also, we also found a correlation between having a hundred dollars in savings and avoiding high cost or predatory debt. What was more interesting, I think very exciting, was when we, one of the questions we asked was, have you been evicted from your home in the last five years because of an inability to pay rent and people with just $250 in savings, we're 70% less likely to have had an eviction because of an inability to pay rent than those who had less than $250. So what we're really focused on now is to keep building on that body of evidence. So now we want to know, you know , what difference does it make when it's 500? What difference does it make if it's 1500? And so right now, most of our clients, about 65% have less than a hundred dollars in savings when they joined. So we've put that kind of line in the sand and said, okay, it's a hundred dollars is where we need to start getting people to move them from up from zero to a hundred. So we're launching challenges like the race to 100, where if you can save a hundred dollars within a 30 day period of time, you're eligible to win, win prizes. So we're really using this data to inform how we design our product so that we can really encourage people to move up that ladder of savings.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

And I think that's a really positive impact for most people, is that even saving $10 or $20 every month can make a big difference in the long run, because the more you start getting into that habit of saving, even if it's very little, can really make a big impact over time,

Leigh Phillips:

That's absolutely right. And I think that one of the, what we really focus on is understanding the lives of our clients. And some of those things that may not translate as well into the, you know, some of those more, well-accepted kind of golden rules around, around finance that we're so familiar with, if your income is very volatile. So a lot of our clients struggle with income volatility. So they, their incomes can fluctuate from 500 to a thousand dollars a month, month over month, over month. And that can be due to, you know, not having consistent hours at work, having seasonal employment, you know, illness, childcare issues. There's a whole host of things that go into that. So some of the , the rules that we, we typically advise, like pay yourself first or set it and forget it, or, you know, so on and so forth can be really difficult if you're consistently having a mismatch between your income and expenses. So some of the things that we focus on exactly to your point are start small, maybe $10 a month, you know, like that's enough, you can win prizes on our , on our platform to saving as little as $5 a week. And so what we really want to do is to be encouraging to people, to not be intimidated by some of those goals, or it may be too intimidating to think like I'm never going to have six months of, of income or expenses covered. So, you know, what's the point I'm never going to have a million dollars saved for retirement. So what's the point. So where do we want to make the case that there is a point, right? Like every dollar really counts in terms of having that financial stability. We also really focus on when are there great opportunities to encourage people to accelerate their savings. So maybe saving a large amount of money every month is impossible for you, but maybe depositing $500 or a thousand dollars of your tax refund is possible for you. And so, again, those are some of the things that we really try and tap into of understanding the realities , of people's lives and really designing our product with a lot of empathy.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Leigh, so you have research from the pandemic that has shown that women have dropped out of the workforce four times the rate of men? Can you tell us more about that and about your project, that highlights stories of those who were hardest hit by the pandemic?

Leigh Phillips:

Absolutely. So I'll start by saying that, most of SaverLife members of those 570,000 people who have signed up for SaverLife over the last few years, over 80% of them are women. So they are, you know, the real heart and soul of the SaverLife community. Most of them are mothers, average comes around 25 to $35,000 a year, and about 60% of our members identify as , as people of color. So when you're really looking at who was hardest hit by the pandemic, we know it was women. We know it was people of color, and we know it was low wage earners, and we know it was parents, right? So squarely within the focus of , of the people that we're serving as a nonprofit , we were kind of hitting all of those, the folks who were having the hardest time and during the pandemic. So when people join SaverLife, they link their account to the platform so they can participate in those savings challenges. But what that provides us as a nonprofit advocacy organization is actually transactional data about what's really happening in people's lives. And now I will very clearly say that that , data is only ever viewed by us in a de-identified and aggregate format. So we're not looking at people's individual situations, but it gives us now that we have so many people, a really interesting data set to be able to look at what is the impact of, in this case, the pandemic, in other cases, right now, we're looking at the impact of the child tax credit. So both positive and negative systemic issues or things that are happening external circumstances. So what we're finding is that our population , when those first shelter in place orders came out, actually lost their income pretty much overnight, as as many people did, didn't have a lot of savings to , to rely on. So one of the first things we did is we worked with other partners like Neighborhood Trust and others to actually get emergency cash out to people. So we were able to leverage our technology to start sending a thousand dollars or $500 emergency cash payments to people within three weeks of the first shutdowns happening. So that was a great thing that we were able to use technology to accomplish. Since then, we've been really monitoring the impact of the pandemic on our client population, because we know that they have been affected much, much more significantly than the population you know as a whole. So we've been tracking things like income, spending, savings, and debt. We've also been doing a lot of surveys around things like unemployment, access to childcare, and all of this is on our SaverLife website, but we really wanted to highlight the stories of some of our amazing women, our amazing clients, and how they've been really navigating this pandemic , really in facing some, some very significant challenges and obstacles over the last 18 months. And to really help illustrate the point that, you know, this did not affect everyone equally, that we cannot just look at data, you know, at the national level, because that, you know , data includes people like myself, you know, who did not lose their job and to have managed to maintain childcare and other things, that experience hasn't been obviously the same for so many people. And so we wanted to make sure that the perspectives of our members who are mostly women, mothers, people of color, were being accurately reflected in the media.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Tell us more as AFCPE® professionals, what can we do to individually and collectively help more women like this that want to achieve financial stability and economic mobility?

Leigh Phillips:

That's a really great question. And I think that, that your members do so much already. And I always hear of so many great activities of people focusing on helping an underserved client population and also volunteering to help organizations like ours by providing trusted information and trusted content. So one of the things that we definitely saw during the pandemic was the need for accurate and trusted information. Now, we all know there was so much happening out there, you know, in the world. There was different stimulus packet, you know, launching all the time, there was different tax credits, confusion around unemployment insurance, mortgage forbearance, rental assistance programs. There was just like a ton of information out there. So I think really understanding some of those issues and being able to connect people to resources that are hugely beneficial is something that people can definitely do. And we, we share a lot of resources like that on our website. So to give one really concrete example right now, many families in the US who have children under age 18, are receiving monthly payments from the federal government in the form of the expanded child tax credit. And so really understanding those types of policies and how they can positively affect clients, I think would be, would be one thing. So keeping up on that kind of information. Understanding people's lives and what they're really facing , is another way that you can really be , be helpful. So understanding a little bit more about government support, like the earned income tax credit, the child tax credit, making sure people are claiming those, helping people with issues of debt. We see consumer debt, credit card debt as a major inhibitor to savings activity , and doing everything that your , your folks can do to really provide access. And most people do not have access to trusted and professional information about finances. Like that's a very, you know, it's usually only accessed by people who have a lot of, a lot of privilege. And what are ways that we can ensure that everyone's finances are taken seriously, right? Not just people who have a lot of money, but people who maybe have less money and how can we help everybody really maximize every penny that they have, claim everything that they're owed, have manageable levels of debt. So I think that , it's, I know you guys have a wonderful conference and you do so much work throughout the year to really focus on this, but, you know, volunteering time through, through nonprofits , being able to provide those services, you know, just to , to add clients to your portfolio and continuing to really understand people's perspectives, those would be some ideas.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

If our financial counselors want to work with SaverLife and access your resources, how can they do that?

Leigh Phillips:

On our website About.saverlife.org. That's where you're going to find all of our research. And more information about what we do. SaverLife.org is our client facing website, our consumer facing website, and that's where you can access a lot of our content and information. So we really encourage people to use our content, to share it with clients. So right now we have great information about things like the child tax credit , stimulus payments, other things around all of the different recovery packages that have gone out over the last 18 months. So there's a lot of content there, which is also created by Certified Financial Planners® and credit counselors. So there's a lot of information there. We launched a separate website called hardhit.org, which we're sharing the stories of five women who were really impacted by the pandemic, who lost their jobs in one case , one of the women interviewed lost their spouse and really tells those stories about how people struggled to make it through the , you know, resilience that people had, the way that the safety net really let them let them down in some cases. I would love people to know about that resource and to really look at the experiences of people during the pandemic, and maybe that will spark some ideas about how people could help us all rebuild. There was an opportunity that we have right now to take a very honest look at the issues that we have in this country about the inequality that we have in this country and how that shows up over and over in our financial system, everywhere you look. I think that there's a moment here for us to really commit to doing better. And so my piece of advice would be to get involved in that effort to really, try and understand, to read and understand as much as you can, to talk to clients about how these issues may be affecting them and to challenge yourself and to challenge your , your field, to make some decisions about how we can all be a part of creating a more fair and equitable economy.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Wow Leigh. This has been very eye-opening and I appreciate your time with us today. Can you please tell our listeners where they can connect with you?

Leigh Phillips:

They can connect with me on LinkedIn, primarily. Follow me on Twitter @twoleighp, T-W-OL-E-I-G-H-P they can also sign up for our newsletter at our website About.saverlife.org.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Thanks so much for being here Leigh. This was great.

Leigh Phillips:

I've really enjoyed talking with you. Thanks so much for featuring us.

Dr. Mary Bell Carlson:

Rebecca. This has been such an interesting and eye-opening experience again, to remind me how such small amounts in savings can make such a big difference in an impact to so many. It reminds me a lot of what we were talking about in America Saves where little bits can go a really long way and savings really doesn't need to be overwhelming. It shouldn't be seen as an all or nothing mentality. I hear a lot: do I pay down debt or do I save, but really it should be an all-inclusive and really doing both at the same time, even in very, very small amounts. One of the things I was very impressed with and would encourage any professionals to go to or individuals to go to is this Hard Hit website and hear some of the stories. So while you may not have had an individual or been as impacted by the last year and a half of this pandemic, there are so many that have been, and just hearing and reading and seeing these stories. It's heartbreaking. And I think it will really tug at the heartstrings of many of our professionals who are already in it to help others and realize there are so many more out there like these individuals that are struggling to make it by. And who can you help in your sphere of influence to get through this really difficult time that is not over yet, there are still many that are struggling and that need your help right now.

Rebecca Wiggins:

Yeah, Mary, I completely agree. I always enjoy talking with Leigh. She has such tremendous expertise and just really interesting background in her career. So I always love hearing her wisdom. I also felt the same way. I was really struck by the idea of really the power behind what SaverLife does in terms of creating this habit of savings and how important that is, and just encouraging people to take small steps and how that can make such a big impact. I think she's absolutely right. A lot of times clients sort of get overwhelmed by that and then decide they're not going to do anything. And so this was really, I think, encouraging hopefully to a lot of people. The other thing that I wanted to mention is that SaverLife is actually going to be one of our keynote sessions and they're going to be highlighting the hardest hit project. And so if you are really interested to hear more about that, about the research that went into that, and then those stories, please join us November 15th through 19th for the AFCPE Virtual Symposium. We'll have more than 50 hours of content, both live and on demand and lots of opportunities to learn and connect with other professionals that are doing important work in the field of financial counseling, planning, and education. Don't forget to register by the early bird deadline of October 15th to save. We hope to see you there.

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