BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative

Impact and Learnings

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BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative

Letter from BlackRock

At BlackRock, we believe that everyone should have access to a secure financial future. But for so many people, thinking about and planning for the future can be difficult when faced with financial crossroads in the short term. Understanding that protective liquid savings was a precondition to long-term financial security, BlackRock committed $50 million in philanthropic capital in early 2019 to drive systems-level change and achieve tangible impact at scale.1

As part of this commitment, over the past four years, we’ve funded and convened three financial health nonprofits in the United States – Common Cents Lab, Commonwealth, and the Financial Health Network – to design and evaluate the solutions that make it easier for people and households to build a financial safety net.

In this report, we are sharing the lessons learned along the way and the questions that still need answers, so that private sector and public leaders can join us in continuing this important work in reaching millions more families across America.

Read the full letter in the report.

1BlackRock's support of ESI was provided through grants from The BlackRock Foundation and The BlackRock Charitable Gift Fund, a donor-advised fund at Fidelity Charitable Gift Fund. The public policy activities described in this report were carried out by ESI partners, and The BlackRock Foundation does not engage in lobbying activities or earmark its grant funds for use in lobbying activities.

By the Numbers


ESI active savings projects between 2019-2022
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10+ million

people reached with a savings solution through ESI*

$2+ billion

saved through ESI savings interventions

*We define reach as an estimate of the number of people eligible for and with access to a savings solution under an ESI project through Dec. 14, 2022.

Our Approach

Our Approach

BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative envisioned a world where employers, financial services, and public policy actively support Americans to build a savings cushion. Over the last four years in partnership with Common Cents Lab, Commonwealth, and the Financial Health Network, ESI focused on piloting real-world solutions; conducting research; advancing public policies and thought leadership; and activating media on the issues.

Our Impact

Today, a powerful new constituency of leading employers, payroll and retirement plan providers, financial institutions, and policymakers have come together to prioritize emergency savings for their workers, customers, and constituents. Together, we have:

Shifted critical systems and inspired national conversation

ESI's partners and projects demonstrate that diverse organizations – including employers, financial institutions, and workplace benefits providers – can offer emergency savings solutions. Partnering with recordkeepers and payroll providers that offer savings solutions to many employers has opened the door to reaching tens of millions more workers. BlackRock's ESI also kickstarted the national conversation surrounding emergency savings, inspiring businesses and policymakers alike to champion the financial health of the communities they serve. See the latest news >

+$1.35 billion

dramatic emergency savings growth at ADP

ESI demonstrated the opportunity for payroll companies to expand the value they provide to these workers through our partnership with ADP, which processes pay for 1 in 6 Americans. By enhancing the emergency savings features on the company's Wisely® card and myWisely® mobile app*, ESI and ADP generated dramatic emergency savings growth for a total of $1.55 billion saved.

$1.35 billion dramatic emergency savings growth at ADP

*With emergency savings features, amounts transferred to your savings envelope will no longer appear in your available balance. You can transfer money from your savings envelope back to your available balance at any time using the myWisely® app mobile app. The Wisely card is a prepaid card, references to digital account are referring to the management and servicing of your prepaid card online digitally or through a mobile app. The Wisely card is not a credit card and does not build credit. The Wisely Pay Visa® is issued by Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Member FDIC or Pathward, N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to a license from Visa U.S.A. Inc. The Wisely Pay Mastercard® is issued by Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Member FDIC or Pathward, N.A., Member FDIC, pursuant to license by Mastercard International Incorporated. The Wisely Direct Mastercard is issued by Fifth Third Bank, N.A., Member FDIC. ADP is a registered ISO of Fifth Third Bank, N.A., or Pathward, N.A. The Wisely Pay Visa card can be used everywhere Visa debit cards are accepted. Visa and the Visa logo are registered trademarks of Visa International Service Association. The Wisely Pay Mastercard and Wisely Direct Mastercard can be used where debit Mastercard is accepted. Standard text message fees and data rates may apply. Mastercard and the circles design are registered trademarks of Mastercard International Incorporated. ADP, the ADP logo, Wisely, myWisely, and the Wisely logo are registered trademarks of ADP, Inc. Copyright© 2022 ADP, Inc. All rights reserved.

$15 million in contributions at UPS over a 21-month period

$15 million

in contributions at UPS over a 21-month period

UPS effectively drove awareness of and engagement with the after-tax option of their 401(k) plan for non- union employees, administered by Voya, through a robust, multi- channel communication and intervention program, leading to a 40% increase in participation and $15 million in contributions over a 21-month period.
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in workforce enrollment by Red Tab Foundation

Red Tab Foundation (RTF) partnered with ESI and Financial Health Network to review and streamline its six-year-old Red Tab Savers program to make it easier for all eligible Levi Strauss & Co. employees to access and succeed with the program. The revised approach used matched savings followed by prize-linked savings to encourage lower-income employees to participate.
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+27% in workforce enrollment by Red Tab Foundation

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Demonstrated that emergency savings protects retirement and other forms of long-term savings

ESI's research and work with major partners showed that adding emergency savings can protect long-term savings. Through the program, BlackRock's ESI and its partners learned:

  • Emergency savings act as an important buffer against early withdrawals from retirement.
  • Offering emergency savings paired with a retirement account could encourage more retirement contributions.
  • Auto-enrollment doesn't hurt retirement savings participation and dramatically improves emergency savings rates.
  • Offering in-plan after-tax options as well as out-of-plan options will ensure emergency savings access reaches more employees.

"Having access to the ESI's resources and research has not only helped us to support our clients and their benefits offerings, but it has also helped them to support their employees with their long-term retirement goals. By working together with the ESI to 'lean in' and support the ultimate financial security one can achieve in the short term, we are able to help create positive impacts on shaping everything else related to one's long-term goals."

Tom ArmstrongVice President, Customer Analytics & Insight and Head of Voya's Behavioral Finance Institute for Innovation, Voya
Spurred policy action

ESI work helped spur policy, including new provisions in SECURE 2.0 federal legislation, which enables workplace-based emergency savings. ESI's research, pilot, and scale projects built a critical mass of evidence that showed a positive relationship between short- term and long-term savings, inspiring policymakers to include provisions for emergency savings in several pieces of retirement security legislation.

Read more: Emergency Savings Features That Work for Employees Earning Low to Moderate Income

Policy Milestones

Spurred legislation to expand access to emergency savings opportunities for workers with a 401(K) plan
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Influenced regulatory approval of employer-issued autosave solutions
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Drew attention to the need for policies that support emergency savings solutions
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Participant in BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative

"I now have a couple of thousand dollars [in savings] so I'm ready for anything that comes my way. I can't imagine anything that amount coming my way, but [for] new tires or if my car goes out, I think I'm pretty set."

Participant in BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative

Emergency savings are fundamental to financial health. They can make the difference between successfully navigating unexpected expenses – like a car repair or medical bill – and that same unexpected expense causing long-lasting financial instability.

Americans living on low to moderate incomes are even more likely to be financially insecure, which is why they're also the households that most need emergency savings interventions. Above all, ESI and its partners are committed to making a meaningful difference in their lives by enabling savings habits that lead to long-term financial health.

Insights That Work

  1. Make savings opt-out

    Our data showed compelling evidence for continuing to pursue auto- enrollment for short-term savings programs through employers, recordkeepers, and financial institutions.
  2. Build savings prompts into a product.

    Adding an easy option to automate savings while signing up for other products and services can be more effective than relying solely on email campaigns to encourage savings.
  3. Target new users

    New users tend to be less habituated and are at a prime moment for starting a new behavior, like saving.

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"I see [my financial future] getting better and I see five years looking a lot better. I'm very optimistic about it. I'm more aware of spending and saving now."

Participant in BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative
Participant in BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative


BlackRock would like to thank the following partners for their participation in the Emergency Savings Initiative.

Center for Advanced Hindsight Common Cnets Lab
Financial Health Network
  • Acorns
  • ADP
  • ADP Retirement
  • Arizona State University
  • The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program
  • AutoNation
  • Best Buy
  • Bipartisan Policy Center
  • Brightside
  • Canary
  • Community Development Bankers Association
  • Community Empowerment Fund
  • Dave
  • DCIIA Research Retirement Center
  • Research Retirement Center
  • Digital Federal Credit Union
  • Edquity
  • Esusu
  • Etsy
  • Even
  • The Fresh Market
  • Guadalupe Credit Union
  • Humana
  • Inclusiv
  • Lake Trust Credit Union
  • Levi Strauss & Co./RedTab Foundation
  • Mastercard - Branch
  • Mastercard - Urban FT
  • Millennium Trust
  • MX
  • National Credit Union Foundation
  • Nest
  • PA Treasury - Keystone Scholars
  • Park Community Credit Union
  • Propel
  • Qapital
  • SaverLife
  • Self
  • Self-Help
  • Shared Harvest
  • Simple
  • Treasury Department Federal Credit Union
  • Truist
  • Union Plus
  • Uber
  • UPS
  • Virginia Credit Union
  • Varo
  • Voya
  • Wisely by ADP

BlackRock's Emergency Savings Initiative

Impact and Learnings