Common Cents Lab

Our Focus on Money

Common Cents leverages research and insights gleaned from behavioral economics to create interventions that lead to positive financial behaviors.

The Intention / Action Gap

In our study of 1,000 low to moderate income Americans we found people have a strong desire for financial security, yet they have the feeling that they are not financially secure now.  Notably, these same people could list about four ways that they personally could take actions to improve their financial situation.

This is what social scientists call the Intention – Action gap. People have a big goal, they even may know what to do to reach this goal, but they predictably fail to take actions to achieve it.

We will specifically help bridge the Intention – Action gap in these 5 areas where people have told us they need the most financial help.

    47% of Americans say they either could not cover a $400 emergency expense, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.  Our aim is to increase one’s ability to handle unexpected expenses, as measured by a significant increase in savings. 
    Almost one third of adults have not started saving for retirement. More alarming, almost 25% of adults age 50-64 have not started to save for retirement. Our aim is to i
    ncrease assets for retirement, as measured by amount of money put away relative to current income today.
    When faced with financial hardship it is too easy to seek money through pawnshops, auto title and payday lenders. When faced with this surmounting debt, the system makes it easy to fall into the defeating and cyclical debt loop.  Our aim is to make it easier to pay credit obligations and help provide access to good credit for low or thin file customers, as measured by average debt amounts and repayment rates. 
    Nearly half of all households experience an income gain or drop of more than 25% over any two-year period. Roughly one-quarter of individuals can expect to see even larger changes – 50% or more – from year to year. Our aim is to design ways to better manage income and expense shocks as measured by one’s ability to smooth consumption and an increased confidence in one’s financial life.
    Low-income families spend a far greater share of their income on core needs, such as housing, transportation, and food, than upper-income families. For example, households in the lower third spent 40 percent of their income on housing, while renters in that third spent nearly half of their income on housing, as of 2014. Our aim is to help reduce spending on key expenses, as measured by spending during the month.

Learn about our approach to designing, building and testing solutions and see what we’re working on now.