Common Cents Lab

Our Focus on Money

We use behavioral insights to hack financial decision making.

Powered by world class behavioral scientists, we design and test solutions that aim to increase the financial well-being for low to middle income Americans.


The Intention / Action Gap

In our study of 1,000 low to middle income Americans we found people have a strong desire for financial security, but at the same time they have the feeling that they are not financially secure now.  More notable,  these same people could list on average four ways that they personally could take actions to improve their financial situation.

Why is it that despite deeply wanting financial security and knowing how to achieve it, we don’t have it?

36% of the people in our study had less than $500 in savings and 63% carried some kind of debt.  Other studies confirm the dire state of American bank balances. We know that almost 25% of adults age 50-64 have not started to save for retirement[1] and only 50% of family households are saving for college.[2]

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

We will specifically help bridge the intention – action gap on the main areas where people have told us they need the most help: emergency savings, retirement savings, big purchases and end of life planning. We will do this holistically for the family unit.

We aim to increase the financial well-being of those who need it most by designing, building and testing programmatic and technology solutions in these 5 main areas

  • Saving for Emergencies: 47% of Americans say they either could not cover an emergency expense costing $400, or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money.[3] This has real impacts. We’re trading off medical care. We’re going into debt.
  • Saving for Retirement: 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.[4]
  • Purchase Decisions: When making important purchase decisions, like buying a car or a house, Americans are often anchored on the wrong attributes, costing them millions of dollars in unnecessary fees and expenses.[5] And when making small purchase decisions, like shoes, food and clothes we often prioritize the things that make us the least happy.[6]
  • Preparing our Kids: While 89% of parents value education as an investment in their children’s future, 49% of families have not started a college savings fund.[7]
  • End of Life Decisions: Death, like taxes, is certain. And like taxes, it’s one of the least pleasant topics to contemplate, let alone plan for. However, as long-term care costs continue to rise, families will need to make difficult financial trade-offs to care for an incapacitated loved one. [8][9]

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