In the face of today’s economic crisis, Americans have started saving again. And while saving could be a short-lived response to the crisis, the current impetus to save has created an opportunity for financial services organizations to lead the way in encouraging saving, especially those institutions targeting financially underserved consumers.

Turning today’s momentum into tomorrow’s savings behavior, despite the opportunity presented by the economic climate, is not a simple task. Those organizations determined to capitalize on this opportunity will need to start by assessing how consumers save today. Research shows that low-income, financially underserved consumers do save, especially when they have access to the right product with the right incentives. However, these consumers especially face barriers in doing so—barriers that are cultural, behavioral, and structural. ƒ

Cultural barriers may be the least understood of these, though an important issue is that the word “saving” is often associated with sales and coupons versus bank deposits and investments, possibly impacting how financial institutions think about their marketing messages. From a behavioral perspective, research indicates that consumers are more likely to be savers if they set goals, have effective budgeting habits, and own a car or house.ƒ Barriers that are structural include lower incomes and misalignment of savings products and incentives. Research shows, however, that income is not an insurmountable barrier; financially underserved consumers can save—if savings products and incentives are designed with them in mind.