A majority of US households are struggling financially and are barely able to keep up with their day-to-day expenses let alone invest in their futures. Many struggle to pay their bills and utilities, they forego preventive medical treatment, they do not have savings to deal with financial emergencies, and they are increasingly relying on debt to make ends meet. Moreover, too many households do not have access to the basic bank or savings accounts that they so desperately need to manage their financial lives. Building Bridges, Removing Barriers proposes that financial inclusion—access to basic bank or savings accounts—can operate as a “bridge” to households’ financial health. A bridge is an infrastructural solution that offers safe passage over rough terrain and a connection to new opportunities. For households stranded on islands of financial struggles, a bridge may be a welcomed passageway to secure ground. Households may be able to afford their day-to-day expenses like rent and utility bills and save for financial emergences like an unexpected job loss or major car or home repair. Once on secure ground, households can advance on their journey more easily. They have enough money saved to recover from financial emergencies, keep their debt at manageable levels, and begin to invest in the future by saving for retirement. From this perspective, financial inclusion by having access to basic bank or savings accounts can have the dual effects of stabilizing or securing households’ financial health and advancing or mobilizing it.
Friedline, T. (2016). Building bridges, removing barriers: The unacceptable state of households' financial health and how financial inclusion can help. Lawrence, KS: University of Kansas, Center on Assets, Education, and Inclusion.