Spend and save; young Americans are good at the former, not so much the latter.
Americans spend trillions of dollars every year, yet research indicates that nearly 30% of Americans have less than $1,000 in a savings account.
Susan Langer founded Live.Give.Save. in 2016 as a way to make saving (which many of us struggle with) as easy as spending (which most of us love) through an app. Langer’s background in banking, marketing and international development provides their team with invaluable experience and insights to build an ideal app to help make it easier for people to give and save money, while they spend.
Langer says her research shows 55% of millennials are not effectively saving for retirement, all while they accrue higher amounts of debt. In addition, nonprofit organizations continue to struggle for funding while millennials are known for wanting to contribute to social causes they care about.
This “perfect storm” led to the development of Spave, the first product from Live.Give.Save. Spave (spend while you save—get it?) is a mobile app that enables users to commit a percentage from each of their purchases to be invested into a savings or micro-investment account. Users also have the option to support the causes they care most about. Eventually, users will be able to use their “spavings” to pay down debt, contribute to an HSA, IRA or 529 plan.
“Spave uses what people do well to help improve their financial standing, while also giving to causes that they are passionate about more regularly,” Langer says.
To build out a strong app, Live.Give.Save. partnered with Dwolla to facilitate programmatic ACH transfers between a user’s bank accounts, without requiring the user to write a single check.
Users of Spave are able to link and view all of their connected bank accounts within a dashboard in the app. With more than 1.5 million accredited nonprofit organizations in the database, a user can select up to five organizations and Live.Give.Save—with Dwolla’s help—gets the funds to the selected nonprofits account.
It’s how Live.Give.Save. makes the world a little better with every purchase.
The app also allows users to allocate a certain percentage of their total spend to a savings account so users can pay down debt, save for travel—whatever they wish. With Live.Give.Save., a $10 lunch or a $100 pair of jeans can mean extra money towards student loans or a helpful boost to a nonprofit.
An Idea 20 Years In the Making
Using micropayments to pay down debt was a concept Langer first heard about during a trip to Africa in 1995. The trip was expensive which triggered Langer to think about ways people’s spending could be coupled with saving.
Langer recognized that credit cards were already using purchases to accrue different benefits for users, like frequent flyer miles or points, and began brainstorming how these concepts could be applied to savings or charitable giving.
“There’s always been something about these micropayments and microfinance,” Langer says. “The technology wasn’t available back then, but fast forward 20 years later and not a lot has changed in our behavior, but thankfully technology has changed.”
With the right technology, Live.Give.Save. needed a payments integration with a responsive customer support time that could authenticate bank accounts.
“A payments partnership was probably our most important relationship and we wanted to work with the best,” Langer says.
During her research, Langer said she considered Stripe, Apple Pay, PayPal and Dwolla. She hired a technology company for development work and collectively they all did their due diligence on each payment platform.
At the end of the day, Langer needed to do her own primary research.
“We went on a visit to the Dwolla office. I brought my CTO and my husband to help evaluate if Dwolla was the right fit for our product,” Langer said. “That was an excellent opportunity for us to meet the real people behind the product and experience the chemistry between the teams.”
Realistically, Langer understood that whichever company Live.Give.Save. integrated with to help facilitate the movement of funds for the business was going to come with unexpected issues. What she cared about the most was partnering with a company of “authentic” team members that provided strong support.
“Authenticity is so important to me,” says Langer, who was impressed with Dwolla’s youthful energy. “You can work through anything if you can address one another with whole trust. After our conversations at Dwolla, I felt that was possible.”
Langer said Dwolla checked another box for her too.
“I wanted to know how smart everyone was,” Langer says laughing. “I like to surround myself with smart people and everyone at Dwolla was down to earth, yet had this tremendous amount of experience. To have that refreshing challenge to always push, and also exchange mentoring, I felt that in spades at Dwolla.”
A New Way to Think About Spending
Langer explains that the Spave app was designed to empower each user to view their spending and decide how they want to direct their savings.
“Dwolla serves as the master orchestrator of the underlying software platform,” Langer explains. “After we pull the users’ daily transactions and calculate the amounts that need to be distributed to their defined savings and giving accounts, Dwolla’s software does its magic and each micro-payment is sent to the specified accounts.”
Integrating with the Dwolla Platform went “as well as could have” Langer says adding that dealing with Dwolla’s customer support, integration and developer teams was, “nothing but professional.”
“The amount of time we had to spend with Dwolla and customer support issues was minuscule compared to others we’ve dealt with,” Langer says.
As more and more of the United States population becomes comfortable in a digital world, Langer says more convenient ways to save need to be available.
She believes that by the year 2030, 100% of the working population between the ages of 35-60 will be contributing regularly to a savings account.
With Spave and Live.Give.Save., Langer hopes some of those contributions also find their way to nonprofit organizations too.
“Millennials want to give. They want to help others, but they just don’t think they have the funds to do it,” Langer says. “If people are saving for themselves and helping organizations who are supporting others in need, we are improving society as a whole.”