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Photo by: Paul Morse / Clinton Global Init

Helping low-wage workers save for the future

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Photo by: Paul Morse / Clinton Global Init

For the month of March (also known as Irish American Heritage Month) IrishCentral is tapping into the heartbeat of the Irish American community. The Unsung Heroes series features inspiring individuals from across the US who do extraordinary work in their communities and respective fields. From advocates to artists, from local legends to dedicated educators; from a high school baseball team to dynamo nuns in their 80s, these people are making a difference and to them we tip our hats in thanks.

Chances are you have not heard of Ben Mangan or the non-profit organization he co-founded EARN. Since he helped establish EARN in 2001, the organization has helped thousands of low income people stabilize their finances with savings accounts for the unbanked, and matched accounts for low wage workers to invest in education, first homes, and microenterprise.

According to Mangan the big discovery was that the path to prosperity is about being able to save and invest in assets. “This was the magical discovery.”

EARN is a goal-based savings accounts provider and is one of the two largest in the U.S. EARN’s mission is to help low-income workers build lifelong savings habits and financial capability which research proves regular saving leads struggling American workers out of the bottom 20%. Mangan is a graduate of the Kennedy School at Harvard and teaches Social Enterprise at the Haas Business School in UC Berkeley.

EARN account holders and participants have achieved great results to date, strengthening their household balance sheets and reaching larger goals. Participants have gone from saving $500 for emergencies to opening small businesses and saving for retirement.

The importance of this type of social impact business is underscored by the fact that 44% of US households do not have basic finances to withstand even the smallest setback or emergency, and roughly half of Americans already live in or near poverty. EARN helps families break that inter-generational poverty cycle.

For Mangan, this is personal and rooted in his upbringing in Massachusetts and Brooklyn. He is a deserving member of our Unsung Heroes list because he is providing a way out of poverty for thousands of ordinary Americans and his mission is to help millions.

Since 2002, 5,200 people have saved $6.2 million with EARN. The average EARN saver makes just $18k per year. EARN is teaching these people how to save money. 83% of people continue to save after their programs end. By 2022, EARN wants to have helped 1 million low-income Americans save $1 billion dollars.

To learn about yesterday's Unsung Hero, the woman looking out for New York's 52,000 homeless, click here.

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