English

Helping clients stick to their goals and increase their savings balances with commitments

Despite good intentions, people often make less-than-optimal financial choices. In this series, we match insights from our global research in behavioral economics with specific financial product and service opportunities for U.S. providers. Providers can use these evidence-based insights to expand financial inclusion, improve client offerings, and continue to promote financial health.

Commitment devices are voluntary, binding arrangements that people make to reach specific goals that may otherwise be difficult to achieve. When built into savings products, commitment devices can help address behavioral and social obstacles to saving by providing a mechanism that forces people to save according to their self-set plans. These devices vary in terms of commitment activity, consequence for failing to fulfill the commitment, and control over how savings are spent. “Hard” commitments feature financial penalties for failure, whereas with “soft” commitments, the penalty is primarily psychological, as in letting down oneself or one’s community.

This brief is part of IPA’s Nudges for Financial Health series, which is available as a combined booklet here. The other briefs in the series can be downloaded individually: The Power of Doing Nothing, Top of Mind.

Program area:
Type:
Brief
Date:
February 13, 2017
English

Despite good intentions, people often make less-than-optimal financial choices. In this series, we match insights from our global research in behavioral economics with specific financial service and product design opportunities both for providers in the U.S. and in other countries. Providers can use these evidence-based insights to expand financial inclusion, improve client offerings, and continue to promote financial health.

This booklet combines a series of briefs, which are also available to download as individual briefs: Count on Commitment, The Power of Doing Nothing, Top of Mind.

Count on Commitment
Commitment devices are voluntary, binding arrangements that people make to reach specific goals that may otherwise be difficult to achieve. When built into savings products, commitment devices can help address behavioral and social obstacles to saving by providing a mechanism that forces people to save according to their self-set plans. These devices vary in terms of commitment activity, consequence for failing to fulfill the commitment, and control over how savings are spent. “Hard” commitments feature financial penalties for failure, whereas with “soft” commitments, the penalty is primarily psychological, as in letting down oneself or one’s community.

The Power of Doing Nothing
Automatic (“opt-out”) enrollment is a simple product design modification in which consumers are informed they will be automatically enrolled in a product or service unless they choose to opt out. Setting the default to “opt-out” instead of “opt-in” has been shown to significantly increase uptake of certain savings products and lead to behavior change through automation, for example by increasing participation in retirement and savings plans. It is important that financial services providers use these tools with care, fully and conspicuously inform their customers about the product or service into which they will be enrolled, and give customers full freedom to make a different choice or opt out at any time.

Top of Mind
Providing access to savings accounts is an important step in bringing financial services to the poor, but access alone does not guarantee people will save. Many people struggle to develop good savings habits because they put off saving until a future time, or face so many seemingly urgent needs today that it is difficult to save for tomorrow, or they simply forget to save. Reminders that bring savings goals to the “top of mind” are a low-cost way to address these barriers and help clients reach their savings goals.

 

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Type:
Brief
Date:
February 13, 2017
A4

In the Philippines, we have continued our global tradition of rigorous, applicable research by building foundational research capacity and conducting evaluations in areas of pressing national concern. Two completed evaluations offer promising insights into everyday issues that affect the lives of the Filipino poor.

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Brief
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February 01, 2017

This paper evaluates a policy intervention designed to attract good political candidates – competent and honest ones – to public service. Inspired by the idea that schooling can act as a screening mechanism, and that non-monetary status awards can be a cost-effective tool to incentivize individuals, we evaluate whether a leadership training workshop with performancebased awards can screen and incentivize good people to serve in public office. In the context of a randomized field experiment among aspirants for the village youth councils in the Philippines, we find that this policy intervention is effective in terms of attracting individuals with abovemedian measures of public service motivation, intellectual ability, integrity, and aspiration.

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Working Paper
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October 26, 2016
English

We implemented a randomized controlled trial among transnational households in the Philippines estimating impacts on financial behaviors of a financial education treatment, a financial access treatment, and the combination of the two. We test whether there are complementarities between financial education and financial access interventions, and also provide insight into the nature of constraints operating in financial services markets. We find no evidence of complementarities between the financial education and financial access treatments. In addition, while we find no evidence of constraints in access to formal credit and savings products, our results do suggest that access constraints exist in the formal insurance market. Impacts on other financial behaviors are suggestive of the importance of information constraints in financial decision-making. These results provide guidance to designers of financial interventions in similar populations.

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Working Paper
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September 22, 2016
English

Asymmetric information can be costly in insurance markets and can even hinder market development, as is the case for most agricultural insurance markets. I study information asymmetries in crop insurance in the Philippines using a randomized field experiment. Using a combination of preference elicitation, a two-level randomized allocation of insurance and detailed data collection, I test for and find evidence of adverse selection, moral hazard and their interaction – that is, selection on anticipated moral hazard behavior. I conclude that information asymmetry problems are substantial in this context and that variations on this experimental design may be useful in future work for identifying interactions between choice and treatment effects.

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Working Paper
Date:
September 07, 2016

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