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New Survey from Varo Shows Americans Are Underfunded but Optimistic

by Varo Bank

March 5, 2019

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SAN FRANCISCO – March 5, 2019 – New survey research from mobile banking company Varo Money found Americans are curiously optimistic about their futures, despite having little or no money saved.

Emergency cash

Across all age groups, 55% of respondents said they did not have $500 in cash for an emergency. Men are far more likely than women to have an emergency fund of at least $500 (56% of men vs. 39% of women). Six in 10 (61%) millennials don’t have $500 to cover an emergency expense; that percentage is even higher for millennial women, 65% of whom don’t have that amount. Suggesting a link to lack of emergency cash and general financial vulnerability, 43% of all people who don’t have access to $500 also do not have health insurance.

Longer-term savings

When it comes to saving in general, the picture isn’t necessarily better.

Almost half of the respondents (45%) reported that they do not have a savings account. Among those who do have a savings account, nearly one-third (30%) said they did not know the Annual Percentage Yield (APY) for that account. Of those who did know their APY, the majority (56%) said they are getting less than 1.00%. The national average APY on a savings account is 0.09%, according to the FDIC.

Thirty-seven percent of respondents have no dedicated savings outside of a $500 emergency fund. Another 30% have savings of less than $5,000. Only 33% of respondents have $5,000 or more saved. While a small group of respondents (4%) were “super-savers,” putting away at least 25% of their income, nearly half of all respondents (49%) said they saved less than 5% of their income, and a quarter (24%) said they are saving 0% of their income. While Boomers are most likely to have $500 in emergency cash (63% do), beyond that, a quarter (26%) are saving 0% of their money, be it in a savings account, 401(k), etc.

Don’t worry; be happy

Most (59%) respondents under 60 said they plan to retire by 60, including a sizeable number of those who currently have nothing saved. Many expect to live into their 80s (37%) with another 20% believing they’ll live into their 90s. The combination of low savings, early retirement plans, and long life may seem unrealistic, but their expectations are modest. The majority of people (70%) think they can be happy on less than $100,000 in annual income per year, and almost a third (31%) of respondents said they only need to make $25,000-$49,000 per year to be happy.  

Most respondents feel they are not financially better off than their parents were at their same age (56%), but they also feel that their life and career options are better than their parents’ were (61%). Enjoying themselves every day is most important when it comes to money for 41% of respondents, followed by 35% who think saving for periodic big events or purchases like a vacation is most important. Less than a quarter (24%) think saving for retirement is most important.

Access the full blog post report 

Varo is working to become the first mobile-centric national bank in U.S. history, and believes banking should be fee-free, easy, and accessible to everyone through a smartphone. In August 2018, Varo was granted preliminary approval for a national bank charter by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC). Operating as a national bank would allow Varo to offer customers an expanded range of banking products and solutions with the continued highest standards of consumer protection.

Varo was founded in 2015 and has raised more than $144M in funding with Warburg Pincus and The Rise Fund, a global impact fund led by private equity firm TPG as lead investors.


Survey of 1,200 adults conducted by Qualtrics on behalf of Varo Money in December 2018.

About Varo Money

Varo Money, Inc. (“Varo”) is on a mission to redefine banking so it’s easy for everyone to make smart choices with their money. In one mobile app, Varo offers customers no-cost¹ premium bank accounts and high-interest savings accounts offered through The Bancorp Bank, and tech-first features to help people manage their money more easily. As a fintech leader, Varo has been granted preliminary approval for a de novo national bank charter by the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC), and is working to become the first mobile-centric national bank in U.S. history. Based in San Francisco and Utah and privately held, Varo has raised $144M to date, led by Warburg Pincus. Varo Personal Loans are offered by Varo Money, Inc., under state licenses, subject to application approval. For more information, visit, like Varo on Facebook, and follow us on Instagram and Twitter @varomoney.

¹Varo charges no fees for banking services. While Varo does not charge fees for ATM withdrawals, some third-party ATM operators may charge a fee. To avoid ATM fees altogether, customers can use an Allpoint® Network ATM. There are more than 55,000 Allpoint locations worldwide.

Bank Account Services provided by The Bancorp Bank; Member FDIC.

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