Tackling the cost-of-living crisis one savings goal at a time

Posted on 19 Sep 2023

By Travers McLeod

BSL Saver Plus participant

For 20 years the Brotherhood of St Laurence Saver Plus program has helped financially disadvantaged Victorians develop lifelong savings habits. Now it’s going national, says BSL executive director Travers McLeod.

At the Brotherhood of St Laurence (BSL), we have 2,500 staff and volunteers working with tens of thousands of low-income households each year.

We see the financial pressures these households are under every day and are always looking for ways – big or small – to help ease that burden, especially during the current cost-of-living crisis.

Having the knowledge and confidence to create and stick to savings goals where possible is a simple and effective way to mitigate an element of that stress.

Which is why we’ve been thrilled to announce that our Saver Plus program, the world's largest and longest-running financial education and matched savings initiative, is now available nationally.

The program, which BSL established with ANZ two decades ago and now delivers in partnership with The Smith Family and Berry Street, has helped people in Australia develop life-long savings habits.

Participants receive up to $500 matched savings for education costs, which we know anecdotally are a huge but unavoidable financial strain on individuals and families.

As part of the national roll-out, the free program is a key tool to help people with cost-of-living pressures and is now accessible through a new and innovative fully online model, a step forward that will help better service participants across the nation.

Brotherhood of St Laurence executive director Travers McLeod.

Anyone who is eligible and has an internet connection can participate, and we want to see as many people as possible signing up, hitting their savings goals, and developing those critical savings habits that last a lifetime.

Expanding from a 60-site in-person service to a fully online platform brings huge benefits.

Participants now have the flexibility to access financial education and support from the comfort of their homes, empowering them to take control of their finances on their terms.

Since its inception in 2003, Saver Plus has positively impacted the lives of more than 57,000 Australians who have taken part.

Through the program, participants have collectively saved more than $28 million, with ANZ contributing more than $23 million to assist with education-related expenses.

The simplicity of the Saver Plus program is propelling its success.

Those who take part set a goal, save for 10 months, attend online financial education workshops, then at the end of the program have their savings doubled by ANZ – by up to $500 – which is used to purchase education-related items for the participant or their family.

"Saver Plus has elevated the financial well-being of participants, empowering them to take control of their financial futures and build life-long savings habits."

Saver Plus has elevated the financial well-being of participants, empowering them to take control of their financial futures and build life-long savings habits.

On average, people who have signed up to Saver Plus have increased their financial wellbeing score by 77 percent, to 64 – significantly higher than the average Australian financial wellbeing score of 59.

We’ve heard from countless people who originally signed up to access the matched payment and ultimately gained so much more than the $500.

According to a recent post-program survey:

  • More than 86% of respondents reported that Saver Plus better prepared them to manage the pressures associated with the cost of living.
  • About 78% said they were better equipped for unexpected expenses.
  • An estimated 80% reported having more control over their finances.

Perhaps Hanna, who saved originally for her six-year-old daughter’s education expenses, said it best.

“I really wanted to learn how to save and that's exactly what it taught me to do. As a by-product of completing the program, I began to see the value and importance of having some money set aside, which has stayed with me long after the program ended. I no longer have the fear over money that I used to.”

BSL is incredibly proud of our Saver Plus program, which uses the combined power of goals, incentives and personal support to help lower-income people to build better savings behaviour.

For many participants like Hanna, the program is literally life changing.

We’re looking forward to all eligible people in Australia being able to reach their savings goals and build lasting savings habits through the expanded program.

If you know anyone who might benefit from participating in Saver Plus, please refer them to kickstart their savings journey.

Travers McLeod is the executive director of Brotherhood of St Laurence.

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