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A Portrait of Older Underbanked and Unbanked Consumers: Findings from a National Survey

Adults of all ages should have access to services enabling them to conduct financial transactions safely and cost-effectively.  Banks and credit unions have traditionally provided the vehicle through which consumers can accomplish this, however at least a quarter of American households are unbanked or underbanked. Persons who are unbanked and underbanked must still make purchases, pay bills, and access and save money to meet important goals-a challenge made more difficult without access to mainstream financial services. Enabling those who are unbanked or underbanked to meet their financial services needs safely and cost effectively is a key challenge facing the nation's financial system, but a necessary requirement to ensure quality of life for our aging population.

To study the older unbanked and underbanked population in the United States, the AARP Foundation and AARP's Public Policy Institute collaborated with the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI) to analyze national survey data for those 45 and older. Analysis shows that the majority of age 45+ underbanked and unbanked respondents preferred to use a bank or credit union for financial transactions, although among respondents the likelihood of having an account varied with income, race/ethnicity and employment status. Many unbanked persons identified not having enough money to make an account useful as well as hidden fees and charges as primary reasons for not having an account. The survey revealed that age 45+ underbanked and unbanked respondents in general preferred to borrow from banks or credit unions, although several had used alternative loan types, including 20 percent who reported using risky auto-title loans.

We hope that these findings will spur policy makers and financial institutions to craft new policies, products and services to meet the needs of this population.