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Can global shocks spark new action on savings?

The pandemic has exposed pre-existing fault lines, from emergency savings to saving for retirement. We brought together some of the world’s leading thinkers to ask big questions about how we could build a more inclusive and secure savings system. Discover what we learned.

Can crisis be a catalyst for change?

In a year defined by a series of overlapping crises, from COVID-19 and the economy to social justice and climate, financial security has been further upended for millions of households. This demands our attention and presents an opportunity for us to explore how the global crises can spark new focus and action on the savings crisis – if we act together.

In the face of these pressing challenges we convened our first virtual retirement conference, the BlackRock Savings Summit. The event brought together BlackRock leaders including CEO Larry Fink, and outside experts such as behavioral economist Dan Ariely, Starbucks COO Roz Brewer, Nobel Laureate Bill Sharpe and founding director of the Stanford Center on Longevity Laura Carstensen.

  • BJ Dorfman: Saving.

    Dan Ariely: Saving.

    Jennifer Tescher: Saving.

    Frank Cooper: Savings.

    Elise Eberwein: Saving.

    Anne Ackerley: Rather than getting easier, saving, for many people, is getting harder. That's why we're here today, to bring together our work in both emergency savings and retirement, to address issues across the entire spectrum of savings.

    Deborah Winshel: Combining the social impact and retirement conversations is a unique opportunity we have at BlackRock and it's consistent with our purpose of helping more and more people experience financial wellbeing.

    Dan Ariely: A lot of the important economic activities are what we call invisible. Um, err, think about your, your neighbours and friends, err, how much do you know about how much they are saving?

    Laura Carstensen: We need to talk about these issues more, a lot more, and we need to talk about them a lot earlier.

    Scott Knowles: Our employees do experience wellness as sum of their physical, mental, emotional and their financial health, and certainly, financial health has an impact on all of those three other things but we haven't always talked about total wellbeing.

    BJ Dorfman: And so we wanted to take a step back and say, 'How do we help our people with their everyday financial needs?

    Mark McCombe: Obviously, 2020 has just been such an incredibly tumultuous year, err, balancing the health crisis with, err, economic dislocation, and then, of course, right in the middle, all the issues around racial equity and social upheaval in our-, in our country.

    Rob Portman: A lot of people needed to access or form a case (ph 01.36) particularly, and they did, and we provided that flexibility, err, in the legislation we passed. We also have, err, individuals who continue to have, err, need of savings because of the fact that either they no longer have a job or, um, it's been more, err sporadic for them to be able to be employed. So, they've had to tap their savings more.

    Elise Eberwein: I would say to you, in this, um, in this crisis, we saw some 14,000 employees, team members, you know, take on, um, additional, err, loans and, err, money out of their 401(K), close to $400 million. So, we use that data-point just to remind ourselves internally, there is such a need for financial education.

    Tim Flacke: There's link between our short-term financial wellbeing and our long-term financial savings.

    Richard Neal: The challenge we've always had is trying to figure how how to get and grant that same opportunity to people at the lower end of the economic scale, and I think that part of the challenge we've is it's hard for some people who do retirement plans to manage a lot of small plans or a lot of small accounts, and I think that we wanna make it easier and we wanna make it more predictable again and sustainable for those accounts not only to be offered but to be managed.

    Matt Soifer: Any time, you know, we, as a DC industry, you know, try to effectuate any kind of change, it's really important that the entire ecosystem come together and work in a very collaborative manner.

    John Steber: So, how do we get more leverage out of the, the existing capabilities and solutions we have in our ecosystems?

    Callum King: You know, I think the, the number one rule of getting great outcomes is just make it really easy for people to do the right thing.

    Roz Brewer: We always put our partners in the centre of everything we do and we try to understand, what is this like for the people who do the hardest work for us?

    Kevin Crain: It's very hard for somebody to convert a total balance of today to what it means for the retirement income of the future.

    Bill Sharpe: Instead of saying, 'Oh, you've got $X,' you should say, 'You've got enough money to finance Y per year, err, in your-, for your retirement.

    Nick Nefouse: So, that's what we're trying to solve for here, is this, 'What do we do for somebody that's 65 years old, for the rest of their life expectancy, not knowing how long they're gonna live?' And then, 'How do we provide that consistent spending?'

    Laurence Fink: We need to be addressing this now. This has to be something that we focus on. We need to transform ourselves of being fearful of the conversation of money to a conversation that, that we, we can be prepared. That would be my hope. That should be to-, our, our hope, our desire for America of the future.


The call to action: Decisive leadership in uncertain times

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We need to change the dialogue. We need to educate and we need to inform. Because right now we are not addressing this crisis.

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Larry Fink BlackRock CEO

A silver lining: Out of crisis comes innovation

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I often talk about the KNOW-DO gap. Everyone knows they should save. But there’s a big gap between what people know and what they actually do.

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Jennifer Tescher Chief Executive Officer, Financial Health Network

The psychology of saving

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A lot of important economic activities are invisible. Think about your neighbors and friends – do you know how much they’re saving? On the other hand, it’s easy to see what people spend. So the question for us is, how can we make the invisible visible?

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Dan Ariely Behavioral Economist, Author and James B. Duke Professor of Psychology and Behavioral Economics at Duke University
A disrupted world demands big questions.
At BlackRock, we believe the bigger questions we ask, the bigger actions we can take if we act together. Learn more about how BlackRock is committed to tackling urgent problems by asking questions that challenge the status quo and disrupt old ways of thinking.
Savings Summit