21 other expenses. In short, financial vulnerability isn’t just an issue on the margins. It’s an unfortunate reality for millions of everyday citizens in a country where income inequality has reached record highs and the social safety net is increasingly frayed. Just as it does in Africa, Asia and Latin America, Acumen provides catalytic capital to poverty-focused social enterprises in the United States. For instance, Acumen America has invested in  Listo, a one-stop shop for credit and insurance products focused on Hispanic customers. More than 45 percent of Hispanics in the U.S. are unbanked or underbanked. For many of them, the only financial options are pawn shops and payday lenders who charge high fees and greet them with bars on the window and agents who speak to them through a barrier of thick glass. Listo’s founders Gustavo Lasala, Sam Ulloa and James Gutierrez believe customers should be served better through a warm, inviting and transparent experience, regardless of income level. They seek to provide information that empowers their customers and allows them to make informed, smarter decisions. When customers walk into Listo’s multi-lingual, tech- enabled shop, agents greet them as they enter before sitting down to coach them through their options. The trust that Listo builds through these interactions enables it to create tailored financial plans and eventually to help customers embrace digital financial services. Listo’s data strategy also sets it apart. Unlike its competitors, most of whom have only single-product offerings, Listo gathers a much wider set of customer data across a variety of credit and insurance services. This richer data provides it with unique customer insights for better underwriting and greater personalization. Finally, Listo’s diverse offerings allow its customers to graduate from one product to another. As customers improve their financial health and wealth, they can remain and grow with the company they have come to trust. This continuity benefits the customer, as changing financial services providers can be time-consuming, costly, disruptive and fraught with uncertainty. Of course, it also benefits Listo, considering how much more cost-effective it is to retain customers than to acquire new ones. Acumen America most recently invested in EarnUp, a platform that helps people manage and pay down their debt. Consumer debt in the U.S. is at a record high, with 80 percent of Americans burdened with debt from student loans, mortgages, credit cards and more.  With the majority of Americans living paycheck to paycheck, credit access alone isn’t enough—and can be detrimental if users become over-indebted. Over 70 million Americans have debt in collections, representing almost 50 percent of the population in some states. Founded by Matthew Cooper and Nadim Homsany, EarnUp makes sure users stay on top of their debt. At no cost to the individual user, EarnUp organizes all of a person’s loans onto a single platform and makes their payments for them in a manner that reduces outstanding debt at the fastest rate possible. The platform also aligns each person’s loan payments with their income schedule, eliminating the significant stress of budgeting limited resources. We believe that this type of automation could bring significant positive social impact, by reducing the cost of financial tools and making financial management more accessible to low-income Americans. EarnUp reduces delinquencies, saves customers from costly fees, and helps build or repair credit histories. Entrepreneurs like Lasala, Ulloa, Gutierrez, Cooper and Homsany are reimagining institutions while empowering low-income consumers—a task that is more urgent than ever. With flat or declining real wages and the rise of the “gig economy” fueling greater income volatility—only 47 percent of Americans report consistent monthly income and expenses—it’s obvious to Acumen America that financialservicesinnovationhastoacceleratetokeeppace with a rapidly changing set of economic circumstances. Through the MetLife Foundation partnership, Acumen America intends to invest in 6-8 early-stage companies over three years. It will continue to look at businesses along the credit value chain to support innovations like alternative underwriting and forward-thinking credit products. Acumen is also excited to explore the social determinants of financial health—the social, economic and environmental factors that affect a person’s financial situation. With each investment, Acumen America is working toward a vision of greater financial stability, protection and prosperity for underserved and financially vulnerable Americans. Together with a growing portfolio of companiescommittedtoimprovingthehealthcaresystem and creating sustainable paths for hard-working citizens, we believe Acumen America and its financial partners, including MetLife Foundation, have an important role to play in addressing poverty in the United States. View the original article on NextBillion