Innovation Blog

AARP: FinTech Startup Challenges 2019

Nigel_AARP (1)

Half of American 10-year-olds are expected to live to see their 100th birthday. Living to 100 can be an exciting or a terrifying prospect depending on your financial situation. A critical challenge for our aging society is how to maintain financial security, when 43% of households are projected to run out of money in retirement.  

Anyone familiar with AARP knows that helping people save for retirement is core to our mission of empowering people 50 and older to choose how they live as they age. You may be surprised that saving for retirement is not the primary challenge we’re pitching to the startup community. Instead, we’re seeking innovative solutions to help people cope with near-term financial setbacks. We’re talking about the everyday curveballs that life throws at us: a flat tire, fewer shifts at work, a broken arm. 

Why focus on short-term needs in the face of such a vast retirement savings shortfall? Simply put, helping people cope in the short-term will help them thrive in the long-term, maybe even for 100 years. Consider the following: 

  1. Most of us experience unplanned financial setbacks. In a given year, 60% of American households experience an expense or income drop that they didn’t budget for. The typical cost of a setback is $2,000. 
  2. Four in ten households couldn’t come up with $400 to cover a financial emergency. This staggering figure comes from the Federal Reserve. Even older and higher-income people are not always prepared for a financial emergency. 
  3. Without emergency savings, a rainy day can turn into a long-term crisis. A lack of liquid savings can throw a household’s finances off track for a year or more. Some households may be forced to turn to high-cost alternatives like payday loans or to withdraw money from retirement accounts

Our Challenges

Through our collaboration with MassChallenge FinTech, AARP is enlisting the startup community to join us in helping people prepare for a rainy day. We are looking for disruptive technologies that:

  1. Help businesses shift employees’ understanding, attitudes, and intentions towards savings, resulting in measurable behavior change to save a portion of their paycheck
  2. Help workers in nontraditional employment relationships (e.g. contingent/ gig workers) save for the unexpected
  3. Help employees build emergency savings in a way that is effortless and inspiring


To give you a head start, here are a few tips for success: 

Education is necessary but not sufficient: The financial industry and others have plenty of tips on how to save, but too many Americans still aren’t prepared for a financial emergency. To help people make real change, we need to leverage the power of behavioral economics. Start here for a primer. 

Behold the power of the paycheck. Employers are an extremely promising delivery channel for savings solutions. The point of pay is an important moment to reach consumers and help them follow through on their savings goals. Hint: it’s also a place where payment technology is already pretty well-established. 

One size does not fit all. We need to know more about the needs of consumers who are underserved in the current market: low-wage workers, nontraditional workers and the self-employed, people of color, and women. 

How will we help startups grow their businesses? 

We engage the startup ecosystem to help bring the best solutions to market and to scale. We engage with startups in stages, with a long-term strategy of choosing a select group of startups to collaborate with to transform markets and change lives. 

  • First, we encourage all entrepreneurs to keep the power of the 50+ market in mind when designing for all ages. Our message to entrepreneurs: In the US alone, people over the age of 50 generate $7.6 trillion in annual economic activity, so you ignore the 50+ market at your own peril. 
  • Next, we offer in-kind services to a select group of startups. For the past two years, we have teamed up with industry and academic startup accelerators like MassChallenge HealthTech to offer to a small group of early-stage startups services such as access to AARP innovation experts, industry experts, 50+ consumers for qualitative testing, in-home user testing opportunities, media exposure, showcase opportunities at major conferences and events, and exposure to major influencers and investors. As we work with these startups, we assess their potential for transformational social impact through market innovation. 
  • Finally, we choose a small number of start-ups to work with in a more long-term way to drive impact for people 50-plus—We ask startups with the greatest promise to join AARP’s Hatchery Ventures program, which uses AARP’s resources and expertise to bring the best of these ideas to scale. 

At AARP, we remain steadfast in our mission to disrupt aging, and empowering people who are 50+ to choose how they live as they age. 


Catherine HarveySenior Policy Advisor, AARP Public Policy Institute

Nigel Smith, Director, AARP Innovation Labs

Want to partner with AARP during the 2019 MassChallenge FinTech program?

Apply at by October 12, 2018 at 12:00PM (noon) ET.


Browse the list below to learn more about the challenges issued by MassChallenge FinTech partners for the 2019 program.


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