5 Traits of Our Unbanked and Underbanked

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- There are approximately 51 million unbanked or underbanked U.S. consumers in the country, but they may not be what or who you think. In fact, you may know one in your neighborhood, or even in your own household.

FactorTrust, an Atlanta-based financial services analytical firm, wants to highlight the problem. The firm is introducing a quarterly index that tracks the underbanked, with the idea that financial services firms should reach out to this demographic and help them organize their money.

"Our goal in launching this quarterly index is to share the knowledge we've been able to mine from our database of millions of records related to underbanked consumers," says Greg Rable, CEO of FactorTrust. "We want to empower lenders to reach these consumers effectively as well as educate a broader audience about who these consumers are, and to show how valuable they could be to financial services decision-makers."

The first FactorTrust Underbanked Index really hits home in another way: It shows, for perhaps the first time and certainly with the most clarity, who those unbanked and underbanked Americans are and how they break down demographically.

Here's a thumbnail sketch from the index, released Thursday:
  • Age: The FactorTrust index shows the average age of the underbanked is 30 years old.
  • Real estate: The index shows that underbanked consumers average two years at the same address; 66% of these consumers rent, with more than 90% of those renting apartments and condos.
  • Sex: Some underbanked consumers do try to take out loans from time to time. Of those, 62% are female, while 38% are male, FactorTrust reports.
  • Education: The index says that 33% of the underbanked have college degrees.
  • Career: Most of America's underbanked work in the retail industry, government and, surprisingly, banking and finance. The index says the average length of employment for the underbanked is just over two years at the same job.

FactorTrust also report that the country's underbanked earn, on average, about $36,000 annually, well above the U.S. poverty line of $22,800 for a family of four.

So why can't banks do a better job of drawing the underbanked out of the dark? FactorTrust really doesn't say, but it's fair to note the poor reputation banks suffer among the U.S. populace, while high fees and low rates of return don't help the cause of financial institutions.

That said, FactorTrust does a big favor pointing a spotlight on the underbanked. They're more Main Street than Skid Row, and that's got to be a disturbing sign of the times.

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