During a volunteer stint in Ghana two years ago, Dylan Higgins got a close-up look at microlending. His job as a Kiva Fellow was to interview rural entrepreneurs who are improving their lives with the help of small loans. He heard plenty of success stories but was surprised by a recurring theme. Many borrowers told Higgins that, much as they appreciated the loans, “they were seldom introduced to savings products.”

At the same time, says Higgins, “I was looking back to the United States....

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