Ownership & Assets

The Racial Wealth Gap and the March on Washington

August 28, 2013
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Today marks the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. That's being commemorated by a gathering on the Mall here in DC, and by some excellent writing. Among what I'm sure are many other excellent pieces, here are two that are worth reading and notable to us for their focus on the racial wealth gap:

"Race and Poverty, Fifty Years After the March" by Vauhini Vara in The New Yorker--

Asset Limits and Financial Security: A Conversation on Twitter

August 28, 2013
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Yesterday, the Asset Building Program and ACCESS to Financial Security for All (an initiative of PolicyLink) engaged in a productive conversation on Twitter about the issue of asset limits. Check out the Storify summarizing the conversation below, or at this link.

Asset limits are simply caps on the amount of savings that applicants and recipients of public assistance programs may have to apply or receive support. While these limits were designed to ensure programs target only the most high-needs families and individuals, they ultimately serve as a disincentive to save. By restricting families from having as little as $1000 on hand for an emergency, these limits leave families more economically vulnerable in the long-run and less able to move out of poverty and off assistance. Furthermore, asset limits can add cost and administrative complexity to the benefits administration process, which reduces the efficiency of programs at the state and local level.

Guest Post: Youth Summer Paychecks: an Untapped Opportunity to Promote Financial Capability?

August 28, 2013
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Editor’s note: This post was authored by Vishnu Sridharan, Director of the Make Your Path (MY Path) Program at Mission SF Community Financial Center in San Francisco, California and a former member of the Global Assets Project at New America.

In 2012, San Francisco responded to President Obama’s call to provide increased opportunities for low-income and disconnected youth by launching a Summer Jobs + initiative that reached over 5,000 youth. In 2013, in collaboration with Mission SF Community Financial Center, United Way’s Matchbridge program, and Community Trust, a division of Self Help Federal Credit Union, San Francisco took its Summer Jobs + program to the next level by integrating Mission SF’s award-winning MY Path program. In doing so, the city became the first in the nation to incorporate not just financial education, but access to financial products, direct deposit and saving incentives, into its youth summer workforce system. This innovative collaboration—and its impressive impact on working youth—has generated important lessons for the fields of financial capability and asset-building, in particular demonstrating the power of workforce development programs as platforms for asset-building interventions.

Upcoming Twitter Chat with @Access2Assets on Asset Limits and Financial Security

August 23, 2013

The Asset Building Program is looking forward to participating in a Twitter chat this coming Tuesday with our friends at ACCESS, a new web resource for asset building and equity policy experts and advocates to learn, share information and ideas. We’ll be discussing how states can improve financial security for lower-income families and will take a close look at the issue of “asset limits.” We’ll discuss what asset limits are and how they can thwart the savings efforts of hard-working families and undermine public policy goals, such as promoting self-sufficiency.

We’ll also be featuring a new resource we released earlier this summer to help advocates, policymakers, and members of the general public understand how states stack up in terms of encouraging families to achieve financial security while they are receiving public benefits. You can check that out in advance of the chat here.

Never participated in a Twitter Chat before? Here’s a short guide on what it is and how it works:

How to Participate

Twitter Chats are simply public conversations that use Twitter as the platform for discussion. Anyone can participate by tweeting their opinion, sharing facts, or asking questions. @Access2Assets, managed by the team that put together the great new website Access to Financial Security For All, will be the moderator for this chat. They’ll be asking questions about what exactly asset limits are and how they work (or, in many cases, fail). Our team, using the @AssetsNAF account, will be providing answers to those questions, as well as guidance on how to make the most of our web-based asset limits resource.

You can participate using your personal or organizational Twitter account by following both @AssetsNAF and @Access2Assets. If you want to actively participate, tweet using the hashtag #assetlimits and we’ll see it and be sure to respond.

If you don’t have a Twitter account, but would still like to ask a question, leave a comment on this post and we’ll address it during the conversation. After the chat, we’ll pull together a Storify, which will summarize some of the main tweets and key takeaways from the chat. Anyone will be able to view that after the event. For an example (and a preview of what this chat will be like) check out the Storify that @Access2Assets created after their chat with Ben Mangan of EARN last month.


Who: @AssetsNAF and @Access2Assets and you!

When: Tuesday, August 27 at 2pm ET/11am PT

What: Use the hashtag #assetlimits to engage in a conversation about savings and financial security.

Let us know if you have any questions about how to participate! We’re excited to have this conversation.

New CAP Report Explores Benefits of Automatic Retirement Accounts

August 21, 2013
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Yesterday, the Center for American Progress unveiled a new analysis of its Secure, Accessible, Flexible and Efficient (“SAFE”) Retirement Plan, finding that it could both reduce costs for employers and provide more security for workers. Similar to Sen. Tom Harkin’s USA Retirement Funds proposal and a range of state initiatives, the SAFE plan stems from a growing recognition that we need to turn back the tide on a retirement savings system that has increasingly pushed all the risk onto individual workers – setting them up for what many are calling a retirement security crisis.

"We are the real experts."

August 19, 2013
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“If you want to find solutions to the issues that people face while living in poverty, people actually living in poverty need to be part of the discussion when decisions are being made.”

Asset Building News Week, August 12-16

August 16, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include jobs, income, housing, savings, and financial products.

Student Loan Deal Misses Bigger Threat to College Access

August 13, 2013
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Although President Obama and Congress have acted to preserve affordable student loan rates, they’re failing to address a much more serious threat that could impair college access. College enrollment could decline dramatically – no matter what the loan rate - as a result of the loss of household wealth during the recession.

How to Get Real Tax Fairness

August 13, 2013

This Op-Ed originally appeared at Ten Miles Square, a blog of The Washington Monthly magazine.

Leaders from both parties and both chambers of Congress have vowed to wipe the tax code clean and scrutinize every deduction, credit, and expenditure. They claim to be on the lookout for good ideas that can serve as pillars for meaningful - and fair - tax reform.

Boosting Consumer Protections for Unbanked TANF Households

August 12, 2013
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A couple weeks ago, the New York Times featured a front page story about the vast numbers of Americans who are denied bank accounts due to minor transgressions like a bounced check or overdraft fee. As we discuss frequently in the asset building community, having access to a low-cost bank account is key to participating in the financial mainstream and avoiding the check cashing fees, high interest loans and other fringe financial services that contribute to the high cost of being poor – as powerfully illustrated in the article:

Mr. Korzeniowski, who acknowledges “he made a mistake [by overdrawing his account],” says the fees he pays for cashing checks, paying bills and wiring money cannibalize the paycheck he gets from part-time construction work. “Everything is more expensive,” he said.

Yet for participants in public assistance programs, the barriers to being “banked” go even further. Most fundamentally, many banks don’t cater to lower-income consumers; fees, minimum balance and direct deposit requirements can discourage many who hover near the poverty line from establishing an account. Furthermore, public assistance recipients are often subject to asset limits – as low as $1000 per family in TANF – that can deter saving or even maintaining a bank account.

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