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 the Assets Learning Conference, banking, conversations about poverty, the wealth gap, and financial education.
Assets Learning Conference
Experts from around the U.S. gathered this week in Washington to discuss the field of asset building at the biannual Assets Learning Conference. The event, sponsored by CFED, featured speakers and panelists from a variety of specialties including housing, welfare, education, and banking. The conference’s website includes detailed information on the presenters, the topics discussed, and highlights from this year’s meeting. Stay tuned next week for our reflections from various sessions!
After the FDIC released figures that show a growing number of households are unbanked or under-banked, the Wall Street Journal investigated some of those populations who are using prepaid cards, payday loans and other products in lieu of mainstream financial institutions. Forbes also explores the issue, and suggests that part of the American public’s persistent reluctance to becoming banked can be attributed to the increasing cost of basic banking and the increasing prevalence of hidden fees, even among mainstream national banks. Meanwhile, the New York Times takes a look at the pitfalls of another financial product, the check, as debt-collection agencies assume the enforcement authority and procedural countenance of local governments.
Politics of Poverty
The political headlines this week have followed the two parties’ resurging debate over poverty and assistance program spending, which has exploded back into national attention after a video was leaked of Romney’s closed-door speech to campaign donors. Romney’s statement about the 47% of Americans who supposedly shirk economic responsibility and pay no income tax has been variously responded to by both supporters and opponents. POLITICOreminds us that Obama has avoided directly taking on the issue of poverty since he took office, despite his previous efforts in that policy area.
This week marked the one-year anniversary of the beginning of the Occupy Wall Street movement, which highlighted issues of wealth inequality in new ways. A Congressional Research Service study out this week suggests that tax cuts for wealthy Americans do not promote economic growth and may in fact exacerbate the wealth gap. U.S. News’s “Smarter Investor” column reminds us of another kind of wealth gap worth keeping in mind: the financially more vulnerable situation of retired women as compared to men, who statistically have higher earnings across the lifespan and live shorter lives, putting less strain on their financial resources.
The Guardian this week explored the issue of whether better financial education could help young people get more from their college education (which the Washington Post reports is becoming a less promising investment), while Barron’s considered the converse question of whether education could solve financial illiteracy. Supposing that educational topics are more easily broached to young people through technology, Michigan State University developed a video game out this week to teach them basic concepts of financial literacy. More in line with traditional teaching practices, a Republican state senator from Indiana is proposing legislation that would implement mandatory financial literacy coursework in Indiana public schools.
Howard University’s Center on Race and Wealth and the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies will host an online event to discuss asset building in October.
The Federal Reserve Community Development Research Conference is inviting paper submissions for its upcoming conference in April. Abstracts and papers are due October 1st.
Market Watch discusses the political feasibility of doing away with the mortgage interest deduction, which we've pondered the merits of before.