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Financial Inclusion

FREE Financial Advice for Justin Bieber's Fans

April 12, 2013
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Following in the footsteps of rap mogul Russell Simmons and being-famous moguls the Kardashian sisters, being-adorable mogul Justin Bieber has endorsed a pre-paid debit card.

Happy Tax Day! And Happy Birthday Iris!

April 15, 2013
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Today is April 15th, which means it is Tax Day! Remember to be extra nice today, as some people are more stressed out than usual because it's the last day to file taxes. Studies show a marked increase in car accidents on April 15th likely due to stress or rushing to a tax preparer. As the lead researcher on one study put it, "That's what makes tax day so special from my perspective. It's a widespread stress quite onerous throughout a large community that is synchronized and repeated on a yearly basis."

Research shows that most Americans are not thrilled with the tax filing process: in a recent Pew report, 56 percent of Americans do not like or even hate doing their taxes. Meanwhile, only a third of Americans expressed positive feelings about doing their taxes (29 percent said they liked it, while 5 percent said they loved it. If you fall into that very intriguging and unusual 5 percent, be sure to check out IHeartTaxes.org for a warm-hearted chuckle). 

In the asset building community, April 15th marks the end of tax season, a time of year when Americans of all income levels reflect on their financial lives and often seek out assistance (both paid and free) with preparing their returns. For families and individuals with low incomes, tax filing may produce the largest single influx of funds all year. Therefore, the timing can be perfect for asset building practitioners to work with families on a variety of savings goals, address concerns about debt, and make sure families are claiming any credits (such as the Earned Income Tax Credit) that they qualify for.

The President's Budget is Out! What's in it for Asset Building?

April 10, 2013
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This morning the President released his budget request for FY 2014. Not everyone looks forward to this annual occurrence as much as Reid Cramer, but as a document that lays out a vision for how our government should work, we should all take notice.

Asset Building News Week, April 1-5

April 5, 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, housing, retirement, savings, and debt.

Mobile Financial Services: Implications for Privacy and Financial Inclusion

April 3, 2013
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Editor’s note: Hibah Hussain, a Policy Program Associate with New America’s Open Technology Institute (OTI), and Hannah Emple, a Policy Analyst with the Asset Building Program, discuss a new report on mobile financial services and the implications for mobile privacy and financial inclusion.


A recent report from the Federal Reserve shows that the rise in mobile phone usage is having an impact on the way Americans navigate their financial lives. In 2012, 87 percent of American adults used mobile phones, and about half of those were smartphones. Between 2011 and 2012, the Federal Reserve reports a 33 percent increase in the use of mobile banking (28 percent of all mobile phone owners used mobile banking in 2012, compared with 21 percent in 2011). Despite these increases, “the report indicates that many consumers remain skeptical of the benefit of mobile banking and the level of security associated with the technology.”

"Too Thin a Cushion"

April 3, 2013
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The Economist's Free Exchange blog has a great post up on the long-term decline of the savings rate in America. "Too Thin a Cushion" also charts the rise of the 401(k)and the concomitant rise of the penalized withdrawal from the 401(k).

Upcoming Webinar: Cradle to College: Exploring How Children's Savings Accounts Pay Off

March 22, 2013

PolicyLink is hosting a webinar next Tuesday to investigate a variety of promising new developments from the world of children’s savings accounts. Our director, Reid Cramer, will join a great panel to explore ways that savings accounts can contribute not just to financial readiness for college, but also to better educational outcomes for low-income students, students of color, and other young people traditionally underserved by mainstream financial institutions.

Asset Building News Week March 18 - 22

March 22, 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 public assistance, employment, inequality, and personal finance.

How We Became Finance Fools

March 21, 2013
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Editor's note: A version of this post originally appeared on New America's In the Tank blog.

In her new book, Pound Foolish, journalist and author Helaine Olen takes a deep dive into the world of America's personal finance industry and emerges with a wake-up call for anyone who has ever taken advice from self-described personal finance gurus like Suze Orman. According to Olen, American people have too often been given bad advice on their finances, offered by salesmen with conflicts of interest. We've been sold a series of myths that enrich the purveyors and leave the rest of us struggling to make ends meet amidst the surging costs of housing, health and education --  and income stagnation. Olen's book ends with a call for Americans to open up about their financial difficulties. She says a more honest conversation can help to pave the path for positive change in the financial service marketplace. What would a candid conversation look like – and how do we begin to change a culture that treats personal finance as a taboo topic? Following the public event we had with her earlier this week, I sat down with Olen to explore how to start that new conversation, and what it looks like today, on this In the Tank podcast. Have a listen here.

Also be sure to check out Olen's piece from earlier this week for the Guardian in which she looks at the retirement security crisis and the failings of the 401(k) in greater depth.

Event Summary: Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry

March 20, 2013

The Asset Building Program hosted journalist and author Helaine Olen yesterday for a conversation about her new book, Pound Foolish: Exposing the Dark Side of the Personal Finance Industry.

The Asset Building Program’s Justin King began the conversation by noting the extraordinary losses in wealth for American families during the Great Recession, which correlate with the growing public attention to the wealth gap. A common refrain is that our collectively insufficient level of savings is just part of “American culture” – but King argued this framing fails to recognize the role of policy in shaping culture. The personal finance industry communicates the message that Americans’ financial troubles are the result of personal failings, when in fact, they are working within a system of policies that often sets them up to fail.

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