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New Feature: Asset Building News Week

January 6, 2012
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Way back in 2011, we conducted a survey of readers that told us a number of things: importantly, we learned that many of you look to us for timely news from the asset building field and that a regular round-up of articles would be a welcome addition to our other content. In keeping with the spirit of 2012 and resolutions and all that good stuff, the Asset Building Program is introducing a new weekly blog feature: a Friday news round-up. We hope this will help you (and us, for that matter) keep up with developments in the field, note-worthy news, and learn about partner organizations working around the U.S. on asset building, economic security, anti-poverty policy, and accessible financial services for low- and middle-income Americans. Topics will vary week-to-week (and depending on the news!) but we’ll aim to provide a diverse overview of the things we’re keeping an eye on that we think you’ll find interesting too.

New Series: Creating a Financial Stake in College

January 5, 2012
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The Asset Building Program and the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis (CSD) are pleased to publish a series of reports collectively titled "Creating a Financial Stake in College." Authored by William Elliott III, professor at University of Kansas School of Social Welfare, the four-part series focuses on the relationship between children's savings and improving college success.

Why Policymakers Should Care about Children's Savings

  • By
  • William Elliott,
  • New America Foundation
January 5, 2012

“Creating a Financial Stake in College” is a four-part series of reports that focuses on the relationship between children’s savings and improving college success. This series examines: (1) why policymakers should care about savings, (2) the relationship between inequality and bank account ownership, (3) the connections between savings and college attendance, and (4) recommendations to refine children’s savings account proposals.

YouthSave New Year Update: a Glance Back at 2011, a Look Ahead at 2012

January 4, 2012

By Rani Deshpande, YouthSave Director, Save the Children

Originally posted on www.youthsave.org

Don't Miss These Upcoming Asset-Building Presentations

January 3, 2012
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If you live or work in the Washington, D.C. / Virginia / Maryland area and are interested in asset-building, you are in for a treat. During January 11-15, 2012, approximately 20 individual research papers and posters focusing on asset-building research will be presented at the annual conference of the Society for Social Work and Research (SSWR). This research is the latest and greatest from some of the leading researchers in the asset-building field, including Gina Chowa, Michal Grinstein-Weiss, Vernon Loke, Jin Huang, and Youngmi Kim. Topics include savings at tax time, financial capability of youth in international settings, home ownership and housing stability, and debt and asset accumulation. The conference will be held at the Grand Hyatt Washington. Presentations that are "don't miss" are listed below. Click on the number at the end of the titled presentation for a direct link to the complete abstract.

Summarizing the Research: Asset Effects for Children with Disabilities

December 23, 2011
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During one of our recent events, Sheldon Garon of Princeton University and Ray Boshara of the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis referred to the weak household balance sheet as one of the core economic challenges of our time, suggesting that households must focus on asset-building rather than rely on credit and debt.

Washington Post Series Features Real-life Scott's Tots

December 21, 2011
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Two businessmen walk into an auditorium full of fifth grade students and announce to the children, most from poor families, that they will all have their college educations paid for. For fans of The Office, this scene might conjurer up memories of Scott's Tots, the group of Scranton, PA students sponsored by Dunder Mifflin's regional manager Michael Scott.

Postal Banking to the Rescue of the US Postal Service

December 22, 2011
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Like millions of others this holiday season, perhaps you’ve already made the trip to your local, friendly Post Office. While you were there, did you hear how the US Postal Service is in financial trouble? Was there talk among your neighbors in line about closing the local branch or losing Saturday deliveries?

The USPS financial problems are not a surprise. Reforms enacted in 2006 required the USPS to save up to 75 years health and retirement benefits—unlike every other Federal agency. Without these provisions, it’s like the USPS would be in the black and not the red. That’s not to say there isn’t room for improvement or modernization. But there is another way to remake the USPS that wouldn’t depend on shutting down offices or laying off mail carriers—low-cost banking.

Currently, there are millions of lower-income Americans who don’t own a bank account where they can save or conduct basic financial transactions. They fend for themselves in the high-cost and poor-quality alternative financial sector of payday lenders and check cashers. Recognizing the nefarious practices of this fringe sector was one of the factors which led to the creation of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Once that agency gets up and running, they have a mandate to shut down abusive practices that have flourished without proper oversight. But even if the CFPB succeeds, we may still be left with scores of families who find it difficult to access a simple savings or transaction account. This isn’t a market segment the banks have been dying to serve.

Not only do unbanked families have to spend more of their limited resources managing their money but they don’t have a place to store and build up their savings. In fact, the small saver has largely been abandon in recent years. Traditionally, the US Savings Bond program was designed to serve the needs of the small saver, but that program has been refocused on larger and more institutional savers. Most banks have actually quick selling these as well, directing interested parties to the Treasury website.

The Postal Service could step into the breach.

Assets and the Poor 20 Years Later

December 22, 2011

Bob Friedman has a really nice post up over at CFED's in-house blog, The Inclusive Economy. In it he commemorates the 20th anniversary of the publication of Michael Sherraden's seminal work, "Assets and the Poor," the book that essentially launched the asset building field and details his introduction to the book.

Banking On Bikes

December 19, 2011
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Thanks to a new partnership between Capital Bikeshare, Bank on DC, United Bank, and the District Government Employees Federal Credit Union (DGEFCU), previously unbanked Washington, D.C. residents now have the opportunity to kill two birds with one stone: sign up for a debit or credit card and access a growing regional network of shareable bikes. An announcement from DDOT reads, “The partnership was conceived to promote a healthy and environmentally-friendly form of transit, along with the benefits of financial stability and security.”  In exchange for opening an account with the participating institutions, Bank On DC account holders get a $25 discount off an annual membership for Capital Bikeshare (bringing the cost to $50). While it will be interesting to see if this reduced rate is affordable for the target population, the initiative is an exciting example of creative thinking and cross-sector collaboration.

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