Financial Well-Being

“Income is how you get out of poverty; assets are how you stay out.” How do we build policies, programs, and products that reduce systematic inequality and advance financial security for all?

Young students wearing red shirts laugh as they participate in a college-bound program in Indiana.

College Bound: A Look at Children’s Savings Accounts

Children's savings accounts for higher education, even those that have accumulated only small amounts of money, can change expectations for low-income students and they might also provide a vehicle for larger wealth transfers.
graduation

Small Investments Can Yield Big Returns. Review of A Few Thousand Dollars

Over a dozen stories of how Americans from all different backgrounds have managed to leverage a few thousand dollars to lead lives that have helped thousands of other people, and strategies to reinvigorate a movement to influence asset building policy nationally.

Not All Asian Elderly Are Well Off

Too many of us have the misconception that elderly Asian Americans live a charmed life that is financially secure with strong family ties. This isn’t accurate.
Small American flag with fringed edges attached to a wire stick.

Why Giving Up on Homeownership Is Giving In

These ideas aren’t new, but pulling them together in a collective, coherent way will push back against those who, like their predecessors of 80, 70, 60 and 50 years ago, would deny long-term stability to those for reasons more than just the color of their money.
home with for sale sign in foreground

Is the Housing Market the Answer to the Racial Wealth Gap?

In discussions around closing the racial wealth gap, we should be reminded that a very large portion of wealth gained by white Americans should be seen as ill-gotten.
The summer 2016 cover of Shelterforce magazine, an illustration of a man climbing up orange colored stairs.

Being “Well,” Financially

What does it take to achieve financial security for the millions of American households without it? Clearly full employment, higher wages, and a more robust safety net would be some major components. But as important as those are, they aren’t the full picture. Assets are an important counterweight to income.

True Financial Capability Requires Expanding the Definition of Wealth

What is productive agricultural land and clean water worth? What are strong communal relationships worth? What is a clear connection to heritage, to culture, to past, to future, and self, worth?
A key in focus

Despite Progress, States Have Work to do to Ensure Access to Affordable Rental Housing...

If expanding access to homeownership can reverse the trends of growing racial wealth inequality, why are we seeing so many states roll back the supports that make homeownership possible?
physician takes blood pressure

Shelter Shorts, The Week in Community Development—Sept. 21

News from—and affecting—the community development world.

Keeping Everyone Afloat: Is Universal Basic Income the Answer?

Advocates and organizers who deal with the needs of the poor often say it's not really a housing/food/training issue, it's an income issue. So what would happen if we just addressed income?

These States Are Trying to Level the Field for Disadvantaged Students

How would the trajectories of children’s lives change if they knew that their state, their community and their parents were investing in their future success for as long as they could remember?
Yellow sign reading 'Aloha.'

Reflecting and Planning Using a Community Wealth Building Lens

Over an organization’s 25 years in existence, how do staff and volunteers measure impact and build off of lessons learned to guide their next steps forward?
A woman and man stand together smiling in front of their new home in North Carolina. They received a loan not based on credit scores, but on character.

Challenging the Almighty Credit Score

A majority of mainstream lenders base loan approvals on a hotly debated three-digit score. Are there better, fairer ways to assess risk?
computer keyboard

Data Drives the Movement for Economic Justice

A government report concludes that residents of low- and moderate-income Census tracts have as much access to bank branches as residents in middle- and upper-income tracts in rural areas and large metropolitan areas. Yet access to bank services for low- and moderate-income consumers is still being lost. Why is that?

Scoring Homeownership: Looking at the Long Game

Today’s economic climate offers little hope to many struggling families. Family incomes still lag in comparison, for example, to rising housing costs in many markets.
Black computer enter key

SoFi, Not So Good: Is This Virtual Redlining?

SoFi is practicing product segregation. It wants to serve affluent people with its best products and shunt low- and moderate-income borrowers into inferior products that do not meaningfully serve credit needs.
A high school graduate who saved for college with the help of FUEL Education, now called Inversant.

In Which a Skeptic Is Won Over to Child Savings Accounts

While I am a firm believer in equal access to higher education for all, it’s over-emphasized in our individualistic culture as a solution to society’s woes.

Who Is Still Unbanked, And What Can We Do About it?

Seven percent of U.S. households, a group roughly the size of the population of Australia, were “unbanked” in 2015, meaning they have neither a checking nor savings account. This is the lowest unbanked rate recorded since the survey first launched in 2009
Two employees of Grace Federal Solutions in North Carolina, an African-American man and woman, chat in the hallway of their offices. The company secured a loan from a CDFI.

CDFIs Led By People of Color Face Financial Disparities Too

A lack of access to capital, capacity-building resources, and technical assistance significantly constrains the ability of CDFIs led by people of color to achieve greater impact.
From left, Andrea Levere, Andrea Luquetta-Kern, Woody Widrow, and Holly Frindell.

In Pursuit of Financial Well-Being: A Conversation on Fairness, Accessibility, and Empowerment

In a world of growing financial complexity, predatory products, stagnating wages, and escalating inequality, financial insecurity is a dramatic problem. We gathered a group of leaders who are combating financial insecurity for a conversation on how it all relates.
Does shared-equity homeownership build assets? Yes. And keeps them safer than traditional homeownership does. Various graphs and charts follow to back up this assertion. Image links to pdf version.

Q: Does shared-equity homeownership build assets?

A: Yes! And keeps them safer than traditional homeownership does.

Extending a Bank Branch to the Community

The systemic closing of bank branches in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods is followed by payday lenders, pawnshops, and check cashing services stepping in to fill the void.

How Does Mobile Banking Affect the Unbanked?

The absence of bank branches and the proliferation of high-priced alternative lenders in the region only underscore the importance of access to affordable financial services.

Millennial Women and Retirement Savings: Start Where You Are

Today, most women have the autonomy and ability to take charge of our finances, but we don’t all do it.

Almost Home

Shortly after her 18th birthday, Cindy (not her real name) left her group home in the Bronx to live with her mother. Although under...
A chart of the United States showing where the U.S. Financial Diaries study occurred - California, Eastern Mississippi, Ohio/Kentucky, and New York City.

Is Financial Unsteadiness the New Normal?

A yearlong analysis of 200-plus households suggests that we should add a third leg to the financial security stool along with income and assets: cash flow.

Does the Current Reliance on Credit Scores Deny Deserving Applicants?

Last week, we asked readers if credit scores were too much of a driver in home loan approval. You answered overwhelmingly that yes, credit...

The Fight for Full-Time Work in San Jose

Unpredictable hours lead to unpredictable cash flow, which is a barrier to budgeting and saving. One response to this, the Opportunity to Work Initiative, would require that San Jose employers give more hours to part-time employees before hiring new staff.

Well Worth the Read

Reading What It’s Worth was like walking through one of the glorious Asset Learning Conferences that CFED organizes, equipped with a magical Harry Potter wand that allows me to stop and re-work time so I can peer into each workshop at my leisure.

Is Rags to Riches the Right Measure?

Comparative income quintiles don’t tell us very much about the material conditions of people’s lives. When someone rises into the top fifth, someone else falls into the bottom fifth.
Business Hours sign on glass door.

Unstacking the Deck for African-American Entrepreneurs

The truth is most entrepreneurs’ firms don’t grow quickly, employ people, or earn much money. And, more importantly, entrepreneurial success has far less to do with exceptional skill than with one’s ability to weather repeated failure and financial loss.

When The Tired, Poor, Huddled Masses Fought Back

Financial Justice is the untold story of how a diverse group of progressive organizations took on the powerful financial lobby, pushed Congress to create a strong new consumer protection agency and against the odds, won.
This Opa-locka, Florida resident had his loan request approved based on his character and not his credit score.

When a Person’s Character Trumps Their Credit Score

Some CDFIs approve loans based on a person’s character instead of their credit score. But they only recommend doing so when you know the applicant.
We ask: What don't people who are getting rental assistance get a job? The Answer: More than half are elderly or disabled. Of the rest, most of them do have a job!

Q: Why Don’t People Who Get Rental Assistance Get a Job?

A: More than half are elderly or disabled. Of the rest, most of them do have a job! Ninety-four percent of rental assistance receipts are ...

CRA Modernization:  A Critical Moment for Underserved Neighborhoods

The Community Reinvestment Act and the Consumer Financial Protection Agency Act hold great promise for the creation of a more financially inclusive nation, but both depend on critical "moments in time" in Congress that will determine whether they become good laws or are weakened beyond recognition
home with sold sign in front

Equitable Tax Reform Begins at Home(ownership)

Talk of tax reform has reached a fever pitch, but most Americans don't realize just how high the stakes are and what impact the final legislation could have on their own financial security for years to come.

Why Financial Education Should Get Political

Financial curricula for low-income households often focus on personal choices about budgeting and saving, but if they don't also address systemic problems, exploitation, and discrimination, they aren't speaking to their audience's reality.

Financial Inclusion Begins With Our Tax Code

Changes to the tax code, and tax programs that support low-wage earners, will strengthen gains made in the asset-building field.
A ripple in water.

The Ripple Effects of Income Volatility

Research shows a connection between the financial instability of families and the economic health of communities.

Safe Banking for Seniors

To support older adults to safely age in community, we need to consider what they need out of banking—and what they need to be protected from.
ladders

Measuring the Right Things: “Mobility from Poverty” Is More than Finances

How would you measure someone making progress toward escaping poverty? If you've been tuned in to the asset-building movement you might look at their accumulation of assets and preparation for a financial emergency. You might also want to look at cash flow. But can poverty-fighting be solely measured by money?
A home at the Dos Pinos Housing Cooperative, the only limited-equity housing co-op in Davis, California.

A Low-Cost Ownership Oasis in a Desert of Apartment Unaffordability

When this limited-equity cooperative in California began more than 30 years ago, it wasn’t the most affordable place to live. But now the co-op’s monthly costs are 50 percent lower than the average market-rate apartment.

Context for the Racial Wealth Divide May Free American Minds, and Mindsets

Black people were excluded from many of the income and wealth-building programs that helped build the foundation of white Americans’ wealth today.

Keeping Justice in Mind as We Talk Asset-Building

I attended my first ever Assets Learning Conference, put on by CFED last week, and I have to say it was mighty impressive. And I was particularly pleased to see that economic justice and things like reforming the tax code to be less regressive and reward savings by low- and middle-income Americans, rather than mostly […]

Financial Counseling and Coaching Need to be Professionalized

What happens to families who are financially vulnerable and rely upon free financial counseling and coaching services to get out of debt or repair their credit score?

In LA, a New Resource to Pull Families Back From the Financial Brink

Regardless of income level, a family that is just getting by is locked in a state of stress and vulnerability.
A blue and white Louisiana road sign.

After a Far Fall, Is Louisiana Becoming a Better Place for its Lower Income...

When the 2017 Prosperity Now Scorecard was published last month, it was no surprise that Louisiana ranked second-to-last among all 50 states and the District of Columbia, as it typically falls somewhere near the bottom. In many ways, the Scorecard confirmed what we already knew: that most Louisiana families, especially low-income families and families of color, are not faring well financially. What was surprising, however, was how far Louisiana had fallen.