The Inclusive Economy
Asset Building: What Does the Future Look Like?
By Natalie Abatemarco, Guest Contributor on 08/15/2012 @ 09:00 AM
EDITOR’S NOTE: Natalie’s blog post originally appeared on the Citi Blog. CFED wishes to thank Natalie for her contribution and Citi Community Development for their generous support of the 2012 Assets Learning Conference.
Last week, I had the privilege of attending the National Urban League’s (NUL) annual conference in New Orleans. NUL is a long-standing partner of Citi’s, collaborating on numerous community programs with both Citi Community Development and Citi Foundation. This year’s conference was particularly special as it was opened with a speech from President Obama. In his address to the conference attendees, the President reiterated that “Good jobs, quality schools… affordable housing -- these are all the pillars upon which communities are built.” They are also important stepping stones for families to build long-term assets – a college degree, retirement savings, or owning a home. However, with the Pew Institute's report revealing the country’s record wealth gap in communities of color, the President challenged attendees to be creative and urgent in making these asset building opportunities accessible to everyone. But how?
This was the central question discussed at one of the conference workshop panels I participated in. The workshop, “Asset Building in America: Innovative Ideas to Achieving Financial Independence”, brought together experts from across the national community development field ranging from direct service providers who offer much-needed support services to low-income communities, to advocates calling for new solutions to address wealth disparities in the U.S. During the lively discussion, two themes emerged.
First, assets come in many forms and sizes. At a time when personal credit ratings dictate how much interest you pay on loan, your employment prospects or even your ability to rent a property, a good credit score is a real asset. In 2011, for the 26 million low- and moderate-income families who received $59 billion through the Federal Earned Income Tax Credit Program, those individual tax rebates are real assets for families. Efforts to promote asset building therefore need to be holistic, focusing not only on increasing homeownership or college enrollment, but drawing on every opportunity to assist families build wealth.
Second, asset building is a long-term endeavor and requires families to make beneficial financial decisions both now and in the years to come. New policy frameworks, services and incentives need to be developed to create a supportive infrastructure that sustains continued asset building over time.
Citi’s national community development partners, like NUL, provide crucial insights and perspectives that greatly inform and inspire the work of Citi Community Development. We remain committed to working with NUL and all of our national partners to advance an asset building agenda that empowers all Americans to achieve financial independence.
Join us to continue this conversation at the upcoming CFED conference in September 19-21 in D.C. Learn more at www.assetsconference.org.
Natalie Abatemarco is Managing Director for National Initiatives at Citi Community Development.