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Housing Advocates Gather for Largest-Ever I'M HOME Conference

By Mikah Zaslow on 12/01/2016 @ 01:00 PM

Tags: News, Housing and Homeownership, Events

Last month, 180 housing developers, lenders, policymakers, industry experts, homeowners and community organizers from 30 different states gathered to participate in CFED's 2016 I'M HOME Conference in San Antonio. This conference was made possible thanks to generous support from Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, the Ford Foundation and NeighborWorks America. Our biggest gathering yet, this year’s I’M HOME Conference opened with a keynote address from NeighborWorks America CEO Paul Weech and featured conversations and learning opportunities related to manufactured housing policy at all levels of government, as well as products and services that propel potential homeowners to achieve their dreams. Participants also learned about recent research regarding the cost burdens of energy-inefficient homes in Appalachia and explored avenues for reforming how manufactured homes are financed.

The Conference wouldn't have been possible without the tireless work of the I'M HOME Network's national partners, including Next Step, ROC USA and the National Manufactured Home Owners Association (NMHOA). In addition joining CFED on the plenary stage to share about the Network's many accomplishments over the past year, national partners led specially-designed breakout sessions on a number of issues critical to manufactured home owners and advocates. These panels dicussed the eHome America online homeownership education platform, manufactured home foundation requirements, tips for positive allyship with manufactured home residents, lending products for manufactured homes and filling vacancies in communities.

Throughout the Conference, several themes emerged that focused on how manufactured housing can continue to be an asset that empowers residents. However, the Conference also made clear that more work remains if we are to realize the full potential of the largest unsubsidized stock of affordable housing in this country. Conference attendees reflected on the need to reverse the stigma surrounding manufactured housing and its residents, to promote greater understanding of the potential of manufactured housing to expand homeownership to more families, and to scale the innovations and solutions that help enhance quality of life for residents of manufactured homes. Especially as homeownership for other housing types becomes increasingly unaffordable, the industry must approach development in new ways and in new real estate markets, such as through “land re-adjustment” to make communities more amenable to manufactured housing and to adapt to density planning needs.

As I’M HOME and the manufactured housing industry adapt to the evolving housing landscape, CFED will continue to facilitate discussions about how we can work together to achieve the goals of the I’M HOME Network and to advance manufactured housing initiatives.

If you couldn’t join us in San Antonio, you can check out session presentations, handouts, reports and other materials from the Conference here. Then, mark your calendars for the 2017 I'M HOME Conference, to take place October 2-4 in Providence, RI!

Missed the ALC Applied Research Forum? Here Are The Best Parts!

By Kasey Wiedrich on 10/11/2016 @ 03:00 PM

Tags: ALC 2016, Data and Research, Events

Research has always been a key part of the Assets Learning Conference (ALC) agenda, and the 2016 ALC, held last month on September 28-30, was no exception. Research presentations were imbedded in sessions throughout the three full days of the conference, but this year we tried something new. We dedicated three hours in the first afternoon of the conference to an Applied Research Forum, designed to bring ALC attendees the latest findings from key research in our field and to highlight the implications of those findings for practice and policy as well as future research. We pulled together research from an array of different topics to look at the broader question about what is working to help individuals and families build financial capability, financial stability or health and well-being. The Research Forum wasn’t an event for researchers to speak to researchers, but rather to get information from researchers to the practitioners, advocates, policy makers and funders who want and need answers about what might be able to move the needle in their communities.

To tell this story, we went through a competitive process, selecting 24 presentations and papers out of over 120 submissions. The breadth and depth of rigorous research that we had to choose from and that we were able to highlight in the Forum speaks to our growing knowledge base and how far we have come from the days of having to simply establish the fact that low-income households can and will save.

Kasey Wiedrich, far right, on stage with Research Forum plenary speakers

The Forum opened with remarks from Gail Hillebrand, Associate Director of Consumer Education & Engagement at the CFPB, and then an opening discussion on household financial security and the key financial challenges facing American families. We heard new research that furthered our understanding of how Americans feel about their financial situations and the level of volatility with which they are dealing. We also heard evidence of the lack of resources that many families have to weather those financial shocks, and how those resources are particularly lacking for households of color.

Next we turned to research and evaluations of the effectiveness of different solutions to those financial challenges. We organized the presentations into seven topical break-out sessions, but looking across the presentations, researchers were mostly testing a common set of interventions in different settings and measuring the impact of those solutions on a related set of outcomes:

  • In the Credit-Building Loans session, researchers showed that credit building loans can help some people, but not all, establish or raise credit scores and that this improved credit can give people a greater sense of control over how they manage their money and borrowing.
  • In both the Behavioral Nudges and Encouraging People to Save sessions, we saw that incorporating behaviorally informed nudges, messaging, small incentives and gamification led to increases in account take up and how often people use their accounts, larger savings deposits and ultimately in one savings program, a reduced use of pay-day loans. But we also saw in the context of some matched savings programs that nudges were not successful over time in helping people overcome barriers to savings.
  • Looking at the overall Impact of Matched Savings, however, we found that that in the short and medium-term, IDAs and matched savings at tax time resulted in higher levels of savings and liquid assets, but there was no impact on debt or use of alternative financial services. In a CSA program, families with CSAs were able to maintain their initial savings deposits over the long-term, which is a positive finding given the barriers they faced to continue to saving the in the accounts.
  • In Financial Capability for Youth and Children, we found that providing access to youth-friendly accounts, combined with financial education and other support services, resulted in greater account take up, higher savings, increased financial knowledge and more positive financial behaviors and attitudes that we believe will help establish a foundation for financial well-being later in life.
  • Finally, there were a number of studies involving Financial Coaching, with evidence that one-on-one financial coaching can increase savings, lower debt, improve payment history and credit scores, lead to more positive financial behaviors and help people feel more positively about their financial situations.
  • When this one-on-one coaching or counseling was integrated into larger employment, human service or public programs (in Integrated Financial Empowerment Services), we also saw higher rates of people being banked, better rates of people bringing past-due accounts current, and some positive impacts on employment, although those didn’t result in higher incomes.

This quick and high-level summary of the research presented at the Forum is intended to help underscore how much we have added in recent years to the evidence base about what is working for whom and under what circumstances, but also demonstrates what work we still have to do to answer additional questions. We had a closing discussion on the topic of what we need from research going forward and whether we are exploring the right solutions for our current challenges. Panelists discussed how to make research applied and fit the realities of our communities, including explicitly exploring impacts on and collecting data in communities of color, incorporating the expertise and knowledge of practitioners, trying to better match the timelines of research and decision-making processes and thinking beyond solutions that are designed to only change the behavior of people and not also consider changing the economic and support systems in which we all operate.

The Research Forum was a great success and the ALC audience was very engaged in the discussions and sessions. We’d like to thank all of those who helped us plan the event, spoke in or moderated a panel, and finally all of those who attended. Personally, I feel lucky to work in a community that not only values research, but also values connecting research and evidence to the work happening in organizations on the ground and in public agencies and legislative bodies.

You can download most of the papers and presentations from the Forum on the ALC website as well as watch the opening and closing discussions on CFED’s YouTube channel.

Learning from One Another: Multi-Directional Learning to Support Financial Capability Integration

By Alicia Hadley on 08/08/2016 @ 05:00 PM

Tags: Events, Integrating Financial Capability

Last month, CFED hosted our Integration Lessons Learned Summit in downtown Minneapolis. The Summit brought together more than 50 participants representing 20 organizations from two of CFED’s key initiatives: the Family Financial Empowerment Initiative (FFEI), made possible thanks to the generous support of the Margaret A. Cargill Foundation, and the Community Financial Empowerment Learning Partnership (CFELP), made possible thanks to the generous support of JPMorgan Chase & Co. Over the past year, both groups have been hard at work integrating financial capability services into their existing programs or coordinating service delivery across their communities. The Summit was a rare opportunity for program staff and service providers from across the country to meet in person to share learnings, highlight successes and challenges they encountered in integrating financial capability services, and celebrate accomplishments and plan for the future.

CFED attributes multi-directional learning design of the Summit to its success in sparking robust knowledge sharing and transfer between participants, and in the spirit of multi-directional learning, we’re thrilled to share what we’ve learned.

What is multi-directional learning and why does CFED facilitate it?

Multi-directional learning is a teaching and learning style that focuses on the many interactions that happen between individuals in an educational environment. Using this approach, learning takes place in three ways: learner-to-learner, teacher-to-learner and learner-to-teacher. This approach varies from the typical teacher- or lecture-centered environment where an instructor disseminates information to learners. CFED designs multi-directional learning events using the Foundations of Dialogue Education framework, which focuses on a learning-centered approach that allows learners and teachers to learn from each other as well as discuss content and apply. We implement multi-directional learning events because they help the organizations we work with understand and apply financial capability concepts and strategies in their work.

How was multi-directional learning used during the Summit?

CFED incorporated the learner-to-learner approach in the Summit design to foster an environment that encourages participant sharing. The Summit spanned two-days, and during the first day, CFELP participants were given the opportunity to share best practices, challenges and accomplishments of their projects. To kick off the conversation, CFED facilitated a gallery walk that displayed poster boards for each organization or partnership outlining their integration strategy, implementation methods and the results. The gallery walk spurred an invigorating discussion about integration successes and opportunities that could be replicated in each other’s work. Massachusetts Community Action Partnership’s (MASSCAP) statewide integration model was one notable success. Many were inspired by the collaboration that MASSCAP was able to foster between 15 of their CAP organizations to deliver over 20 financial capability services, including financial coaching, financial counseling and credit building. MASSCAP attributes their successful relationship building to collaboration and communicating on a regular basis, which in turn fosters a supportive environment. MASSCAP shared their strategies and tips that are helpful in getting organizations to work and communicate with each other on a regular basis. This is a great example of how learners can support the learning of one another.

In addition to the learner-to-learner approach, the Summit also utilized the learner-to-teacher approach in order to highlight best practices and better inform CFED’s financial capability integration process. Over the past year, CFED has continued to learn a lot about the financial capability integration process from the participating organizations. Sessions on the first day allowed participants to reflect on the process in its entirety and provide their feedback. During these sessions, the CFED team facilitated targeted discussions around the tools and activities that participants engaged in over the past 14 months. These tools and activities included the Financial Capability Integration Planning Guide, “Discovery” site visits, in-person convenings, virtual peer learning calls and many more! The discussions about the process were fruitful and participants provided a critical perspective on how they experienced the financial capability integration process. They shared that tools such as client journey maps were essential to the success of the project and that they continue to use it in other aspects of their work. However, some tools, like the planning Guide, were useful, but needed additional explanation when first introduced. We appreciated this feedback immensely, because it not only will help CFED refine how we offer technical assistance, but it will also help us support financial capability integration projects better in the future.

The third approach to multi-directional learning is the teacher-to-learner style. This is the traditional style of learning that forms most of our education and was incorporated into the second day of the Summit, which focused on planning for the future. CFED offered expertise in four key topic areas: managing change, succession planning, fundraising and evaluation. During these sessions, we presented best practices, tips, tools and resources for participants to apply to their own work when they returned to their organizations. One of the most successful sessions was about fundraising, facilitated by CFED’s Director of Program Resource Development, Caryn Sweeney. Caryn informed participants about the financial capability integration landscape, what the funding challenges are in this field and how organizations can make the case for this work. Many participants left feeling inspired and created their own action plans to develop videos, display data, share client stories and encourage their current funders to help potential new funders see the value in supporting financial capability integration.

In all, the Integration Lessons Learned Summit was a great success because of the participants’ commitment to learning. All of the participants were engaged and enthusiastic about financial capability integration, and about the opportunity to share with and learn from one another. Thanks to the multi-directional learning approach, everyone was able to walk away from the Summit with new ideas and ways to expand their financial capability integration work.

New Assets Learning Conference Keynote Speakers, Plus Last Call for Digital Dream Team

By Sean Luechtefeld on 06/09/2016 @ 11:30 AM

Tags: ALC 2016, Events, News

Andrea Levere addressing attendees at the 2014 ALC.

In case you missed the news, we’re thrilled to announce the addition of two featured keynote speakers to the Assets Learning Conference (ALC) agenda! John Koskinen, Commissioner of the Internal Revenue Service, and Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, have both accepted our invitation to address the 1,300+ ALC participants who will join us in Washington, DC, in September. We’re also soliciting applications to join the ALC Digital Dream Team through midnight tomorrow; apply now to make sure you don’t miss out on this important opportunity!

Are you planning to come to the ALC? Are you looking to expand your social media presence and connect with other professionals in our field? If so, the ALC Digital Dream Team is calling your name! As a member of the Dream Team, you’ll help promote the Conference to bring more like-minded people to the event, and you’ll be critical in driving attendee engagement here in DC this summer. Not only is it a great opportunity to create content that showcases your expertise, but you’ll also have the opportunity to play a visible and influential role in the ALC experience. And, to thank you for your contributions, members of the Dream Team will receive a $75 Visa gift card and will be recognized during the Conference. We’re accepting applications through 11:59 pm PDT tomorrow, June 10, so apply today!

The ALC Digital Dream Team is just one of the ways we’re working to enhance the attendee experience this year. Throughout the summer, we’ll be announcing new and exciting upgrades to the Conference, including improved accessibility for attendees with disabilities. We’ll also be announcing new speakers who, along with Director Cordray and Commissioner Koskinen, will help us deliver our largest and most diverse set of sessions to date. Stay tuned for more details!

Haven’t registered yet? Register for the ALC by 11:59 pm PDT on Friday, June 24, and save $100! Join one of CFED’s networks and save even more! Learn more and register here.

Closing the Racial Wealth Gap to Build an Inclusive Economy

By Emanuel Nieves on 05/05/2016 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Events, Federal Policy, News, Racial Wealth Divide

As the media sheds light on the senseless killing of one young black person after another, the inequities and structural barriers facing communities of color have come into sharp focus. Those events and countless others have served to remind the country of these challenges and have also reignited a much-needed conversation about racial equity, including the role public policy plays in social and economic outcomes for communities of color. With this in mind, the Asset Building Policy Network (ABPN) hosted a Capitol Hill Policy Forum last week that brought together a panel of local and national experts to discuss ways to close the racial wealth gap.

As we noted in our recent federal policy brief, the racial wealth gap we see today is responsible for the fact that households of color own just a fraction of the wealth owned by white households. Decades of discriminatory public policies that have intentionally limited the social and economic mobility of individuals and families of color established this gap generations ago.

To address these longstanding challenges, last week’s Capitol Hill Policy Forum brought together experts from financial institutions, civil rights organizations, community development organizations and advocates, all of whom are investing in strategies to close the racial wealth gap and enable low-income communities of color to achieve long‐term financial security.

During the event, speakers and panelists discussed some of the common barriers preventing us from developing solutions to address racial wealth disparity. Congresswoman Judy Chu (D-CA), for example, raised the issue that the “Model Minority” narrative that often pervades discussions about the Asian American and Pacific Islander (AAPI) community is a myth; in fact, the number of AAPIs living in poverty has grown greatly since the Great Recession. As Jeremie Greer, CFED’s Vice President for Policy & Research, noted, Congresswoman Chu’s comment points to the importance of improving and disaggregating data so we can gain a deeper understanding of the specific problems facing each disenfranchised community.

After Representative Chu’s remarks, panelists discussed how community (dis)investment, public policy and persistent financial insecurity have affected communities of color. Several panelists highlighted how communities of color continue to be left out of the mainstream economy and how various public systems, such as the federal tax code and criminal justice system, are contributing to an economic lag. Finally, panelists underscored the transformative impact that financial access—or lack thereof—can have on low-income families of color.

Last week’s ABPN event illustrated that there is no silver bullet to closing the racial wealth gap—we will need to deploy multiple solutions in order to do so. Most importantly, the event highlighted that racial wealth disparity is not just a problem facing communities of color—it’s a problem that affects everyone in the United States. As our nation shifts towards a majority-minority population, ensuring that families of color have an equal opportunity to achieve financial well-being is not just a question of doing the right thing; it’s a question of ensuring the long-term stability of the U.S. economy.

The Asset Building Policy Network is comprised of Center for American Progress, CFED, Citi Community Development, The Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, National Association for Latino Community Asset Builders, National CAPACD, National Council of La Raza, National Urban League and PolicyLink. For more information, visit assetbuildingpolicynetwork.org.

"You Know It Has Soul": Reflections on the Launch of Oakland Promise

By Carl Rist and Bob Friedman on 02/08/2016 @ 03:00 PM

Tags: Children’s Savings Accounts, Events, From the Founder

EDITOR’S NOTE: Director of Children’s Savings Carl Rist and Founder Bob Friedman were in Oakland on January 28 for the official launch of the Oakland Promise initiative. Oakland Promise marks perhaps the most comprehensive children’s savings initiative in the country, and we’re excited to watch it grow!

It was with great pleasure that we were able to take part in the launch of the Oakland Promise, described as a cradle-to-career effort to ensure that every child in Oakland graduates from high school with the expectations, resources and skills needed to complete college and be successful in the career of her or his choice. The launch event was one of the most inspiring we have ever attended: it gathered more than 500 people committed to the idea every community deserves to have a future better than their past.

In so many ways, Oakland Promise raises the bar for municipal-level children’s savings initiatives. Here are three ways we think Oakland Promise stands out among a growing crowd of municipal children’s savings initiatives:

  1. Soul. At the post-launch reception, Michael Sorrell, President of Paul Quinn College, described why he participated in the launch, even though Paul Quinn is located nearly 2,000 miles away in Dallas. “If you know anything about Oakland, you know it has soul,” said Dr. Sorrell. That soul was certainly on display at the launch. An incredible array of community partners was in attendance to lend their support, including Mayor Libby Schaaf, school superintendent Antwan Wilson, every member of the school board and every member of the city council member. Add endorsements by 100+ public officials, including Lieutenant Governor Gavin Newsom (who introduced California Promise legislation the same day); 100+ community partners; more than 70 private donors, led by Mark Bennioff (CEO of Salesforce, who upped his $5.4 million grant in support of the two-generation Brilliant Babies initiative); 22 colleges and universities, led by University of California System President Janet Napolitano; and a range of others.
  2. Hope. Oakland Promise doesn’t just provide hope for the community; indeed, it provides hope for a range of other communities as a model for boosting college success that draws on two proven strategies. First, as its name suggests, the Oakland Promise draws on the best of the so-called “Promise” models—starting with Kalamazoo—that commit to covering the cost of postsecondary education for all who graduate from local high schools. Second, Oakland Promise adds a full dose of the best of asset-building and children’s savings—the kind of “hope in concrete form” that Michael Sherraden first wrote about and that research shows makes such a difference in college access and success. In Oakland, this means following the well-known Kindergarten to College model that was cultivated across the Bay in San Francisco.
  3. Leadership. Hope and soul would be for naught were it not for good, old-fashioned leadership, and that’s where Oakland’s new mayor, Libby Schaaf, comes in. Mayor Schaaf has made Oakland Promise her number-one priority because of the importance of education to the future of her city. Leveraging resources from the philanthropic community, Mayor Schaaf hired David Silver (formerly the Executive Director of College Track) as her new Director of Education. Under Mayor Shaaf’s leadership, David assembled an all-star team of experts, including Amanda Feinstein (most recently a leading funder of children’s savings programs with the Walter and Elise Haas Fund) and Vinh Trinh. Together, this team has already raised $25 million in commitments. Never before have we seen this level of support at the launch of a CSA effort.

So what does Oakland Promise mean for other communities? With the right mix of soul, hope and leadership, Oakland stands as a beacon of what is possible to all communities; its lessons and inspiration is rife. But as participants noted, even Oakland has a long way to go. For Oakland to deliver on its promise, it will require hundreds of millions of dollars in funding beyond the existing commitments, as well as lifetimes of devotion. Luckily, the seeds have already been planted in Oakland.

Of course, the fact is that the promise Oakland is making to its young people is a promise America should be making to its youth, regardless of where they live. This is a much more significant undertaking. It would require, for starters, a reallocation of our national investment in asset building. In other words, the $600 billion in upside-down federal tax expenditures would need to be turned right-side up so that universal, progressive savings programs can benefit those who need them the most. With these reforms in place, the promise Oakland is making can be a promise America can make to all its young people.

When we launched the Campaign for Every Kid’s Future in 2015, we set an ambitious goal of 1.4 children with savings accounts by 2020. Oakland proves that with the right leadership and a whole lot of soul, our goal is within reach.

Want to expand access to Children's Savings Accounts for even more students? Join the Campaign for Every Kid's Future!

What It’s Worth: A New Resource for Promoting Financial Well-Being

By Kate Griffin on 02/04/2016 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Events, Financial Capability, News

Order your free copy at strongfinancialfuture.org.

On the heels of a successful book launch in December, we’re already beginning to see the power of What It’s Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation. The book—a project of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and CFED, with funding generously provided by Citi Foundation—offers a 360-degree view of the financial problems and challenges facing millions of American households. With input from dozens of experts representing fields ranging from community development to public health to education, What It’s Worth highlights proven approaches to building financial well-being and brings more people into an important conversation about building economic opportunity. To maximize the power of the book, we’re working with partners across the country to hold a series of events and plan other ways to engage with the book’s rich set of topics.

The What It’s Worth “road show” kicks off next week in Los Angeles, where experts will examine the systemic causes of financial insecurity and the enormous creativity going into the implementation of proven solutions. If you’re in Southern California on February 10 and would like to attend the event, it’s not too late! Please register by midnight tomorrow, February 5.

Beyond the LA event, we’re taking What It’s Worth to San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia, Chicago, St. Louis, Louisville, Memphis, Little Rock and more. Sign up to receive invitations to these events as they become available. And, be sure to mark your calendar for the 2016 Assets Learning Conference, September 28-30, which will feature What It’s Worth authors, advisors and a range of other experts who will be discussing the opportunities before us to strengthen the financial security of all Americans.

Beyond these exciting events, there are a number of other ways you can engage. By visiting the What It’s Worth website today, you can read our latest Medium posts, browse resources related to the book’s topics and connect with us on social media. You can watch videos of sessions during the Financial Well-Being Summit and our two-minute introduction to financial health and well-being (a great primer for family members who still don’t understand what you do). More will be coming throughout the year, so be sure to request your free copy of the book and sign up to stay informed.

If you’re interested in featuring What It’s Worth at an upcoming event or would like more information, please send us an email.

“What We’re Doing Now is Necessary but Not Sufficient” for Building Financial Well-Being

By Andrea Levere on 01/11/2016 @ 04:00 PM

Tags: Events, Financial Capability

Last month, CFED released What It’s Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation with our partners from the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco and the Citi Foundation. The book was released at a Financial Well-Being Summit on December 8, which brought together many of the book’s 36 authors, along with service providers, policymakers, researchers, philanthropists and finance professionals, each with a shared commitment to promoting financial health and well-being.

The book aimed to achieve four ambitious goals:

  • Describe what we know about the financial lives of America’s households
  • Explain why financial well-being matters to all of us
  • Present the demographics of financial health
  • Outline what we can do to strengthen our financial futures

Despite their diverse perspectives, the authors featured in What It’s Worth agreed with the unifying message that “financial well-being and financial health are preconditions for nearly all the long-term outcomes that collectively enable people and places to thrive.” While this might have been a radical idea less than a decade ago, each of the articles demonstrated how this insight is transforming the ways people do business in sectors ranging from health care to affordable housing to education. This perspective is informing how we conduct research, how we design and deliver programs, and how we develop and advocate for policies at the local, state, federal and tribal levels. This perspective even provides a foundation for the future of democracy in its claim that equal opportunity for economic success “…is a requirement for social stability.”

Perhaps the defining phrase which captured the purpose of the book is that “what we are doing now is necessary but not sufficient.” For example, expanding workforce development training programs to equip people with the skills needed to thrive in this economy is essential. But sending these workers off to their first job without ensuring that they have access to safe and affordable bank accounts in which to deposit their paychecks and start saving may be leading them straight down the path of financial insecurity by way of the neighborhood check-casher. As one astute attendee remarked, getting a job is the first step, but “it is keeping that job and learning to manage expenses that leads to financial well-being.”

It is this perspective that also united many traditionally disjointed disciplines, such as community development and public health, at the Financial Well-Being Summit and in the book. For example, our colleagues in the public health field know all too well that if we fail to address the social determinants of health, we are too often treating the symptoms, not the cause of poor health. This same perspective applies to education, with the growing understanding that “poverty is a great barrier to student success” which increasingly requires schools and colleges to integrate strategies that address financial needs into their operations. With financial stress widely understood to be a major factor affecting productivity, attendance and retention in the workplace, businesses have a major incentive to consider creating “a business coalition to tackle financial insecurity.”

The authors proposed many program and policy solutions to advance financial well-being. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has just released its first set of metrics to measure financial well-being, which is an indispensable tool for both program and policy development. Expanding access to secure and stable housing offers a platform to build financial health. Expanding access to high-quality financial coaching services “builds autonomy and confidence by engaging people in becoming more active managers of their finances.” Modernizing Social Security so that it rewards caregiving will “start equalizing women’s wealth.” And, changing the tax code so that all Americans can afford the price of entry into the economic mainstream with a modest nest egg to manage financial risk while building assets will “reward all of us.”

The Financial Well-Being Summit is just the start of a multi-year outreach campaign, which we’re leading in close partnership with several Federal Reserve Bank branches around the country and with partners across all the sectors. Local events will leverage networks and knowledge that can advance new approaches and policies that “build human capital and lifetime net worth to reduce inequality among the generations.” CFED is committed to organizing and supporting these events so they reflect and promote What It’s Worth for all of us.

To order a copy of the book or stay informed about upcoming events, visit the What It’s Worth website at strongfinancialfuture.org and follow us on Twitter at @StrongFinFuture.

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Opportunities Abound for Manufactured Housing

By Doug Ryan on 11/12/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Events, Housing and Homeownership, News

In October, one message became clear: manufactured housing is already a critical part of the nation’s affordable housing solution. The message was reinforced during CFED’s 11th annual Innovations in Manufactured Homes (I’M HOME) Conference—the largest manufactured housing event in the nation focused on affordability and sustainability—held two weeks ago in Minneapolis. The Conference, which was supported by NeighborWorks America, Wells Fargo Housing Foundation, Ford Foundation and the McKnight Foundation, covered a wide array of topics. Discussions ranged from the importance of reaching populations that are too often shunned by the mainstream—such as persons with disabilities, those in rural America or communities on tribal lands—to advancing new ways of lending through Duty to Serve obligations, state housing finance agencies or local credit unions.

The three plenary sessions, nine breakout sessions and seven roundtable discussions offered the 175 I’M HOME Conference participants a range of solutions and challenges to explore. These sessions reflected the priorities of the I’M HOME Network, such as sustainable homeownership, good public policy and access to single-family finance. We have met about these topics before, but the Conference was meaningful because it demonstrated—through shared priorities among diverse stakeholders and emerging opportunities to pilot programs and policies across the country—that the movement can achieve scale.

Now that we’re home from Minnesota, we’re seizing the opportunity to advance I’M HOME’s agenda in the wake of this powerful gathering. In the coming months, with our partners at ROC USA, Next Step, NeighborWorks America, Wells Fargo Housing Foundation and others, CFED will prioritize opportunities within specific housing markets, as well as policy and product innovations that prove why manufactured housing matters.

As important as the Conference has been for our ongoing affordable housing work, it’s only one step in our effort to expand the base of advocates and partners advancing the manufactured housing sector. Earlier in October, we convened leaders from Colorado to discuss how manufactured housing development and preservation can advance homeownership in the increasingly expensive Denver metropolitan market and beyond. In addition, with the California Coalition for Rural Housing, we conferred with state leaders in Sacramento to rethink strategies in the Golden State. In January 2016, leaders in Oregon will come together in Portland to have similar discussions.

There is movement in other states, too. Just a few months ago, the U.S. Department of Agriculture launched a pilot in New Hampshire and Vermont to facilitate the use of the 502 direct and guaranteed loan programs to finance new high-efficiency manufactured homes. With ROC USA and Next Step, we can lay the groundwork to make this pilot a success so it can expand into other states. Additionally, the latest indications suggest the Federal Housing Finance Agency will release the proposed Duty to Serve rules this month. We will harness the momentum of the 2016 I’M HOME Conference to ensure that comments on these proposed rules reflect the priorities and needs of homebuyers and communities across the country.

The I’M HOME Conference was a great reminder of the ingenuity and dedication of the leaders of the manufactured housing movement. Now, we have a clearer vision of how to take the next steps together, and we look forward to advancing our goal of putting safe, affordable homeownership within reach for millions of low-income families.

A Free Day-Long Summit on Financial Capability in the D.C. Area? Yes, Please!

By Sean Luechtefeld on 07/28/2015 @ 07:00 PM

Tags: Events, Financial Capability

Starting today, you can register for the FREE Platforms for Prosperity Summit, a day-long gathering designed to explore the ways in which financial capability services can be integrated to create a more economically secure workforce!

WHAT

2015 Platforms for Prosperity Summit: Building a Financially Secure Workforce

WHEN

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

WHERE

Arlington, VA (just outside Washington) DoubleTree by Hilton 300 Army Navy Drive

Register for free today here.

The 2015 Platforms for Prosperity Summit: Growing a Financially Secure Workforce, presented with support from JPMorgan Chase, will focus on strengthening the capacity of employers, workforce development agencies, microenterprise development organizations and others to help workers move toward real financial stability and security. There are several powerful opportunities throughout the employment lifecycle to engage individuals in taking financial actions. One of the most promising strategies is to integrate financial information, products and tools directly into workforce programs and workplace environments. This will be a major focus of the Summit.

Join us at the Summit to:

  • Learn about innovative strategies for embedding financial capability programs and services at various points in the employment lifecycle.
  • Determine methods for engaging employers and other partners in efforts to improve financial security for workers.
  • Identify opportunities to integrate financial capability services in your workplace or workforce program.
  • Identify opportunities to partner with workforce development agencies, microenterprise development organizations or employers to offer financial capability services.
  • Gain access to the latest tools and publications on financial capability integration.
  • Connect with colleagues to discuss challenges in, and solutions for, the field.

The Summit is open to anyone interested in taking advantage of this valuable opportunity, but is especially designed for employers, staff from workforce development agencies, professionals who serve microbusiness owners, youth employment program staff, funders, financial institutions and others who provide financial capability services in their communities.

For more information, including a tentative agenda, visit the Summit website.

Event Planning Made Easy: Highlights from the A&O Network Convening & Events Peer Learning Series

By Cameron Parsons on 07/20/2015 @ 11:00 AM

Tags: Assets & Opportunity Initiative, Events

Hosting a conference, summit or convening is by no means a simple task. From finding the funding, to developing an attention-grabbing agenda, to managing the expectations of donors and attendees, the sheer volume of planning required is enough to make even the savviest of organizers go mad. But in the asset-building field, where education of policymakers and shared learning among practitioners are essential to the continued success of the movement, convenings are a powerful—if not necessary—mechanism for advancing our mission.

But why go it alone?

Over the past five months, Assets & Opportunity Network members have gathered virtually to share best practices, strategies, tips and lessons with their colleagues. The idea for the learning series was born from direct requests from A&O Network members, while topics for each hour-long discussion came from a survey of Network Leaders.

Between early April and late June, the series drew heavily on the expertise of Network members and CFED staff involved in the Assets Learning Conference.

Call #1: “Building A Balanced Agenda” (Slides)

Bill Mills, Vice President of the Florida Prosperity Partnership, shared his experience with building a balanced conference agenda, highlighting his organization’s Annual Asset-Building Conference. Together with CFED Chief External Relations Officer Kim Pate, participants tackled issues such as how to balance the expectations of funders with the needs of attendees and the organizers’ goals.

Call #2: “Hosting a One-Day Convening” (Slides; Recording)

The second call shifted focus to best practices in hosting one-day convenings. Peer Presenters Jessica Sotelo (Partners for Prosperity in Idaho) and Ross Yednock (CEDAM in Michigan) shared their insights on creating a purposeful agenda tailored to your audience and offered tips on how to sustain momentum after an event’s conclusion.

Call #3: “Selecting a Speaker” (Slides; Recording)

Using a worksheet developed by CFED’s Director of Communications, Kristin Lawton, participants on the third call discussed the key considerations involved in the selection of an event speaker. The group left with a succinct process for selecting and prepping speakers, as well as a series of conference planning tools.

Call #4: “Sponsorships and Fundraising” (Slides; Recording)

No event could be held without sponsorships and fundraising. But successful fundraising is more than just asking for money, said CFED’s Chief Philanthropy Officer, Jocelyn Harmon. “This is not charity,” she told the group, “this is a transaction.” Participants on the call reviewed a sample sponsorship kit, while filling out a worksheet to help narrow their prospect list.

Call #5: “Marketing and Communications” (Slides)

The final call in the series concluded with a wide-ranging discussion of effective marketing strategies. Sean Luechtefeld, CFED’s Associate Director of Communications, urged participants to think strategically about the attendees: Who do you need in the audience? How can you incentivize them to attend? How can you reach them where they are? Said Sean, “Once you have a sense of who should come and why, you still need to provide them the reason/incentive to do so.”

The Assets & Opportunity Network Learning Community strives to provide easy-to-use and timely resources to its members. Learning Groups such as this one are formed based on member interest. Have an idea for a learning group or webinar, be sure to email assetsandopportunity@cfed.org.

The 2015 I’M HOME Conference: Why Attend?

By Lissette Flores on 07/13/2015 @ 04:00 PM

Tags: Events, Housing and Homeownership

On October 26-28, CFED will host its 11th annual I’M HOME Conference in Minneapolis, MN. I’M HOME (Innovations in Manufactured Homes) is an 11-year-old national initiative of CFED designed to unlock the potential of high-quality manufactured housing as a key source of affordable housing and asset building for low- and moderate-income families. The Conference is an annual gathering where a range of audiences interested in applying manufactured housing solutions to affordable housing challenges come together to share progress, highlight innovative practices and lessons learned and make new connections.

Wondering why you should come?

  • The I’M HOME Conference is the only gathering of its kind in the country. A decade ago, we started convening a small group of nonprofit and community development professionals around the nascent initiative we were launching at CFED. We struggled to find enough affordable housing practitioners with expertise in leveraging manufactured housing to fill a panel. This year, we’re planning a total of nine concurrent sessions, two plenaries and a plethora of roundtable discussions. The field has grown and matured in incredible ways since 2005, and you won’t find such a large, diverse group of practitioners, industry experts, homeowners, lenders, community organizers, funders and more in the same room at any other conference.
  • Manufactured housing novices are welcome! Just getting acquainted with the intricacies of manufactured housing development, policy, communities or finance? No worries, the I’M HOME Conference is a great place to get your feet wet if you’re new to the field. Take it from one of last year’s attendees: “This was my first year in attendance and if possible definitely not my last. Not only was it awesome to sit among those who understand the issues manufactured homeowners face on a daily basis and to hear about the successes and what is on the agenda for the coming years but to watch and learn how a meeting of the magnitude should be run. To feel like a small fish in a pond when first taking part in the sessions and leaving the session understanding that I was not as small as I first thought.”
  • See old friends, make connections and build new relationships that will ultimately help you transform manufactured housing into an asset for millions of homeowners. For those with deep roots in the manufactured housing as affordable housing field, the I’M HOME Conference also serves as an opportunity to both share your expertise, network, reenergize and plan for the future with others who are leading the field. As one of last year’s attendees shared: “The opportunity to network and step back and reflect on successes was also valuable because too often I am focused on where we need to go and don't make the time to reflect on what we have achieved and why.”

Still not sure? In the words of one 2013 attendee: “[the I’M HOME Conference] was the best-organized meeting I have attended ever. There was a lot of diversity in subject matter but everything tied together. This was really well done.” There you have it: it’s a darn good conference. Come see for yourself in Minneapolis!

Registration is now open: click here to register!

NTC: Key Takeaways for the Asset-Building Movement

By Paul Day on 03/18/2015 @ 04:30 PM

Tags: Events

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the Nonprofit Technology Conference in Austin, Texas, where nonprofit technology, communications and development pros mixed and mingled to share insights and innovations. The conference drew like minds from across the country to provide their unique perspective on issues like social media engagement, A/B testing of campaigns and content strategy for advocacy campaigns.

These topics, while seemingly specialized to us communications pros, have profound implications for those involved in social movements, such as CFED’s work to promote savings and financial capability for low- and moderate-income Americans. Here are some ideas I took away from the sessions that can provide strategic framing for our work to engage advocates in the issues and make their voices heard.

Storytelling is Powerful

This seems obvious, but in the nonprofit communications world, it’s easy to become attached to a certain way of telling our stories. In the policy space, for example, we focus a lot on long-form content, which means reports, policy papers, legislative overviews and other content that intends to engage some of our wonkiest readers. All of this content is essential, but when it comes time to set out a campaign strategy, we also need to think more deeply about how best to get our messages to broader audiences.

In one of the sessions, they showed a video from the White Helmets, a group that’s shedding light the violence in war-torn Syria, particularly about how barrel bombs are the biggest killer of civilians. The video was a powerful emotional statement because it showed children being rescued from a bombed-out building, followed by a call to action. You could hear a pin drop in the room as the video played because it was so powerful and it tugged on your heart strings.

The presenters’ point was that when we’re planning campaigns for social change, we need to consider all of our options and “do what works,” rather than being wed to the types of content we’re most comfortable with. This video has engaged millions in the cause as a result of focusing on great storytelling, rather than “gray lit” content, which is the term they used for reports you commonly see.

The asset-building movement has powerful stories that can be used to make a case for policy reform, and investing in marketing those stories using powerful images, videos and infographics can really get our message out there to a broader audience.

Live-Casted Events are Opportunities

One of my favorite sessions was about how media events can be used to spur civic engagement, particularly among those who are not the usual suspects. The speakers focused on what was being done in Texas, which is a state with a lot of “safe seats” where legislators don’t really have to do a lot of work to get reelected. This—along with the decline of newsrooms across the country that are struggling to keep up in the digital age and placing fewer and fewer resources into breaking the news—has correlated to low civic engagement and poor voter turnout across the country.

Luckily, the Texas Tribune is doing things differently: they’ve invested heavily in public media events covering a wide array of issues that have not only engaged more Texas citizens, but have become strong revenue generators for the company. With the backing of corporate sponsors who see the value of these events, the Texas Tribune has brought out the “thirst” in smaller towns around Texas for having their voices heard in an unscripted, live-casted format where they can question their own representatives—often for the first time without having to “stay on the cue cards.”

These events are really well attended (often hundreds of people online and offline) because they are often held in smaller towns across the state at local colleges where they can engage a broad audience. Some of these events have brought out national political figures like House Speaker John Boehner and Texas Senator Ted Cruz, adding to the appeal of these events for residents of smaller communities.

The real benefit for social movements is not just that they can take advantage of these events, but that they can also create these opportunities and look beyond major cities to engage people who are “more thirsty” for engagement. For example, holding a college savings talk with the state comptroller at a community college could be an exciting way to engage actual college savers in the conversation.

Avoid the Elephant

In the Multichannel Storytelling session (which was so great!), they showed us the above graphic, which represents a trend on a web traffic graph you may typically see for a page in Google Analytics. For me, this is the crux of the problem with web content generation. We work really hard on a piece of content and put it out there, only to find that the initial interest declines. They made the case that this should never happen; that if something was important enough to promote in the first place, you should keep making an effort to put it out there for as long as it’s still relevant. In other words, avoid the “flatline” once the initial buzz wears off.

As the presenters put it, “avoid the elephant.” This pattern represents a lost opportunity for nonprofits that regularly produce content to repurpose and repackage that content to keep their audiences engaged at a lower cost. We invest a lot of (often scarce) resources into content generation; this is the way to maximize your investments!

Ultimately, some of us struggle for content, but we’re overlooking the value of what has already been produced and how we can get it in front of more eyes through repackaging and redistribution. This could mean pulling out an infographic from a report, sharing it on Facebook and linking back to it to spur new interest, or it could mean Tweeting a quote from a webinar to keep people engaged with that content.

Conclusion

These are just some of my key takeaways from NTC. The most important thing is to acknowledge the role of marketing and communications in ultimately achieving our missions, spurring activism and engaging more people in the conversation. I highly recommend that all nonprofit professionals, not just communications/development folks, attend this conference because the knowledge gleaned can be a real game-changer for achieving real-life victories for social justice.

Factory-Built Housing Course at Kansas City NeighborWorks Training Institute

By Megan Neff, Guest Contributor on 02/24/2015 @ 03:30 PM

Tags: Events

Are you going to the NeighborWorks Training Institute in Kansas City this May? If you are, don’t miss Next Step’s new and improved course, CP135: Successful Construction Using Factory-Built Homes.

This two-day course will be taught May 7-8 by Amy Barnard, Next Step Marketing & Operations Specialist, and George Porter, President of Manufactured Housing Resources and Field Construction Consultant at Next Step.

In the course, you’ll get hooked up with tools designed specifically to assist nonprofits with the factory-built housing construction process. We’ll cover steps from home ordering to planning to turn key completion of manufactured and modular homes. You will leave equipped to translate your site-built construction expertise into supervising successful construction using factory-built homes.

This class is open to all, and is highly recommended for those considering applying to the Next Step Network and current Next Step Network Members. Register online at nw.org/onlinereg

NeighborWorks Training Institutes offer training, certification, networking opportunities and other resources to professionals who work in community development and affordable housing. Want to get a taste of NeighborWorks training to see if it’s right for you? Check out this NTI Minute, a one-minute highlight videos that gives you a taste of what NeighborWorks has to offer in the field of affordable housing development: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QhjtPKst_Sw

  • NeighborWorks Organization (NWO) Slot Registration Deadline: March
  • Early Bird Registration Deadline for Non-NWOs: March 23
  • Pre-registration for Non-NWOs & NWOs Opting to Pay-Own-Expense: April 13

Why You Should Participate in America Saves Week

By Katie Bryan on 02/23/2015 @ 12:00 PM

Tags: Events

America Saves Week, February 23 - 28, 2015, is an annual opportunity for organizations to promote good savings behavior and a chance for individuals to assess their own saving status.

Through partners like you, millions of individuals learn the importance of saving. We need your help to encourage more Americans to build wealth, not debt. Show your commitment to help others save by joining America Saves Week today. By joining America Saves Week you will be listed as a participating organization and will receive news and updates on America Saves Week.

Ready to Help Others Save?

  1. Join America Saves Week

How to Participate

From promoting the benefits of savings to employees - to offering incentives for people to open or add money to savings accounts - to holding workshops and developing new partnerships - there are so many ways to help people take financial action during the Week. Learn more about what your organization can do during the Week at the links below.

Questions about the Week?

Nancy Register
Director, America Saves
nregister@consumerfed.org
202-387-6121

Katie Bryan
Communications Director, America Saves
kbryan@consumerfed.org
202-939-1018

Capitol Hill Event Highlights Policy, Politics and New Research on EITC and VITA

By Ezra Levin on 02/03/2015 @ 11:00 AM

Tags: Federal Policy, Events

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the largest economic mobility program in the country—the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). Forty years into the program, we’re learning that the EITC does not only boost incomes to help families get by—it’s also empowering families to save and invest to get ahead.

This past Friday, a bipartisan group of more than 100 Capitol Hill staffers, reporters, advocates and nonprofit leaders came together to focus in on the politics, policy, research and real-life impact of the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) programs. Couldn’t make it to the packed room in the Russell Senate Office Building? Don’t worry about it—CSPAN had you covered, and you can watch the whole event here. You can also read through all of the handouts provided to participants here.

The event, which was co-hosted on Capitol Hill by CFED and Tax Credits for Working Families, featured headline speeches by a high-ranking policymaker and a distinguished poverty policy researcher. First to speak was Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH), a longtime advocate for the EITC and VITA, as well as low-income working Americans more generally. Senator Brown spoke about the impact these programs have on working families in Ohio and throughout the country, and he described some his proposals for the expanding their reach.

The book shows the EITC to be much more than an income-boosting program. It is a savings program, an investment program and an economic mobility program. The authors write,

“the EITC not only eases the economic burdens of the working poor but motivates asset building and debt reduction. It does so in a way earnings or other forms of income our families receive usually do not. As a result, the EITC is uniquely positioned to boost parent and child well-being.”

In short, we should all start thinking of the EITC as the largest asset-building program in the country—and an incredibly successful one at that.

Following Professor Edin’s speech, Friday’s event continued with a unique panel discussion that brought several different perspectives to bear on the EITC and VITA—those of researcher, service provider and program participant. Dr. Edin joined the panel along with:

  • Chye-Ching Huang, Senior Tax Policy Analyst at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, a DC-based think tank.
  • Barb Mantegani, current Board Member & former President of Community Tax Aid, which runs VITA sites throughout the D.C. area.
  • Laurie-Anne Sayles, former EITC recipient and currently Associate Investigator at the National Institutes of Health.
  • Greg Kauffman, a former poverty policy journalist for The Nation and current editor of TalkPoverty.Org, moderated the panel discussion and audience questions that followed.

The panelists also discussed the politics surrounding these programs. Several members of Congress from both sides of the aisle of have recently endorsed the EITC, including both the Republican Chair of the Ways and Means Committee, Paul Ryan. And while the path forward for EITC and VITA reform remains unclear, the energy in the room on Friday was palpable. These programs are having an enormous impact on the lives of low- and moderate-income families, and there is an enormous opportunity for the assets field to develop and advocate for thoughtful reforms. We hope that this event is one step in that direction.

To stay connected to CFED’s advocacy efforts around the EITC, VITA and other tax-time programs, be sure to join the Taxpayer Opportunity Network.

Reflections on the CFED Thrift Book Event

By Kim Pate and Paul Day on 01/27/2015 @ 04:30 PM

Tags: Events

On January 21, CFED hosted a lunchtime conversation about the ways that thrift can be an important lens through which we understand financial capability in the twenty-first century. Participants heard a keynote address from Andrew Yarrow, author of Thrift: The History of an American Cultural Movement, and remarks from a panel of experts: Nancy Register from the Consumer Federation of America, Sybongile Cook from the District of Columbia Department of Insurance, Securities & Banking, and Jeremie Greer from CFED.

As Yarrow pointed out in his keynote, the United States may be the world's richest country, but it doesn’t feel that way for the 140 million Americans —44 percent of the nation's people— who either have "negative net worth" (meaning they have more debt than assets) or have only enough money saved to pay for up to three months of modest expenses, citing data from CFED’s Scorecard. Yarrow described the American debt crisis, in which too many people are paid too little to make ends meet, much less save. And, noted Yarrow, despite calls to save, the calls to spend are much louder and more enticing. He talked about how the thrift movement, which was a response in the early 20th century to social problems like waste, poverty, overspending and even the destruction of natural resources like forests and water, is relevant today.

So how can a new iteration of thrift, recalibrated to contemporary social realities, illuminate a path to a better future? Here are some of the ideas from our panel:

The original thrift movement was undermined by rising consumerism and pro-spending economic policies.
Yarrow pointed out that the thrift movement declined in the mid-late 20th century following WWII and the perceived threat of communism. The support for Keynesian economic policies and increased advertising to consumers created an environment that encouraged consumer spending. The philosophy of thrift was even perceived as being “un-American” in the midst of the perceived Soviet threat. The panel addressed the common argument against thrift being that consumer spending drives the economy. But Yarrow believes that both spending and saving can both be important pillars of a healthy economy and that thrift can be an investment in economic security and financial stability for all. That idea couldn’t be timelier with skyrocketing consumer debt, the foreclosure crisis and the impending environmental impacts of wasteful consumption.

Communicating the right messages about thrift to the right audiences will be critical.
Nancy Register explained how the Consumer Federation of America’s America Saves campaign has used digital media, graphics, mobile tools, direct marketing segmentation strategies, catchy headlines, media outreach and partnerships to help organizations spread the message of thrift and encourage consumers to adopt saving behaviors. Communications can be a powerful tool to change consumer spending habits and drive behavioral changes that help individuals save money, reduce debt and build assets.

The linking of thrift and the emerging sharing economy has significant potential to revive thrift behavior.
One innovative way to engage thrift is through the emerging sharing economy. Sybongile Cook, the Program Administrator for Bank on DC, had an epiphany one day that Capital Bikeshare membership signup is the perfect moment to encourage people to get banked because the membership is purchased with a debit or credit card. Now, a partnership between Capital Bikeshare, Bank on DC, United Bank and the District Government Employees Federal Credit Union (DGEFCU) will offer annual memberships at $25 to existing unbanked individuals who sign up for a debit or credit account at United Bank or DGEFCU. In addition, existing Bank on DC members are offered a $50 annual membership rate. This is just one way to align thrift with the sharing economy and could be a model for future innovations. Similarly, other ride sharing services like Zipcar, Car2Go and Uber—or space sharing services like Couchsurfing and AirBNB—allow users to leverage the sharing economy to save money, maximize assets and reduce their environmental impact.

Structural barriers to thrift have to be addressed before real change can happen.
As CFED’s Jeremie Greer  explained, communications efforts like America Saves Week and innovative partnerships like Capital Bikeshare/Bank on DC program can only go so far if policies that make saving hard for people are not removed. One such policy is state asset tests. Many public benefit programs— like cash welfare, Medicaid and food assistance—limit eligibility to those with few or no assets. Yet, these asset tests force low-income families to “spend down” personal reserves in order to get any government help. Removing asset tests from public benefit programs eligibility requirements would both increase income and facilitate saving by very low-income families receiving public benefits. According to Greer, these asset limits, which can be as low as $1,000 in savings, are an unfortunate relic of entitlement policies that in many cases no longer exist. For a full explanation of how states can remove these assets test, see CFED’s 2015 Scorecard launch on January 29.

Another area for policy reform is the $540 billion in spending through the tax code on federal tax programs that support asset building through homeownership, retirement savings, liquid savings and higher education, which is strikingly upside down. The federal government spends billions of dollars each year to help Americans build assets, but this spending isn’t helping most low- and moderate-income households. Instead, we need to invest more in helping low- and moderate-income families build assets. CFED’s recent publication, From Upside Down to Right-Side Up, goes into detail about how these policies can be changed to create a much more inclusive economy.

Get involved in America’s New Thrift Movement!
February is the perfect opportunity to engage your clients and followers through the annual America Saves Week on February 23-28, 2015. America Saves Week, which reached over 40 million people in 2014, uses communications strategies to stress the importance of savings. The goal is to help individuals to adopt savings habits through clear messages: set a goal, make a plan and save automatically. Sign up here to participate.

We thank all of our speakers for sparking this dialogue about thrift and hope it is part of the resurgence of thrift in America.

Mark Your Calendar for Two New Can’t-Miss Events!

By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/07/2015 @ 10:30 AM

Tags: Events, Federal Policy

CFED is thrilled to offer two new free events in DC taking place later this month. The first—a deep dive into how a once-robust thrift movement can be recalibrated to contemporary society—will take place at CFED’s DC offices on Wednesday, January 21. The second—a Capitol Hill Policy Forum on the political prospects of the Earned Income Tax Credit and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance programs—will take place on Friday, January 30 on Capitol Hill. Check out the information below and register today!

Thrift: Building a New American Cultural Movement (January 21, 12-1:30 pm, CFED)

Join CFED for a lunchtime conversation about the ways in which thrift can be an important lens through which we understand financial capability in the twenty-first century. Participants will hear a keynote address from Thrift author Andrew Yarrow, which will be followed by a panel discussion among experts on the cutting edge of strategies that promote financial capability. Panelists will highlight innovative approaches to building financial capability and discuss ways to re-build this important cultural movement.

Speakers include:

  • Andrew Yarrow, Oxfam America
  • Sybongile Cook, DC Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking
  • Jeremie Greer, CFED
  • Nancy Register, Consumer Federation of America
  • Kim Pate, CFED (moderator)

Attendees will receive lunch and a copy of Andrew Yarrow’s Thrift at no cost. This event is free, but space is limited, so advanced registration is required. RSVP today.

“It’s Not Like I’m Poor”: New Research and Political Prospects for the Earned Income Tax Credit and Volunteer Income Tax Assistance

This year marks the 40th anniversary of the passage of the EITC Act. To mark the occasion, join us on EITC Awareness Day, January 30, as we bring together leading researchers, policymakers, advocates and taxpayers to share their knowledge and first-hand experience with the EITC to answer important questions, such as: How do American workers actually use the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)? What role does Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) play in creating communities of opportunity? What are the political prospects for these federal policies?

Speakers include:

  • Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH)
  • Professor Kathryn Edin, Johns Hopkins University
  • Chye-Ching Huang, Center on Budget and Policy Priorities
  • Greg Kaufman, TalkPoverty.org (moderator)

A light breakfast will be served at 9 am and event activities will commence at 9:30 am. The event is free, but space is limited. Seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. RSVP by Monday, January 26.

Best of 2014: CFED's Year in Review

By Paul Day on 01/06/2015 @ 10:00 AM

Tags: Assets & Opportunity Initiative, Events

The 2014 Assets Learning Conference brought together over 1,200 professionals to share insights - including real life examples of savers who have changed their lives!

With 2014 behind us, it’s time to look back at what made the year great for all of us at CFED!

Events

In 2014, CFED engaged thousands of asset-building professionals in our three biggest events: the 2014 Children’s Savings Conference, the 2014 Assets Learning Conference and the I’M HOME Conference. These events—bigger and better than ever—brought us all together and demonstrated the power of asset-building strategies in helping low- and moderate-income Americans achieve the American Dream.

Publications

In 2014, CFED published 54 articles, policy briefs and reports covering a wide range of topics related to asset building. Among our favorites from this year was From Upside Down to Right-Side Up: Redeploying $540 Billion in Federal Spending to Help All Families Save, Invest and Build Wealth, which has been used to educate Congress about inequities in the tax code. Another highlight was In Search of Solid Ground: Understanding the Financial Vulnerabilities of Microbusiness Owners, which informs our work on entrepreneurship by identifying what owners of small businesses need to grow their businesses and stabilize their household balance sheets.

Hill Visits & Legislative Victories

During the 2014 Assets Learning Conference, our policy team engaged over 400 practitioners from the field to visit their legislators on Capitol Hill and engaging members of Congress on the issues in their community--and how they can do more to support asset building!

The Assets & Opportunity Network has a lot of to be proud of this year with key legislative victories: the ABLE Act (expanding asset building for individuals with disabilities), the American Savings Promotion Act (legalizing prize-linked savings strategies) and the removal of asset limits from public benefit programs.

Family Assets Count

This year, CFED, in partnership with Citi Community Development, launched Family Assets Count, which aims to leverage the power of cities to improve financial stability for families and advance programs and policies that reduce barriers and encourage families to save and build assets. Family Assets Count also leverages the new Assets & Opportunity Local Data Center, a powerful new tool that provides the latest data on household wealth and financial security in cities and counties across the United States.

Media Mentions

What’s exciting this year is the major media coverage we’ve received across the country on a variety of topics. CFED’s Andrea Levere made the case for Children’s Savings Accounts and Manufactured Housing in two New York Times op-eds. Our Assets & Opportunity Scorecard was featured in dozens of local and national publications, including Time, MarketWatch and MSN Money. CFED’s research on entrepreneurship was featured in Forbes.

Our victories last year would not be possible without our dedicated funders and partners who have supported our efforts to promote a more inclusive economy. This year, we look forward to all of the new opportunities that take our work to the next level. Happy New Year from all of us at CFED!

Interview: CFED Interns Participate in Poverty Simulation

By Paul Day on 07/25/2014 @ 03:45 PM

Tags: Behavioral Economics, Events

Last week, CFED interns Anne Guthrie, Valerie Marshall and Alexander Scarlis played the role of service providers in a simulation for nearly sixty Capitol Hill legislators, staff and interns to experience what it’s like to be in poverty. We sat down with Val and Alex to discuss their thoughts about poverty simulations and how they can be a valuable tool to change perceptions about the working poor.

Q: What did you hope to learn from this? Were your expectations fulfilled?

Alex: I don’t know what it feels like to be in poverty. I was very curious to see how I felt being in this simulation. I was curious to see how members of Congress as their staff reacted and what it felt like for them to be in poverty. It was chaotic and stressful for everyone involved to a certain extent. But I think they found the right balance.

Val: I had never been to a poverty simulation before so I had no reference point. I had no idea what they were going to do. I was looking to get the experience to see what they were going to say about poverty. You had to confront this feeling of helpless on a whole new level. They emphasized key things most people don’t even think about, like transportation. For example, to go from table to table you had to pick up a transportation ticket. So as these public transportation systems start raising their costs, obviously it’s going to have a big impact.

Q: From what you know about poverty in a policy sense, how accurate was the simulation?

Alex: Well I think they nailed all of the different programs that poor people have available but they are in all of these different places so you had to run around trying to gather all of this documentation and maintain a semblance of a healthy family life which means grocery stores, getting your car fixed and getting to work on time. It’s everything we all do plus trying to make sure your benefits stay intact, which is next to impossible.

Val: I thought from the participant side it was really realistic. It was really overwhelming in the sense that you got that constant stress that I think a lot of families living in poverty experience.

Q: Was the stress level of the simulation intentional or accidental by how it was organized?

Val: I think it was designed to mimic the environmental stressors. The families they designed were actually real cases they had from some Department of Health and Human Services database so it really was realistic. In the simulation I had two children plus a younger sister who was under eighteen that I had to take care of and I had to negotiate those responsibilities in addition to my own education and rent. It was definitely a good reminder of why we’re doing the work that we’re doing.

Q: So there were members of Congress there participating as individuals and families in poverty. What were some of their reactions?

Alex: Everyone was trying to keep track of their money and make sure they have everything in order because everything was so chaotic around. It was too bad that more members of Congress weren’t participating, but it was actually great a lot of interns and staff were participating because they’re often the ones writing up the legislation, doing the research or advising the representative.

Val: A lot of members of Congress spoke before and during the event. There was a huge emphasis during the event about the working poor and just because you live in poverty doesn’t mean you’re lazy, dispelling these old stereotypes about who’s on welfare vs. those who aren’t. But there were still some reminders of that archaic way of thinking. There are still areas for progress.

Q: Would it make sense to branch out and do these kinds of simulations in other cities?

Val: I think it would be a good idea. Most politicians come from an affluent background and having this sort of education would counter other things they’ve learned. It’s one thing to hear about an experience from a constituent and another to have the experience yourself.

Alex: If politicians are responsive to their constituents, then theoretically we need to change the perceptions of the constituents. From that perspective, it would make sense to have a lot of these simulations around the country that are accessible to the general public. When you have a mindset shift among people then you’d think that would trickle up to Congress because at the end of the day, they have to be responsive.

Q: Can you talk about where poverty simulations fit in the context of CFED’s work? What insights has this experience given you?

Alex: To have these members of Congress and staffers participate, hopefully when they read our work about asset limits and the struggles people face that translates and something connects. It would be great if this was more widespread in the policy world; otherwise it’s just statistics.

Val: A lot of the research we’ve been looking at in the applied research department has been looking at the role of financial literacy and applying those skills and changing behaviors across the lifespan. It really shows the value of having financial knowledge and knowing which questions to ask, who you need to speak to, all that stuff underscores what we’ve been looking at.

For more perspectives on the recent Capitol Hill poverty simulation, read this latest Washington Post story.

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