More Organizations are Adding Financial Capability Services to Workforce Development Programs
By Kori Hattemer on 11/21/2013 @ 03:00 PM
An increasing number of workforce development organizations ranging from community colleges to one-stop employment centers are adjusting their models to include asset-building services, including financial education, credit counseling and access to public benefits. As a testament to this growing interest in integration, over 500 workforce development practitioners, researchers, funders and national intermediaries met in Detroit on November 7-8 to mark the official launch of the Working Families Success Network (WFSN) with an inaugural conference. The 1½-day-long event was packed full of thought-provoking speakers and innovative ideas from experts in the field. Here are a few of my takeaways from these insightful leaders:
- Organizations that have successfully added asset-building services have done so by incorporating it fully into their mission and the way they do business. Financial capability services are not just one-off services provided in a silo; they are incorporated into multiple aspects of an organization and alongside a number of other services. Organizations need infrastructure and support to reach this level of integration, which Central New Mexico Community College President, Ann Lyn Hall, emphasized during one of the workshops.
- Employers are a critical partner in building financial capability in a workforce development setting. In one breakout session, representatives from the National Human Services Assembly, The SOURCE, Goodwill Industries of Greater Grand Rapids and United Way of Chittenden County spoke about projects in which they engaged employers to provide financial education and access to public benefits to their workers. These projects not only gave employees the tools they needed to better manage their finances, they also helped CEOs and HR managers understand the daily financial struggles their low-wage employees face. Also, employees reported feeling more engaged with and valued by their employer, which is another benefit for employers and an additional reason for them to partner in this work.
- Establishing good credit is an important asset-building strategy. Organizations shared that many of their clients come in with negative or no credit histories, which can reduce their employment opportunities and cost them hundreds or thousands of dollars due to higher interest rates. Teaching clients to understand how to use credit effectively and helping them repair inaccuracies or negative marks on their credit reports is an important part of helping them secure stable employment and financial security.
The lead organizations involved with developing the WFSN include Achieving the Dream, Annie E. Casey Foundation, United Way Worldwide, Local Initiatives Support Corporation (LISC), Bank of America, W. K. Kellogg Foundation, MDC and The Kresge Foundation. I look forward to learning more about how this network of leaders will continue supporting and partnering with organizations to find innovative strategies to help working families succeed.
Texas Regional Opportunity Index
By Don Baylor, Guest Contributor on 11/07/2013 @ 11:30 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: We received the announcement below from CFED Board Member Don Baylor of the Center for Public Policy Priorities in Austin, Texas. The Texas Regional Opportunity Index, or TROI, is an incredible tool for assessing the financial security of familes across Texas and is definitely worth checking out!
On October 23, the Center for Public Policy Priorities (www.forabettertexas.org) launched the Texas Regional Opportunity Index (TROI)—a project of OpportunityTexas— a new interactive data tool and the first and only one-stop-shop for economic opportunity data for all Texas counties and regions.
Pulling together 65 indicators across eight opportunity clusters (Credit & Debt, Family Budgets, Health, K-12 Education, Nutrition, Postsecondary Education & Skills Development, Savings & Assets), the TROI allows various stakeholders to view and understand a larger picture of how individuals and families are navigating these various systems.
A unique feature of the TROI is the extent of state agency data analyzed at the local level and the ability to access regional data across five of Texas’ regional jurisdictions, including Higher Education regions and Workforce Board areas.
The TROI is easy-to-use and motivates communities and policymakers to understand their strengths and challenges while also setting goals and benchmarks against other Texas regions. While data sharing is important in its own right, the ultimate goal of the TROI is driving effective community practice and improving public policy.
We look forward to enhancing the user experience, making periodic updates, and identifying new TROI indicators.
More importantly, we would welcome any feedback from members of the network. Please send your input to Jennifer Lee, our Research Associate (firstname.lastname@example.org).
Lessons From UNICEF on Halloween: How Small Donations Can Support Big College Dreams
By Andrea Levere on 10/31/2013 @ 10:00 AM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This article originally appeared on the Huffington Post and you can read it here.
My earliest experience with charity was collecting pennies and nickels in my orange UNICEF box on Halloween. Even as a child, I remember how important it felt to pick up my box at school. I relished watching those coins drop into the UNICEF box as much as I delighted in the candy filling my trick or treat bag. For me, Halloween became as much about helping a needy child in a distant country as counting my sugary Halloween bounty.
Today, as an adult who tries to count how much candy I don't eat, I spend a lot of time thinking about how we can leverage charity in the United States in more effective ways -- to not only provide help to the hungry and homeless but to set struggling children and families on a permanent path out of poverty. Unlike the faraway kids who benefited from UNICEF, these children reside in our own cities and towns, in neighborhoods where hopes and dreams are too often halted by the knowledge that opportunities available to children in high income families are not available to them.
In fact, from the time they are very young, many low-income children (and their parents) assume that the best ticket out of poverty -- a college education -- is prohibitively expensive and therefore not a realistic option.
Such thinking is all the more tragic because with very little effort, each of us has the power to change that scenario. New research shows that low-income students with just $500 or less in college savings are three times more likely to enroll in college and four times more likely to graduate than those without a savings account.
Of course, even saving a small amount is challenging for families who in a given month may have to choose between paying the heating bill and putting food on the table.
That's where we can help.
My organization recently developed an online platform called the 1:1 Fund that allows donors, large and small, to help low-income families save for college by matching their contributions in special children's savings accounts. During the past few years, a growing number of cities and states have launched programs that provide students with children's savings accounts, seeded typically with $50-$100 and earmarked specifically for college. Through the 1:1 Fund, donors help young students and their families grow those accounts with dollar for dollar matches.
The accounts give low-income families the confidence that post-secondary education is a real and attainable goal -- and the incentive to plan and save. Once they know college is possible, students are more likely to take the right courses and exams, win the best scholarships and learn about other forms of financial aid.
They are students like La Terra Cole, a former foster child who participated in a financial education and matched savings account program called the SEED Initiative and is now in her third year of law school at Catholic University in Washington, D.C. "The account gave me a new way to think about the future. I wouldn't have to be defined by poverty," said Cole. "We need to build in a culture of college expectation and then enroll kids in programs like the one I participated in. Less than 3 percent of kids in foster care go on to complete a college degree so we need programs on a larger scale."
Encouraging families to save can also significantly help decrease college debt. Currently, less than 10 percent of students from low-income families graduate from college by their mid-twenties, in large part because they lack the savings to help make up the difference between financial aid and the full cost of tuition. Again though, even a small amount of savings can pay big dividends. Studies show that just $23 a month in a children's savings account grows into $16,000 in savings by age 18, significantly decreasing the burden of college debt.
It is rare to be able to draw such a clear line between charitable dollars and genuine impact. So this Halloween, particularly as UNICEF boxes have become a less common sight, perhaps we should all make a commitment to contribute a few dollars a month to help send a child to college. After all, every child deserves a chance at a real future, but without our help many won't get there.
Building Assets Part of American Dream
By Bob Annibale and Noel Poyo on 10/28/2013 @ 04:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This op-ed originally appeared in the San Antonio Express News and can be read here.
A genuine opportunity to achieve upward economic mobility is central to the American dream that Martin Luther King Jr. envisioned at the March on Washington. This is fundamentally the same goal that has long beckoned hard-working immigrants to the United States and drives families to work long hours and multiple jobs. Upward mobility is about more than simply getting a job — it is about building assets through activities such as purchasing a home, starting a business, or attaining a college degree.
Growing assets begins with basic building blocks — starting with access to financial information and education, a savings account and a good credit history built through responsible use of credit.
Savings provide a financial cushion against unexpected emergencies like medical bills or car repair costs. In the long term, saving can increase the likelihood of buying a home, starting a business or going to college. For instance, children with college savings accounts in their own names are seven times more likely to go to college than children who do not have an account. For the 1 in 10 Texan households, and 30 percent of all households in the U.S., that don't have savings accounts, savings are an asset worth building.
Responsible credit opens the door to lower costs, wider choices and greater financial freedom. But for those with poor credit, many can expect to pay up to $250,000 more in interest payments than those with good credit over the course of a lifetime. For the 65 percent of Texans with subprime credit, improving their credit score can reduce the cost of borrowing and would be another valuable asset.
Savings and good credit allow families to be more financially resilient and build long-term wealth. A recent report by the Corporation for Enterprise Development, or CFED, found that many households in Texas, especially households of color, are extremely financially vulnerable because of their limited savings and credit. CFED found that over a quarter of all households in Texas are living in asset poverty — meaning that they lack sufficient available net worth or savings to subsist at even the poverty level for three months in the absence of income. The report also shows that the asset poverty rate among households of color is twice that of white households. CFED has ranked Texas 39th in the nation for household financial security. In response, cities such as San Antonio and Dallas are developing innovative programs aimed at restoring household financial security for all residents.
In 2010, CFED did a similar analysis of San Antonio and found that 34 percent of the city's households lived in asset poverty. Mayor Julián Castro's commitment to growing savings is resulting in a lasting infrastructure that will bolster household financial security and ensure more households, especially in low-income communities of color, are able to reach more of their financial goals. San Antonio's participation in the Cities for Financial Empowerment Coalition ensures that the city contributes and benefits from cutting-edge approaches to asset building. A recent example of this was the opening of two financial empowerment centers in east and west San Antonio earlier this year, replicating New York City's model for providing free financial counseling to low-income residents.
Today, the Growing Assets: Closing the Wealth Gap Regional Convening will take place in San Antonio. Organized by the Asset Building Policy Network, a coalition of the nation's leading civil rights and asset-building organizations and Citi, the convening will gather national asset-building experts and civic and community leaders from across Texas to exchange ideas and develop the solutions to Texas' asset-building challenges.
New National Effort to Help Unbanked and Underbanked Adults: Bank On 2.0
By Jonathan Mintz, Guest Contributor on 10/16/2013 @ 01:30 PM
More than one in ten adults in America are disconnected from the mainstream banking system and pay out extra dollars for costly and unproductive fringe products and services as they struggle with their monthly finances. This startling truth– and the wasted energy and dollars spent compensating for this disconnect—has long posed a critical policy challenge for public and private dollars aimed at helping working adults achieve financial stability and growth. For decades, nonprofit leaders, national advocates, and more recently local governments have attempted numerous efforts, including through innovative outreach and financial institution partnerships, to forge more productive mainstream connections. In response to this crisis and all that has been learned from these assorted efforts, the JPMorgan Chase Foundation and the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund (CFE Fund) have announced the start of a nation-wide approach to linking safe and affordable products and services from banks and credit unions across the country with local government delivery streams of programs and services.
The national program, Bank On 2.0, will build upon the success of the multi-city Bank On movement and other local banking access initiatives, leveraging the experience and expertise of movement leaders (including San Francisco’s Office of Financial Empowerment, the City of Seattle, CFED, National League of Cities, and so many others), bank and credit union partnerships, and federal regulators. Bank On 2.0 will create a unified, national approach to identifying both appropriate products and services as well as effective municipal delivery strategies to help reach millions of people in need across the country.
The Bank On 2.0 initiative is critical to advancing the mission of the CFE Fund, which is to help cities improve the finances of low-income residents by embedding financial empowerment strategies into municipal programs. Successful financial empowerment programs not only help those in need with their finances, but also deliver a “Supervitamin Effect” to host programs in cities, powerfully improving social service program outcomes.
As one example of this approach, New York City experimented with inserting a safe bank account into payment streams of its Summer Youth Employment Program, which provides New Yorkers between 14 and 24 with paid employment for up to seven weeks in July and August. Program registration of these young adults, so many of whom lacked a bank account, was an ideal opportunity both to leverage particularly safe and appropriate accounts and consumer uptake.
As planning begins for this exciting multi-year Bank On 2.0 national initiative, we will be inviting mayors, banking organizations, federal regulators, philanthropic partners, and regional and national associations to join us to develop and test the most effective national approach for connecting the under-banked to safe, affordable mainstream banking services. The CFE Fund will soon release funding opportunities for promising municipal pilots, as well.
For more information and to stay connected to the CFE Fund’s Bank On 2.0 initiative, email us at email@example.com. Check out our website at www.CFEfund.org for updates on all our CFE Fund programs, current job opportunities, and to sign up for our mailing list to receive “The Supervitamin Quarterly” e-newsletter.
Jonathan Mintz is Commissioner of the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs and President of the CFE Fund.
Michigan's Save to Win Program Demonstrates Successful Way to Encourage Savings
By Kori Hattemer on 10/10/2013 @ 12:00 PM
In 2009, the Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund partnered with eight Michigan credit unions to launch Save to Win ™ (STW), the first large-scale prize-linked savings product in the nation. Accountholders who save using the special balance building 12-month certificates of deposit (CDs) are entered into raffles for cash prizes with each deposit of $25 or more. Four years later, 58 credit unions in Michigan now participate in the program and 40,000 unique accountholders across the state have saved $72.2 million from 2009-2012.
D2D has been tracking the program in Michigan since its inception and recently published highlights from 2012, which emphasize the importance of developing innovative ways to encourage financially vulnerable households to save. Highlights from Year 4 of the program include:
- Accountholders appear to be developing long-term savings habits. Each year, accountholders are given the option to reopen or "rollover" their accounts, and a high percentage of accountholders rolled their accounts over from 2011 to 2012. Ninety-one percent of the accountholders who enrolled in 2009 and were still enrolled in 2011 once again rolled their accounts over in 2012. A high percentage of accountholders who signed up in 2010 (83%) and 2011 (77%) also rolled their accounts over from 2011 to 2012.
- Accountholders used their savings for a variety of purposes. While many accountholders rolled their accounts over in 2012, accountholders also used their savings to meet short-term needs. Account balances decreased in May and September, so accountholders may have used the funds to pay for summer child care or back to school costs. D2D also found that there is a cyclical dip in account balances during the rollover period each year, which may indicate that accountholders are making planned withdrawals between account years.
- STW continues to positively impact financially vulnerable accountholders. D2D defines financially vulnerable individuals as those who are single parents, asset poor, non-savers, or low-to-moderate income. In 2012, these accountholders had nearly identical rollover rates as their non-financially vulnerable counterparts, demonstrating the importance of STW in helping financially vulnerable individuals save.
As other organizations and financial institutions look for ways to empower financially vulnerable individuals to save, STW provides an innovative model for designing a savings product that is engaging and encourages savings habits. The success of STW in Michigan has motivated other states to launch similar programs, and D2D continues to advance prize-linked savings products as a strategy for helping low- and moderate-income individuals save.
To read more about the success of the STW program in Michigan in D2D's recent report, click here.
To learn more about D2D's pioneering prize-linked savings work, click here.
Applying “Financial Coaching” for Scale
By Margaret Miley, Guest Contributor on 10/09/2013 @ 11:30 AM
In the field of financial stability, providers seek effective strategies that engender positive changes in the financial circumstances of residents. Often lost in the discussions are environmental factors: wages, local economic conditions, medical coverage, dangerous financial products and a legacy of discrimination in national policies that support the building of individual assets. For example, the erosion of wages for American workers that began in 1973 is a most pressing influence on economic insecurity. The current reality is often that two full-time workers in a household cannot support a family at a survival level, which has a destabilizing effect on the family, the culture and the larger economy. The setting is aggravated by a less-regulated financial marketplace that includes high-cost, unsafe financial products and services, luring consumers into a cycle of debt and insecurity. Within these confines, however, positive individual changes can be cultivated.
In Massachusetts, we have seen an increased need for services, as borne out by more acute financial indicators for residents, such as CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard data indicating that 48% (~ 2.4 million) of the state’s adults have subprime credit scores and 27% (~1.7 million) do not have enough cash to survive three months with an interruption in income. At the same time, we see reduced investment by the public sector and diminished capacity in the nonprofit sector to address the increased need. This is accompanied by increased pressures for providers to demonstrate “impact” in condensed time periods, such as one-year funding cycles. Clearly, the need for efficiency and scale must be balanced against the promise of deep, transformational, individual assistance. In this challenging context, The Financial Confidence and Coaching Campaign, Midas’s model of “financial coaching,” combines new ingredients learned from years of financial education and asset building, as well as the broader coaching field. More background is provided in our White Paper. Briefly, the strategies include:
- Treating financial coaching as a “method,” not a “service.” Though coaching has a long history, some current writings on financial coaching suggest that service providers be limited to discrete roles of “coach” or “counselor.” However, we see little application for this costly and constraining format. With residents working more than full-time and staff members overburdened, time and funding limitations do not allow for one provider to be a content resource and one to be a purely process-oriented coach, as that would require participants to manage time and relationships with both. With proper training and ongoing peer support, coaches can refine their practice to maintain the participant-led environment while using coaching and counseling methods as appropriate.
- Integrating the “coaching method” into many service delivery contexts. Many disciplines are pursuing integration in service delivery. This conserves resources and reflects a participant-centered approach to service and treatment. Indeed, as medical practitioners have expanded the patient-centered “medical home” model, innovative asset builders have introduced a component of “fiscal health” to cooperatively address the links between financially-induced stress and health issues. Midas has hosted trainings of financial content and the coaching method to providers of matched savings, college access and career development programs to increase their own financial knowledge and to integrate and strengthen coaching techniques in their daily meetings with participants. Initial data and staff feedback have been positive.
- Bringing in the technology. Though in-person meetings are ideal for building a trusting relationship, the current stable of city-based providers cannot serve the need alone. Currently, corporations, schools and professional services have migrated to audio/visual platforms via the web, many with good results. Midas is providing services on these platforms to serve more residents, particularly those with mobility, transportation, scheduling or language issues that limit their access to existing in-person services. The use of appropriate interactive tools, products and services can expand knowledge and sustain engagement.
- Inviting participants to change the world. It is comforting for participants know that financial issues are not theirs alone. Joining efforts to affect policies, enforcement and others’ financial education gives them a sense of community, purpose and larger vision.
- Scaling it up. If we are going to help millions of people, we need to broadly apply coaching techniques into more accessible formats. This involves (1) developing online content and tools to support and update the financial coaches on changes in laws, issues and techniques to continually develop their skills and content (see MassSaves.org for more information), (2) sprinkling coaching and participant-centered components throughout online platforms used by participants, (3) cultivating a narrative by using videos and social media platforms to tell and share stories and connections, and (4) changing the economy by connecting participants with policy discussions on financial services and economics to improve the economic setting that they must navigate.
At Midas, we see great power in the depth, humanity and scalable promise of adding financial coaching to the many efforts to assist residents struggling in this tumultuous economy.
Margaret Miley is Executive Director of the Midas Collaborative in Allson, MA.
New Opportunity: CFPB’s Innovations Project
By Sean Luechtefeld on 10/07/2013 @ 12:00 PM
EDITOR’S NOTE: Will Tucker, one of our friends at partner organization ideas42, sent this announcement this morning. It’s about an exciting new opportunity being offered by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and I think it will be of interest to many of our readers.
Ideas42 and its partners, the Doorways to Dreams (D2D) Fund, the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CFSI), and the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), are excited to announce a call for prototyping partners on the CFPB Innovations Project. The project seeks to develop and test prototypes of new approaches for helping consumers overcome common decision-making challenges in managing their finances. We’re seeking innovators, businesses, and other organizations to work with us to prototype innovations and evaluate their effectiveness. Prototyping partners will have input into refining the design features of innovations, and will get the opportunity to be part of a behavioral design process led by ideas42 and its team.
The Innovations Project is being conducted by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), with ideas42 serving as a CFPB contractor tasked with managing this project. Organizations should indicate their interest by submitting a brief letter of interest describing their interests and capabilities via email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Please include “Innovations Project” in the subject line. Please contact us today if you are interested in this opportunity, and make sure you submit your interest by November 8, 2013.
For more information on the project and criteria selection, see http://ideas42.org/CFPBinnovations and http://www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/were-looking-for-innovative-partners-for-financial-education-research/.
New Learning Opportunity for Organizations Interested in Asset-Building Integration
By Kori Hattemer on 09/26/2013 @ 03:30 PM
Do you provide affordable housing options to low- and moderate-income families? Do you often ask yourself how you can help your clients follow a monthly budget so they don’t fall behind on their utility bills?
Are you helping unemployed individuals build the skills they need to find and succeed in their next job? Do you ask yourself how you can help these clients open safe, affordable bank accounts so they don’t lose a big portion of their next paycheck to expensive check cashers?
Do you provide critical services to families in times of crisis? Do you wonder what you can do to help these families build an emergency savings account so they are more prepared for future financial crises?
If you answered yes to any of these questions, you should think about joining CFED’s newest Intensive Learning Cluster! Learning Clusters are designed to explore innovations and promising practices in close collaboration with other organizations around the country. In partnership with the Bank of America Charitable Foundation, our newest Learning Cluster is an eighteen-month collaboration between CFED and organizations providing services in the housing, workforce development and emergency assistance (critical needs) sectors. Participating in the Learning Cluster can help you incorporate asset-building strategies—such as getting your clients banked, helping people manage their credit or providing access to free tax preparation assistance—into your existing services.
Over the course of the Learning Cluster, members will participate in peer learning opportunities and collaborate with CFED and other experts in the field. If you are interested in participating, carefully review the Learning Cluster Request for Proposals and submit your project proposal to CFED no later than October 21, 2013. Organizations who are selected to participate in the Learning Cluster will receive an $8,000 stipend, a full scholarship for CFED’s 2014 Assets Learning Conference in Washington, DC, the opportunity to learn and problem-solve with other members of the Learning Cluster through virtual and in-person convenings, and technical assistance from asset-building experts.
If you have questions, send me an email at email@example.com.
Census Poverty Report: America’s Working Poor Still Waiting for Recovery
By Lebaron Sims on 09/18/2013 @ 10:30 AM
Though the nation’s GDP has bounced back in the last six years, millions of Americans have yet to recover from the economic crisis.
Today the U.S. Census Bureau released its 2012 Income, Poverty and Health Insurance Coverage report and data, and the state of play for working Americans is as bleak as at the post-recession crest.
Median household income remained a full $4,500 (8.3 percent) below its pre-recession point, in real terms. The official poverty rate was 15%, representing 46.5 million Americans living below the poverty line. These trends are no different than 2011, highlighting the lasting effects of the Great Recession and the long road to recovery most Americans have yet to traverse. These findings only reinforce the importance of America’s safety net programs, like Social Security and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).
Low- and moderate-income families have seen the largest proportional losses in family income over the last six years, and, as these latest Census Bureau data reiterate, little has changed over time.
Average family income for the lowest fifth of the income distribution (less than $20,600) has declined steadily since the 2001 recession, with that decline accelerating to greater than three percent annually after 2007. Families earning between $20,600 and $39,764 have seen annual declines in family income greater than two percent, and, like those in the lowest quintile, have watched their incomes slide downward since 2001.
The historical data on poverty rates by age serve as a brilliant illustration of our nation’s misplaced priorities regarding assistance programs. By the official poverty measure, 21.8% of all American children—over 16 million boys and girls—lived below the poverty level in 2012. In fact, only the age cohort 65 years and older has seen *any* decline in the poverty rate since the recession hit in late 2007. This disparity can be attributed, at least in part, to the success of Social Security and Medicare, the transfer programs in place specifically for older Americans. The importance of this safety net cannot be understated—without it, over 15 million more seniors would live in poverty. This protection, however, should not come at the expense of programs that assist low-income families.
The cuts to the SNAP already in effect, and the more extensive ones proposed by the House GOP as an addendum to the Farm Bill, would devastate low-income households that rely on these benefits to stave off poverty. The Census Bureau estimates that SNAP alone keeps 4 million low-income parents and children above the poverty line. The House GOP’s proposed cuts would almost entirely erase this benefit. In addition, the federal Earned Income Tax Credit keeps 3.1 million children out of poverty. Though neither estimate is included in the official poverty estimates released yesterday, both are included in the Census Bureau’s Supplemental Poverty Measure (SPM), to be released October 30.
Today’s data release only underscores the importance of America’s safety net. Until household incomes recover fully from the recession—which they continue to show no signs of doing in the immediate future—programs like Social Security, Medicare, SNAP and Medicaid are all keeping millions of children, working families and seniors out of abject poverty. Now, more than ever, is the time to strengthen our policies, and lend a hand to families working to climb out of poverty.
Extreme Savers: From Owing $25K to Being Debt-Free in 2 Years
By Sarah Cocclimoglio on 09/17/2013 @ 06:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: This post originally appeared on the College Park Patch and can be read here.
The second time was the charm for Randy Buckman, who had to learn twice that living paycheck to paycheck and racking up credit card bills to maintain a lifestyle wasn’t worth the stress.
At 25, he was still living at home with his parents, with credit card debt, a car loan and no savings account. Buckman wasn’t born a saver, but he realized his financial future was uncertain if he continued spending more than he was earning.
“I thought to myself one day, ‘If this is the way I am living while I live with my parents, how is it going to be when I am on my own with a family to take care of?’” he said.
This realization inspired Buckman, of Rochester, Mich., to start teaching himself about personal finance, saving a little bit of money and paying off some credit cards. Two years later, he was engaged and househunting. He and his fiancee found a 1,700-square foot foreclosure on two acres and bought it for $60,000 less than it had been worth the previous year.
“We patted ourselves on the back as we signed our income away for the next 30 years,” Buckman said.
Despite his newly learned financial lessons, Buckman and his future wife went through their savings and started to rack up credit card debt fixing and updating their new home. “We were wearing out the magnetic strips on our numerous cards,” he said.
Finally, still reading about personal finance and looking for “that one thing, that one piece of advice, that one tip that we just weren’t doing,” Buckman, now 32, said he came across a book, Dave Ramsey’s The Total Money Makeover, that told him to cut up the credit cards and quit borrowing money of any kind, and to live off a written monthly budget every month.
“Prior to that, we had been saving and paying extra toward debt when we could, but it wasn’t a priority,” Buckman said. “If ‘life’ happened, we would use our savings and if that wasn’t enough, we would use debt to catch the remainder, then start the cycle over of trying to save and pay off debt. Not only did we not have a plan for the unknowns of everyday life, but we didn’t have a plan for the knowns either.”
The couple then committed to acting like borrowing money was illegal. It changed the way they viewed their income and expenditures; they vowed to pay off all of their non-mortgage debt—from car and student loans to credit cards—in two years.
Nine months later, they had paid off $25,000 using money from their wedding, a pay increase Buckman’s wife received when she took a new job, and money Buckman earned working overtime at his first job as a firefighter and paramedic, and by taking on a second job. The couple even accumulated six months' worth of living expenses in savings.
Eventually, they decided to downsize, selling their house at a loss for a 750 square foot apartment closer to work. This way, when kids came along, the Buckmans could afford to live on one income so that Buckman’s wife could stay home with the kids.
“We don’t plan on remaining in an apartment forever, but when we do buy a house, it will be more well thought out and fit our lifestyle,” Buckman said.
Here are some lessons Buckman learned along the way to financial stability:
- Start at the bottom. Pay off balances starting with the smallest amount, irrespective of interest rates. After you pay off the smallest debt, apply the monthly payment you were making to the next smallest debt plus the minimum payment. You won’t feel any out-of-pocket loss and your debt will start to disappear.
- Buy used. The Buckmans save money by shopping at thrift stores, Craigslist and mom-to-mom sales, especially for clothing and kids’ items. If you must buy new, try to buy refurbished items or floor models.
- Spend some to save some. If diaper bills have you in a budget crunch, consider going cloth. Buckman and his wife laid out $200 up front for cloth diapers and wipes, but ended up saving thousands because they didn’t buy disposable diapers.
- DIY. Buckman makes his own laundry detergent, makes almost all meals at home from scratch and uses baking soda and vinegar for almost all of his household cleaning.
- Plan for the unknown. To break the cycle of having to deplete their savings account for unexpected expenses, the Buckmans initially saved $1,000 in an account to cover the “what ifs” of life before they started their debt-busting. “Once we had that money in place and used it properly, it was much easier to concentrate on not only getting out of debt, but staying out of debt,” Buckman said. “We didn’t have to stay in the cycle of paying off debt, just to go back into debt when the car broke.”
TELL US: What are your tips for staying debt-free? Share them in the comments section below.
New Projects Symbolize New Approaches to Helping Low-Income Families Build Wealth
By Sean Luechtefeld on 09/16/2013 @ 11:30 AM
Since last summer, CFED and the Assets & Opportunity Network have worked together to convene learning groups. These opportunities offer CFED and participating organizations the chance to work with and learn from each other about strategies that improve the well-being of economically disadvantaged members of communities across the country. This summer, four new peer learning opportunities have been made possible thanks to the Administration for Children and Families’ (ACF) ASSET Initiative Partnership, Bank of America Charitable Foundation, the MetLife Foundation and Wells Fargo, and we’re excited about the ways that these new opportunities will drive innovation, collaboration and scale in the field.
Here’s a preview of these four exciting new opportunities:
- Head Start Integration Cluster: This Intensive Learning Cluster will focus on integrating and/or expanding integration of financial-empowerment strategies into Head Start programs. On August 29, CFED—with support from the ACF’s ASSET Initiative Partnership—released a Request for Expressions of Interest for Head Start programs interested in receiving peer and expert advice on how to better offer, partner to provide or refer Head Start families and staff to asset-building services.
- Integrating Financial Capability into Social Service Delivery Systems: This Intensive Learning Cluster—sponsored by Bank of America Charitable Foundation—will bring together programs providing housing, workforce development and emergency assistance services that wish to strengthen the financial capability of the clients they serve. Technical assistance and peer learning opportunities will be provided over an 18-month period as organizations pilot an asset-building intervention and document outcomes and lessons learned.
- Savings Innovation Learning Clusters: These learning clusters—sponsored by MetLife Foundation—will bring together six direct service organizations that will develop and test innovative, “next generation” savings program models that help clients build emergency savings or save for longer term asset-building goals. Selected organizations will participate in peer learning opportunities both in-person and virtually over the course of 15 months, as well as receive individual technical assistance, to facilitate piloting and evaluation of their savings program models.
- Assets & Opportunity Network Peer Learning Groups: Starting this fall, CFED will facilitate the formation of Peer Learning Groups, sponsored by Wells Fargo. These groups will come together over the course of 3-6 months to advance a shared learning agenda about common topics of interest, including coalition building, asset limits, prepaid cards, curbing predatory lending and more.
Each of these new projects are exciting, both because of the valuable insights and relationships we know our partners will develop, and because of how these new connections and collaborations will build capacity and catalyze the field to even greater levels of scale, innovation and impact. We hope you are as enthusiastic about these opportunities as we are, and we look forward to formally inviting you to participate this fall.
Infographic: Why the Economy Needs Fairer Student Loan Rates
Posted on 08/07/2013 @ 10:00 AM
This inforgraphic from Upworthy is definitely worth a share. It makes a pretty good case for the impact of the overall economy of the doubling of student loan rates.
DOMA and Same-Sex Household Financial Well-Being
By Alicia Atkinson on 08/01/2013 @ 04:30 PM
On June 26, 2013, the Supreme Court struck down the federal Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA) that defined “marriage” and “spouse” only for heterosexual couples. The ruling has been hailed as a huge victory for gay and lesbian civil rights. However, there are larger implications of this Supreme Court decision that could also lead to greater financial and economic security for same-sex families, especially those of low and moderate income.
Last year, the Movement Advancement Project, the Family Equality Council and Center for American Progress released a report titled “Strengthening Economic Security for Children Living in LGBT Families,” which chronicles the diverse landscape of present-day American families. The report found that between 2 and 2.8 million children are being raised by lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) parents—and that these children are twice as likely to live in poverty as those being raised by married heterosexual parents. Additionally, in 2009 the Williams Institute found that poverty rates for LGB adults were higher than rates for heterosexual adults (age 18 to 44). Specifically, they found that 24% of lesbians and bisexual women are poor, compared with only 19% of heterosexual women. Considering these statistics, same-sex families’ and individuals’ financial security is a concern.
In the broader population, many Americans are barely holding onto their financial footing. CFED’s Assets & Opportunity Scorecard finds that nearly half (43%) of American households—equivalent to 132.1 million people—have little or no financial “cushion” to prepare for emergencies or future needs. For same-sex families, the picture can be even bleaker, as historically these families have often missed out on key financial security opportunities, such as:
- Access to workplace benefits. Workplace benefits such as health care, paid sick days, paid maternity leave, tax-deferred retirement accounts and life insurance all offer workers not only a greater measure of financial security, but also a sense of mental ease and a key opportunity to access asset-building tools and services. However, these benefits are often exclusively offered to an employee’s spouse and children, which to date have largely excluded same-sex households. For example, a 2007 study by the Williams Institute found that under DOMA, same-sex couples paid $1,069 more per year in taxes on health care than opposite-sex couples.
- Access to public benefits. Many low- and moderate-income LGBT families (like their heterosexual counterparts) rely on government programs such as Medicaid or Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF) to provide much-needed assistance during times of financial difficulty. However, government programs tend to define “family” narrowly—which can potentially alienate or make children of LGBT families’ non-eligible for assistance they both need and qualify for. For example, the Williams Institute found that many children living in LGBT families cannot access Survivors and Disability Insurance Benefits if a parent becomes disabled or dies.
Same-sex couples may also find themselves spending down their assets in order to meet needs that opposite-sex couples may not face, such as:
- Affording welcoming schools. Same-sex parents often have concerns about their children’s school environments. A 2008 survey of LGBT parents found that 40% of students with LGBT parents reported being verbally harassed because of their families. LGBT families might choose to re-locate to an area that is more welcoming to their children or pay for private school. This could result in the spending of assets.
- High legal fees associated with adoption. The legal arrangements associated with adoption can be expensive and burdensome for a same-sex family. This has implications not only for parents who might not be able to pass guardianship to a same-sex partner, but also for children who may not be written into a will in order to receive an inheritance or be unfairly taxed on an inheritance.
- Vulnerable to extra tax burdens. The federal tax code uses a narrow definition of “family,” which does not allow same-sex couples to file jointly. Additionally, they cannot access deductions related to having children if their adoptions are not legally recognized. This means that many same-sex families have been missing out on significant tax benefits, and the opportunity to increase their overall financial security.
LGBT families face financial barriers and potential wealth depletion across many different domains, including the tax system, legal system and in the workplace. DOMA being overturned takes a vital step in the right direction, as it will begin to allow same-sex families—particularly those of lower income—to access key asset-building opportunities and help them both build and preserve wealth.
A Real$ense Volunteer's Journey to Financial Education
By Real$ense Prosperity Campaign on 07/31/2013 @ 11:00 AM
Katherine Marin has a Real$ense success story to which almost anyone can relate. Her journey with Real$ense has not only given her a new life, she is now working as a volunteer helping others find hope that they can have a better financial outlook.
Through introspection, education and a lot of hard work, Katherine has literally changed her life and the lives of her family with the help of Real$ense. Before the recession, Marin and her family were “living the dream” which to them meant they were living beyond their means, not making good financial decisions and getting deeper into debt. They purchased a large home but their debt payments became so overwhelming they couldn’t afford their house payment any longer. Depressed and unsure what to do, Marin sought help.
The family had previously had their taxes prepared with the Real$ense program, but then learned about the other financial education classes and services the program provides. Katherine’s first step was to enroll in the Money Smart program. “In Money Smart, I learned about making better choices, understanding the difference between needs and wants and living with what we could afford,” said Marin.
Katherine’s journey didn’t stop there. She took more classes and then became certified as a Real$ense Volunteer. She spends most of her volunteer hours helping people at the Ready4Work program at Operation New Hope in Jacksonville. Volunteering with Real$ense has also become a family affair when she recruited her daughter Britney, who is 17, to volunteer helping in the financial education programs for our youth. “One person at a time can make a difference. You can teach your kids. You have to work hard and we have to be patient,” said Marin.
Katherine’s family, although still learning and improving, has made tremendous progress towards controlling their own financial destiny. They’ve downsized their home to something they could afford without a mortgage. They don’t miss their large home, large yard and large responsibility of paying for it all and taking care of it all. They are rehabilitating a smaller home themselves. They are almost entirely debt-free. They have a monthly budget they adhere to and that helps them be less stressed.
“We are where we are, we’re doing what we can afford to do. We’re all very happy and our attitudes have changed for the better,” said Marin. “People can do this, they can change. They can look at their situation realistically and figure out what they can do,” she said. “It’s like planting a tree – you have to wait and water it and take care of it. And one day, you’ll have a wonderful, strong and tall tree.”
Money Smart workshops help you stop living paycheck to paycheck. Paying attention to where your money goes can help you hold on to more of it! Attend a FREE Financial Workshop and learn how to develop a successful spending and savings plan, fix or improve your credit score, open (or re-open) a checking or savings account not matter what your prior account history is, plan for your future and more. Money Smart workshops are held in partnership with Duval County Extension, Jacksonville Urban League, Jacksonville Housing Authority, Jacksonville Public Library and War On Poverty, Inc. For more information, call 904.390.3207 or visit www.realsensejax.org.
‘Bring it Back to Texas’ Allows Families to Save, Build Assets
By Jimmy Crowell and Kori Hattemer on 07/30/2013 @ 11:30 AM
For the past two years, the Office of the Texas Attorney General Child Support Division (CSD) has been working through a federal demonstration grant to embed asset-building services into the core functions of the state’s child support system. In 2012, CSD launched Bring it Back to Texas (BBT), an innovative pilot to promote financial management and arrears-reduction for noncustodial parents (NCPs). During this pilot, which was supported by a grant from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Texas CSD participated in CFED’s Integrated Service Delivery Intensive Learning Cluster (sponsored by Bank of America Charitable Foundation).
The federal tax refund offset program requires that the tax refund of any NCPs who have custodial parent-owed child support arrears of $500 or more will be intercepted by the government and applied to arrears. Texas CSD found substantial anecdotal evidence that indicates many NCPs do not file their taxes for three reasons:
- They do not want to pay for tax preparation services only to have their refund intercepted through the federal offset process.
- They believe they have not made enough money to file taxes.
- They are unaware of the tax credits to which they are entitled.
Given these barriers, CSD saw an opportunity to reduce NCPs’ debt, increase their financial stability, and increase the financial stability of custodial parents and children by helping eligible NCPs file their taxes at free tax preparation sites. The BBT pilot was launched in two Texas cities – Fort Worth and Lubbock – with the intent of leveraging existing services within child support and the local community to provide positive benefits to everyone:
- NCPs receive tax refunds and credits they are due with the subsequent reduction in arrears balances through the federal offset process.
- Custodial parents and children see increased payments on past-due support.
- Texas CSD increases collections on arrears.
- Local community tax preparation programs help more people file their faxes.
BBT targeted 8,710 employed NCPs in Lubbock and Fort Worth who met the income eligibility criteria for free tax preparation services and who had child support arrears. CSD mailed postcards to these NCPs to notify them of free tax preparation and financial management services available at tax preparation sites during the 2013 tax filing season.
Due to the free tax preparation services and efforts to help participants understand the long-term consequences of child support debt (such as the possibility of having wages garnished), NCPs were more likely to file their taxes and more willing to apply tax credits to arrears. CSD’s evaluation of the project revealed that NCPs who received the postcard were as much as 10 percent more likely to have a federal offset (which indicates that the NCP filed their taxes and their refund was intercepted and put toward child support arrears) than NCPs not mailed a postcard. The BBT pilot collectively reduced the amount of child support debt by almost $135,000. The pilot test effects, if applied to the entire Texas CSD caseload, have the potential for increasing federal offsets by an estimated $12 million annually. The pilot was also relatively inexpensive. For every $1 spent on providing free tax preparation services and financial education classes at child support agencies, the State received $10 in arrears collections.
The pilot program was a big win for all parties involved. The participating NCPs are one step closer to paying down their child support arrears and achieving financial capability. Custodial parents with large amounts of child support back-payments owed to them saw benefits as those arrears were paid. Due to the federal performance measures that can dictate matching funds available at the state level, increased arrears payments also brought the Texas child support agency more funding.
For more information about this innovative pilot, please see the full version of the final report here.
What is Financial Counseling?
By Rebecca Wiggins, Guest Contributor on 07/25/2013 @ 02:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: Special thanks to Rebecca for providing us with a helpful resource that practitioners can use to better help their clients build and protect their assets.
At a time when the personal debt level and economic inequality are at record levels in our nation's history, many people are unsure who to turn to and trust for guidance. With intimidating investing terms, hidden fees and product sales, how do consumers know where to turn for help or who to trust? With so many financial professionals out there, it can be very overwhelming to know where to start.
Think of financial counseling as the foundation to a solid home structure. Once individuals gain knowledge and resources through counseling and education, they can begin to build their home based on their individual dreams. Financial counselors and educators help move individuals and families along a spectrum of knowledge through behavioral adjustments, with the hope of eventually referring them to investment advisers and financial planners like a Certified Financial Planner® (CFP®) for wealth planning advice.
One trusted resource that interested professionals and public can turn to is the Association for Financial Counseling and Planning Education® (AFCPE®). Founded in 1983, AFCPE® is a nonprofit, international, professional membership organization dedicated to improving personal financial management education, training, and certification of financial counselors, educators, coaches and other related practitioners.
AFCPE® is uniquely built upon decades of extensive field research, out of which our nationally recognized certification programs were born: Accredited Financial Counselor® (AFC®) and Certified Housing Counselor® (CHC®). AFCPE®’s certification marks represent the highest standards of excellence in the field of financial counseling and education. Our programs train professionals to guide clients through a holistic counseling framework of life cycle financial education. This allows the professional to provide a high-level, tailored approach based on the needs of each individual and family to most effectively analyze and positively affect lasting financial behavior change among clients.
As a result, AFCPE® Certified Professionals are qualified to help clients through a variety of complex issues. They are equipped to navigate clients through financial crises such as credit and debt issues, bankruptcy, and foreclosure, as well as work with clients to develop and implement effective spending plans, eliminate debt, build savings and create meaningful solutions to maintain financial stability and reach the client’s financial goals.
AFCPE® continues to be a leader in the field in its responsibility to expand its role in its mission to provide professional development experiences for financial educators, practitioners and researchers with the goal of improving the economic wellbeing of individuals and families worldwide.
Rebecca Wiggins is the Executive Director of AFCPE and holds a Masters of Family Financial Planning from Kansas State University. She is deeply committed to AFCPE’s mission to build, support and ensure the integrity of the Personal Finance profession and improve the economic well being of individuals and families worldwide.
To find out more about how to get certified or become a member, attend our 30th Annual Symposium or browse through research publications and newsletters, visit us on the web: www.afcpe.org.
Aspen's Ascend Fund: Investing in Two-Generation Solutions
By Melanie Hudson, Guest Contributor on 07/08/2013 @ 10:00 AM
As a new model of social innovation and cross-sector collaboration, Ascend at the Aspen Institute is requesting Letters of Inquiry (LOIs) for the $1 million Aspen Institute Ascend Fund. The objective of the Aspen Institute Ascend Fund is to invest in solutions that tap the creativity, knowledge, and assets of all sectors of our society to create a cycle of opportunity for children and their parents.
Letter of Inquiry (LOI) Guidelines - Deadline: August 19, 2013, 5:00 pm EDT
Download the two-page overview here.
Participate in an Informational Webinar
Ascend at the Aspen Institute is hosting two webinars about the Ascend Fund on June 26 and July 22. Sign up here.
We are not a foundation, so why invest $1 million?
At Ascend at the Aspen Institute, we do not believe that any one organization or any one issue will create a legacy of economic security and educational success for all American families. We believe in co-creating solutions and dynamic collaborations with leaders from all sectors of society. We seek partners who are passionate, strategic, and relentless in the quest to build a cycle of intergenerational opportunity – and who are specifically interested in the power and potential of a two-generation approach. We seek collaborators who are energized by action, results, and learning. We welcome LOIs from efforts that connect organizations across issues, disciplines, strategies, and sectors.
What results do we hope to achieve?
We are focused on results in the categories of innovation, influence, and impact, as defined below.
Innovation: The development of a new policy or practice or the improvement of an existing policy or practice with the goal of producing better outcomes for both children and parents.
Influence: Increased engagement and education of policy leaders and influencers who have the capacity to make changes in practices, policies, or funding that allow for the implementation or expansion of two-generation approaches.
Impact: The effect that programs and policies have on educational, economic, and/or social capital outcomes for both children and parents.
To be eligible for Aspen Institute Ascend Fund grants, applicant organizations must be:
- Working to implement or expand two-generation approaches
- Focused on one or more key components of two-generation approaches, including education, economic supports, social capital, or health
- Focused on or highlight cross-sector or cross-issue collaborations (e.g., a direct service organization partnering with a research institution or a policy advocacy organization; an early childhood program partnering with a community college or workforce development program; a nonprofit organization collaborating with a private sector business) that lead to improved and aligned policies, practices, and/or resources to produce better outcomes for children and parents
- Committed to participating in and contributing to the Ascend Network
- Committed to documenting and sharing results, learning, and tools with the field
- Focused on both children and parents with incomes below 200 percent of the federal poverty level
- A 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization (Note: Public and for-profit entities are encouraged to identify 501(c) nonprofit partners with whom to submit LOIs.)
- Governed by a board of directors
- Located within the United States
Questions about the Aspen Institute Ascend Fund? Please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Small Business Week Story: Meet Entrepreneurs Oscar and Zaida
By Veronica Weis on 06/18/2013 @ 06:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: Many thanks to our friends at EBALDC for sharing this tax-time story.
As part of Small Business Week on The Inclusive Economy, we're making the case for policies that benefit self-employed Americans by telling their stories of success. The first story features Oscar and Zaida, a couple who owns a small catering business and has helped other entrepreneurs in the past with free tax services in their community.
From EBALDC Staff:
We first met Oscar in 2011 when he and his wife came in as clients to file taxes for their new catering business. Oscar was so interested in our free VITA tax service that he came back the following year as a volunteer! He's now been helping other people with their taxes for 2 years and says that he does it because he loves to keep learning. He also works full time, has children, runs the catering business on the side, and comes in to volunteer 1-2 times a week.
Oscar has been an amazing addition to our team, after being featured in a video (included below) we made regarding our tax site he has kept coming back for free tax preparation and has catered our volunteer appreciation event the past few years and has also volunteered to learn and prepare income tax returns himself. He told us that next year he will bring us his daughter, who is a high school student, to volunteer as well.
From Oscar and Zaida in 2011:
"My name is Zaida and I’m here to do my taxes. My name is Oscar and we are here to do our business and personal taxes. This is our first time here. We went to a CEO Women’s workshop and we learned about the program you guys have. Our business is catering – food, Mexican and Italian food. I know how to cook Mexican, Italian food, and I like it a lot so I combine it all. We just started it last year, so we’re still struggling. CEO Women helped me a lot to have confidence. This is our first year filing taxes, and we’re really scared. Before we had someone help us do our taxes, but when I went to class I received more knowledge and I better find out the right information. It’s way different to do personal taxes than to do business class. We heard about [EBALDC’s] workshop so we went, and learned about the great opportunity for us.
We will reinvest our refund in our business to get more customers and more money. If we went to a regular accountant, we would probably pay at least $200-300. I heard from someone else that business taxes can be really expensive, and since we’re struggling with everything, I told Oscar, ‘Call Leo’ (Leo is one of our tax preparers). It was a really good opportunity."
CFPB Hears a One-Sided Story, Advocates Need to Speak Up
By Jose Quinonez on 05/30/2013 @ 09:00 AM
Last month, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Advisory Board (CAB) held a public meeting in Los Angeles. The meeting was both to unveil CFPB en Español, a new website in Spanish dedicated to helping new Americans better navigate the financial marketplace, and to hear from the community about a wide range of issues that impact immigrants’ ability to engage in the marketplace. The first part of the community conversation was a structured discussion with community representatives to learn about the barriers and struggles immigrants face in the financial marketplace. The second part of the community conversation was open to the public. After the community discussion concluded, audience members were invited to make comments.
Wearing my hat as the chair of the CAB, I can say that I was genuinely hoping to hear about the experience of real people who find themselves in the need of short-term credit. I was admittedly disappointed that those who spoke out were overwhelmingly industry employees or individuals who had been prepped with the industry’s party-line.
Wearing my hat as the Executive Director of the Mission Asset Fund, which is a community organization that serves financially-excluded, mostly immigrant communities and is a Lead Local Organization in the Assets & Opportunity Network, I was glad to hear from Andrew Chang from CABO, which is the Assets & Opportunity Network Lead Local Organization in Los Angeles. He argued that high-cost, small-dollar loans are a serious concern for families who get trapped in a cycle of debt and who spend hundreds of dollars to repay loans that they could be using for day-to-day needs or to save for the future. He urged the CFPB to use its authority to protect consumers from unfair, deceptive and abusive practices and recommended five specific policies the CFPB should adopt.
As chair of the CAB, which is the community voice into CFPB, I am committed to listening to the voices and experiences of all stakeholders in the consumer financial marketplace and using that experience to shape policy options. As a leader in the Assets & Opportunity Network, I am committed to fighting for access to credit on fair terms and I encourage you to do the same.
Here are two things you can do:
- Share what works. We recognize that a critical part of reforming the predatory short-term consumer loan industry is ensuring that there are affordable alternatives for borrowers. What strategies have you seen work? How could those strategies be delivered at scale?
- Raise your voice not once, but every time there is an opportunity for public comment. You have the ear of the federal government. It’s time to say something!
Remember that the industry is well-funded and ready to show up at each and every event with their buttons and stickers, pushing forward individuals who have been talked into believing that payday lenders are the answer. If advocates for the financially-excluded want to be heard, we must show our collective strength.
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