Happy Thanksgiving from CFED!
Posted on 11/27/2013 @ 03:00 PM
We wish you a happy holiday and safe travels if you're heading out of town for Thanksgiving!
P.S. Don't forget to support a local small business this Saturday, November 30th.
Tour the New Communications Creative Suite
The Communications team has had a blast over the past year decorating and making the new wing of the office our own. Modeled after collaborative workspaces, we picked modern decor to make the space feel more open and creative. We even found a small business owner in Virginia through Etsy to create the custom letters (bottom left, below).
To make staff more comfortable when they come to the Creative Suite for meetings, we got a pair of green chairs. We paired these with some brightly-colored lockers for storage and a sleek, little table (upper right, above). The best part is that we've added an entire dry-erase wall to help Roberto, our Creative Services Specialist, come up with ideas and play around with new designs.
To make the space feel more like home, we had an awesome team retreat at Art Jamz, a paint-and-drink space in Washington, DC. Each team member created their own painting to frame our new TV (upper left, above). Can you guess who painted each canvas?
To show our love of all things new media, we also found Twitter and design-themed pillows for the two chairs (note the Twitter fail whale). With some recent changes, the move is almost complete and the entire team is together in the Communications wing.
In the DC area? Come by and say hello next time you're in the neighborhood!
Staff Profiles: Meet CFEDer Elizabeth
By Veronica Weis on 11/04/2013 @ 10:00 AM
I recently sat down with CFED's receptionist, Elizabeth Musyoki, to learn a little bit about her fascinating story of life in Kenya, her move to the United States, her work for CFED and some other personal fun facts.
Q: Where did you grow up and what're some memories from home?
I grew up in Nairobi, Kenya and moved to the United States in March of 2011. Growing up in Kenya meant lots of family and relatives around all of the time so it was a lot of fun, especially during the holidays. During extended school holidays, different relatives would come from around the country and stay with us for sometimes as long as a month.
Q: Do you have family in the US?
My immediate family is here and some of them live in Baltimore. I have two brothers. One is older and lives in New Hampshire. My younger brother lives in Baltimore and just started college. Since he's younger, settling into life here has been easier. Between my aunt's house and my family's house in Baltimore, I'm usually spending time with family on the weekends.
Q: We heard you started your own organization back in Kenya that focuses on girls' empowerment. What's the mission?
The organization is called Tumaini Kenya which means hope in Swahili. The mission was to empower the girl child, especially through education. One way we addressed that was by giving girls in school sanitary pads. We found that doing so improved their grades because they were less likely to miss class or drop out early. The second way was finding sponsors for girls in high school. Families would rather send boys to school than girls and girls would be married off early. Teen pregnancy meant they're less likely to head back to school. So, sponsors would encourage them to stay in school.
I worked in a very rural environment for 1.5 years. I also focused on fundraising and held a dinner to raise funds which was really successful and provided funding for 2 years.
Ultimately, the government saw our results and started giving sanitary pads to girls in school so Tumaini Kenya started to transition away from this project.
Q: What attracted you to CFED and how has the experience been so far?
I really love the core value of empowering people through different programs, research and policy. The organization is all about empowerment. One thing is reading the profile online in the job ad but working here and seeing the reality, it's been encouraging and exciting.
I get to work with all of the teams so I'm one of the most fortunate since I get to see what's happening across the organization and get more exposure. In the job listing, one line said that you really go home happy knowing you added value to a team and that's definitely true here. I've been really challenged in terms of my perspective and intellect because everyone here is on top of their game.
Q: You're currently working on your dissertation for school. What topic are you exploring?
I'm doing an evaluation of the Open Government Initiative that was instituted by the Obama Administration. It's goal is to make all federal agencies more transparent. The questions I'm focusing on are, "Has it worked?" and "Have they been able to achieve the three goals of transparency, participation and collaboration?" One challenge has been the more rural communities in the US where there is less internet access. I'm still surveying people but I'm interested to see what these questions and initiative mean to the common citizen here.
Q: What's your favorite activity in DC?
Definitely the museums. Most of them are free. Visiting them has helped me to learn more about the US. The impression that you have in Kenya is that everything in the US is cheap and accessible. You really learn that there's a high cost of living which makes the savings initiatives that CFED promotes all the more important. Learning how to manage a budget and learning to save is very important in this country.
Q: Are you saving for anything special?
I hope to visit Kenya next year so I'm saving for the airfare.
Q: Last question is a fun one. Do you have a favorite song?
Benson, my partner, and I's song is God Bless the Broken Road by the Rascal Flatts.
Thank you for sharing your story with us, Elizabeth!
Redesigning the 1:1 Fund Website
By Kristin Lawton on 10/29/2013 @ 11:16 AM
Last week, CFED launched a new website for the 1:1 Fund - our social venture that matches kid's college dream dollar-for-dolla. Here is the inside scoop on the process of redesigning the website. (Note: Click on the image to see the full size; click again to enlarge the image.)
The Inclusive Economy Editor is Getting Hitched!
A hearty congratulations to the Editor of this blog, Sean, who is getting married this weekend! We are so excited for your wedding and we couldn't be happier to share in your joy.
In Photos: Opportunity Finance Network Conference & Native CDFI Gathering
By Kim Pate on 10/18/2013 @ 11:00 AM
All week, I've had the pleasure of attending the 2013 Opportunity Finance Network (OFN) Conference here in Philly. It's been an incredible experience, and it's been great to see old friends and meet new ones from across the country.
While I'm still taking it all in, I wanted to share a few photos. This first one is the outgoing Board of the Native CDFI Network, whose mission is to be the national voice and advocate for creating access to resources for Native people. Right after this photo was taken, we elected new Board members for the upcoming year.
Here's another shot of some of the board members, this time signing the Native CDFI Network Articles of Incorporation.
Tanya Fiddler, Chair of the Board of the Native CDFI Network, opened the meeting. Tanya also sits on CFED's board, and has been a longtime friend to CFED and to me.
If you ever get the chance to head to OFN, do it. It's a great conference with a really diverse program, making it ideal even for those who don't work directly with CDFIs.
Did you attend OFN or the Native CDFI Network gathering? Share your thoughts with us below!
What Music Reminds You of Asset Building?
By Veronica Weis on 10/11/2013 @ 05:30 PM
This week, we asked our Twitter followers and Facebook audience to share music that reminds them of their work in the asset-building field. The suggestions that came in were creative, inspiring and downright hilarious. For your viewing amusement, we've put together a video playlist on Youtube and a longer version for Spotify users.
A big thank you to all of those music lovers who entertained us with their answers! I've included some highlights from social media below:
We're thinking "She works hard for the money" by Donna Summer would work.— CRHDC (@CRHDC) October 7, 2013
@CFEDNews Money by Pink Floyd— David Rothstein (@dbrothstein) October 7, 2013
@CFEDNews For the love of Money.. The O'Jays— ET Winzer (@ETWinzer) October 7, 2013
Don't miss the Facebook post that got the most responses:
Have a song (or two) that we might've missed? It's not too late! Submit it in the comments below and I'll add it to the Youtube and Spotify playlists.
Flippin' Half Smokes At Peep's Chili Bowl
By Kristin Lawton on 04/08/2013 @ 11:00 AM
For over 30 years, CFED has worked hard to identify solutions to some of the biggest challenges facing low- and moderate-income Americans. Our list of accomplishments is long, and CFED is an industry leader in expanding economic opportunity and building assets for all Americans.
Occasionally, CFED staff take a break from advancing the assets movement to do some work along somewhat different lines. Each spring, a group of us at CFED gets together to build a diorama out of Peeps – those sugar-coated, marshmallow-y bunnies that inundate the market every year around Easter – and enter it into the Washington Post’s Peeps Diorama contest.
This is not a joke.
This year, the team placed in the top five out of over 650 entries! The team of seven – Kristin Lawton, Kasey Wiedrich, Ethan Geiling, Lebaron Sims, Sean Luechtefeld, Roberto Arjona and former CFEDer Jane Hanley – was recognized by The Washington Post for their creativity in portraying the iconic U Street haunt, Ben's Chili Bowl.
The diorama and the team was featured in the March 31st edition of the Washington Post Magazine:
If you apply for a job at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, a nonprofit that helps low-income Americans, you should be prepared for Peeps to pop up in your interview. This office team has submitted dioramas for five of our seven contests. By now, diorama-building has become a skill the 40-person organization seeks in applicants.
In 2011, the group was named finalists for its Peepification of Transportation Security Administration agents at Reagan National Airport. The team tries to focus on local scenes, and as many of the members live in the U Street corridor, Ben’s Chili Bowl, in operation since 1958, was a natural choice for the contest.
“It’s such an important part of the U Street community,” said Ethan Geiling, 24. “It brings together an eclectic mix of people at all hours. We were surprised no one had done it before.”
In the team’s homage to the U Street haunt, President Obama visits Peep’s Chili Bowl with his Secret Service detail while the injured Redskins quarterback Robert Griffin III waits outside. The team photographed Ben’s to help them scale the diorama. They dressed some of the Peeps in aprons and illuminated the restaurant with a strand of holiday lights. The structure is built out of foam board, and accessories — the Secret Service agents’ ties or the cash register — are made out of painted sculpting clay.
You can vote for fan favorite by clicking here or if you're in the DC area, you can check out the Peeps dioramas in person outside the Washington Post offices through the end of the month.
Video: How Your Voice Shaped the #CFEDscorecard Conversation
By Veronica Weis on 04/04/2013 @ 11:00 AM
The release of the 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard received unprecedented mainstream media coverage and visibility online. We truly could not have done it without the support of our partners, funders and most importantly, you. You helped start the conversation about how financial security in America is in danger. Check out the video below to see all of our shared successes during the release and don't forget to continue the conversation with us by commenting and sharing. Thank YOU!
New Year's Resolution: Reduce Spending to Fund Your future
By Brian Spero, Guest Contributor on 01/11/2013 @ 03:30 PM
With the new year comes old promises: lose weight, quit smoking and sometimes, save money. If you or clients are among millions of Americans living paycheck-to-paycheck, securing what you need today while leaving nothing for tomorrow, it's time to break the cycle of breaking even. Whether you are hoping to contribute more toward your retirement fund, or are setting your sights on amassing a nest egg for a downpayment on a home, here are nine straightforward tips for finding the additional funds that can get you one step closer to your goal:
- Don't Over-Indulge. There's a difference between living life to the fullest and living high on the hog. One of the easiest ways to find more money in your budget is to cut out extravagant spending. Ask yourself which is more important: Buying a house in a good neighborhood and being able to retire in comfort, or purchasing another pair of Italian boots and springing for a $200 bottle of champagne?
Leave the pair of Gap jeans on the rack and get a little more milage out of what you already have in your wardrobe. Right there, you've just saved $40. Find a few more ways to save money, and you could trim hundreds from your monthly expenses.
- Look at Transportation. Whether it's how you get to work or the way you spend your leisure time, a sizable portion of your income likely goes towards transportation. By getting into a carpool on workdays, biking locally instead of driving, and opting to take a nice weekend walk instead of a Sunday drive, you can discover extra money in your monthly budget. Find a way to use one less tank of gas per month and you can save around $50, in addition to potentially cutting costs for things like maintenance and tolls.
- Shop Smarter for Groceries. If you believe clipping coupons and shopping specials is a waste of time, think again. Using coupons when purchasing essential needs and waiting for premium brands and higher priced items (like meat and seafood) to go on sale can shave anywhere from 10% to 40% off your total monthly food bill.
If you spend $500 a month on groceries, a 10% reduction saves you $50. You can easily increase that amount by buying in bulk when possible, and choosing generic products over name brands when the difference is negligible.
- Resist Eating Out. A sandwich and a beverage for lunch at a restaurant in most areas will cost you about $10, while making the same meal at home takes five minutes and costs half as much or less. Take a brown bag lunch to work, and brew your own coffee, pack a bottle of water and bring a snack. Additionally, if you can simply eat leftovers instead of going out for dinner once or twice a month, you can save $125 or more each month.
- Cut the Cable. Does anybody really need 300-plus television channels? If saving for your future is your main priority important to you, cut the cord on cable to save an average of $50 per month in fees.
The alternative: A streaming account from Netflix costs $7.99 a month and offers unlimited access to movies and TV shows. Furthermore, if you are already paying for Internet access, you can find hours of entertaining content (including many network TV shows) for free online. It may take some adjustment to get used to not having cable, but the significant savings can make it worthwhile.
- Be a Homebody. Leisure time on the weekend for the hard-working professional or young couple is often sacred, but consider how much you typically spend on a night out on the town. A bite to eat, admission to a show or club, and perhaps a few drinks can easily run you $50 or more. Try staying in just one weekend night per month and utilize that Netflix account to dial up a good movie. Pop the cork on a nice bottle of wine, cozy up on your comfy couch and enjoy some tasty homemade treats. You can save about $35 and enjoy the home you rarely get to spend time in during the workweek.
- Live Green. By being green, not only can you learn to live more economically, but you can also lead a healthier life and make a positive impact on the environment. Just a few ways you can cut spending by living green is to start a vegetable or herb garden, do an energy audit to make your home more efficient, and adjust water heater temperatures, air conditioning and heating levels. Other easy ways to save is to filter tap water instead of buying bottled, rent or borrow tools or equipment when needed, and utilize a source like Freecycle, which connects people getting rid of "good stuff" to those who can use it.
Using just a few of these strategies can easily trim $50 a month from your budget, with higher potential to save when taking a blanket approach.
- Scale Back.
Whether it's your apartment, automobile or wardrobe, it's time to make the tough decision to sacrifice the things you fancy for the betterment of your future. Can you find an apartment that you would be happy in for a couple hundred dollars less in rent? Are you willing to trade in your gas-guzzling luxury SUV for an economy car that can cut your auto expenses in half? By scaling back, you can easily save at least $100 a month.
- Sell Off. You might not be able to take on a second job, but you can still earn money by selling the things that you no longer want or need. While a garage sale can bring in anywhere from $200 to $500, there are less work-intensive ways to make extra money, like dropping off your quality used clothing and goods at a consignment shop every few months, or listing used electronics or bicycles on Craigslist. It might not earn you a fortune, but if you make back about $300 a year on the used market, that equals $25 a month to stock away.
It's important to live for today, but you need to take necessary steps to prepare financially for tomorrow. While some of these strategies may seem insignificant, and others a bit hard to swallow, added together you could find an estimated $500 or more per month to save. Effectively invested, that money can help you realize your dreams of owning a home, starting a family or paving the way to a smooth retirement.
What other tips can you suggest to save money every month?
Brian Spero writes about frugal living and the importance of saving for the future on the blog, Money Crashers Personal Finance.
The Inclusive Economy: 2012 in Review
By Sean Luechtefeld on 01/08/2013 @ 12:00 PM
Last year was a busy year here at The Inclusive Economy. Over the course of 2012, we posted 291 blog posts from CFED’s staff of assets experts alongside guest contributions from over 40 professionals in our field. In case you missed them, here were the five most highly trafficked posts from 2012:
What were your favorite stories from 2012? What would you like to see in 2013? Use the comments section below to let us know your thoughts!
The Academic BCS
By Sean Luechtefeld on 12/11/2012 @ 04:30 PM
Today, New America Foundation’s 2012 Academic BCS standings were released. Let me start out by saying that these rankings are far preferable to the actual BCS rankings.
Certainly, I understand that this is a fun way to get people thinking about college success and about the race gap that exists in education. For these purposes, I think New America’s Higher Ed Watch deserves applause. Yet, I think that the Academic BCS rankings call into a question an important point about how we measure college success.
Now, in the interest of full disclosure, I am a proud Florida State grad and was a bit disappointed that my Seminoles came in last place. But, rest assured, that pride doesn’t implicate my bias on this topic; I also worked for three summers at Northwestern and my sister did her undergraduate work at NIU. As a native Illinoisan, I’m actually quite pleased to see the Huskies and the Wildcats at the top of this list.
Nevertheless, the teacher in me takes issue with the methodology here, because it places a lot of emphasis on whether the graduation rate among football players is higher than the graduation rate among the student body more generally. While increased graduation rates is the goal, too often, student-athletes are successful in part thanks to help from programs that, although effective, aren’t accessible to the entire student body.
Rather than focusing on college success for football players, then, the conversation needs to be broadened to focus on primary predictors of college success for all students. One such predictor is whether or not a student – well before they even apply to college – has a savings account for college in their name. Research finds that those students with college savings accounts from a young age are six times more likely to finish a college degree when compared with their non-account-holding counterparts. The benefit: not only can we overcome the race gap in higher education, but we can also begin to address what Jennifer Brooks calls the “aspiration gap.”
Programs that seed accounts for families with young children for the purposes of higher education are gaining steam across the country. Just last month, Cuyahoga County, Ohio announced that it is starting a universal college savings program. Likewise, the State of Colorado is in the process of piloting a program that would create Children’s Savings Accounts for all TANF recipients. Initiatives like these are essential if we are to get serious about the changing nature (read: increase cost) of higher education.
While my Seminole pride makes me wish FSU performed a bit better, I think New America’s Academic BCS rankings are an important starting point to discuss means by which we can improve college access and success, and I applaud their efforts to mainstream this conversation.
Savings Photo Contest Extended!
By Veronica Weis on 08/01/2012 @ 01:30 PM
To give everyone a chance to enter, we’ve extended the deadline to August 31!
Snap a picture of what you’re saving for and send it via email to firstname.lastname@example.org, through Twitter page @CFEDnews or on Facebook.com/CFEDNews. The winning entry will receive $500 and two runners-up will win $100 each.
We look forward to your stories!
American Dream Photo Challenge Contest Entries
By Veronica Weis on 07/20/2012 @ 03:30 PM
We've really enjoyed all of your savings stories and photos submitted these past two weeks. So, we figured we'd share a few so you could too.
We are Lakota Solar Enterprises, a Tribal Renewable Energy company! Our van’s transmission is in need of repairs. We rely on our van to carry out our projects, bringing solar air heaters to Native American families in need. The functionality of our van is vital to our work. $500 will be a huge help for us to safely transport systems to homes! Our solar heaters provide affordable heat sources to families living at life-or-death poverty rates, and help to reduce the dependency on polluting and destructive sources of energy. Make a difference; choose Lakota Solar Enterprises!
This picture is taken with my best friend/roommate, Heather, at her college graduation. I am saving up for my education because I believe it will be my greatest asset in life. My education will allow me to do everything I want to do and all the things that I thought I could not. Every time I look at the photo, it inspires me to keep on pushing forward and roll with punches even when tough gets tougher. - Shirley Trieu
I’m saving to attend the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin this fall. I plan on specializing in economic development and pursuing a career in public service after graduating. This picture, taken at the LBJ School, hopefully inspires you to think about how you can invest in yourself and your community. - Lance McNeill
Have something big you're saving for? Show off your photography skills by snapping a picture and emailing it to email@example.com with a 100 word description before 5pm on August 1 for your chance to win $500. For more contest info, click here.
Treasury Launches MyMoneyAppUp Challenge
By Sean Luechtefeld on 07/05/2012 @ 01:30 PM
EDITOR'S NOTE: Below is the press release sent out by the U.S. Department of the Treasury last week publicizing this exciting collaboration between Treasury and CFED partner organizations CFSI and D2D Fund. We hope you'll consider submitting your ideas to the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge!
The U.S. Department of the Treasury today launched the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge to help Americans gain the tools and information they need to be smarter financial consumers. The Challenge, launched in partnership with the D2D Fund and Center for Financial Services (CFSI), seeks new ideas from the public for mobile applications to empower Americans to shape their financial futures everyday – even while on the move.
The Challenge features two components – an IdeaBank to generate ideas for mobile applications, and an App Design Challenge that solicits more comprehensive mobile application designs for development. The public may begin submitting ideas today for both parts of the Challenge at MyMoneyAppUp.challenge.gov.
“Mobile technology has become an increasingly important part of many Americans’ lives, creating new opportunities to help consumers make smart financial decisions in user-friendly ways,” said Deputy Secretary Neal Wolin. “The MyMoneyAppUp Challenge is designed to tap into the ingenuity and creativity of the American public to generate ideas for mobile applications that can help families be smarter financial consumers.”
The IdeaBank: The IdeaBank is a call for ideas, in 140 characters or less, for app-based solutions from the general public. Ideas may be submitted on the Challenge website where they will searchable to the general public. Visitors to the site will be able to vote on their favorite IdeaBank submissions and a panel of judges will select the final winners from the top 10 that receive the most votes from the public. Winners are eligible to receive cash prizes ranging from $250 to $1,000.
App Design Challenge: The App Design Challenge is a call for comprehensive design proposals for mobile apps from companies, individuals, and teams of individuals. Contestants must complete an online submission form detailing their design and how it will improve financial capability and/or access. Contestants are encouraged, but not required, to use ideas from the IdeaBank as the inspiration for their proposals. A panel of judges will review and score the proposals with the winners being announced at an awards event and eligible for cash prizes ranging from $2,500 to $10,000.
Support for prizes and the administration of the Challenge by D2D and CFSI comes from the Ford Foundation, Omidyar Network, and the Citi Foundation. No government funds were used as part of the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge.
The MyMoneyAppUp Challenge is open to all U.S. citizens and permanent residents who are 18 years or older. For complete details on Challenge eligibility requirements and rules, visit MyMoneyAppUp.challenge.gov.
About the MyMoneyAppUp Challenge
The MyMoneyAppUp Challenge, launched by the U.S. Treasury Department in partnership with the D2D Fund and Center for Financial Services Innovation, is a contest offering cash prizes for the best mobile app ideas and designs to help Americans make smart financial choices, access high quality financial products and services, and control and shape their financial futures.
The Challenge is part of Treasury’s efforts to promote Smart Disclosure, a new initiative by the Obama Administration to expand access to data that can fuel the creation of new products and services to benefit financial consumers. Contestants will be encouraged to create ideas and designs for apps that incorporate data to promote financial capability and access.
To learn more about the Challenge or to submit your idea, visit MyMoneyAppUp.challenge.gov.
CFED Photo Challenge: What Are You Saving For?
By Veronica Weis on 07/02/2012 @ 02:00 PM
This summer, CFED wants to know what Americans are saving for. As part of the 2012 Assets Learning Conference, we’re running a photo challenge aimed at rewarding those with a praiseworthy savings goal. Savers are asked to take a photo of what they're saving for – be it a new car, home, or even a university you’d like to attend – and include a 100 word description of why you’re saving for this item and why you consider it an asset.
From July 1st till August 1st, we’re accepting entries. First place will receive $500 toward their savings goal and the two runners up will receive $100. The winners will be chosen by a panel of judges based on composition, originality and overall appeal and announced at the conference in September. So show off your photography skills and don't forget that creativity is key! The top three photos – along with other entries – will be featured on our website, social media sites and will be on display at the conference photo gallery.
Check out the contest flyer for how to enter:
Managing Finances with That Special Someone
Posted on 02/07/2012 @ 10:00 AM
Financial Management Doesn't Need to Strain Your Relationship
Today's Guest Contributor is Alexandra Chaikin. Alexandra is a passionate supporter of community development. She volunteers as a Money Management 101 instructor for Capital Area Asset Builders in Washington, D.C. and she writes about her thoughts and experiences here at achaikin.blogspot.com. Ms. Chaikin holds an M.B.A. from the George Washington University and a B.A. from Vassar College.
With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I’m taking the opportunity to discuss one of the least sexy aspects of being in a relationship: finances. Chocolate and flowers may be nice, but romance is unsustainable without some kind of mutual understanding about money.
In a recent blog post, Bill Varettoni, financial planner and founder of the financial service organization Community Ladders, espoused the many virtues of open communication about household economics. I fully support all the solutions Bill proposes, and would like to add a few reflections of my own.
First, showing affection doesn’t need to break the bank. This is seems obvious, but flies in the face of the logic used in the majority Valentine’s Day ads. Diamond commercials, in my opinion, are among the worst offenders because they show an altered reality in which buying expensive jewelry is the best (and maybe the only) way to prove your love. I’ve often found myself yelling at the hypothetical male audience: “Just do the dishes!” The key is to find a way to show your partner you love and honor them, and there are numerous ways to do this. Some are free – like doing exactly what you said you’d do – and some can just cost moderate amounts of money, like taking your significant other to a restaurant they adore or a show they’ve been wanting to see (even if it’s not your favorite).
Second, changing financial behaviors might require an adjustment period. Bill Varettoni talks in his post about specific solutions like allowing slush funds for each party and setting clear expectations about how to manage finances. As with many things, this is easier to talk about in theory than to implement. Actually cutting back on your own spending or saving more each month can be quite difficult. It’s really not too different from going on a diet; companies like Dave Ramsey’s exist precisely because sticking to the plan isn’t easy. Don’t beat yourself up if there is a little awkwardness in the early stages. Keep at it and remind yourselves of the bigger goal: a happy, honest relationship.
Predictions for the Next Celebrity-Endorsed Prepaid Cards
By Ethan Geiling on 01/20/2012 @ 10:00 AM
Suze Orman, the financial advice guru, has been in the news recently for offering a branded prepaid card: The Approved Card.
Suze is not the only celebrity to endorse a prepaid card. Russell Simmons has the Rush Card and the Kardashian sisters briefly offered a Kardashian Kard, which was loaded with so many fees that it came under investigation and was quickly taken off the market.
Prepaid cards are not an inherently predatory product, and can actually be a great option for un- and underbanked consumers who are using alternative financial services, like expensive check cashing and payday loans. Prepaid cards are usually a little more expensive than a basic checking account. But underserved consumers often prefer prepaid cards to bank accounts because the fees on prepaid cards are more transparent, you can’t overdraft, and the cards are more accessible and convenient (you can often buy and load them in CVS, 7-11, and other retail locations). Some prepaid cards, like the Mango Card, even offer a linked high-yield savings account.
As far as prepaid cards go, Suze Orman’s card is relatively cheap. It costs $3 to purchase the card and there is a $3 monthly fee. Point-of-sale transactions at any retailer that accepts MasterCard are free. Perhaps the most unique feature of Orman’s card is that it will collect information about consumers’ spending habits and report it to TransUnion, one of the big three credit bureaus, although it’s not clear if and how much this data will affect credit scores. This is still a big innovation since many underserved consumers are often locked out of the mainstream credit system. See this great article from the blog Get Rich Slowly for more details about the credit aspects of the card.
All this recent media around celebrity-endorsed cards got me speculating about the next set of high-profile prepaid cards. Without further ado, here are my predictions for the next prepaid cards to hit the market:
“Swagger” – The Blue Ivy/Beyoncé Knowles/Jay-Z Family Prepaid Card
The world has been swooning since the birth of Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s new baby, Blue Ivy. With Jay-Z’s genes in the mix, it’s not clear how good-looking the baby will be when she grows up. Regardless, the entertainment world agrees that Blue Ivy will definitely have “swagger.”
The fine print: This prepaid card is targeted at high net worth children ages zero to two years old. It has a minimum balance requirement of $1 million and can only be used to purchase baby items priced over $10,000 (think diamond-encrusted baby bottles, gold-plated cribs, and ruby baby microphones).
“Gridlock” – The U.S. Congress Prepaid Card
Congress is quickly gaining a reputation for not getting anything done. But that doesn't mean they aren't going to offer a branded prepaid card to American consumers, most likely with a number of restrictions.
The fine print: Cardholders must get approval from Congress on any purchase over $25 – a process that takes between 10 and 36 weeks. The card also comes equipped with a fully-functional camera, in case you want to take any pictures, then text them to friends or post them on Twitter.
“Adultery” – The Herman Cain Prepaid Card
Even though Herman Cain dropped out of the Republican presidential nomination race, he has said he still intends to be involved in politics. Maybe this is a sign that a prepaid card is in his future?
The fine print: This card has great remittance features for cardholders interested in sending cash to “special friends” across the country. It also has no maximum balance limits, meaning it can be used to pay pricey lawyer fees and settlements on harassment cases. The card’s tagline is “Every kiss begins with Cain.”
CFED Unveils North Pole Unbanked Rate
By Ethan Geiling on 12/24/2011 @ 10:00 AM
When people picture the North Pole, they think about elves, Santa Claus, reindeer and toy workshops. What they don’t think about is access to convenient, appropriately-priced financial products that help families save, build assets and climb the economic ladder. We want to change that.
And so, in one of the most anticipated moves of the year, CFED released the unbanked and underbanked rates for the North Pole yesterday.
The data show that 5.5% of households in North Pole, Alaska are unbanked and 17.0% of households are underbanked. Unbanked households do not have a checking or savings account, while underbanked households may have an account but primarily rely on alternative financial services. These numbers compare favorably to the national findings from the 2009 FDIC National Survey of Unbanked and Underbanked Households.
Although there is a tremendous amount of work being done across the country to help families access safe and affordable financial services, people often forget small, rural places like the North Pole. And unlike the North Pole, many of those small, rural areas – like Holmes County, MS – have some of the highest unbanked rates in the country. In fact, all of the top 100 unbanked cities/towns in the country have less than 4,000 households.
We don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that this new data will completely change how people think about financial access in the North Pole, and it’s absolutely just the beginning.
Building on the powerful momentum of this new data, CFED plans to introduce a groundbreaking new financial product next year. CFED Vice President Ida Rademacher said, “I don’t want to give anything away, but I’ll say this: elf savings accounts.”
Happy holidays from all of us at CFED!