Nearly half of all Americans have zero or negative net worth, and roughly the same amount don’t have a basic personal safety net to prepare for emergencies or future needs. Local, state and federal policies aim to bring these families back from the edge of financial insecurity, but many public benefits programs – including SNAP, TANF, and SSI – limit eligibility to those with few or no assets. Asset limits on these programs create barriers to save for those who need savings the most. There is also promise for tax programs like the Earned Income Tax Credit to be improved to help more low-income families save for emergencies.
Individual Development Accounts (IDAs)
Reauthorize Assets for Independence | Federal Policy Brief (February 2014)
This Federal Policy Brief explores the value added to the American economy and household financial security by IDAs, as well as the importance of Congressional reauthorization of the Assets for Independence Act. To learn more, also see IDA Basics.
Earned Income Tax Credit
The EITC: A Powerful Savings Program for Low-Income Workers | Policy Brief (July 2015)
The Earned Income Tax Credit is an essential tool for helping low-income families build emergency savings. There are steps Congress can take to improve financial security for more Americans by strengthening the EITC.
The Rainy Day EITC: A Reform to Boost Financial Security by Helping Low-Wage Workers Build Emergency Savings | Federal Policy Proposal (July 2015)
This Policy Brief outlines a new proposal to help give low-wage workers a tool to build emergency savings at tax time. A Rainy DAy EITC means a real financial cushion later in the year, after the boom times of tax season have receded into memory.
Savings Penalties in Public Benefit Programs
Lifting Asset Limits Helps Families Save | Federal Policy Brief (February 2014)
This Federal Policy Brief explores how asset limits create barriers to save for those who need savings the most and how lifting asset limits help families save.
Lifting Asset Limits in Public Benefit Programs | State Resource Guide (October 2012)
Many public benefit programs – such as cash welfare and Medicaid – limit eligibility to those with few or no assets and force those with assets to “spend down” their savings. Learn what states can do to help people on public assistance programs build savings.
Lifting Asset Limits in Public Benefit Programs | State Resource Guide (2016)
Look at state-by-state measures for eliminating and expanding asset limits.
All Families Can Save for the Future | Fact File (March 2014)
Incomes help families get by; savings help them get ahead. This Fact File delves into the facts regarding how all families - even those with very low incomes - can save.
Rebuilding American Success: Savings and Opportunity for All | Federal Policy Memo (April 2013)
CFED offers a new approach to restoring American economic security: empower Americans to construct their own ladders to success by building savings and assets.
How Much in the Piggy Bank? Emergency Savings and American Families | Fact File (October 2012)
Losing a job can be financially catastrophic, especially for families who lack the cushion to absorb a major loss in income. Unfortunately, too many American households are ill-prepared to weather any financial shock.
Federal Stroke of a Pen Guide | CFED Report (April 2012)
Look at state-by-state measures for eliminating and expanding asset limits and expanding opportunities for savings.
State Stroke of a Pen Guide | CFED Report (November 2011)
The report includes two dozen low-cost, politically viable state policy ideas to increase financial security and opportunity in tough fiscal times.
Building Economic Security in America’s Cities: New Municipal Strategies for Asset Building and Financial Empowerment | CFED Report (January 2011)
This report examines how municipal governments help families build assets and wealth.
Hope in Concrete Form: Children’s Savings Accounts and the Save and Invest Economy | (September 2010)
This booklet was authored by CFED and designed for a more general audience that uses stories and pictures of SEED accountholders, along with some of the key lessons from SEED, to make the case for universal children’s savings accounts.
State IDA Program Support | State Resource Guide (February 2014)
This resource guide provides details about what states have done and what states can do to open IDAs as a way to help families building savings.
State-Level Children’s Savings Policy: A Guide to Crafting Children’s Savings Account Legislation | State Legislative Guide (September 2010)
While a federal CSA policy is the ultimate goal, experimentation and innovation at the state level can help set the stage for a more universal plan. Several states have already begun to explore options for enacting public policies to support CSAs.
Universal Voluntary Retirement Accounts | Policy Innovation Brief (2010)
Policy innovations are new and creative approaches to addressing social issues – such as helping more Americans better prepare for retirement – that have the potential to reach thousands or even millions of people.
The 1:1 Fund: College Savings Programs | State Resource Guide
The 1:1 Fund partners with leading local college savings programs across the country that are working with low-income children saving and striving for college. Use the map to find a 1:1 Fund program in your area.
San Francisco’s Kindergarten to College (K2C) Program | State Resource Guide
Helping families save early is the best way to ensure our kids have a chance at a successful college future. Studies show that a child with a college savings account is six to seven times more likely to attend college compared to one without.