Social development, economic security, and general welfare are not determined at a particular moment in time; rather, they unfold over time. This means we need to complement policies aimed at alleviating immediate hardship with ones that create meaningful opportunities for families to move forward in their lives. Yet public policy often fails to provide sufficient pathways for households with low incomes and few resources to accumulate the savings and assets necessary to support the social and economic development of children, families, and communities.
The power of assets is not just that they can be deployed productively or tapped to weather unexpected events, but they have behavioral effects that can change the manner in which people think about and plan for the future. The mission of the Asset Building Program is to significantly broaden access to economic resources through increased savings and asset ownership, thereby providing families with enhanced economic security, a direct stake in the commonwealth, and the means to pursue their aspirations.
Innovative Policies to Expand Asset Ownership in the United States
The Program incubates promising policy proposals and serves as a leading voice on innovative public policies to enable low- and middle-income families in the U.S and around the world to accumulate savings, access wealth-building financial services, develop financial capability, and build and protect productive assets across the life course. We aim to provide context and meaning to the assets perspective and ensure that this perspective is strategically and constructively inserted into a wide array of social policy discussions. Through informed analysis, expert commentary, innovative policy development, and promotion of an elevated public discussion, we advance solutions in a bipartisan fashion, based on effective ideas, policies, and programs, not politics. Among the signature ideas the program has developed include universal children’s savings accounts, automatic access to flexible and small-dollar savings products, and The Saver’s Bonus which provides a targeted incentive to contribute to savings products at tax time.
Savings Accounts at Birth
The Program is home to some of the world’s leading policy experts on children’s savings accounts in developed and developing countries. As such, it is widely credited with forging ideologically broad coalitions in both the House and the Senate to introduce the ASPIRE Act, and other bold policies that would establish and progressively fund a system of universal children’s savings accounts. These proposals would foster a savings and ownership culture, financial capability, and economic opportunity—especially for children in families with lower income and few resources. Our College Savings Initiative has successfully promoted policy efforts, enacted by the U.S. Education Department and the FDIC, which link children savings with financial education, and college completion.
Congressional Savings & Ownership Caucus
In 2005, the Program supported the launch of the Congressional Savings and Ownership Caucus in the U.S. Congress. The bipartisan Caucus brings together key Members of Congress, their staff, and leading experts to discuss research findings, policy options, and legislative opportunities to advance inclusive asset building policies in the U.S.
Financial Services and Capability
The Program provides leadership on policy issues related to the role of the financial services industry in building savings and assets among low- and middle-income individuals. The work is focused on forging a new responsibility framework for consumer financial services in the 21st century; improving the effectiveness of financial education; enabling low- and middle-income Americans to better manage debt in order to build assets; and expanding access to wealth-building financial services—including through access to small dollar savings products.
Global Assets Project
The Global Assets Project is committed to advancing products, programs, and public policies that build savings and assets for poor individuals around the world. Serving as a bridge across the diverse yet increasingly integrated areas of microfinance, financial education, social policy, and commercial financial services, the Global Assets Project aims to chart a new agenda for innovations and frontiers in the field of savings and asset building in an international context. It is a lead partner of YouthSave, an effort to develop, deliver, and test savings products accessible to youth, which is being tested in the field of four developing countries.
The Ladder and New Media Outlets
The Program maintains an active new media presence, producing webcasts, podcasts, and video clips which amplify our events, published papers, and commentary. Our dynamic blog, The Ladder, provides a forum for commentary, analysis, and public dialogue on a host of related asset-building and social policy topics and has become a go-to site for those interested asset-based social policy. We also maintain an active presence on Twitter. Our handle, @AssetsNAF, drives the flow of information and discussion within the asset building field and has become a significant outlet for news, content and information related to asset building and the public debate about policies impacting low- and moderate-income Americans.