Asset Building News Week, April 15-19

April 19, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include housing, unemployment, financial products, taxes, and inequality.

Two Ideas on How to Improve Retirement Security for All Americans

April 9, 2013

Editor's note: This post was originally published on Zócalo Public Square. In Washington, President Obama is expected to present his plans for changes in entitlements, including Social Security. Congress is taking up the debate. But when Social Security is discussed these days, it’s often in the context of the budget–even though the program’s purpose is to provide retirement security. So we asked: Given the country’s fiscal realities, is there a better way to enhance Americans’ retirement security? Below are two ideas.

Event Summary: The New Suburban Homeless

April 8, 2013
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The Asset Building Program hosted an event last week to examine the rise of suburban homelessness and the broader impact of the Great Recession on homeownership and the American middle class. We invited Monica Potts, senior writer for The American Prospect, to discuss her new piece “The Weeklies,” which takes an intimate look at a cohort of newly homeless families living in hotels in suburban areas. Janis Bowdler, Economic Policy Director with the National Council of La Raza, weighed in on the interplay of the foreclosure and housing crisis with family wealth, community resilience, and the social safety net. Reid Cramer framed and moderated the conversation.

Expanded Social Security

  • By
  • Michael Lind,
  • Joshua Freedman,
  • Steven Hill,
  • New America Foundation
  • and Robert Hiltonsmith, Demos
April 3, 2013

Executive Summary
The conventional wisdom about Social Security is profoundly misguided. According to today’s mistaken consensus, the U.S. as a society cannot afford to allocate the money to pay for the present level of Social Security benefits for retirees in future generations. The solution, it is widely argued, is to cut benefits – either directly by means-testing or indirectly by raising the retirement age or allowing inflation to erode their real value over time. In this narrative, tax-favored private savings vehicles like 401(k)s and IRAs should be expanded in order to compensate for the allegedly necessary cuts in Social Security.

New Podcast: How to Sidestep the Double-Whammy

March 28, 2013
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As I mentioned in a blog post a couple of weeks ago, families are facing a double-whammy to college affordability: costs are up and savings are down. The good news? As Rachel Fishman with the Education Policy Program and I discuss, there are a lot of things that the federal and state governments, educational institutions, and families can do to maintain access to higher education. To have a listen, click below.

The New Suburban Homeless

March 26, 2013
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A new article by Monica Potts in the most recent issue of The American Prospect, The Weeklies, explores an impact of the Great Recession that has thus far received sparse attention: the rise of suburban homelessness. Across the country, as foreclosures persist, many formerly stable families are finding themselves moving from one budget hotel to the next, permanently in transition. As the article notes, the recession has jeopardized “a defining characteristic of what it means to be middle-class” for many families—and in the process, called their very identities into question.

Warning: Solutions to non-Existent Problems Ahead

March 13, 2013
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Or, so should have been labeled the justification to cut SNAP in the budget proposal from House Budget Chair Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) yesterday. Underlying this move was the need to increase integrity in the program. In its own words: “These programs also have little incentive to root out waste, fraud, and abuse…"

And the compelling example of why this is necessary?

“In Michigan, two lottery winners received SNAP benefits.”

Double Whammy to College Affordability: New Reports Show College Costs Up but College Savings Down

March 8, 2013
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Fresh off the presses are two reports highlighting the dismal state of college affordability: the first was released Wednesday by the State Higher Education Executive Officer's Association showing that college costs rose 8.3 percent last year and the second from Sallie Mae released last Tuesday (slightly less fresh) showing that less families are savings for college and thos

Guest Post: Illinois Automatic IRA Bill (98th General Assembly)

March 7, 2013

Editor's note: This blog post was authored by Karen Harris, Director of Asset Opportunities at the Shriver Center.

For many retired Americans, the potential for financial insecurity is great. Although our government provides a modest monthly Social Security check ($1,152 on average) to retirees, Social Security was never meant to be the sole source of an individual’s retirement income. While $1,152 might be just barely enough money for a young healthy individual, being elderly is much more expensive. Among people who reach the age of 65, 70% will eventually require long-term health care and 30% will eventually receive nursing home care. The average cost of a semi-private nursing home room is $215 per day or $78,000 per year. Yet, according to the Social Security Administration, Social Security benefits constitute 50-90% of income for more than 33% of Social Security Recipients, and 90 to 100% for more than 31% of recipients. This means that about two out of three Social Security recipients over-rely on Social Security.

In order for retirees to avoid over-relying on Social Security, they must prepare during their working years. However, 49% of Americans say they are not saving any money for retirement. A 2012 Woodstock Institute Report shows that the lack of savings is primarily a problem of access to savings mechanisms. The report finds that across all Illinois state legislative districts at least 50% of full-time workers are not offered an employer sponsored retirement savings plan. As the Assets Report infographic shows, lower-income workers are much less likely to have access to these plans.

In order to address this widespread retirement problem, the Illinois Asset Building Group (IABG), along with the Shriver Center, AARP, SEIU and many other organizations are working to pass S.B. 2400/H.B. 2461 The Automatic IRA Program Act. This bill, sponsored by Senator Daniel Biss and Rep. Deborah Mell, would provide all full time workers in Illinois access to retirement savings accounts.

Asset Building News Week, February 25-March 1

March 1, 2013
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The Asset Building News Week is a weekly Friday feature on The Ladder, the Asset Building Program blog, designed to help readers keep up with news and developments in the asset building field. This week's topics include the household balance sheet, cash and payments, higher education, housing, and public benefits.

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