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.

Public Attitudes Toward the Next Social Contract

  • By Bruce Stokes, Pew Research Center
January 15, 2013

The recent deliberations in Washington about the fiscal cliff have triggered a national debate in the United States about the nature, extent and future sustainability of key elements of the U.S. social safety net: Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, support for education, the unemployed and the poor.

Asset Building News Week, December 17-21

December 21, 2012
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Editor's note: We're off next week, so there won't be another Asset Building News Week until 2013! We wish our readers a very safe and happy holiday season and look forward to connecting with you in the New Year.

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 middle class, student debt, housing, inequality, gender-based issues, and tax time.

Guest Post: Promoting New Efforts to Get Kids to Save and Get Kids to College

December 19, 2012
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Editor’s Note:This post was authored by Michael Chasnow. Michael is the Operations Manager for the 1:1 Fund, an online community, conceived and capitalized by CFED, that promotes educational opportunity for low-income students. He received an MBA and masters in urban planning from UNC-Chapel Hill.

Graduating college is a critical step for children from lower income families aspiring to join the middle class. According to 2012 Postsecondary Education Opportunity Research, only 10% of low-income children living in families in the bottom quartile of income (~$33,000 and below) graduate from college by their mid-20s. This low graduation rate severely limits their future opportunities. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, individuals with a college degree earn on average over $900K more in their lifetime than high school grads, and, as the Lumina Foundation argues, more college graduates in the work force also benefits the U.S. economy by helping to create jobs. Additionally, graduating college increases one’s chances of gaining employment (and thus building wealth), with college graduates’ unemployment rates at 3.8% and workers with high school degrees at 8.1% as of November 2012.

Social Contract Budgeting: Prescriptions from Economics and History

  • By Peter Lindert, University of California - Davis
December 17, 2012

If there is to be any durable hope for a social contract that transcends left-right partisanship, that contract must rest upon a majority consensus about policies that are efficient, fair, and sustainable. Once the smoke has cleared from this November’s battle over the role of government, what will endure are several policy prescriptions kept alive by an objective reading of economic history and a general consensus among economists.

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