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USFD Book: Available Now!

by U.S. Financial Diaries

The traditional narrative about financial success in America is that hard work, steady saving, and a little bit of luck will ensure financial security, a comfortable retirement, and a better future for one’s children. But large numbers of Americans feel financially insecure. In our new book, THE FINANCIAL DIARIES: How American Families Cope in a World of Uncertainty (Princeton University Press; April 11, 2017), we explain why this is happening – and what needs to change – based on the results of the US Financial Diaries project.

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SSIR: The Hidden Financial Lives of America's Poor and Middle Class

by U.S. Financial Diaries

Recently, SSIRLive! featured The Hidden Financial Lives of America's Poor and Middle Class, a 2-part webinar and blog series, highlighting research based on the US Financial Diaries.  The research illustrates how current programs and policies for helping poor and middle class households achieve financial stability are based on an outdated understanding of the reality of their financial practices. 

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What It's Worth: A Primer on Financial Health and Well-Being

by U.S. Financial Diaries

Laura Choi of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, Kate Griffin of CFED, and Ellen Seidman of Urban Institute recently discussed their forthcoming book, What It’s Worth: Strengthening the Financial Future of Families, Communities and the Nation, on Medium.  In discussing the book's themes, the authors also referenced research from USFD that dispels the myth that struggling households mismanage their finances.

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The Bail Trap: When a Lack of Savings Means Jail Time

by Alicia Brindisi

Recently, The New York Times Magazine ran a feature on the bail process for petty crimes, with a focus on the Brooklyn, NY court system.  Although bail was historically set as a bond to ensure a defendant will return to court for trial, it is increasingly used as a tool for incarceration.  According to the article, at any given time, 450,000 individuals in the U.S. are held in detention awaiting trial because they were unable to pay their court-assigned bail.  A disproportionate number of these are poor.

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CFED: Financial Capability Programs in the Workplace

by U.S. Financial Diaries

Despite recent economic growth and falling unemployment, many American workers are still struggling to make ends meet.  Financial capability programs can help participants alleviate some of their financial struggles through knowledge and access to the products and services they need to manage their financial lives effectively. CFED recently profiled programs that are integrated into the workplace setting.

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AARP: Adding Automatic Emergency Savings to Retirement

by U.S. Financial Diaries

A new report from the US Financial Diaries project provides evidence that lower income households are saving up for frequent, short-term emergencies that prevent the growth of long-term savings. Could 401k style auto-enrollment programs help to manage both long- and short-term savings goals?

Recently the AARP blog proposed such an idea, citing research from USFD

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Mediaplanet: Are Financial Literacy Programs Stuck in the 20th Century?

by U.S. Financial Diaries

Most financial literacy programs are geared toward steady paycheck earners with long-term savings goals. But how can programs assist households that are struggling with volatile incomes and unpredictable expenses?

Recently Mediaplanet included a feature on the findings of the US Financial Diaries project and how they can relate to more effective financial literacy approaches.

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Coping with the Cost of Healthcare

by Julie Siwicki of the Financial Access Initiative

The Center for Disease Control reports that nearly half of all adults in America have a chronic health condition – a health problem like diabetes, arthritis, or obesity that limits behavior for long periods. Chronic diseases are not only among the most common medical issues faced by Americans. They’re also the most costly, accounting for 84 percent of all health care spending in 2006. The burden of medical costs in America is no secret. And the question of how people – especially the poor – can afford to stay healthy remains wide open.

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Creating an Income Spike, Part II: Savings Groups

by Julie Siwicki of the Financial Access Initiative

A recurring theme in USFD research is that low incomes are often volatile incomes. To cope, some households create predictable income spikes through tax refunds and credits [link to previous post]. Others buffer against uncertain income by saving up lump sums. We see that people can get creative to mitigate the difficulty of saving money on a low and volatile income. Savings groups are one common, informal strategy to help households save.

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New Studies Highlight Immigrant Financial Access in NYC and Beyond

by Julie Siwicki of the Financial Access Initiative

Last week a coalition of NYC-based nonprofits released a report on the financial status of immigrants in Queens. It’s part of a growing body of research drawing attention to how financial service providers can meet the distinct needs of America’s massive immigrant market. Just last summer the Center for Financial Services Innovation published a national, in-depth analysis of immigrants’ financial needs and recommendations for addressing them.

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Spikes, Dips, and the Perils of Predicting Income and Expenses

by Julie Siwicki of the Financial Access Initiative

Some Americans don’t think twice about how often they’ll get paid, or how much their paychecks will be, because the differences are negligible—a day here, a few dollars there. Others find it much harder to predict money coming in and even going out of the household. People who live at lower incomes, the group the U.S. Financial Diaries focused on, tend to put themselves in this second group of Americans.

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