Individual Wealth Building

The Rise of Community Wealth Building Institutions

More people are turning to economic alternatives in which new wealth is built collectively and from the bottom up

Crossposted from Policy Network, and later published on the London School of Economics website, this blog is part of a debate event hosted by Policy Network in London, UK, that was reviewed in OurKingdom by grassroots activist James Doran:    

Five years after the financial crisis economic inequality in the United States is spiraling to levels not seen since the Gilded Age. While most Americans are experiencing a recovery-less recovery, the top one per cent of earners last year claimed 19.3 per cent of household income, their largest share since 1928. Moreover, income distribution looks positively egalitarian when compared to wealth ownership.

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Guilford County Homeownership Center

Established in 2004, Guilford County Homeownership Center (GCHC) is a nonprofit organization that offers a range of financial literacy classes.  One of its core programs is its Financial Peace University (“FPU”), a 13-week financial literacy course credited with saving families an average of $2,600.  It also offers a 6 to 12 month individual development account (IDA) program, which enables participants to establish matched savings accounts that can be used to purchase a first home, open a small business, or fund higher education.  In exchange, participants are required to complete economic literacy and homebuyer education classes, improve their credit, establish a budget and savings schedule, and develop long-term money management skills.

Rebuilding American Success: Savings and Opportunity for All


In the face of economic insecurity, this policy memo from CFED argues that an asset building approach can help families build their financial assets as students, homeowners, or entrepreneurs, thereby empowering individuals to steward their own resources more effectively and contribute to their own economic success. Highlighting how many Americans lack basic financial security, the memo calls for federal policy reforms that give low-income households better access to the financial tools and knowledge they need to build a secure future. Recommendations include improving tax incentives for low- and middle-income savers, reauthorizing the Assets for Independence Program and reviving US savings bonds. 

Prosperity Works

Based in Albuquerque, New Mexico, Prosperity Works currently assists 32 community-based organizations and financial institutions across the state to create asset building opportunities for working families and build strong communities across the state. As of September 2012, Prosperity Works and its partners have enabled families in New Mexico to save more than $7 million through individual development account programs, allowing for 184 new families to transition to safe and secure housing, permitting 368 locally owned businesses to open or expand, and creating 644 new jobs.  

Assets & Opportunity Scorecard: Living on the Edge: Financial Insecurity and Policies to Rebuild Prosperity in America

Jennifer Brooks and Kasey Wiedrich

Despite signs of a U.S. economic recovery, CFED’s 2013 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard shows that many Americans are still struggling just to get by. This year’s result finds that nearly half (43.9 percent) of households—or more than 132 million people—are “liquid asset poor.” As a result, they do not have enough assets to provide themselves with a basic personal safety net to protect against an unforeseen crisis, such as unemployment or a medical emergency, or plan for future needs, such as a child’s college education or homeownership. To address this problem, this report highlights measures states have taken to build financial security and increase opportunities in the areas of financial assets and income, businesses and jobs, housing and homeownership, health care, and education.

Real$ense Prosperity Campaign

The Real$ense Prosperity Campaign is a community coalition founded in 2003, supported by local government, and led by the United Way to help middle- and low-income residents build wealth. Real$ense provides free financial education classes and administers an Individual Development Account (IDA) program. To date, the coalition has helped 290 individuals enroll in IDAs and earn more than $600,000 in matched savings.