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You Can Bank on It: Policies to Promote Savings for MI Families

An Annie E. Casey Foundation brief suggests polices that can help families better save for the future. (David Goehring/Flickr)
An Annie E. Casey Foundation brief suggests polices that can help families better save for the future. (David Goehring/Flickr)
January 20, 2016

LANSING, Mich. - Beyond struggling to support themselves on a daily basis, many low-income families in Michigan and other states have little money set aside for the future.

A new brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation also uncovers the disparities in savings between white families and families of color. But the wealth gap can be narrowed with strong federal policies that promote savings, says Beadsie Woo, a senior associate at the Casey Foundation.

She explains there is a connection between family savings and a child's well-being.

"There are commonsense federal policies that can create more opportunities for families to save, and those change the life course for their children," says Woo. "Children whose families can save will do better in school and have stronger outcomes through access to opportunities."

The brief recommends creating universal savings accounts seeded with federal funds from the moment a child born, which Woo says could be used for education or housing down the road. Savings can also be encouraged by making the federal "My Retirement Account" program more accessible, and expanding HUD's Family Self-Sufficiency program to help more people become homeowners.

Woo says asset limits for public assistance programs\ also can prevent a family from gaining financial stability, and the research suggests federal policies allow a family at least $12,000 in savings. She adds, in states with higher asset limits, families are better able to put money away.

"We see that those families are more self-sufficient because they have their own savings to draw on," Woo says. "Over time, the number of people enrolled in benefits decline."

Michigan is among states that still has asset limits for both TANF (Temporary Assistance for Needy Families) and SNAP (Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program). According to the brief, the net worth of white families increased two percent between 2010 and 2013, while net worth dropped 34 percent for African American and 15 percent for Latino families.

Mary Kuhlman, Public News Service - MI