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Struggling to Save: Too Many Florida Families Lack Nest Egg

Unforeseen expenses can break the bank for many low-income families. (mconnors/morguefile)
Unforeseen expenses can break the bank for many low-income families. (mconnors/morguefile)
January 21, 2016

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – Whether it's an unexpected expense or plans for the future, a family's savings play a big part in long-term success in life.

But a new policy brief from the Annie E. Casey Foundation finds that right now, not enough Floridians are able to put money away, particularly in communities of color.

Researchers found that from 2010 to 2013, the net worth of white families increased by 2 percent, while Latino and black families saw their assets fall by 15 percent and 34 percent, respectively.

Beadsie Woo, a senior associate with the foundation, stresses small changes can make a big difference.

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

The brief recommends the federal government create a universal savings account when each child is born, and seed it with a small amount of money to get families started saving, as well as increasing the limits on how much families can have in savings and still qualify for the Temporary Assistance for Public Families program.

In Florida, families receiving public assistance are limited to $2,000 in assets. But the brief recommends that federal policy should allow for up to $12,000 in savings, or the equivalent of three months' wages for a low-income family of four.

Woo says not allowing families to invest in themselves can create a dangerous cycle.

"Sometimes when there's an unexpected expense or an unexpected income loss, if they don't have savings they have to borrow money,” she points out. “And too often, they will go to a payday lender because they have very few options for accessing other monies."

The brief, called "Investing in Tomorrow: Helping Families Build Savings and Assets," also recommends increasing access to home ownership and making the federal retirement-savings program more accessible.

Mona Shand, Public News Service - FL