In an increasingly financialized world, everyone must be financially capable and own assets in order to achieve financial stability and security over a lifetime. Financial capability requires access to tools to manage household finances, protect against income volatility, invest in education and human capital, build homeownership and enterprises, accumulate assets, and prepare for retirement. Low financial capability and lack of assets are key contributors to poverty and inequality, which are of growing concern (Goldberg, 2012; Piketty, 2014).
In other words, from a person-in-environment perspective (Kondrat, 2002), individuals and families should have financial knowledge and skills, as well as access to sound financial products and services to achieve financial capability (Sherraden, 2013). Unfortunately, the most financially vulnerable groups in society—such as people with low incomes, racial and ethnic minorities, and people living with disabilities—are often excluded from opportunities to build financial wellbeing.
Social workers are increasingly involved in research and application to increase financial capability in financially vulnerable populations. Renewing social work’s historical role in improving household financial wellbeing (Stuart 2013), social work scholars have examined the role of financial education (Anderson, Zhan, & Scott, 2004; Frey, et al., in press; Rochelle et al., 2014) and financial inclusion in building financial wellbeing. Social work researchers and practitioners are leaders in the field of asset building in low income and vulnerable households (Sherraden, 1991; Beverly, 2002; Stoesz, 2013; Grinstein-Weiss, Comer, et al., 2014; Huang, et al., 2014).
This panel will examine efforts to increase financial well-being in diverse US populations across the life span. Using qualitative and quantitative evidence, panelists examine racially and ethnically diverse populations, different phases of the life span, and different social welfare issues and interventions. They include: (a) low income parents of very young children, (b) helping youth transitioning out of foster care into adult financial roles, (c) Black and Hispanic young adults and access to higher education, and (d) retirement prospects in Asian immigrant households. Together, the papers will contribute to understanding how the ability to act and opportunity to act—including opportunities to build assets—contribute to financial wellbeing in financially vulnerable households.