Session: Financial Upheaval in U.S. Households: Systems of Guidance (Society for Social Work and Research 23rd Annual Conference - Ending Gender Based, Family and Community Violence)

193 Financial Upheaval in U.S. Households: Systems of Guidance

Saturday, January 19, 2019: 8:00 AM-9:30 AM
Golden Gate 4, Lobby Level (Hilton San Francisco)
Cluster: Social Work Practice (SWP)
Symposium Organizer:
Margaret Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
Low- and moderate-income families face vexing financial decisions largely without access to appropriate and reliable financial guidance. This symposium presents three papers that examine existing systems of guidance that offer promise, but to date, fall short of reaching the millions who need assistance.

The financial struggles of U.S. families make news headlines on a daily basis. Feeling the pinch of stagnant and declining incomes (DeSilver, 2014), many have not recovered from the Great Recession, when millions lost their homes and retirement savings. About one in four families has only enough savings to survive financially for 6 days (Pew Charitable Trust, 2015). More than one in three households of color have zero or negative net worth (Wolff, 2017). Among Americans with a credit file, 77 million are in debt collections (Ratcliffe, et al. 2014). People using payday and car title loans paid nearly $8 billion in fees in 2016 (Center for Responsible Lending, 2017). It is no wonder that a majority of low income families with annual incomes under $30,000 report worrying about how to pay for normal medical care (65%), retirement (64%), and monthly bills (63%) (Gallup, 2017).

Although families with low incomes often are skilled at managing their meager finances, knowing full well that a misstep can bring disaster, they still need financial guidance. They—like all Americans—face increasingly complex decisions about their personal finances, such as which bills to pay, how to avoid a home foreclosure, which insurance they need, how to finance their children's education, and how to prepare for retirement. In a world of growing financial complexity (Martin, 2002), few can do without basic financial advice. But the poor mostly receive little professional guidance.

Despite the growing need, social work researchers have paid relatively little attention to how to deliver financial guidance to LMI individuals. This symposium examines why financial guidance is needed, and how it is best delivered in institutional structures that reach millions of vulnerable families. The first paper in this symposium studies the types of financial problems that are faced by one vulnerable and understudied population, military veterans, and establishes the connection between financial and social well-being, the importance of financial guidance. It also sets the stage for an important financial guidance model identified in the next paper. The second paper identifies financial guidance sectors that are reaching out to disadvantaged populations in the United States and assesses the strengths and weaknesses of each, proposing a hybrid model for reaching scale (i.e., reaching millions). The third paper examines the potential and limitations of financial technology (FinTech), which has made important advances in reaching the poor in some countries.

* noted as presenting author
Financial Health Amongst U.S. Military Veterans: Implications for Practice
Carl Castro, PhD, University of Southern California; Sara Kintzle, PhD, University of Southern California
Models of Financial Guidance for Disadvantaged Families
Margaret Sherraden, Washington University in Saint Louis; Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University; Jessica Bernacchi, BS, Washington University in Saint Louis; Lissa Johnson, MSW, Washington University in Saint Louis; Carl Castro, PhD, University of Southern California
Building a Fintech Platform to Support Universal Financial Guidance
Jin Huang, PhD, Saint Louis University; Margaret Sherraden, PhD, Washington University in Saint Louis
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