"What’s Next?" Introduction to Our New Series on the Future of Matched and Incentivized Savings
The adult matched and incentivized savings field is at an inflection point. This past May, the asset-building field suffered a major blow as the Assets for Independence (AFI) program, the biggest single programmatic funding source for not only IDAs but the field overall, was defunded. Yet the need for families to gain stability, security and long-term assets is as great as ever, as evidenced by the nearly four in ten Americans that are liquid asset poor. The 2018 Prosperity Now Scorecard lays out that we need to change the options available to people, and the AFI program did just that. In 2015 alone, participants received over $23 million dollars to match their savings in the pursuit of long-term assets, an option that sadly no longer exists for many hard-working families. Despite this enormous loss, we now we have a chance to take what we learned to a grander scale, one that will truly build opportunity for more people than AFI could have reached. In this ongoing series, we will detail the many reasons for optimism about the future of matched savings. We want to start by focusing on one enormous asset that didn’t exist at the IDA’s inception 25 years ago: an innovative, resilient and passionate field of practitioners who are dedicated to helping their clients get ahead.
To kick off this series, we want to offer a statement of gratitude and solidarity. Individuals and families across the US and its territories have enormously benefited from your work; they own businesses, cars, homes and have careers; through the AFI program alone, you helped over 105,000 participants save $109 million dollars and purchase 50,000 assets. The results extend beyond savings and asset purchases; clients have greater financial stability, improved financial health indicators such as credit scores, greater access to other financial services, and an improved sense of financial well-being. They own a piece of the dream; their hard work made this happen, but your services, tireless effort, and dedication made the opportunity possible. Towards the end of a recent summit on the future of matched savings, Rodolfo Acosta-Perez of Community Action of Southern New Mexico stated: “It is hard to communicate what we do. But I am what I do—it is everything to me. We’re not heroes, we’re just the middleman. The clients are the heroes.” We at Prosperity Now would also add: those who dedicate their careers and lives to helping families save and achieve their dreams are heroes, too, and a true asset to our communities and nation.
Prosperity Now is standing beside you in solidarity as we work together to determine what’s next to best support families as they save for their immediate and long-term futures. We firmly believe that matched and incentivized savings are not tools of the past, but an imperative for our country moving forward. The emergence and evolution of this field over the last twenty-five-years has empowered countless families and built communities in every corner of the country. In other words, as Prosperity Now founder Bob Friedman phrased it at the summit, “AFI was not a failure; moving away from what we know works is a failure.” And we are not about to do that.
We’re excited to work with you to take what we learned from the AFI program and other initiatives—both what worked and what didn’t—and build better, sustainable and resilient initiatives that help families move along the continuum from financial crisis to stability to prosperity. We’re kicking this work off with a blog and engagement series that will take stock of where we are, explore what’s next, discuss what we learned from AFI and highlight innovations in the field. We look forward to exploring these challenges and opportunities with you through Prosperity Now’s Adult Matched Savings Network in the coming months and years.