Overview: Individual Wealth Preservation

Individual Wealth Preservation initiatives help low- and moderate-income people maintain and grow the assets they possess. As the foreclosure wave that began in 2007 painfully reinforced, in order to build wealth, it is critical to preserve existing resources. In 2008 alone, Americans lost $2 trillion in housing wealth, with low-income communities and people of color the hardest hit. Even in non-crisis times, those who have the least often pay the most for financial services. For example, low-income Americans often lack access traditional banks; as a result, they often must rely on costlier alternatives, such as subprime lending. In response, a broad movement has developed to even the scales and help low-income families keep the wealth they have. Specific wealth preservation initiatives include financial education, foreclosure mitigation, programs to “bank the unbanked,” advocacy and policy efforts to limit predatory lending, and tax refund assistance.

Individual Wealth Preservation is a critical arena for building community wealth for several key reasons:

  • Financial education programs empower people by providing them with the knowledge they need to safeguard and improve their own financial health.

  • Foreclosure mitigation programs can help homeowners negotiate deals through which they can keep their homes, a critical factor in ensuring family and community stability.

  • By bringing financial services into communities that have traditionally been bypassed by conventional banks, efforts to “bank the unbanked” provide low and moderate-income people with the financial tools they need to protect and grow personal assets.

  • Tax refund assistance programs can provide significant additional funds to low and moderate-income families. Demonstrating such programs’ importance, the Internal Revenue Service estimates that one fourth of all eligible tax filers fail to claim their Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), a refundable tax credit that supplements low-wage work and is credited with boosting families’ incomes by an average of nearly $2,000 a year. Moreover, research indicates each dollar a household receives from the EITC can generate up to $2 in local economic activity (National Community Tax Coalition 2013 Fact Sheet). 

Key Facts & Figures

Percent of households without bank accounts (FDIC 2011 survey)

8.2 percent (10 million households)

Percent of households without savings accounts (FDIC 2011 survey)

29.3 percent

Number of completed foreclosures since September, 2008 (CoreLogic, 2013)

4.4 million

Total refunds from VITA-filed returns (free tax preparation services for low and moderate-income households) (NCTC 2013 fact sheet)

$2.2 billion

Community-wealth.org houses an extensive collection of resources focused on Individual Wealth Preservation and this strategy’s role in community wealth building. Below is a glimpse of the rich array of materials you will find as you explore our site:

Our Support Organizations section features major organizations working at the national level to promote individual wealth building. One such group is National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE), which aims to provide financial education for all Americans and build knowledge around personal finances and related topics.

Our Best Practices section showcases exemplary organizations working to encourage individual wealth preservation. For instance, one such organization is the Financial Literacy Coalition of Central Texas (FLCCT) in Austin, Texas. Educating 7,525 people since its establishment in 2001, FLCCT is a nonprofit organization that aims to promote a stable, prosperous community by offering free financial classes and literacy resources to low-income, Central Texas residents.

Our Research Resources section highlights web-based resources focused on individual wealth preservation. For example, the Urban Affairs Coalition of Philadelphia’s Foreclosure Prevention Resource Center is a website that provides a range of online resources for people trying to save their homes from foreclosure and professionals aiming to help such individuals.

Our Articles and Publications section includes links to a diverse selection of articles, reports, papers, and books focused on individual wealth preservation. One such report is CFED and the National League of Cities’ Taking the First Step: Six Ways to Start Building Financial Security and Opportunity at the Local Level (2012), which details low-cost, concrete strategies that municipal leaders can use to promote community financial stability and opportunity.

Our Toolbox features resources designed to help on-the-ground practitioners working to promote individual wealth preservation. For instance, How to Start a VITA Site in Your Community: Bringing More Dollars Into the Local Economy While Supporting Families ( 2010) is a “how-to” manual designed for those interested in establishing sites that provide free tax return preparation services to low-income families.

And, lastly, our Policy Guide provides an overview of related federal initiatives and programs that can help practitioners leverage resources and increase their impact. For example, the IRS’ free Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program helps low-income people file federal tax returns and connect to programs that promote savings, wealth building, and financial literacy.