Tackling a challenge as far-reaching and systemic as consumer debt and income volatility requires us to look beyond abstract analyses. We must work to develop a fully informed, on-the-ground understanding of how it impacts real people in real American cities. And it demands a cross-sector movement with new ideas that harness the best insights of the public, private, and nonprofit sectors, rather than relying on traditional policy tropes.
That’s why we launched the multi-city Finance Forward Series: to start a national dialogue that shines a light on consumer debt and income volatility across a geographically and industrially diverse range of US cities. Our goal is to identify innovative, practical solutions that can inspire action in communities across the country.
● Consumer Debt
This inability to meet basic needs with income from labor, transfers, and other sources makes it difficult to maintain emergency savings and appears to push many households into debt. Moreover, these same households often rely on more expensive and higher-risk forms of debt, such as payday loans, subprime auto loans, and private student loans.Our work on consumer debt will include a focus on the drivers, features, and consequences of household debt among these financially vulnerable households.
EPIC’s research has identified seven specific consumer debt problems – all amenable to solutions – that result in financial insecurity and damage well-being. Visit www.aspenepic.org/consumer-debt-solutions-framework/ for the full solutions framework.
● Income Volatility
A growing body of research shows that month-to-month income fluctuates wildly for low-and moderate-wage workers. This unpredictable income significantly impacts the financial lives of these individuals - making it hard for them to meet monthly expenses, save, pay down debt, qualify for a loan, or handle a major unexpected expense. The financial insecurity that results from this income volatility can take a devastating toll on families and their communities, with painful impacts that span everything from credit and health care access to education, housing, and public utilities.
We wrapped up our Finance Forward series on income volatility in January 2018 with a closing event in Oakland, California. Read a recap of the series in our blog post, Looking Back at Finance Forward: Solving Income Volatility at the Local Level.
● RESOURCE CENTER
● Consumer Debt Toolkit
Empowering local leaders to take ownership of consumer debt and continue to drive solutions forward
Local government may use this as a guide for pursuing tailored solutions to help mitigate the effects of consumer debt. While not exhaustive, this list is based on the results of Aspen EPIC’s research, consumer focus groups, notes from public and private events, and the collection of commitments that emerged from our work. For the full action guide for local government, visit www.aspeninstitute.org/consumer-debt-crisis-action-guide/
● Income Volatility Toolkit
Resources for tackling a growing financial challenge
Government, employers, non-profit service providers, and financial service providers may use this as a guide for pursuing tailored solutions to help mitigate the effects of income volatility. While not exhaustive, this list is based on the results of Aspen EPIC’s research, consumer focus groups, notes from public and private events, and the collection of commitments that emerged from the work with partner cities. For full toolkit, please visit www.aspenepic.org/toolkit.
● South Carolina
EPIC is an initiative of the Aspen Institute's Financial Security Program.