1. A Disability Friendly Town

    Cindy Battles Picture

    If you follow this blog, you know I have encouraged people receiving disability benefits to put their tax refund in an emergency fund. 

    This year, my return was smaller than previous years, so I decided to use it to tune-up my automobile.  I felt good about this. However, several of my friends aren’t as lucky and don’t have cars at all – they can’t afford it.

    Fortunately, we live in the town of Rutland, Vermont; what one of my friends called “a great, disability-friendly town.” Rutland has many buses and reliable routes to transport those in the disability community, individuals without cars, those looking to live a more environment-friendly lifestyle and everyone in between from Point A to Point B.  If ever in the future I come to the point where I can’t afford a new or used car, I can take “The Bus,” as Rutlanders call it, and pay virtually nothing to get around town.

    In the meantime, I intend to remain grateful for my car and will always tune-up and “check the oil,” as the Dixie Chicks once sang.

    Happy Spring!

    Cindy

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    Cindy Battles is a freelance writer based in Rutland, VT, winner of the National Disability Institute’s 2008 Blog Contest and a regular contributor here on the Real Economic Impact blog.

  2. Financial Counseling and Access for the Financially Vulnerable - Publication of the Week

    Treasury's Financial Counseling and Access Cover

    Today’s Publication of the Week, the U.S. Department of Treasury’s Financial Counseling and Access for the Financially Vulnerable, is another terrific resource for service providers, thought leaders and the general public during National Financial Capability Month and beyond. 

    This report highlights a pilot program, done in collaboration with the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), the Center for Financial Security at the University of Wisconsin-Madison (CFS) and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment (OFE), in New York City pairing access to a basic checking account and financial counseling services for adults transitioning off of public benefits.

    As a result, researchers were able to determine that a positive correlation exists between those consumers receiving financial counseling and the ability to stay current on debt payments. Thereby, improving their financial health.

    Additionally, the study examines how financial empowerment services can be effectively integrated into existing workforce systems - critical to countless Americans with and without disabilities - and provides Treasury with much-needed data to consider as they draft and implement policies to help people manage their money, transition into the workforce and move up the economic ladder.  

  3. D2D Fund’s Financial Entertainment - Website of the Week

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    As we enter the fourth week of National Financial Capability Month, we have chosen Doorway to Dreams (D2D) Fund’s financialentertainment.org as our Website of the Week.

    Sure, you may know the “book definition” of financial capability, but can you put it in practice? Test your financial knowledge (and hand-eye coordination) with a free game or two. 

    Perfect for all audiences and those young and young at heart. ;)

  4. NDI’s Six Steps to Creating a Financial Literacy Program in Your Classroom or Transition Program - Publication of the Week

    Financial Literacy Program Six Step Cover

    So, this month we have highlighted various financial capability/financial literacy tools, resources and publications in recognition of National Financial Capability Month. This time, however, we are digging into our own vault for this week’s Publication of the Week - Six Steps to Creating a Financial Literacy Program in Your Classroom or Transition Program. Because, honestly, who better than National Disability Institute (NDI), the nation’s first non-profit exclusively dedicated to improving the financial capability and capacity of people with disabilities, to discuss improving the financial health of all people?!?

    This guide is an excellent resource and provides a roadmap to guide special education teachers, transition specialists and disability advocates as they develop financial literacy programs for persons living with disabilities.

    At a time when nearly 1 in 3 Americans with disabilities live in poverty, financial literacy and associated programs are vital to building a better economic future for people with disabilities and key to a successful transition from school to work or college.

  5. WiseBread - Website of the Week

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    Did you know April is not only National Financial Capability Month but also National Stress Awareness Month? 

    It stands to reason that worrying about one’s finances can cause its fair share of frayed and gray hairs, nervous sweats, and nail biting. Fortunately, however, our Website of the Week - WiseBread - can help curb financial anxiety by providing helpful, practical and simple tips, strategies, and resources to help people get the most bang out of their buck and live a more healthy financial lifestyle on any budget.

    This April, take the stress out of your finances and build your financial capability all at the same time! 

  6. USDOL Embraces Financial Capability as a Core Goal

    By Michael Morris, Executive Director, National Disability Institute

    U.S. Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez issued a new five-year strategic plan recently for the U.S. Department of Labor (USDOL). He begins his Secretary’s message in the plan by stating that, “for 100 years, the Labor Department has been central to safeguarding and expanding the American dream for working families.” He explains that USDOL will build “an economy of opportunity where all Americans who work hard and act responsibly have the opportunity to reach and remain in the middle class.” One of five articulated strategic goals is to: “secure retirement, health, and other employee benefits and, for those not working, provide income security.”

    Secretary Perez’s reaffirmation of the role of USDOL in safeguarding and expanding the American dream for all working age adults is an inspiring and important distinction at this pivotal moment in the economic advancement of our nation and our citizens. His inclusive vision incorporates a vital focus on “more opportunity for people with disabilities to contribute productively to the workforce.” He explains that the best way to promote and protect opportunity is through “collaboration, consensus building and pragmatic problem solving that achieve common sense solutions for workers and employers.”

    One such pragmatic solution to safeguarding and expanding the American dream for working families with and without disabilities could include greater expansion and focus on building the financial capability of American workers and thereby enhancing American business performance. A 2010 Federal Reserve study found employee financial stress costs employers an average of $5,000 per employee per year in lost productivity. With millions of Americans with and without disabilities still looking to return to or enter the workforce and have the opportunity to reach the middle class and the next rung on the economic ladder, putting financial capability tools and strategies that reduce financial insecurity in the hands of all job seekers and workers would be a positive step toward this goal.

    Fortunately, the foundation to support this goal is already being built. The Disability Employment Initiative jointly funded by USDOL’s Education & Training Administration and Office of Disability Employment Policy (ODEP) is pioneering new ways to advance financial capability as part of the American Job Center (AJC) service delivery system. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Office of Financial Empowerment and ODEP recently formalized a joint commitment to help workers with disabilities increase their financial capability. Consumers, regardless of their disability status, need to better understand their rights, how to manage their money, strategies for savings, the importance of credit and credit-building and how to evaluate financial products to best meet their needs.

    With the groundwork in place, prime opportunities exist to implement Secretary Perez’s vision. Four such unique opportunities for Secretary Perez and USDOL to advance financial capability for youth and working-age adults with disabilities could include:

    Expanding the collaboration between the USDOL and the CFPB with a commitment at the executive level between Secretary Perez and CFPB Director Richard Cordray to blend and braid the resources of both federal agencies to identify opportunities within American Job Centers to strengthen the financial capability of job seekers regarding money management, improved credit scores, debt reduction and savings. Printed and online versions of CFPB resources could be offered within each AJC to help workforce development professionals assess job seekers’ financial health and identify community resources to respond to individual needs.

    1. Issuing joint USDOL and CFPB guidance on the importance of improving financial capability “to reach and remain in the middle class.” Through the recommendation of additional promising practices regarding free tax preparation assistance, credit scores, financial education classes and individual counseling and coaching within AJCs, workers would have access to the tools and strategies they need to advance their financial stability.
    2. Holding an invitation-only employer summit on the importance of financial capability for workers. Such a summit could highlight employer efforts to expand employee benefits including employer-sponsored assistance to help employees make informed decisions on retirement planning, savings, debt reduction and asset building. Recommendations for action can be adopted by the workforce development system.
    3. Integrating financial capability development into core and intensive services of AJCs that are a value added proposition for job seekers and employers. Consider modifying the performance metrics of AJCs to capture outcomes achieved regarding debt and credit management, accessing favorable tax provisions (EITC, Child Care, WOTC) and meeting savings goals.

    USDOL can “protect and promote opportunity” by embracing the urgent need to diminish financial instability for individuals with and without disabilities and working families through expanding collaboration with CFPB, financial institutions and community groups. By harnessing the power of collaboration and creating systems to fortify and promote the vital link between employment and financial capability as a key catalyst to individual financial stability, we can truly advance the American dream for all citizens. 

  7. Every American Financially Empowered: A Guide to Increasing Financial Capability among Students, Workers, and Resident in Communities - Publication of the Week

    Obama Administration Financially Empowered Resource Cover

    As we continue highlighting financial tools and information everyday people can use to make smarter financial choices and create brighter financial futures for themselves and their families during the 30 days of National Financial Capability Month, we have selected Every American Financially Empowered: A Guide to Increasing Financial Capability among Students, Workers, and Resident in Communities as our Publication of the Week. 

    The Obama Administration’s resource guide provides examples of financial capability initiatives around the country to spur national and local leaders to adopt similar initiatives to improve the financial health of every American with and without disabilities.  

  8. MyMoney.gov - Website of the Week

    screen shot of MyMoney.gov
    Over the course of the last week, we have posted several resources and tools to help you celebrate National Financial Capability Month and improve your financial health. In that spirit, we have selected the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s MyMoney.Gov as our Website of the Week.
    Comprised of representatives from nearly every federal agency, the Commission established the MyMoney.Gov website to help ensure every individual can make better financial decisions and plan for the future.
    Take a moment to familiarize yourself with the bevy of information, so that you can celebrate National Financial Capability Month in style!

  9. Rigorous Evaluation of Financial Capability Strategies: Why, When and How - Publication of the Week

    CFPB Financial Capability Evaluation Cover

    Here, at the National Disability Institute (NDI), we are committed to ensuring all consumers with and without disabilities have the skills and tools needed to make better financial decisions and build brighter economic futures.

    That is why improving the financial capability of all Americans is important not only during National Financial Capability Month but year round, which is why we have selected the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) January 2014 Report - Rigorous Evaluation of Financial Capability Strategies: Why, When and How - as our Publication of the Week. 

    In partnership with The Urban Institute, the CFPB report shares the insights of researchers and practitioners studying the effect of different financial capability approaches, so that we can all work together to improve the overall financial health of all individuals. 

  10. Website of the Week - American Bankers Association’s Consumers page

    National Financial Capability Month kicks off today. That is why we, at National Disability Institute (NDI), have selected the American Bankers Association’s Consumers page as our website of the week. The webpage provides a comprehensive set of financial tools and resources to help all people make sound, knowledgeable financial decisions. 

    Join with us, countless organizations and government agencies, and tens of millions of Americans celebrating National Financial Capability Month and taking the first steps toward economic freedom.