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WASHINGTON-The National Credit Union Foundation and the Consumer Federation of America have begun a new `America Saves Through Credit Unions’ program with the goal of pinching the wealth gap between the poor and other Americans. CFA Executive Director Stephen Brobeck pointed out, “Obscured by the debate over welfare reform and its effects has been the stagnant wealth of low-income households over the past decade. Most of the poor did not benefit from the dramatic run-up in housing and stock prices during the nineties.” “The NCUF and CFA have formed this partnership to increase the savings rates among lower-income credit union members and their communities,” CUNA and NFCU President Dan Mica said. “This new initiative will encourage America’s credit unions to embed America Saves messages and services into their programs, with special attention being paid to the least affluent.” The America Saves campaign targets lower-income people to encourage wealth building and savings. America Saves requires enrollees to develop a wealth-building goal and specific plan, including how much they will save each month. The partnership with credit unions is the latest venture under America Saves. “The National Credit Union Foundation is committed to combating payday lending and other fringe banking services that exploit low-income individuals,” NCUF Executive Director Gary Officer said. “Our partnerships extend from this historic NCUF/CFA effort to our work with the Ford Foundation, U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, and the U.S. Department of the Treasury. Each begins with vision focused on providing low-income people access to quality and affordable financial services.” America Saves materials will be adapted to the credit union program and made available to credit unions through a number of `subbrands’ – America Saves for Homeownership Through Credit Unions, America Saves at Work Through Credit Unions, and America Saves for Retirement Through Credit Unions. In addition, NCUF and CUNA will establish a national Saver database and services such as the wealth estimator to credit unions. The credit union associations are also willing to work with individual credit unions to develop unique America Saves programs. America Saves Through Credit Unions will be featured in a session at CUNA’s Governmental Affairs Conference. Historically, the wealth gap between the poor and others has remained much greater than their income gap. The study covered the poorest one-fifth of Americans by income compared to others. The median incomes were much lower coming in at $9,868 compared to $40,088. Further delving revealed that in 2001, the typical poor household net wealth totaled just $6,720 as opposed to $86,100 for the typical American household, a 13 to one wealth gap compared to a four to one income difference, according to the study. The income gap between the poor and others is greatest among whites, married couples, and the well educated. Lower-income households are likely to be older with 36% of the poor over the age of 65 but only 21% of all Americans are in their golden years. The poor are also somewhat more likely to be under the age of 35. Additionally, the study also uncovered that the wealth gap has expanded over the past decade. From 1992 to 2001 (in 2001 dollars) the net wealth of low-income households increased just 7% while other households went up 42%. According to the groups, other than income, homeownership and retirement savings have a significant impact on wealth. [email protected]mes.com


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