Pay yourself first : community conversations to create a culture of saving and asset building

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Southern New Hampshire University
"Pay yourself first." "Live within your means." These are among the messages of frugality and saving that are too often lost on our consumer-driven society. They are drowned out by messages such as "buy here-buy now" and "no credit, no problem" that are particularly loudest to the ears of those on the lowest end of the income scale. Low income people have low savings rates. While this is not surprising, it leaves children and their families most vulnerable when a crisis arises. It also leaves parents susceptible to criticism that they are making "poor choices" that others may see as not in their, or their children‟s best interest. The purpose of this project was to examine this condition on a community level, to see how low-income families see themselves, and how receptive they are to discussion about the issue. The author‟s aim has been to have "community conversations" to share information, and see if this leads to changes in the saving habits of lower income people. It tapped such community resources as those provided by financial institutions, social services agencies, and the residents themselves. It also examined how public policies affecting lower income people are utilized, such as the tax code. Ultimately, the goal was to create a momentum to lead to a culture of saving, in which low income families working toward better financial knowledge and providing for more stable conditions for themselves is the norm. (Author abstract)