This paper argues that public policies to promote savings and asset building should be conceptualized and advanced with a “life course” perspective. The paper demonstrates a growing consensus towards this approach and presents relevant data as well as “asset effects” research in support of this perspective. The paper also presents a series of principles and two policy frameworks—behavioral economics and institutional models—to guide policy design over the life course. The paper continues with describing the key moments in our financial lives to build savings and assets, as well as those asset building measures that occur throughout a lifetime. Policy options for purchasing key assets and promoting those asset measures are then presented in accordance with these key and ongoing moments in our lives. The paper closes with moving this life course agenda forward in the current Congress, with specific attention to opportunities to (1) advance life-time savings accounts at birth as part of an expansion of the federal Saver’s Credit, and (2) actively participate in the development of regulations for the financial services overhaul bill (the Dodd-Frank Act) recently signed into law by President Obama.
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