The Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas dedicated an issue of its series “Banking and Community Perspectives” earlier this year to the issue of asset building in a rural context. “Asset Building Taking Root in Rural Communities” provides a thorough overview of the unique challenges of building wealth and economic security in rural areas and features promising regional initiatives that seek to do just that. To date, policymakers, non-profits, and the private sector have collaborated on diverse approaches to asset building in the area from IDAs in New Mexico and Louisiana to community tax centers and financial literacy efforts in Texas.
The issue also features the work of New America’s Asset Building Program, specifically mentioning the issue of workplace financial education opportunities. The synopsis correctly highlights the ideal nature of the workplace for low- and middle-income employees to learn about financial institutions and services. In addition to promoting financial education programs in the workplace, the Assets Agenda 2011 goes further than that to present a variety of ways the workplace can further asset building, such as through systematic employer-facilitated savings programs. For example, employers could encourage employees to leverage the split-pay option through the direct deposit payroll system to automatically set aside a portion of each paycheck into a savings account. The AutoSave pilot is a research project currently underway to evaluate the potential of automating savings in the workplace. The pilot is currently investigating the use of split-pay and the potential for alternative mechanisms to improve automated savings opportunities in the workplace. These mechanisms can work in conjunction with financial education to improve the opportunities for workplace asset building.
We are excited that the Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas is drawing attention to both the struggles and resilience of their rural population and promoting economic stability and self-sufficiency through diverse and creative strategies. We also look forward to seeing more from the programs featured in their issue as they continue to develop their capacity.