This brief collection of writings is based on a convening, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, to have a local conversation about financial well-being. This gathering was motivated by “What It’s Worth,” a joint publication of the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED) and the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, collecting insights from thought leaders across the country on the topic of financial capacity for families and communities.
As our “chapters” illustrate, financial well-being is often about making optimal choices at critical moments. One’s stage of life (factors that impact financial well-being begin at birth) determines the kinds of financial decisions that arise. For many, seasonal variations in income and expenses – such as school supplies, winter heating bills – make for difficult trade-offs. Tax season is also a pivotal time – for many, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is a significant boost to family income, which brings opportunities, but also sometimes difficult choices. Finally, even ’normal’ economic cycles lead to fluctuations in credit access that can vary widely across communities; the Great Recession and policy implemented in its aftermath have led to unprecedented changes in the financial landscape for lower-wealth households.