Having wealth, or a family’s assets minus their debts, is important not just for the rich—everyone needs wealth to thrive. Yet building the amount of wealth needed to thrive is a major challenge. Nearly 13 million US households have negative net worth. Millions more are low wealth; they do not have the assets or liquidity needed to maintain financial stability and invest in themselves in the present, nor are they on track to accumulate the amount of wealth they will need to have financial security in retirement. Together, these groups represent at least half of all US households.
Not having wealth leaves people less able to invest in economic mobility; support family, community, and future generations; care for their health and well-being; and feel a sense of control and dignity in life. For a large share of people and families in America, wealth is out of reach—and without it, financial security is nearly impossible.
This report examines what it will take to create truly shared prosperity in the United States. It is focused on solutions that would grow the wealth of households in the bottom half of the wealth distribution, and it explores reparative approaches to building the wealth of Black, Indigenous, and other people of color (BIPOC). It is a companion to, and builds upon, the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program’s years of work on household financial stability and security. It is designed to provide stakeholders across sectors with a set of actionable ideas to support the goal of a more financially secure and prosperous future for everyone. Policymakers, financial industry leaders, and employers, in particular, can use this report to better understand the wide range of evidence-based solutions and innovative proposals that they can act on to be leaders in this work.