FAIR MONEY

Face to Face with Inequality


Leave a comment

Program Description: Survival Skills


Do you support FAIR Money’s mission? Would you like to be a part of it? Then drop us a line at fairnetwork at gmail.com. Or perhaps you would like to contribute financially? Send your donation via PayPal or Square Cash to fairnetwork at gmail.com.


Project “Survival Skills” Mission

  • Create insight and empathy into the financial realities of Americans struggling with low wages, shrinking income and rising expenses, and the fallout from the 2008 financial crisis.
  • Facilitate conversation about money and money management options and so break through isolation.
  • Inform the work of organizations that provide aid or develop tools meant to alleviate struggle.

Project Description

In FAIR Money’s earlier research, it became apparent that people who struggle financially, for whatever reason, have important financial skills that are not typically recognized by standard financial literacy education and that are in fact more relevant to real-life situations that are common under our current conditions of high inequality. Project [name] is an extension of that earlier research.  It seeks to build a knowledge base of financial skills and knowledge that:

  • Is cognizant of and suited to the financial realities people face when they find themselves trapped by low wages, wage stagnation, and a variety of external forces they cannot control.
  • Contributed and tested by the people who are living those realities.
  • Takes into account the local context of Silicon Valley, with its exceptionally high cost of living and high proportions of relatively recent immigrants.

In three distinct phases, Project [name] will gather skills and knowledge that are relevant to different contexts:

  1. Skills, tactics, tools, connections, and knowledge that help a person weather a financial crisis
  2. Conceptual models and financial tools that facilitate long-term financial stability
  3. Parenting approaches that contribute to resilience and sound financial decision-making in young adults

Data will be gathered through a variety of interactions with participants, including interviews, participatory design workshops, and online diaries.

Although the research will be conscious of local conditions, we expect that many of the financial skills, concepts, and approaches will be more widely applicable and can form a foundation as the model is replicated in other locations.

Phase I: Crisis Skills

This phase will consist of a round of individual interviews with people who find themselves in a financial crisis or have recent experience with financial crisis to gather initial data. It will be followed by several series of group discussions to identify, trial, and evaluate crisis-management skills put forward within each group. Group findings will be published by FAIR Money and will be made available, in the form of workshops, to other organizations that offer aid or create financial management tools for low- and moderate-income Americans.

The anticipated outcomes of the project are as follows:

  1. Identification of financial information and concepts that are most helpful in dealing with a financial crisis [other than the fake solutions offered commercially], with insights into how the information makes a positive difference.
  2. Identification and definition of skills that are important in order to regain more stable financial footing, illustrated with testimonials and step-by-step instructions.
  3. Identification of the most useful financial management tools (whether high-tech or low-tech), affordable financial services, and organizations that offer assistance.
  4. [Identify how findings apply to other contexts/locations.]

Phase I Timeline

Data gathering for Phase I is anticipated to take approximately 4 months, followed by an analysis, collation, and publication phase of approximately 2 months. The project start date is contingent on fundraising success, but is assumed to be September 2015.

  • Initial Interviews: October/November 2015
  • Group Meetings: December 2015/January/February 2016
  • Analysis and Publication: Summer 2016

Do you support FAIR Money’s mission? Would you like to be a part of it? Then drop us a line at fairnetwork at gmail.com. Or perhaps you would like to contribute financially? Send your donation via PayPal or Square Cash to fairnetwork at gmail.com.


Advertisements


2 Comments

Good with Money

Good with Money CoverFAIR Money has just published its first report, Good with Money: Getting by in Silicon Valley. The report, which is based on interviews and a diary study with 10 people struggling to gain or hang on to firm financial footing in a booming local economy, focuses on the most striking finding: how skilled people are with money and how little their skill set overlaps with the money management skills traditionally taught in financial literacy classes.

The report’s introduction sums up the central arguments:

The “master narrative” of financial probity that dominates American culture at this historical moment makes it almost impossible to see the financial behavior of low- and middle-income Americans without a strong punitive bias. This dominant narrative focuses on living well within one’s means, using credit cards responsibly, saving for financial milestones, and managing one’s credit score. It refuses to acknowledge that wage stagnation, underemployment, and rising costs of health care and education leave vast numbers of Americans with insufficient income to cover basic expenses. When we consider financial actions and decisions from the inside out, in their full complexity and in the context of meaningful relationships and life choices, it becomes readily apparent that struggle, hard work, ingenuity, and bad luck are much more common than financial irresponsibility or ignorance.

One of the practical manifestations of this master narrative of (assumed lack of) financial probity is the financial literacy industry, both for-profit and not-for-profit. Financial literacy education makes a foundational assumption that adverse financial outcomes are due to ignorance and/or irresponsibility and that education can effectively eradicate both. This report argues that offering education as a solution to financial struggle is a fairy tale that does real harm. It obscures the massive 30-year-long redistribution of wealth to the very top of American society. It blames the victims of this redistribution for their misfortune and distorts our thinking and our judgment. In obscuring the causes of the financial struggles experienced by average Americans, financial literacy education also makes it much more difficult to think about true solutions.

Good with Money discusses particular “scripts” in the master narrative condemning people who struggle financially, and it proposes a different way to think about their choices and decisions. The report also contains the financial stories of the research participants told through a lens of empathy and historical understanding.

We look forward to your comments.

The FAIR Money Research Collective