The Book

The Future of Building Wealth: Brief Essays on the Best Ideas to Build Wealth—for Everyone

The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program in partnership with the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis has assembled a diverse array of thought leaders to speak about this issue that matters to all of us. We hope you will find these essays challenging, thoughtful, and provocative.

Download the introduction and download each section below. Learn more about the contributors.

Section I

The New Baseline: The State of Family Wealth and Wealth Inequality Today

The book begins with six essays that offer some level setting about the state of wealth ownership and wealth disparity in America today. Together they provide insight into which families have the greatest barriers and arguably the greatest need to build wealth.

Section II

Inclusion and Equity by Design

A central finding of the asset-building field, beginning with its experiments with Individual Development Accounts in the 1990s, was that institutions — governments, employers, nonprofits, financial institutions, etc. — matter significantly in determining who builds assets and who does not.

Section III

Stronger Balance Sheets: Financial Services, Cash and Savings

This and the following two sections aim to feature some of the nation’s latest and best thinking on how to build (or rebuild) a strong balance sheet — the cornerstone of accumulating wealth.

Section IV

Stronger Family Balance Sheets: Debts

Continuing our focus on improving family balance sheets, we now turn to the liability side: household debts — whether from credit cards, mortgages, student loans, health expenses, municipal fines and fees, automobiles or informal debts owed to family and friends.

Section V

Stronger Family Balance Sheets: Assets

We round out our three-part focus on shoring-up balance sheets by offering 15 essays on new ways to build assets or “capital,” as well as new ways to think about those assets—savings, education and skills, homeownership, small businesses, and retirement.

Section VI

Sharing Risks and Rewards, and Protecting Family Wealth

The five essays in this section are not about building family wealth per se but about broader notions of property rights and protecting and creating wealth in the overall economy.

Section VII

Newer Forms of Ownership: Moving Beyond Earned Income and Beyond Silos

The 11 essays in the section have two main goals. The first one is to identify potentially new sources of ownership and wealth that do not fully depend on families having sufficient labor market incomes to build a strong balance sheet.

Section VIII

Growing Wealth, Growing the Economy

Our last three essays focus on how addressing wealth gaps will also generate substantial benefits for the economy. One essay describes the specific channel —investments in children, business formation, and family financial stability through which building family wealth promotes sustained economic growth.

Section IX

Thoughts on Wealth Inequality, Financial Inclusion and the Racial and Other Wealth Gaps

A Conversation Between James Bullard, President, Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis; Raphael Bostic President, Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta; Patrick T. Harker, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia; and Neel Kashkari, President, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Presented by the Aspen Institute Financial Security Program and the Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis

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