The Institute for American Values’ new report The Way to Wealth, coinciding with the celebration of National Thrift Week, aims to combat the wealth-education gap. (Full disclosure: my wife, Amber, was the lead writer on the report, and it draws a few stories from our research with young adults in Ohio.) The report proposes four rules a person can follow to attain what Benjamin Franklin described as a “modest fortune”: work hard and honestly, spend less than you earn, give back as much as you can, and have a plan. It addresses common objections, like “I need more than a dead-end job,” and notes that working hard and showing up on time, even at the least glamorous jobs, help one to win trust and build a reputation. It says that giving back with your money and time is an important part of the way to wealth, because “it’s a way to be a part of a ”˜we’ rather than ”˜me,’” and because even the hardest workers sometimes suffer setbacks in life. We hear a lot today about the many forces working against poor and working-class young adults, but the report proposes steps anyone can take to begin pursuing financial stability.
Of course, restoring the financial stability of the “lottery class” will take more than those four rules””for instance, employers must take seriously their responsibility to their employees. And America’s thrift leaders usually had something to say about that, too. For instance, S.W. Straus, the early twentieth-century Chicago realty financier who helped to start the first National Thrift Week in 1916, established a profit-sharing program for his employees. Philadelphia’s John Wannamaker did the same, and also created for his employees a benefits association, savings programs, and a free library.
Read it all.