WIP Joanna Smith-Ramani

Democratizing access to wealth to improve economic equity across our country

A conversation with Joanna Smith-Ramani, co-executive director, Aspen Institute Financial Security Program

In this episode of Work in ProgressJoanna Smith-Ramani, co-executive director of the The Aspen Institute Financial Security Program (FSP), and I discuss how we, as a society, can improve financial security and democratize access to wealth to improve economic equity across our country.

Every day, more than 50 million Americans live in or near financial crisis. Financial instability has gone mainstream, threatening our economy and our democracy.

Last month at the Aspen Ideas Festival, I sat down with Smith-Ramani to discuss the FSP’s new report, The New Wealth Agenda: A Blueprint for Building a Future of Inclusive Wealth.

The report offers “a goal that is equal parts ambitious and achievable: by 2050, we must increase by ten-fold the wealth of households of color and those in the bottom half of the wealth distribution in the United States.”

The New Wealth Agenda identifies eight objectives that the organization believes are the most effective path forward for reaching that goal. 

One objective we discuss is supporting young adults on their pathway to a lifelong career, one that could change their financial future forever.

Here is some of what Smith-Ramani tells me.

“In our country, when you are 18-to-25, your job should be to invest in yourself. And that means either traditional college, or it could be a training program, apprenticeship, or vocational school. There are lots of options, right? But the reality is, as a country, we have to say whichever option is yours, we are gonna support you doing that.

“We’re gonna sort of bubble wrap you and insulate you so you have what you need. That could be everything from ensuring that our public benefit system provides the basic needs for students who are studying. It also means making sure there are housing subsidies so they can live stably and know they have a home to go to, to study in and then get to class the next day. The biggest part is that they need non-labor income.”

Also in the conversation, we talk about the other seven objectives, preconditions for building sustainable wealth, proven wealth-building strategies in need of greater scale and refinement, and emerging innovations.

Our conversation was originally recorded for the Aspen Ignites series.

Episode 279: Joanna Smith-Ramani, Co-Executive Director, Aspen Institute Financial Security Program
Host & Executive Producer: Ramona Schindelheim, Editor-in-Chief, WorkingNation
Producer: Larry Buhl
Executive Producers: Joan Lynch and Melissa Panzer
Theme Music: Composed by Lee Rosevere and licensed under CC by 4
Download the transcript for this podcast here.
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