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Nearly half in W.Va. are short on savings

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- If they were to lose their jobs or suffer serious health problems, nearly half of all West Virginians have almost no savings to help them.

The Corporation for Enterprise Development is releasing a new report Tuesday showing that 47 percent of all West Virginians have almost no savings to fall back on if they lose their sources of income.

The report -- "Assets & Opportunity Scorecard" -- defines these people and their families as the "liquid asset poor," who are people that won't have enough savings to pay basic living expenses, at the federal poverty level, for just three months.

The new report analyzes the financial security of people living in all 50 states and the District of Columbia. West Virginia residents rank 23rd in the nation in terms of overall "financial stability."

The report is available at http://cfed.org.

The 47 percent of West Virginians who are "liquid asset poor" includes a majority of residents who live below the poverty level, which is $23,050 in annual income for a family of four.

A family of four would need $5,762 in savings to meet the cost of basic needs for three months. But a growing number of West Virginia middle-class households also fall short of needed savings, the CFED study found.

If serious financial problems hit, those families will have fewer future chances to buy homes, save money for retirement or send their children to college.

The ongoing debates in Congress about how to cut the federal deficit worry CFED President Andrea Levere.

The findings of the new study, Levere said, are "particularly disturbing given the ongoing budget talks in Congress that will likely result in further reductions in the social safety net and other programs that help low- and moderate-income people get on their feet and start planning and saving for a better future."

The CFED annual study focuses on five areas: financial income and assets, businesses and jobs, housing and home ownership, health care and education.

West Virginia received "A" ratings in two categories: health care, as well as housing and home ownership.

Last year, West Virginia had the nation's fourth-lowest rate of uninsured low-income children. But 17.7 percent of all state residents were uninsured, slightly above the national average.

West Virginia had the third-highest home ownership rate in the country, as 72 percent of all residents own their homes. West Virginia also had the fifth most affordable housing, but also had the nation's highest percentage of high-cost mortgage loans, at 7.2 percent.

West Virginia received a "C" rating in financial assets and income in the new study. The state ranks 49th in households with savings accounts and 49th in good-paying jobs, which gives its residents limited employment opportunities.

In education, the Mountain State got an "F."

Last year, West Virginia had the very lowest percentage of adults who have earned at least a two-year college degree.

The CFED scorecard makes a number of recommendations to improve the well-being of West Virginians, including:

 

  • Increasing state and federal block grant funding to help small-business development.
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  • Raising the state's minimum wage and adopting state tax credits similar to federal tax credits, including: Earned Income Tax Credits, Child Tax Credits and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credits.
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  • Regulating predatory short-term loans.
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  • Increasing regulation of institutions that issue high-cost home mortgage loans.
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    Nationally, the CFED study found "continuing racial gaps" in the economy. Nearly 64 percent of all black households were "liquid asset poor," while 34 percent of white households were.

    Last year, two-thirds of all college students graduated with a student loan debt $553 higher than college graduates had the year before, reaching an average of $26,600 per student.

    In 2012, the home foreclosure rate was 4.27, compared to the pre-housing-crash rate of less than 1 percent in 2006.

    Created in 1979, CFED works nationally and internationally with offices in Washington, D.C.; Durham, N.C.; and San Francisco.

    Reach Paul J. Nyden at pjnyden@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5164.


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