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The New American Challenge: Learning to Save to Build Wealth

6:15 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. | Thursday, April 26, 2012

A St. Louis Fed Household Financial Stability Project Event

Reception: 6:15 p.m.
Discussion: 7-8:30 p.m.

In years past, homeownership was seen by many as the best way for American families to build wealth, especially among low-to-moderate income households. The bursting of the housing bubble has made it clear that, while homeownership will remain an important route to wealth accumulation for many, it is not sufficient on its own.

Is saving more money and accumulating more financial assets a realistic option for the average American family? Can Americans buy a house, pay for their children's education, cover everyday needs, and still accumulate a meaningful portfolio of financial wealth? With much less home equity to meet both current liquidity and retirement needs, will savings be more of necessity than a choice? And how do we responsibly pay down our debts to get our balance sheets back in shape? At the macroeconomic level, would prioritizing the building up savings and paying down debts by households—meaning we would consume less—harm short-run economic growth?

We and others have faced these challenges before—what can we learn from our own history, and from other nations?

The Federal Reserve Bank of St. Louis and the Center for Social Development at Washington University in St. Louis will host a timelney and lively discussion with four national and international experts on saving, the economy, household finances, and public policies to save and build wealth.

Our featured speaker will be Sheldon Garon, professor of history at Princeton University and author of Beyond Our Means: Why America Spends While the World Saves.

Also joining the discussion will be Ray Boshara, senior adviser at the St. Louis Fed; Washington University’s Michael Sherraden, named one of Time Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People,” and Bill Emmons, assistant vice president and economist at the St. Louis Fed.

The reception begins at 6:15 p.m.; the discussion will begin at 7 p.m. and will end promptly at 8:30 p.m.

This event is free; however, registration is required.   Free parking will also be made available in the Fed parking garage located next to the Bank. Light refreshments will be provided.

Click here to view videos of the conference.