Building Stability, Security and Opportunity
July 12, 2022
By Deborah B. Goldberg, Massachusetts State Treasurer & Receiver General
As the Massachusetts State Treasurer, my mission, and that of my team’s, is to ensure economic stability, economic security, and economic opportunity for every Massachusetts resident.
After taking office in 2015, I took a giant step forward in meeting those goals by creating the Office of Economic Empowerment (OEE), an entity charged with creating programs and resources that give people the skills they need to understand the ramifications of their financial decision making and give them access to resources to help them empower themselves. Our goals have been to ensure wage equality, provide economic empowerment opportunities, and develop financial education programs for all age groups, from our youngest children to our oldest residents.
It was the first of its kind in the United States.
I immediately convened a Financial Literacy Task Force charged with identifying issues and challenges and creating an action plan. Its final report provided OEE with the foundation for our team to create money management trainings in every county of the state and address the needs of every age group. The Task Force’s 22 recommendations were enacted over the following couple of years.
Understanding that the Treasury plays an important role in supporting the fiscal health of the people we serve, we did not stop there. Today, OEE continues to provide a range of programming, offering free and accessible financial education to children, high school students, women, and older residents. We have a specialized program for veterans called Operation Money Wise, which addresses the challenges that our servicemembers and their families experience and we also offer seed deposits into children’s savings accounts for all families who enroll in the BabySteps Savings Plan.
At OEE, we are constantly pushing ourselves to actively respond to community needs by expanding our offerings to meet each challenge that Massachusetts residents are facing. During the pandemic we took many of our programs online and created a special grant program to address small business needs in our gateway cities.
In March of 2022, I announced the creation of a new task force to explore the development of a Baby Bonds initiative in our state. As my office wrote, in an announcement of this effort, “Baby bonds are significant financial investments made by the government into a collective fund on behalf of newborn children. These investments are managed by the government and grow throughout each child’s life. The funds are accessible to each child when they turn 18 and can be used to support an asset-enhancing activity like paying for higher education, buying a house, starting a business, etc., that can increase in value over time or generate wealth.”
The Baby Bonds Task Force is a coalition of key stakeholders from throughout the state who will take ownership and advocate for Baby Bonds. The Task Force is extremely diverse and representative of all residents of Massachusetts. It includes a range of talented and experienced people who will evaluate and contribute to a focused mission-driven plan to address the stark needs within our state. At the end of this process, I hope to receive recommendations for how to implement and successfully execute a Baby Bonds program in Massachusetts. Our goal is to file legislation by November 2022, so it can be considered during the next legislative session.
Baby Bonds is a bold and constructive commitment to racial inequities that governments need to take. It has the potential to uplift countless Massachusetts residents by opening the door to opportunities that have been inaccessible, or unimaginable, without it.
The potential benefits are undeniable particularly to a portion of our population that has been historically under-resourced.
In Massachusetts, the stark divide between those who possess a comfortable level of capital and those who do not, is often clearly and closely tied to race. The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston released a study in 2015 that evaluated household net worth. The study found that the median net worth for Black households in the Greater Boston area was close to zero, compared to more than $247,000 for white households. In addition to that shocking finding, the study found that the typical white household is more likely to own every kind of liquid asset than a non-white household. These facts hurt all of us and the stability of our shared economy. Therefore, we must work together to establish programs, like Baby Bonds, that target and close the wealth gap.
Massachusetts and OEE are proud to serve as models of not just what is possible, but what state treasuries can be doing for the people we serve.
The contents of this blog post reflect those of the author, and not necessarily those of the GFRC.