Principal - Head of Community Relations, Edward Jones
November 20, 2023
There’s a widening and alarming gap in economic mobility for many Americans and particularly for communities of color. The Urban Institute reports wage and income inequality are exacerbating racial inequities among U.S. workers and that prospects for economic mobility in the labor market have stagnated over recent decades.
The pandemic and its aftermath have only intensified these challenges. Many Americans are struggling to meet their basic needs and provide for their families, with little hope of building financial security or investing for their future.
While the statistics are dire, the future is not set in stone. The potential to change the trajectory on economic mobility is real. Our nation’s legacy of lost productivity and wealth-building potential due to inequality can be changed.
How do we create additional opportunities for more people to achieve the American dream? For starters, this work requires an all-hands-on-deck approach from the private sector, government and nonprofit agencies to drive impactful, long-term strategies that will elevate individuals, families and whole communities. We also need to recognize a short-term intervention is not the answer. Helping more Americans build wealth will take time. But by working together, we can build momentum and create a sustainable, resilient economy for everyone.
Success will hinge on two elements. First, we need to be more proactive and strategic, focusing on impact investments that lead to long-term, widely shared benefits. It’s critical that the private sector partner with leaders and organizations who know communities well to achieve collective impact and create a multiplier effect. Second, we need to leverage the many tools available to assess our impact and progress in priority investments with data-driven insights. This helps companies understand where their investments are creating lasting change and where to course correct.
Fortunately, there are models and organizations already helping individuals, families and family networks to achieve economic mobility. We do not need to reinvent the wheel. For instance, HBCUs have proven track records driving economic mobility through partnership and long-term investment.
The private sector can play an important role here. At Edward Jones, our purpose is to partner for positive impact to improve the lives of our clients and colleagues, and together, better our communities and society. One way we bring this to life is by focusing on opportunities to partner for lasting financial strength, to help people and the entire economy thrive.
For us, financial education and resources are a key component to achieving economic mobility. It’s critical that we work to build financial knowledge and confidence for all Americans — the earlier the better. We need to equip students with an understanding of personal finance concepts, from saving and debt management to investing in markets and planning for retirement. According to a recent study from Edward Jones and Morning Consult, only 20% of respondents said they learned about financial education in school, and more than a quarter of respondents lack confidence in their financial knowledge as adults. But the study also revealed that with knowledge comes confidence to better understand and navigate their finances.
- 20%of respondents say they learned about financial education at school.
- 25% +of respondents say they lack confidence in their financial knowledge as adults.
Put simply, by talking about money earlier and more often, and providing more access to education and resources to make smart financial decisions earlier, we can improve financial health across our nation and help more people build financial resilience and generational wealth. This will enable more Americans to make more informed decisions around money, navigate major decisions from student loans to mortgages, and plan for a more secure retirement.
One way Edward Jones is working to improve the economic trajectory is through our Financial Fitness program, in partnership with EVERFI. This digital learning platform is designed to help students and adults improve their financial knowledge and build their confidence through personal finance concepts. Since 2020, the program has educated more than 750,000 learners — well on the way to our goal of reaching 1 million learners by the end of 2025. Access to resources and tools like these can also help more people save and invest in the stock market, which has proven to be a productive source of wealth generation, but that opportunity has not been widely shared.
In addition, Edward Jones continues to prioritize a range of initiatives to empower equitable economic growth in the communities we serve. With financial advisors in 68% of U.S. counties, we’re able to gather hyper-local input to guide our investments and identify our greatest opportunities for impact.
No one organization or even sector can solve this problem alone, but together, we can improve economic mobility for many more Americans. While there are challenges to achieve systemic change, there are also tremendous opportunities. I’m encouraged to see the commitments and investments across the private sector that are helping us move in the right direction. Now, we need to not only maintain these commitments, but double down on what's working and continue to work smarter. We can all play a role in advancing strategic partnerships to drive impact —leveraging our strengths and resources — and sustainable progress.
Panel Recap: Critical Stops Along the Economic Mobility Continuum
About the authors
David Clunie is a general partner at Edward Jones and Head of Community Relations, where he is responsible for activating and operationalizing the firm's purpose through thought leadership, impactful partnerships, and strategic deployment of Edward Jones resources, including financial and human capital, expertise, and relationships.