Mississippians may not be financially secure

Fifty years ago, President Lyndon Johnson declared a war on poverty. Although federal and state governments have focused on eradicating poverty and improving Americans' financial security, financial challenges are still present throughout Mississippi and the rest of the country. A significant portion of the population must try to keep their financial states afloat and avoid situations like garnishment and foreclosure.

The Corporation for Enterprise Development recently conducted a state-by-state study, examining the assets and opportunities in each state. The organization is focused on empowering low to moderate-income households to build and save their assets. In the past, the study only took note of families' economic security and ranked the states according to this information.

This year, the study explored some other details. It looked into states' policies to improve several issues, including but not limited to, housing and ownership, income and education. Mississippi ranks low in the study's ultimate findings. In fact, Mississippi has adopted less than 25 percent of the recommended financial policies that can positively impact residents. In contrast, those states that have adopted a significant percentage of the recommended policies are seeing a real difference. The policies aimed at decreasing poverty are working.

Mississippians certainly face a difficult financial reality. Furthermore, this reality is only made more complicated by certain legal devices that creditors can use to collect on outstanding debts. One of these legal tools is known as garnishment. Garnishment is the legal procedure by which a creditor can collect a portion of a Mississippi resident's earning by court order. Put simply, if such an order is in place, the worker never sees a significant portion of the money that he or she earns. Instead, it is funneled directly to the creditor.

Such legal devices can present a hardship for those who are already struggling financially. There are some protective measures in place, fortunately. For instance, the law protects those individuals facing wage garnishment from being discharged from their employment for that reason. In other words, simply because someone owes a debt does not entitle the individual's employer to use this fact as a justifiable reason for termination.

There are other protections in place for debtors, as well. Reaching out to an attorney skilled in responding to such financial issues can help improve a Mississippian's financial state -- even if recent studies suggest that the state is not implementing many policies to address residents' financial situations.

Source: The Wall Street Journal, "Best and worst states for financial security," Richard Eisenberg, Mar. 4, 2014

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