Four years ago, Elly Damian’s future looked bleak. Damian, a single mother of three living on public assistance, had no savings and no job. “I thought my life was over,” said Damian, who now lives in Fremont, Calif. “I wasn’t getting anywhere fast.”

Her life, it turns out, was just getting started. Things began to change when Damian enrolled in an “individual development account,” or IDA, a savings plan that matched every dollar she deposited with a $2 contribution. In return, Damian agreed to...


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