Some working families experience financial barriers to economic mobility. One significant barrier occurs when career advancement puts a family above the income eligibility threshold for public assistance programs. Due to the gradual or sudden loss of these programs, career advancement opportunities can result in the family being financially worse off (a benefits cliff) or no better off (a benefits plateau) than before the wage increase.

Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta Tools

Workers often struggle to understand the timing and magnitude of benefits loss because of the complexity of public assistance programs. Coupled with economic insecurity, this uncertainty can prevent individuals from actively seeking opportunities for career advancement. Further, individuals who do advance without knowledge of when assistance will end can find themselves in situations where their standard of living doesn't improve, or even declines.

The CLIFF suite of tools developed by the Federal Reserve Bank of Atlanta models the interaction of public benefits, taxes, and tax credits with wage progressions. The CLIFF suite currently includes three core tools, each tailored to meet a client's needs in different career stages.

CLIFF Snapshot
The CLIFF Snapshot compares a client’s current financial situation to possible alternative scenarios. Counselors can help clients better understand how an increase in wages, additional hours worked, and/or participation in public assistance programs may better position them for financial stability.
CLIFF Dashboard
The CLIFF Dashboard details the long-term financial implications of a new career. The Dashboard shows income and public assistance over a 20-year-plus horizon. The Dashboard also includes a self-sufficiency target that identifies the estimated level at which after-tax income will position a worker to cover basic expenses.

See demo versions of the CLIFF DashboardOff-site link.
CLIFF Planner
The CLIFF Planner helps clients when they’re ready to map out details of a career move. With the Planner’s flexibility, counselors can work with clients to build a customized education plan, career plan, and budget. The Planner produces a much more individualized financial portrait compared to the Dashboard.

See demo versions of the CLIFF Planner.Off-site link

CLIFF Tools Interest Form

If you are interested in accessing these tools for use by your organization, please complete this form. Responses help us understand how organizations plan to use these tools so we can provide support and resources based on specific intended use cases.

Contact us at if you have questions on Advancing Careers research or tools.