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Adjusting to a new country’s financial system takes time

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Wei Jiang, the author, as a young adult in China.

I had a worry-free life before I came to the United States. I lived with my parents and grandparents. I had a job and was paid in cash. I divided my pay into three equal portions. One-third went to Grandma as my contribution to household expenses. One-third went to my mother, who saved the money for me. The last one-third? I spent every penny of it.

When I came to the United States, I went directly to a university for a master’s program. The university provided boarding and a scholarship. I had a sheltered life during the two years in the program. My finances were simple and the university had guidance counselors who were willing to help. All I had to do was to open a checking account at the bank branch on campus and all my financial needs were met.

Two years passed quickly, and I was very fortunate to land a job after graduation. That’s when my finances became complicated, and I started to realize how little I knew about the U.S. financial services system and products. Renting an apartment, paying bills, managing savings, and sending money abroad were all new to me. I made a lot of bad choices, which resulted in a lot of small and unnecessary financial losses. I asked my friends for help, but many times, their advice turned out to be wrong and misleading.

Meanwhile, my financial needs seemed to evolve every day. My purchases became bigger and I needed to use credit cards, my savings got bigger and I wanted to invest, and eventually I decided to buy an apartment and needed a mortgage. In most cases, I walked into the bank where I opened the checking account when I arrived in the United States and took the first product they recommended. Looking back, I wish I had had more unbiased sources of information so I could have made smarter choices.

Are you an immigrant like me? If so, check out the Newcomer’s Guides to Managing Money, and learn how to pay bills, receive money, open a bank account, and compare financial products. The information is extremely useful to new immigrants. I have been living in the United States for more than 25 years, and I still find some of the information helpful.

Save the date, Springfield!

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Join us for an event in Springfield, Va., about financial management for seniors and their caregivers. You can watch a livestream of the event on our blog.

The event will take place on Monday, August 17 at 1 p.m. EDT at:

Greenspring (a senior living community)
Village Square Theater
7410 Spring Village Drive
Springfield, VA. 22150

The event will feature remarks from Director Richard Cordray and Virginia Attorney General Mark Herring. Financial caregiving experts will be on-hand to answer questions.

This event is open to the public, but limited space is available and an RSVP is required. Send us an email to RSVP.

If you need an accommodation to participate, you can make a request.

See you there!

We participated in the National Day of Civic Hacking 2015

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Coders, technology enthusiasts, economists, teachers, high school students, and entrepreneurs joined representatives from eight government agencies for the third annual National Day of Civic Hacking on June 6. During this collaborative event, a diverse group of citizens worked together to tackle complex problems facing our communities using technology and publicly released data.

We participated in multiple National Day of Civic Hacking events this year, with CFPB staff attending events in Washington D.C., Philadelphia, Oakland, Calif. and Burlington, Vt. During the event, participants provided input on our CFPB Owning a Home website and analyzed our public Consumer Complaint Database and our public Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) Database.

Kimberly Munoz, a front-end web developer, participated in one of Oakland’s many events, contributing to the OpenOakland project. She also introduced participants with a data science background to the CFPB public Consumer Complaint Database in hopes of inspiring more grassroots use of the CFPB’s open data.

Catherine Farman, a front-end developer, attended Code for Philly’s event. Catherine is working on our Owning a Home project to convert a budgeting PDF to a web application that is flexible and is able to fit in any screen.

We hope to connect with other communities interested in engaging with our public databases. We believe there are opportunities for coders, developers, and others with strong technical prowess to build innovative tools and applications that can enable consumers to live better financial lives.

Got a cool data project to share? Just tweet at @cfpb with #CFPBdata. You can also follow us on GitHub.

Americans with disabilities have the right to improve their financial lives

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ROADS participant shares his financial goals and dreams for achieving greater independence at our ROADS launch event.

A ROADS participant shares his financial goals and dreams for achieving greater independence at our ROADS launch event.

Michael, an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran, left the military with service-connected disabilities from injuries sustained while on active duty, and little knowledge of how finances work in a non-military world.

“I had no idea what a housing security deposit was,” Michael said. “The fact I had to pay vehicle taxes was a complete shock and the thought of investing in my financial future was foreign to me.”

For Michael, like many other veterans, transitioning back to civilian life while living with a disability was a challenge.

Twenty-five years ago this month, Congress passed the Americans with Disabilities Act to ensure that every American could participate fully in public life regardless of a disability. Despite much progress, Americans with disabilities continue to face significant obstacles when working to become financially secure.

According to recent studies, Americans with disabilities disproportionately live in poverty; are more than twice as likely to use nonbank financial services such as payday loans and check cashing; and 80 percent have no emergency savings to absorb a financial shock.

Michael is one of 57 million Americans living with a disability. They are our heroes, friends, neighbors, relatives, and coworkers. Americans with disabilities, like all consumers, have the right to fair treatment in the financial marketplace and access to tools that can help them improve their financial lives. Many people living with disabilities who are working or transitioning into the workforce can benefit from financial counseling services to improve their financial lives.

The CFPB was created to protect and empower consumers in America. That’s why we launched the ROADS (Reach Outcomes. Achieve Dreams. Succeed) to Financial Independence Initiative. This first-of-its-kind national initiative provides participating consumers with financial counseling services to help them improve their credit scores, reduce debt, and increase personal savings.

I had the pleasure of meeting Michael and other individuals with disabilities at our ROADS launch last month. Listening to their personal stories inspired me, and made me see the importance of providing consumers with tools, resources, and support to help overcome financial obstacles.

Today, Michael serves as a conduit for veterans with disabilities to ROADS financial counselors who provide guidance to consumers who need it most. “I understand from firsthand experience,” Michael said, “the value of a program that educates people with disabilities, including veterans, on how to obtain financial independence.”

Americans with disabilities cut across race, gender, age and geography. Our goal is to take lessons learned through ROADS to help us improve the financial well-being of all consumers.

Join us in spreading the word about ROADS to Financial Independence as we celebrate the Bureau’s fourth anniversary and the ADA’s 25th anniversary this month. Reach out to us at Empowerment@consumerfinance.gov for more information on ROADS. You can also learn about other tools to empower communities on the CFPB’s Office of Financial Empowerment webpage.

Newly arrived and in need of help navigating our financial system

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Dubis Correal as a child in Colombia.

Dubis Correal, the author, as a child in Bogotá, Colombia.

When I came to United States from Colombia in September 1992, I didn’t speak any English. I can still remember the face of the airport employee who kept telling me where my luggage was, but I couldn’t understand anything he was saying. He saw confusion on my face, and with his hands – a little bit irritated – showed me four fingers to indicate that my baggage was at claim number FOUR.

Fortunately, my sister was here and she was very supportive. Even though she wasn’t financially sophisticated, she had a savings account at an institution close to her apartment in Queens, New York. She was paid weekly and went every Friday to deposit her paycheck.

I enrolled in college right away and worked as a waitress on the weekends. One day my sister took me to the bank where she had an account, so I could open my own savings account. Even though she didn’t know much about financial decisions, she knew one important thing: the value of saving, even little by little. My motivation was to be able to go back to Colombia every summer and I did it many times with my own money. Her guidance was the best thing I could have.

Unfortunately, not everyone has a sister like mine.

To help, we developed the Newcomer’s Guides to Managing Money, an unbiased resource for recent immigrants. Take a look and see ways to pay bills, receive money, open a bank account, and compare financial products.

The Know Before You Owe mortgage rule will take effect October 3, 2015

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Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure forms

Today, we’re issuing a final rule delaying the effective date for the Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule to October 3, 2015. The Know Before You Owe rule will improve the way you’ll receive information about mortgage loans, both when applying for a loan and when you’re getting ready to close.

We’ve been talking about the Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule for a while, and we’ve also been hard at work to provide helpful information for the mortgage industry to understand what the requirements are, including how to fill out the disclosure forms.

You can check out more information about the project that got us here and what the Know Before You Owe rule means for consumers like you.

We want it to be easier for you to shop effectively for mortgages and to make the decisions that work for you and your family. We want consumers to be confident in the information they receive, the lenders they work with, and their ability to make good comparisons. The Know Before You Owe mortgage disclosure rule is a key part of that effort, so we’ve spent a lot of time testing the new disclosure forms with consumers. We’re confident that the new disclosures will make information clearer and easier to use, and we look forward to their implementation starting October 3.

To learn more about the effective date, including why there was a delay, read our press release.

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