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Adjusting to a new country’s financial system takes time



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.

Newly arrived and in need of help navigating our financial system

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 newcomer’s guides to managing money



Beneficiary. Collateral. Debit. Fair market value. These terms might look familiar, but what do they really mean? Now imagine how confusing financial language might sound if you didn’t grow up speaking English. According to recent studies, people with limited English proficiency may be more likely to fall prey to frauds and schemes, and it can be harder to manage money on a day-to-day basis. That’s why we’ve developed the Newcomer’s Guides to Managing Money to provide recent immigrants with straightforward information about basic money decisions.

Each guide features short tips to help new immigrants, and people who may be new to the U.S. banking system, avoid financial pitfalls. The guides also include information on how to submit a complaint if you’re having a problem with a financial product or service.

You can download, post, and share the Web-ready versions of the guides in English and Spanish (more languages coming) or order printed copies.

Ways to receive your money

Have you received a paycheck but aren’t sure whether to cash it or put it into a bank account? This guide provides information about receiving wages or payments. You can use this guide to compare the benefits and risks of getting paid in cash, with a check, by direct deposit, or on a card. [English | Español]

Checklist for opening an account

If you’re interested in opening a bank or credit union account, you can use this guide and checklist to make sure you have the required paperwork before opening your account. [English | Español]

Ways to pay your bills

Are you trying to decide whether to pay your rent by check or credit card? Take a look at this guide to compare the benefits and risks of paying regular and one-time bills by check or money order, by direct debit, online, or in cash. [English | Español]

Selecting financial products and services

If you’re trying to decide which financial services are right for you, this guide provides information about common transactions, including ATM cash withdrawals and debit card purchases.
[English | Español]

These guides are part of our commitment to provide people who may be new to the U.S. banking system, including people with limited English proficiency, the information they need to make the best financial decisions for themselves and their families.

We’re also connecting with consumers who use a language other than English by explaining consumer protections and introducing them to our complaint system. Check out more materials available in other languages as well as our website in Spanish.

Here’s why childhood is an important time to learn about money


Last summer, we learned that U.S. teenagers are in the middle of the pack when it comes to financial literacy, compared to other nations. Preparing young people for a solid financial future is an important job. And much work remains.

Some recent research looks at how young people build financial skills, habits, and attitudes. The research also emphasizes how parents can model and teach helpful financial habits to their children at an early age.

If you have kids, it might surprise you to know that children as young as five years old can be ready to learn about saving and spending. From early childhood to young adulthood, you can build the foundation to enable them to manage their finances as adults.

Here are some key takeaways from researchers that you can put into practice:

Children as young as five can learn about saving

Research suggests that children are “developmentally capable” of saving by age five. A piggy bank or savings account gives them a hands-on way to build a savings mindset. And parents take note: your child may acquire a taste for financial planning that lasts well into adulthood. The same research shows that children who grew up with a savings account were more likely to hold “diverse asset portfolios and to accumulate more savings as young adults.” That’s a powerful piggy bank!

An allowance isn’t just about money, it’s about guiding your child

Access to money from gifts or from a steady allowance, by itself, may not help your child build habits he or she will need as an adult. Research observed that giving an allowance on its own was an ineffective way to build a child’s financial skills—the benefits came when the child also got guidance on saving and budgeting along with the allowance. According to the research, “parental oversight as to how the money is spent, and parental teaching about budgeting and the necessity of saving, was found to be most effective.” So when you provide opportunities for saving and spending, talk to your children about their decisions.

Young people learn from hands-on experiences

Teenagers can practice financial skills and decision-making. As they manage their first paychecks, and the spending and saving choices that go along with them, parents are still a sounding board. Listening and providing guidance to your teenager can provide a safety net, so that he or she can learn from experiences and mistakes (let’s be honest, there are bound to be a few).

Young adults learn financial skills more and benefit when they have opportunities to make their own financial decisions, while still receiving guidance and feedback. For example, a program that included connecting economically disadvantaged youth to a job and savings account, and providing just-in-time financial education, showed promising results. Youth experienced “both an increase in knowledge and an increase in the application of that knowledge.”

For more ideas on teaching your kids about money, check out our resources for parents.

We are also working to help schools or communities provide youth with more access to hands-on learning around financial education. If this interests you, feel free to share our K-12 financial education guide with your local school. Financial educators can also check out the resources available as they serve the community.

The launch of the CFPB financial coaching initiative


Today, we launched our financial coaching initiative. The launch featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray and Secretary of Labor Thomas Perez, as well as other key program participants.

The live event has now ended, but we’ll have a recording available here soon.

Our financial coaching initiative

Whether you’re a veteran who has recently transitioned to life in the civilian world, or a consumer facing economic challenges, having a trusted, well-informed advisor can increase your odds of success. Our financial coaching initiative will provide guidance to recently-transitioned veterans and vulnerable families in places where they’re already going for help. We’ve joined forces with the DOL and more than two dozen non-profit social-services providers to place 60 certified coaches in DOL American Job Centers and community-centered non-profits across the country. These professionals will provide one-on-one free coaching to help these consumers craft a personalized plan for financial success.

You can download a printer friendly list of financial coaching delivery sites.

Updated on May 26, 2015 to include the financial coaching delivery sites.

Save the date: Join us for a Credit Union Advisory Council meeting in Washington, DC


Join us for a Credit Union Advisory Council meeting with Director Cordray on Thursday, March 12 from 3 to 5 p.m. EST. During this meeting we will discuss the role of credit unions in cultivating consumer financial education and financial capability.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
1275 First Street NE
Washington, D.C. 2002 Washington, DC

This event requires an RSVP. All of our Advisory Board and Council meetings are open to the public.

Please send us an email to RSVP.

You can check out the meeting agenda and event flyer. See you there!