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Financial education

Helping more consumers use our services in other languages

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We’re working to reach more people with our services and information, and we could use your help.

About 24 million people in the United States say they don’t speak English “very well,” according to the Census Bureau. In this group, people are likely to be more comfortable with Spanish, Chinese (Mandarin or Cantonese), French, Haitian Créole, Tagalog, Korean, or Vietnamese—the most commonly spoken languages in the United States other than English. We know that financial products and services can be confusing even for native English speakers, and for those who primarily use another language, navigating the marketplace can be even harder.

We’re proposing a Language Access Plan, as part of our public commitment to providing services and information in languages other than English. With more information available in their native language, more people can avoid confusion, mistakes, and even fraud.

Our proposed Language Access Plan is now available for review and comment. In addition, you can provide feedback on specific areas where we want to connect with consumers who use a language other than English. Your input can help us improve how we:

  • Explain consumer protections
  • Provide access to our complaint system
  • Communicate during supervision and enforcement actions
  • Distribute consumer guides and tools
  • Use online communities and social media
  • Reach out through community organizations

You’re welcome to comment on our proposed Language Access Plan and related programs and activities until January 6, 2015. If you work with consumers who primarily use a language other than English, we encourage you to participate and share your comments.

A new school year, a new resource for parents and kids

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Parents are the strongest influence on how kids learn and think about money, and the back-to-school shopping season is a great time for some major money lessons.

This year, try thinking differently about back-to-school shopping. While you plan and shop, say what you’re doing—your children are listening. You don’t have to give lectures. Just make it a point to talk through your money choices as you make them:

  • Show them how you set a budget and make a list before you leave home.
  • Let them hear you shop around and compare quality, quantity, and prices before you buy.
  • Think out loud about how promotions, special offers, and taxes affect your choices.

It’s never too early to help your kids make smart money choices – and it’s never too late. To help, we’re working in collaboration with the FDIC to collect and share resources for parents. We’ve posted age-appropriate activities, ideas, and links for parents and children, on the topics that parents told us they care most about. We’ll continue to add resources over time, so check back with us often.

Helping build financial capability across America

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We just published our second annual financial literacy report to Congress. It outlines our strategy and what we’ve done over the past year to enhance financial literacy and capability. In the report, you’ll find out about the tools and information we provide to help consumers navigate financial choices. You’ll see how we collaborate with organizations that reach consumers where they are, and how we research effective approaches to financial education.

Financial literacy is gaining attention worldwide. For the first time, a study of educational achievement has compared the financial literacy of young people across the globe. The results show that 15-year-olds in the United States are in the middle of the pack, compared to their peers in 17 other nations and regions that participated in the study.

We’ll put these results to work—collaborating with other government and educational agencies to look at promising solutions, innovative approaches, and scalable strategies for educating the next generation of young Americans.

Director Richard Cordray has said this about why financial literacy is so important: “Even as we work to improve the consumer financial marketplace, we recognize that it will remain a complex, dynamic part of our economy. It is therefore fundamentally important that consumers be equipped to navigate the marketplace and the financial choices they face effectively to achieve their life goals.”

Support for financial decisions

Sometimes you need a quick answer to a financial question. You can turn to Ask CFPB, a searchable resource with reliable answers to common questions—in English and in Spanish. Sometimes you need to work through a large financial decision, like paying for college or shopping for a mortgage. Today you can use our Paying for College module, and our Owning a Home tools and resources are coming next.

Managing our financial lives

Conversations about money decisions and money management can happen wherever people share information. Here are a few examples of how we’re helping to create opportunities to increase financial capability:

Helping people take more control over their economic lives is essential to our mission, and it is essential for individuals and families to get the most out of their financial lives. We’re continuing to work with groups and organizations that share this goal, to bring greater financial capability to everyone in America.

Building a collection of financial education materials for a library near you

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We want to make libraries the go-to place for financial information in every community. And so far, we’ve been met with tremendous enthusiasm – from other government and nonprofit agencies, by library associations and administrators, and by librarians themselves. That’s why we’ve put together resources and materials for libraries to use in their community.

We started this project about a year ago by listening to a group of nine librarians who agreed to work with us. After we announced the initiative in April, the number of libraries that wanted to participate swelled to nearly 50 library systems. Last week, we announced a partnership with Rhode Island’s Office of Library and Information Services, our first partnership with a state-wide impact, increasing our reach to more than 100 library systems. More importantly, these 100 systems have more than 450 branch locations that receive more than 76 million visits a year.

Why libraries?

Libraries are highly trusted in virtually every community and eager to serve more people in their neighborhoods. They’re also unbiased, so they provide a safe place to research financial options, decisions, or solutions to problems.

In 2010, libraries served 297.6 million Americans. And despite shrinking budgets, hours, and staff, attendance at library programs is increasing. Recent surveys also indicate that parents and low-income individuals view libraries as important resources. About one quarter of the people who use library computers log on for commercial needs or to manage their personal finances.

Started by listening

So we gathered nine public libraries – some that had conducted highly innovative financial education programs in the past and some that had never done financial education before. We asked them: “What could we do to help you do more financial education? What are your constraints, limitations, and needs?”

We also surveyed more than 700 library patrons. We asked them if they would go to the library for this information, what they thought of libraries, and what types of programs they’ve attended in the past.

Ready to roll

Now we’re rolling out our first set of program ideas, online resources, and free government publications that librarians can order in bulk.

We’ve also created a guidebook to help librarians find and develop relationships with other organizations in their communities that can help present or support financial education programs.

We’re working with the American Library Association and other library associations and organizations to spread the word about financial education best practices and engaging program ideas.

It’s important to note, too, that this is the starting line, not the finish line. We’ll continue to add and update resources, publications, and partners. So check back with us often and watch us grow!

If you’re a librarian and are interested in getting involved, send us an email.

Live from Chicago!

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We held an event in Chicago to launch our partnership with libraries.

The event featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray as well as Charles Evans, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago, and Keith Michael Fiels, executive director at the American Library Association. The event also included a panel discussion with CFPB officials, library representatives, and financial education experts.

The live event has now ended, but a recording of the event is available below.

Delivering financial education at work makes sense

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Where do many Americans make their most important decisions about taxes, retirement, health insurance, and other financial issues? At work. That’s why we recently held a field hearing in Atlanta of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission (FLEC) to talk about workplace financial education.

We heard from business and nonprofit leaders, brought together by the Georgia Consortium for Personal Financial Literacy, who talked with Director Cordray about their experiences with financial education at work. In an earlier meeting, Director Cordray heard from ministers representing the Concerned Black Clergy of Metropolitan Atlanta about student loan debt and other consumer issues and how these issues were contributing to finance stress among their parishioners.

At the FLEC field hearing, Director Cordray spoke about why the workplace is an ideal place for financial education and suggested it can be good business for employers to help relieve employees’ financial stress (transcript). Dr. Katherine Sauer of the University of Colorado provided three reasons why employers should consider financial education at work:

  • More and more employees come to work but their minds are on their personal situation (“presenteeism”).
  • As employees move from job to job, it gets harder for them to manage the rising number of retirement accounts and decisions.
  • Growing numbers of employees need help juggling the financial stress of caring for children and aging parents at the same time.

A lot of money is at stake

For employers, about 30 cents of each dollar spent on employee compensation is spent on benefits. If employees don’t make the most of their health, retirement, and other benefits, neither employees nor employers get the full value of the benefits investments. The most effective financial education can be delivered at the point when employees are making their benefits decisions—“just in time” modules that guide them through enrollment and action steps.

Help is available now

If you’re an employer or human resources professional, feel free to share these no-cost resources with employees: