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Delivering financial education at work makes sense


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:

Live from Atlanta!


We held a field hearing on workplace financial education in Atlanta. Part of America Saves Week, the hearing was an opportunity for us to get public input on promising practices for delivering financial education in the workplace.

The live event has now ended.

We held this event with the U.S. Departments of Labor and Treasury. It featured opening remarks, followed by panel discussions with academic and business experts about improving employee financial capability through workplace financial education. The hearing also featured remarks from Director Richard Cordray.

A recording of the event is available below.

Set a goal, make a plan, and save automatically


Life events, such as getting married, having a baby, deciding to buy a home, moving into a new career, or retiring, can mean setting new financial goals and making a plan to achieve them.

Our quick and easy-to-use My New Money Goal financial planning worksheet can help you set a goal and make a plan.

We’re highlighting this tool for consumers during America Saves Week. The national campaign encourages people to set a goal, make a plan and save automatically.

1. See where you are and set your goal

You can track and figure out:

  • Where your money is going now.
  • Where you want your money to go in the future.
  • How much you need to save each month to reach your goal.

2. Put it into action

Then put your plan into action for a month. At the end of the month, compare your real-life numbers to your projections and make adjustments.

3. Make it automatic

Once you have tested your plan for a month or so, it’s important to set up automatic savings. Here are two ways to do that:

  • Have your bank or credit union automatically move money from your checking account to your savings account or investment account on a regular basis.
  • Ask your employer to set up a payroll savings account so a part of your pay gets automatically deposited into a savings account each pay period.

Feb. 24-March 1 is America Saves Week. Be sure to check out for even more resources about reaching your savings goals.

Getting a grip on income tax season


With the beginning of the New Year comes income tax season—that time between late January and April 15 when almost all American households have to file a tax return. It’s not too early to get a grip on your taxes.

Solutions for filing your taxes

Around this time of year, you’ll see lots of advertisements and information about tax preparation and tax filing services. Here are some facts to help you sort through your options.

Get help with your taxes for free

  • If your income is $52,000 or less, you can get free tax preparation assistance at a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) location near you.
  • If your income is $58,000 or less and you’re age 60 or older, free tax preparation assistance is available through Tax Counseling for the Elderly. Find a location near you.
  • Ask a friend or search online to see if free tax preparation assistance is offered at other places in your area (for example, at community centers, churches, or clubs).

Do it yourself

Not sure you need to file at all?
Depending on your age, income, and filing status, you might not technically be required to file a return. It might still be a good idea to file, though. You might receive a tax refund, or you might be eligible for tax credits. The IRS has guidance to help you decide whether you need to file.

Take care of your tax refund, so it can take care of you

Ads on TV and radio may be tempting, claiming to get your tax refund money the next day, or even before you file your taxes. But these offers can be expensive. Here are some ways to make the most of your refund.

  • Use direct deposit. If possible, file your return electronically and have your refund direct-deposited into your bank or credit union account. The IRS issues most refunds within 21 days, often less—with no fees or charges. You can even keep track of your refund’s progress online.
  • Avoid tax refund advances. When a company promises a faster refund, they’re not actually getting your money from the IRS faster than you can. Instead, they’re lending you the money, and they’ll charge you for the loan. With direct deposit, you can get your full refund, usually within 21 days.
  • Pay your tax preparer up front. If you decide to use a paid tax preparer, the person may offer to take their fee out of your refund. This may seem convenient, but it can have a high cost. For example, if the fee for tax preparation is $200, they might tack on a $30 charge for the convenience of paying the fee out of your refund in a couple weeks. The $30 advance on a $200 purchase is like a loan with an annual percentage rate (APR) of 260 percent.
  • Save some of your refund. It’s free, easy, and fast to put some of your refund into savings when you file your tax return. Include your savings account information when you file yourself, or bring the information with you when you see a tax preparer. Once you’re done, check out SaveYourRefund —some nonprofits offer added incentives for saving.

Does your organization provide services to taxpayers?

We’re partnering with a number of VITA sites on a “Ready? Set. Save!” campaign. If your organization helps people prepare their taxes, you can download the Ready? Set, Save! materials and use them this tax season:

What we’ve been doing for youth financial capability


Young people shouldn’t have to repeat financial mistakes made by earlier generations. That’s why we support financial education in K-12 classrooms. This year, we’ve reached some exciting milestones.

To help the public better understand the financial education landscape, we made some recommendations for helping young Americans improve their financial capability. We also shared these during our  national conference on youth financial education and capability.

The conference brought together over 100 public, private, and nonprofit organization leaders from across the country who are dedicated to advancing the financial education of American youth. We discussed:

  • Challenges and opportunities  for integrating personal finance into existing curriculum and offering stand-alone high school personal finance classes
  • Increasing access to high-quality teacher training in financial education
  • Strengthening and expanding school-based financial education efforts  by using online and mobile technology
  • The need for financial education initiatives to help students develop  decision-making and financial skills

Check out our conference summary to learn more about the conference.

We’re committed to helping consumers improve their capability to make sound financial choices by providing innovative tools and information online, including resources like Ask CFPB and Paying for College.

Stay tuned to learn more about what we’re doing next in financial education.

How much money is spent on advertising financial products?


If you think about it, you probably see a lot of advertising for products and services for managing your money. Television ads, highway billboards, Internet banner ads, offers in your mailbox, and more.

We decided to find out how much money is spent on advertising to Americans each year for financial products and services. No surprise—it’s a big number. Financial services companies spend about $17 billion each year on marketing. That works out to about $54 a person per year. That doesn’t even count marketing of retirement products, college loans, and investment products.

We also looked at how much money is spent on financial education in America. Again, no surprise—it’s less than the amount spent on marketing. As a nation, we spend only about $670 million dollars on financial education, about $2 a person per year.

Advertising can be helpful and give you important information. By law, it cannot represent a product or service deceptively, but naturally advertisements are biased because they aim to entice you to buy a product. On the other hand, financial education provides more comprehensive and neutral information.

Advertising is intended to attract your attention and persuade. It has to be fresh and new all the time. But the skills and habits that come from financial education can last a lifetime. When you see financial advertising, consider the source. Shop around and ask questions. Ask CFPB is a great place to see unbiased answers to common questions.

You can read the report to learn more about what we found and how we gathered these numbers.