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Financial Literacy Month

April is Financial Literacy Month. So what?


Before writing this post, I did a brief survey of my colleagues to ask for their thoughts about what financial literacy means and why it is important. Here are some of the responses I got:

“A fair financial marketplace requires that consumers be informed about the products and services they are buying.”

“What are you going to do when you can’t work anymore? Financing your own future means you have to know how to save and how to protect that savings.”

“People are more empowered when they know how to avoid being scammed. Giving people information so they can protect themselves is, to me, very important.”

“When you talk about poorer populations, it’s about helping them understand ways they can help themselves.”

The point is, financial literacy, or financial capability is not a monolithic thing that can be applied, released, or taught in one way to one group. When we talk about the lack of financial knowledge in the United States, we tend to debate:

  • Where it should be taught – in schools or at home.
  • When it should be taught – in elementary school, high school, college, or on the job.
  • How it should be taught – in workshops, online, games, or over months of coaching sessions.
  • Who should teach it – K-12 teachers, financial professionals, money coaches, or radio and TV show hosts.

The good news is there are many right answers.

The one thing most people agree on is that it should be taught, and that it requires more than just a transfer of knowledge. For some people, it may require knowledge and building new skills – practice to build comfort and confidence. For others it may mean unlearning bad habits. And for some it could mean a change in attitude – like choosing healthy eating over double cheeseburgers.

The reason there are so many different approaches to financial education is because there are many different audiences, with many different needs, and many different ideas about good solutions.

We can debate the specifics, the methods, and the media, but there is little debate about the need. It’s why we are working every day to create new partnerships, research new ideas, share best practices, and develop new materials and innovative ways to deliver them.

What can you do about it?

  • If you have kids, talk about the family budget. Encourage them to save a portion of their allowance to help them build a savings habit and learn to set, and achieve, financial goals. Ask them what they’ve learned in school about money, or talk to their teachers.
  • If you participate in clubs or church groups, invite a local consumer group, credit counselor or financial planner to speak. Download free CFPB publications and share them with your group. Volunteer to help others.
  • If you own a business or have the ability to make suggestions, consider a program to help employees understand more about managing their money. Start an automatic enrollment retirement plan or provide resources or referrals to help employees plan for their futures.

How can you help promote financial education? Remember, there are no wrong answers.

CFPB promotes Financial Literacy Month


April is Financial Literacy Month, and we are teaming up with other government agencies, nonprofit organizations, and businesses to promote financial education.

CFPB Director Richard Cordray and the staff of the CFPB are taking a leading role in spreading the word about the benefits of knowing more about money.

Being informed is your best defense against the tricks and traps found in some financial products. Recently, we launched Ask CFPB, a search tool to help you find plain-language answers to your questions about credit cards, mortgages, credit scores, and more.

You can rate the questions and even suggest your own if you don’t find what you’re looking for.

Sometimes, information isn’t enough. That’s why we continue to take your complaints. You can now file complaints about mortgages, credit cards, deposit accounts, vehicle and other consumer loans, and student loans. When you submit your complaint, you will be given a password and a tracking number to follow its progress. Or, you can Tell Your Story. Share your experiences with personal financial products and services – good or bad – and help inform our ability to protect others.

We’ll also be on the road a lot this month, so mark your calendar for a few noteworthy events:

  • Gail Hillebrand, the CFPB’s associate director of Consumer Education and Engagement, will speak during Financial Literacy Day on the Hill on April 17. She will also participate in the sixth annual Financial Literacy and Education Summit, co-hosted by the Chicago Federal Reserve Bank and Visa Inc., on April 23.
  • On April 19, Assistant Director Camille Busette, from the CFPB’s Office of Financial Education, will be the luncheon speaker during the Texas Panhandle Community Asset Building Forum, hosted by the Dallas Federal Reserve Bank and the City of Amarillo.
  • And, on April 21, I will present an overview of how the CFPB is helping consumers during the New York Public Library’s Financial Empowerment Day.

We hope to hear more from you and other consumers at these events or on our website. You can also share your experiences and interact with us on Facebook and Twitter. We’ll be presenting financial facts and tips throughout Financial Literacy Month. They’ll introduce you to financial issues, answer your questions, and guide you to important resources.

Talking to Our Daughters and Sons about Personal Finance


Today is Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day! This day is partly about the fun children can have in seeing your workplace, but it is also a chance for them to think about the future. Money skills are part of that future. Whether or not you take your children to work today, think about talking to them about money and savings when you get home from work.

Here at the CFPB, parents who bring their kids to work will talk to them about what we do, and also about why we do it. We’re working for our families and for all American families. We want everyone to understand the prices, risks, and benefits of financial products so they can make the best decisions for their families.

Kids learn about money from their parents. One of the best ways to help our kids follow good financial practices as adults is to talk to them now. Consider:

  • A recent survey shows that almost half of adults who closely monitor their finances say they learned about personal finance from their parents or at home.
  • Peer influences are important for adolescents, but parents have a greater influence than peers in at least one area: money management.
  • Adolescents who practice financial tasks modeled by their mothers tend to feel more financially prepared as adults.

Talking to kids about money can seem daunting. Their questions can get uncomfortably personal, but you can decide before you start the conversation if you want to tell them all the details or give an overview. You might want to give specific examples, such as why it is good to pay more than the minimum on your credit card bills or how you can save for a down payment on a family car. Or you can describe a financial trick or trap that is important not to fall into. Of course, what is appropriate depends on the age of your child and whether you’ve already started the conversation.

We want to help! Here is a list of resources that can help you figure out what you want to say, how to explain it clearly, and how to get both teens and kids to think creatively about saving and personal finance.

Talking to Teens

Talking to Kids

  • “You Are Here” from the Federal Trade Commission
    “You Are Here” uses a familiar shopping mall setting to teach kids to be more savvy consumers.
  • The Bureau of Public Debt’s kids site
    The Bureau of Public Debt (BPD) helps make the U.S. debt real to kids. Part of the site is devoted to how the government borrows money and what that money is used for. The site also offers videos and tools to help kids understand saving, including information about U.S. Treasury bonds.
  • The U.S. Mint’s education page
    What better way for a young child to start saving than with coins? The U.S. Mint site offers puzzles and other interactive tools to help children understand coins and savings.

Most important of all, your conversation should be goal-oriented. Remember that saving money – at any age – is about planning for the future. Thinking about future family or personal expenses for your child will help both of you think about saving in a practical way. It also makes the outcome of saving that much more concrete.

My kids are adults now, so I couldn’t bring them to work with me today. But when they were kids, we had the same kinds of dinner table conversations that my parents had with my brother and I when we were kids: about the value of education, hard work, and savings. I remember my parents talking about saving to replace our car. We talked to our kids about that, and about how much more something costs if you put it on a credit card and carry a balance. I think those moments help to prepare children for their lives as adults. Please join us at the CFPB in sharing these kinds of conversations with your kids.

National Financial Literacy Month


April is National Financial Literacy Month! Read the Presidential Proclamation here.

At the CFPB, we’re working to raise awareness by offering a few seasonal tips to help you get your financial house in order and spring into financial security. Stay tuned in the days ahead for blog posts and other new content.

  1. Dust off Your Credit Report
    Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity. It’s free and it’s yours, so make sure you know what’s in there. Remember, only one web source is authorized to distribute this information to you for free once a year: You can also request your report by phone. Call 1-877-322-8228 or fill out this Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
  2. Learn your Federal Student Aid Options
    High school graduation is just around the corner. Don’t miss out on the many federal grant and loan options available to almost everyone. Start by completing the new and improved FAFSA form today.
  3. Know Before You Go
    Navigating the financial marketplace can be overwhelming. Prepare yourself with these helpful checklists and tip sheets before making your next financial decisions.