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We want to hear from you: Consumer Education and Engagement at the CFPB

I’ve just joined the CFPB as the Associate Director for Consumer Education and Engagement. I come from outside Washington, D.C., and from outside government. I moved across the country to do this job because, like my colleagues, I believe in the mission of the CFPB. That mission is to promote a fair, transparent, and competitive financial marketplace in which consumers can easily compare financial products and have the information they need to make the best choices for themselves and their families. As I get started, I want to tell you a bit about our work and ask for your thoughts.

My team and I will focus on two big tasks: financial education and consumer engagement. Consumers with financial knowledge and tools are an essential part of a fair, transparent, and competitive market. Consumer engagement refers to our work sharing ideas and information with consumers and listening to the experiences and views of consumers. Together, these initiatives will enhance the other work the CFPB will do for consumers: handling consumer complaints; understanding markets; making or amending rules where necessary; and ensuring compliance with applicable rules through supervision and enforcement.

The Consumer Education and Engagement team will work to reach you, the American consumer, wherever you are. We will focus on what is helpful and usable. We recognize that we will need to provide a variety of tools and approaches to respond to the different types of financial choices you face.

Our primary focus in financial education is simple: We will promote what works. We will identify proven, effective forms of education that help consumers make their own sound financial choices. We will work with a variety of experts: educators, consumer organizations, economists, researchers, and community leaders. We will focus on how to help consumers understand the financial choices they need to make. Our goal is to help consumers understand the costs, risks, and benefits of financial products as they decide whether to buy those products.

Financial products change so fast that our work may focus more on the types of questions to ask and things to consider than on the details of each and every complicated product. At the same time, throughout the CFPB, we will work to make the costs, risks, and benefits of financial products more transparent. We will also talk about the value of savings. Even a small emergency fund can protect you and your family. When you have a financial emergency, that fund gives you a choice you wouldn’t otherwise have: between borrowing and using those savings.

The CFPB is focused on consumers, and we want to learn from you. We have an obligation to understand all types of consumers, including those who face unique types of financial markets or financial challenges. The Consumer Education and Engagement team has four offices dedicated to this task. We will talk to and listen to servicemembers, students, older Americans, and groups who have traditionally been underserved in the financial system. In response to those conversations, we will develop ways the CFPB can help address problems faced by those groups.

You may already know about the work of Holly Petraeus, who leads the Office of Servicemember Affairs. She has been visiting military bases and units across the country since January, talking about the financial challenges facing American men and women in uniform. Zixta Martinez leads our Community Affairs office and is reaching out to consumer groups, civil rights groups, community organizations, and others. Soon we will hire leaders in the fields of student financial issues and the special financial issues facing older Americans.

We want to hear from you and work with you. Please share your ideas with us. If there is a topic you think we should offer resources about, let us know. If you like what you see from us, consider reposting it, tweeting it, or sharing it with your friends both online and offline. If you have ideas about new tools that could make it easier to compare financial products, please share them. You can start by sharing this post with others, by commenting on this post, or by sending us an email.

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