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Office of Financial Education begins listening tour in New York

Financial education organizations, many with limited staff and money, could have a bigger impact by teaming with agencies that provide services and other forms of counseling.

In other words, providers should take financial education to consumers when they are most willing to learn, instead of spending time and effort trying to draw people to financial education events or engage them through expensive “awareness campaigns.”

Some local organizations already provide financial education when people receive government services, housing relief or help from the local food pantry. What could happen if we took that to a national scale?

This was just one key thought that came out of a recent meeting with a group of front-line financial educators in New York. It was the first in a series of four meetings the Office of Financial Education plans to hold across the country this year.

Meeting with nonprofit groups, local government agencies, and others is enormously important as we continue to build the first financial education office created by law. It’s a way for us to break out of the Washington bubble and learn from those who are already helping consumers from all walks of life manage their money.

Our goals are simple: To find out what works and how we can help.

New York City’s Department of Consumer Affairs hosted the meeting of nearly 30 financial educators and program administrators from across the city. New York has always been at the forefront of innovative financial education and empowerment programs, so it was a natural place to start our listening tour. We couldn’t have asked for a more inspiring group of experts. The conversation was thoughtful, candid, and everyone had a unique perspective to offer.

They also agreed that their clients fall into two core groups: The first group is in crisis. They’re seeking emergency relief – to stay in their homes, feed their families, or address other needs. The other group is getting back on their feet. They are ready to rebuild their finances and plan for the future. Both stages provide opportunities to not only offer help, but also inform, build confidence, and change lives.

By working with other Federal agencies, the CFPB could fill that niche by promoting integration of financial education into existing government services. This meshes nicely with our requirement under the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act that we help consumers access “wealth building and financial services during the preparation process to claim … Federal benefits.”

Thanks to everyone who participated in our New York event, and we look forward to meeting other educators and community leaders this year.

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