Good morning. I am glad to welcome everyone here to the Financial Literacy and Education Commission for our first meeting of the year. The commission continues to be a valuable forum for promoting financial literacy and a catalyst for improving the financial well-being of consumers. Today, we will be discussing two issues. The first is the efforts being made to support financial readiness for members of our military. The second is the work being done to promote financial education and financial capability in diverse communities across the country. On both fronts, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has been actively engaged in making a difference to help people better understand and manage the ways and means of their lives.
As many of you know, Holly Petraeus recently retired from the Consumer Bureau. Over the course of five years, Holly built the Office for Servicemember Affairs from the ground up to be a strong advocate for the men and women who serve this country. Finding a capable replacement to fill Holly’s shoes to do this important work was a high priority.
Having said that, I want to introduce Paul Kantwill, who will be serving as the Bureau’s new head of the Office for Servicemember Affairs. Before joining the Bureau, Paul served as the director in the Office of Legal Policy at the Pentagon. Many of you may have worked closely with Paul already, and we are excited to have him in his new role. Please help me welcome Paul.
Since the Consumer Bureau first opened its doors more than five years ago, our Office for Servicemember Affairs has been busy engaging with and working on behalf of the military community. To date, we have received more than 71,200 complaints from military consumers telling us about a wide variety of challenges they face. We also have taken a number of enforcement actions against companies that have sought to harm servicemembers and their families. Our vision is to meet the needs of military consumers any way we can – whether by hosting educational seminars or providing financial coaching for transitioning veterans.
In particular, we are working closely with the Department of Defense to offer effective financial literacy training for servicemembers and their families at key stages of the military lifecycle. While there is never a bad time to provide financial education materials to anyone, we believe that reaching members of the military at major life events during the progress of their careers can make a great contribution to their overall financial stability.
With that in mind, we are enthusiastic about the creation of the Department of Defense Financial Readiness Office. This is a significant step to help ensure that servicemembers have easy access to foundational information about financial education. We look forward to continuing our work together, and today we are interested in hearing from our panelists about how we can make further progress in supporting servicemembers and their families.
We are also interested in hearing about the unique challenges faced by other diverse populations, such as lower-income and economically vulnerable consumers. Last year, we launched a new program at sixty host sites around the country to provide professional financial coaching services to veterans and economically vulnerable consumers. These services are helping people be more proactive in taking control of their finances at crucial moments in their lives.
This financial coaching is being offered primarily at American Job Center sites funded by the Department of Labor. We also are providing it at a number of nonprofit organizations that provide complementary services, such as job training, education, housing, and social services. To date, about 8,000 clients have received well over 16,000 financial coaching sessions and have made positive progress toward meeting their financial goals.
Another initiative that we launched for serving economically vulnerable communities is the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit, which helps consumers obtain accurate information about managing their finances. It is available in both English and Spanish. It is also accompanied by a “train-the-trainer” framework that equips social services staff, including case managers and others, to help clients identify their own financial challenges and goals. Over 250 organizations in 49 states, plus the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico, have adopted it to better serve their clients. In the past three years, over 13,000 frontline staff and volunteers have been trained on the Your Money, Your Goals toolkit, and we will be working to select another 30 organizations, public entities, and coalitions for more trainings beginning later this month.
These are just some of the many ways we are engaging with lower-income and economically vulnerable consumers, and we look forward to hearing from our panel members on other innovations they are developing in this area.
All of the resources I mentioned for servicemembers and economically vulnerable consumers can be found on our website at consumerfinance.gov, which I encourage you to visit.
We are fast approaching the week where we recognize the “America Saves” and “Military Saves” initiatives. They remind us of the key role that the FLEC plays in coordinating the federal government’s efforts to promote financial literacy and financial capability. The work we are doing together here at the FLEC remains vital to achieving sustained financial well-being for individuals and families everywhere in the United States. Thank you.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that helps consumer finance markets work by making rules more effective, by consistently and fairly enforcing those rules, and by empowering consumers to take more control over their economic lives. For more information, visit consumerfinance.gov.