We are glad to welcome the Department of the Interior to their first meeting as a member of the Commission. Today we are releasing the 2016 National Strategy for Financial Literacy. The report provides the Commission and everyone working in the field of financial education with an important framework for promoting financial education. It also highlights important progress that has been made towards the goals that were outlined in the previous strategy from 2011.
Through the hard work and dedication of all of the FLEC’s members, I believe we have made significant strides to increase financial well-being and financial security for all Americans.
A critical component of the national strategy was the FLEC’s launch of the effort we called “Starting Early for Financial Success,” which is enhancing the financial capability of young Americans. The Consumer Bureau is advancing this shared effort through several initiatives that involve parents, educators, financial aid practitioners, and youth employment programs.
The “Starting Early” effort recognizes that financially capable young people are more likely to become financially secure adults. To achieve that goal, our young people must have access to appropriate educational tools and resources both at home and in school. We are studying these issues, and our work led to the creation of the Bureau’s new evidence-based developmental framework for understanding how young people learn and develop financial capability. The report, which you will hear more about during today’s panel, is entitled “Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability.” The report includes recommendations for how to apply the developmental model in financial education programs, policies, and initiatives.
I would like to highlight the three key building blocks we identified in our report. The first focuses in early childhood on developing executive function – a basic sense of self control that people draw upon to set goals, save for the future, and stick to a budget. The second, which becomes relevant in the pre-teen years, focuses on encouraging parents and caregivers to instill positive financial habits and norms in the child. The third building block, which is appropriate for high school students, focuses on taking part in actual financial experiences such as shopping or doing their own research to gain financial knowledge and decision-making skills.
I recently had the opportunity to observe this approach during a visit to a reality fair at Lake Highlands Junior High School in Dallas. The event was a unique opportunity for students to experience some of the financial challenges they will face when they start life on their own. Hands-on efforts such as school banking programs, entrepreneurship training, and financial games or other simulations can be effective ways to help students deepen their financial knowledge and build financial capability in a more lasting way.
For many teachers, personal finance is a relatively new area of instruction. Most parents want their children to learn about personal finance in the classroom, yet many teachers do not feel empowered to provide this kind of instruction. To address this concern, the Consumer Bureau has developed the "personal finance pedagogy," which features a teaching tool known as the "personal finance wheel." The wheel identifies teaching techniques and learning strategies that are appropriate to help young people gain the skills they need during different development phases.
The upcoming panel will be moderated by Janneke Ratcliffe, who heads the Office of Financial Education at the Consumer Bureau. One of our colleagues, Sunaena Lehil, will discuss these new resources we have created to support youth financial education. The other panel members will describe for us how experiential learning opportunities can reach and interest young people at different stages in their development.
We confront many challenges in achieving our goal of financial capability for young people. These challenges are complex, varied, and significant. For those interested in more details about all of the Consumer Bureau’s various activities and strategies in this area, we have just released our Financial Literacy Annual Report for 2016. It is on our website at consumerfinance.gov and we encourage you to share it with others.
Let me emphasize that nobody needs to go it alone in doing this work. We have many public, private, and nonprofit organizations working together to advance financial capability for our young people. Today’s update to the national strategy shows the fruits of that growing collaboration. The panel discussion will help us better understand how we can help every young American gain the knowledge and skills they need to build healthy financial futures. We look forward to learning from these conversations. Thank you.