Good afternoon. It is an honor to be here today alongside some stalwart champions of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. We are all here today to show our support for the crucial work that Labor Secretary Tom Perez and his team are doing to protect consumers by bringing more transparency to the complex world of retirement financial advice and services. And it is highly significant to have President Obama standing strongly behind this initiative, just as he fought so hard to create the Consumer Bureau and its mission of making consumer financial markets work better for the American people. We are pleased to be part of this important announcement.
Some of the most important decisions that consumers will ever make involve saving for retirement and making choices to improve their economic security later in life. For most Americans, retirement security depends on starting to save early and protecting those savings by making informed investment decisions. The retirement savings market can be complicated and confusing. It can be challenging for consumers to make well-informed decisions about important issues that determine their future economic security.
Many Americans rely on professional financial advice when they make decisions about their retirement savings. So it is critical that when they seek out professional guidance, they can trust the financial adviser to put the consumer’s interests first. Advisers who receive hidden payments for steering consumers into more expensive retirement investments can cost people tens of thousands of dollars in extra fees and lower returns. Worse, consumers may not even realize how much money is being skimmed off the top of their retirement savings by biased advice and mystery fees. Sometimes bad advice can be even worse than no advice at all. The proposed rule that the Labor Department is putting forward today is aimed at addressing these issues and protecting American consumers.
A large part of our work at the Consumer Bureau involves empowering consumers to take control of their financial lives. Among other things, we conduct research and make efforts to educate consumers about long-term savings and assist older Americans who are planning for retirement. We look forward to continuing our work to ensure that consumers are treated fairly and have access to the information and tools they need to enhance their financial well-being. And we appreciate all those who are committed to achieving these same goals.
The Bureau’s Office for Older Americans conducts research and educational efforts in order to provide seniors the information they need to make the financial decisions that will serve their own life goals. In April 2013, the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans made recommendations to policy makers to help facilitate and improve the ability of older consumers to sort out and assess the numerous and varying “senior designation” titles that financial advisers use to market their services. The CFPB’s report and recommendations, Senior Designations for Financial Advisers, Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks, described a confusing, and sometimes conflicted, marketplace for older consumers when they are trying to assess the qualifications and credentials of financial advisers.
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 www.consumerfinance.gov.