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Prepared Remarks of CFPB Director Richard Cordray at the FLEC Meeting

Thank you all for being here. Our topic of discussion today has deep resonance for me. Having worked on financial education issues at the local, state, and now the federal level of government, I have come to know firsthand how important it is for our school districts, as well as state and local officials, to be directly involved in the financial education of our children.

When I served as the Franklin County Treasurer in Ohio a decade ago, we formed a local committee on personal finance education to help further that vision. We gathered information about school programs for young people and community programs for adults, and we looked to match people up with those available resources. Eventually, we became more ambitious and set a goal to pass legislation that would require every student in Ohio to receive personal finance education before graduating from high school.

It is not easy to change anything about the high school curriculum, but we managed to do it. With the help of a broad coalition of people who were convinced that this absolutely needed to be done, we changed state law to require personal finance education for all high school students. What we found next, to my surprise, was that our work was just beginning. By this time, I was serving as the Ohio Treasurer, and we activated the same broad coalition to develop curricula and organize teacher training in hundreds of school districts. It was hard work, but it felt worthwhile because we believed deeply in how much it mattered to our communities.

At the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, we know that many state and local officials and other policymakers are leading similar efforts around the nation to integrate financial education more fully into our schools. These efforts must be mirrored in every school across America. That is the only way we can properly prepare our children for their financial futures.

The Consumer Bureau is deeply committed to an America where everyone is financially educated and financially capable. Benjamin Franklin once said, “Tell me and I forget. Teach me and I remember. Involve me and I learn.” We believe that our schools should implement experiential learning as part of their curriculum. We have found that it can be a very effective way to educate today’s generation about financial affairs. Hands-on efforts such as school banking programs, entrepreneurship training, and financial games or other simulations can help students deepen their financial knowledge and build financial capability in a more lasting way.

Better financial knowledge and capability can also help students make more informed decisions when it comes to higher education, and the Consumer Bureau has new resources to help. Our “Paying for College” set of tools, which is available on our website, is designed to help families consider their options and assess the costs and risks in terms that are easier to understand. These tools show students their monthly debt payment at graduation. They help students weigh the burden posed by their projected debt load, based on the nationwide average starting salary of a new graduate. In short, they help students and families – who may be facing this intimidating challenge for the first time in their lives – to ask the right questions and make more informed decisions. We urge everyone to spread the word about these tools and to make use of them.

We also offer “Ask CFPB,” which is an online, interactive database with answers to many of consumers’ most frequently asked questions. From mortgages to credit cards to debt collection – and much more – this resource presents neutral, expert information on consumer financial issues that people have told us they find important to try to understand better.

Our state and local leaders witnessed firsthand just how deeply the financial crisis harmed consumers and communities in every corner of America. I know that myself, because I was one of them. Today we have an opportunity to work together to educate our young people and empower them to make sound financial decisions. They, and we, will all be much better off if we do that. And we will bear a lasting responsibility if we fail to do that.

Now, I am pleased to introduce Governor Jack Markell. Governor Markell is at the forefront of financial education initiatives in his home state of Delaware and I have admired his work for some time. In 2001, as State Treasurer, he raised funds to create the Delaware Financial Literacy Institute, which offers targeted financial literacy programs geared towards youth, adults, and entrepreneurs throughout the state. Later he launched the Delaware Financial Literacy Education Fund, which grants funding for schools and other organizations to provide youth and adult financial literacy programs. Please join me in warmly welcoming Governor Markell today.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is a 21st century agency that implements and enforces Federal consumer financial law and ensures that markets for consumer financial products are fair, transparent, and competitive. For more information, visit