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U.S. primarily speak Spanish at home. 28 Recognizing

central point of access to CFPB

that at least some portion of this population could be

online resources available in

well served by Spanish language resources, the


Bureau launched CFPB en Español, a Bureau website

that provides Spanish-speaking consumers a central

point of access to the Bureau’s resources available in Spanish. The website has four major

components: a homepage that highlights CFPB services; Ask CFPB content in Spanish; a

complaints page that highlights the phone number consumers can call to submit a complaint in

Spanish; and an About Us page that features a Spanish-language video and introductory content

about how the CFPB works to protect consumers. The website was created using responsive

design, meaning it is optimized for use on both mobile devices and computers in order to better

serve all consumers. The website launched in May 2013 and is available at

3.1.4 K-12 parent education tools

The Offices of Financial Education and Consumer

We offer a set of Ask CFPB

Engagement launched a parent education campaign

questions and answers to help

in April 2013 to engage parents and guardians in the

parents teach their children about

financial education of their children by encouraging

money basics.

discussion of money management topics at home and

providing tools for parents to have money

conversations with their children. We offer a set of Ask CFPB questions and answers especially

for parents, which is available by going to and clicking on the 28 U.S. Census Bureau, Language Spoken at Home by Ability to Speak English for the Population 5 Years and Over,

pe=table (last visited June 27, 2013).



“Especially for” link for Parents, or at

ents.  We hosted a Twitter chat with Bureau staff and financial experts focused on how to have the “money talk” with kids. We also released a Pinterest graphic for parents to use in teaching

kids to save and plan for items they want to purchase. This campaign is part of the Office of

Financial Education’s K-12 initiative, discussed below.

3.1.5 Publications


The Office of Financial Education has created a range of publications for consumers that provide

straightforward information about money management and other financial issues. These

publications include brochures about how to avoid foreclosure, what to do if you cannot pay

your credit card bills, checking your credit report, avoiding checking account fees, tax-time

saving, and other topics. In collaboration with the Office of Fair Lending and Equal Opportunity,

the Office of Financial Education created a brochure on how to protect against credit

discrimination. The Bureau makes most of these resources available in both English and

Spanish, provides them for download or bulk ordering at,

and distributes them at Bureau public events. As of May 31, 2013, the Bureau had distributed

over 198,000 copies of its publications and over 25,000 had been downloaded. The three most

popular resources ordered to date have been Check Your Credit Report, Save Some and Spend

Some, and Pay Attention to Your Credit Report.


Reverse mortgage guide

The Office for Older Americans developed a plain language guide to reverse mortgages for

consumers, with input from subject matter experts in the Bureau’s Research, Markets and

Regulations Division. The guide highlights key decision points to help potential reverse

mortgage borrowers assess the financial ramifications of securing a reverse mortgage, including

payout and product options and alternatives. The guide is available on the CFPB website at and through other federal agencies, non-profit organizations, and housing counselors throughout

the country.



Senior designations report and guide

In April 2013, the Office for Older Americans released a report to Congress and the U.S.

Securities and Exchange Commission entitled Senior Designations for Financial Advisers:

Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks, which is available at 29 The report describes consumer confusion surrounding the wide variety of designations used by financial

advisers to signify expertise in senior financial issues. The report includes recommendations to

help older consumers verify credentials, improve the consistency of standards for acquiring the

credentials, improve the consistency of standards for conduct of designees, and reduce

consumer confusion. The Office for Older Americans expects to release a consumer guide to help

older consumers understand and verify senior designation and certification titles later in 2013.

Lay fiduciaries guide

The Office for Older Americans is producing user-friendly how-to guides for agents acting under

powers of attorney, guardians, trustees, Social Security representative payees, Veterans Affairs

fiduciaries, and others who may handle financial affairs for older Americans and other

vulnerable adults. Family members and others serving as fiduciaries often have no experience

handling someone else’s money. The materials include a set of generic national guides, state-

specific guides for six states, and a replication manual for other states. The guides explain what a fiduciary does, record-keeping and prudent investment requirements, limitations on

commingling funds, and other critical basics for managing a vulnerable adult’s money. The

guides also cover how to spot financial exploitation and protect assets from unfair, deceptive,

and abusive practices by third parties. The guides are expected to be released in 2013.

3.2 Collaborative initiatives

In order to reach consumers, the Bureau is developing collaborations with a broad range of

partners and intermediaries, including other federal agencies; state, local, and tribal

governments; private and non-profit organizations; and schools, workplaces, and faith

29 CFPB, Senior Designations for Financial Advisers: Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks (April 18, 2013), available at



communities and other neighborhood organizations. These collaborative initiatives take many

forms. In general, the Bureau seeks to design financial education initiatives in a manner that

leverages and complements effective federal and other efforts already underway, or utilizes the

partner or intermediary’s unique resources, expertise, consumer relationships, or infrastructure

to reach consumers at opportune times with relevant information, tools, or other supports. 30

3.2.1 Tax-time savings: collaboration with Volunteer Income

Tax Assistance sites

The Offices of Financial Education and Financial Empowerment developed an initiative to

encourage Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)-eligible recipients to save some portion of their

EITC refunds as a seed to grow savings. The EITC is a refundable tax credit, and for many low-

to-moderate income families represents the largest lump sum of money they will receive all year.

The initiative uses the free tax preparation services offered through Volunteer Income Tax

Assistance (VITA) sites to reach EITC-eligible individuals and families at an ideal moment in

their financial lives – when they learn the amount of their EITC credit and expected tax

refund. 31 The initiative also encourages the use of free tax preparation services, and the use of electronic filing and direct deposit as an alternative to more expensive products and services.

This initiative fulfills a statutory mandate for the Office of Financial Education, to provide

consumers with wealth building strategies and access to financial services during the

preparation process to claim the EITC. 32

During the 2011 tax filing season, the Bureau provided materials to 3,500 VITA sites across the

country, which collectively assisted over 3 million taxpayers. The Bureau sought to encourage

these taxpayers to pre-commit to saving a portion of their refund at the time their taxes were

30 Many of these collaborations involve the Bureau’s fellow member agencies in the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.

31 The VITA program offers free tax return preparation help to people who make $51,000 or less through IRS-certified volunteers, at sites located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other local venues. See generally Internal Revenue Serv., Free Tax Return Preparation for You by Volunteers, (last visited June 27, 2013).

32 See 12 U.S.C. § 5493(d)(2)(F).



being prepared by providing training information for VITA tax preparers about how to talk

about savings, and through three strategies:

Priming: The Bureau developed a poster intended to suggest the idea of saving to

taxpayers before they were asked to make a savings decision.

Pre-commitment: While their taxes were being prepared, taxpayers were given a

worksheet to help them determine how much they could comfortably save.

Automation: Taxpayers were encouraged to direct-deposit a portion of their refunds

into a savings account or savings bonds.

The Bureau built on these efforts in the 2012 tax filing season. For example, we updated the 2011

training materials, poster, and worksheet and made them available to VITA tax preparers via

online fulfillment or download, which enables us to measure how many tax preparers obtain the


3.2.2 K-12 financial education

In April 2013, the Bureau launched an initiative to

build the financial capability of youth, and thus

Schools provide the opportunity

future generations of American consumers. This

to transform the financial lives of

initiative seeks to foster inclusion of financial

a generation of Americans by

education in K-12 curriculum and facilitate teacher

introducing key money and

training in financial education. To launch the

finance-related concepts early,

initiative, the Office of Financial Education hosted a

and building on that foundation

national conference of financial education experts,

through the K-12 years.

teachers, and non-profit and governmental leaders

from local, state, and federal levels involved in K-12 financial education. 33 Recognizing the broad range of work that others already are doing in this field, the initiative seeks to strengthen the impact and effectiveness of K-12 financial education efforts by fostering the sharing of, and

building upon, best practices; facilitating partnerships; and collectively identifying, and seeking 33 Conference proceedings are expected to be available on the Bureau’s website in August 2013.



to fill, critical gaps. Conference panels addressed defining a shared vision, promising practices

in integrating financial education in schools, the use of hands-on approaches, and research and

evaluation to document the effectiveness of classroom financial education. The Bureau issued a

white paper recommending strategies to improve personal financial management capability of

youth, which is available at

White-Paper-Final.pdf. 34

3.2.3 Foundations: building an effective financial workplace

Through a joint effort between the Bureau’s Office of Financial Education and Office of Human

Capital, the Bureau is developing a financial education program to help employees become

effective managers of their personal finances. Using findings from recent workplace research

studies, the effort will combine tools such as automatic enrollment in retirement plans with

financial planning assistance and other educational resources. The goal is to develop effective

practices in the workplace that can be shared with other federal agencies as well as state and

local governments and private sector employers. 35

3.2.4 Work with faith-based communities

Understanding the role that faith-based communities play in building neighborhoods and

supporting their members, the Office of Financial Education, in coordination with the Office of

Community Affairs within the Division of External Affairs, is holding a series of webinars in

2013 with leaders of faith-based organizations to introduce participants to CFPB’s financial

education tools and resources.

34 See CFPB, Transforming the Financial Lives of a Generation of Young Americans: Policy Recommendations for Advancing K-12 Financial Education (April 2013), available at The approach of introducing key financial concepts early and continuing to build on that foundation throughout the K-12 years aligns with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s 2013-2014 strategic focus on “Starting Early for Financial Success.” See supra page 24.

35 This program also aligns with the Financial Literacy and Education Commission’s “Starting Early for Financial Success” strategic focus, which includes an Early Career and Retirement component aimed at helping Americans plan and act for long-term financial well-being early in their careers by promoting financial education and capability in the workplace.



3.2.5 Financial emergency preparedness: partnership with

the Federal Emergency Management Agency

The Office of Financial Education has partnered with the Federal Emergency Management

Agency (FEMA) to help consumers make informed financial decisions when preparing for and

recovering from natural or manmade disasters. FEMA consulted with the Bureau as it prepared

a financial preparedness page on its website, which is available at The Bureau also joined FEMA in a webinar about financial preparedness decision making, which was presented to 939 participants representing

community groups, emergency assistance workers, faith-based organizations, and others. The

Bureau also provided input and a resources link for an Emergency Financial First Aid Kit to be

issued by FEMA.

3.2.6 Servicemembers


In February 2012, Assistant Director Holly Petraeus received a request from Pentagon officials

asking the Office of Servicemember Affairs to assist in the creation of financial planning

materials for all servicemembers leaving the military. Experts from throughout the CFPB

worked with Servicemember Affairs to provide content for the Department of Defense

Transition Assistance Program curriculum. All of the military services are using this material to

assist servicemembers with the financial aspects of planning for a career change. The feedback

during the user testing period ranked the financial education module as the most popular

activity during the week-long transition training workshop.


Servicemember Affairs’ education efforts have included providing subject-matter expertise to

the military legal community. Bureau staff provided instruction on several occasions at The

Judge Advocate General’s Legal Center and School located in Charlottesville, Virginia. The

Offices of Servicemember Affairs and Students also teamed up to provide instruction about

consumer risk in the student loan marketplace during an October 2012 legal assistance training

course. These efforts help advance the Office of Servicemember Affairs’ educational reach by

leveraging the extensive consumer law mission of the Judge Advocate General’s Corps.




In September 2012, the Office of Servicemember Affairs began developing a “just enough and

just in time” financial education experience to equip Delayed Entry Program (DEP) participants

with the information and education needed to make sound financial decisions in certain target

subject areas. DEP participants are individuals who have committed to join the military but have

not yet reported to boot camp. Our DEP education program aims to offer experiential education

that engages the interest and caters to the learning style of the recruit demographic. The Bureau

and the Department of Defense will work together to make course content and materials

available across the varied timelines and geographical locations of future recruits and across the

armed services. Introducing the Bureau as a resource to recruits through DEP should also set

the stage for future financial education efforts.


In March 2013, the Office of Servicemember Affairs teamed up with the Office for Students and

the Office of Consumer Engagement to deliver the Bureau’s first military-focused virtual

financial education forum by means of live webcast. The forum reached nearly 300 military

financial educators, legal assistance attorneys, and on-base college education counselors.

Participants learned about student loan servicing issues for servicemembers and CFPB

resources available to assist them. Content highlights from the event were relayed through social

media channels with a potential reach of approximately 25,000 individuals. External social

media partnerships with the Department of Defense and the Military Family Learning Network

were used to amplify the message to servicemembers stationed overseas, including individuals

at military bases located from the Middle East (Turkey) to East Asia (Okinawa) and a deployed

U.S. Navy unit operating off the coast of West Africa.


The Office of Servicemember Affairs used Military Saves Week in February 2012 as an

opportunity to distribute a video message to military units about the importance of saving for

goals. Military units are able to download the video from YouTube and post it on their own

social media channels. To date, there have been over 2,000 views of the video directly on




3.2.7 Students


The Bureau partnered with the Department of Education to develop a “Financial Aid Shopping

Sheet” to help students and their parents make informed decisions about how to finance

postsecondary educational expenses. 36 Financial aid offers from colleges and universities often fail to make basic information clear, such as how much of a particular aid offer is made up of

loans that need to be paid back and how much comes from grants that do not. The Higher

Education Opportunity Act of 2008 required the Secretary of Education to develop a model

financial aid offer format to help students and their parents make informed decisions about how

to finance postsecondary educational expenses. 37 The shared mission to improve the shopping process for potential student borrowers made the CFPB and the Department of Education

natural partners in a Know Before You Owe project on student loans.

The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is a standardized, easy-to-read form of financial aid award

letter that colleges and universities can send to prospective students. The Shopping Sheet is

designed to allow college applicants to better understand the debt implications of their college

choice and compare the costs of the schools to which they apply.

The agencies released a prototype shopping sheet in October 2011. The Secretary of Education

released the finalized Financial Aid Shopping Sheet in July 2012, and published an open letter to

college and university presidents, calling for schools to voluntarily adopt the shopping sheet.

In April 2012, the President of the United States issued an Executive Order requiring colleges

that accept Department of Defense Tuition Assistance Program funds to provide military

students with an offer letter based on the principles developed for the Financial Aid Shopping

Sheet, in order to provide better information to recipients of military and veteran education benefits. 38 The Executive Order also encourages colleges that accept Post-9/11 G.I. Bill benefits 36 The Financial Aid Shopping Sheet is available at

37 Higher Education Opportunity Act of 2008, Pub. L. No. 110-315, § 484, 122 Stat. 3078, 3286 (codified at 20 U.S.C.

§ 1092 note).

38 Exec. Order No. 13607, 77 Fed. Reg. 25,861 (Apr. 27, 2012).



to do the same. As of May 2013, 737 colleges and universities, with a combined enrollment of

3.47 million students, had voluntarily agreed to adopt the Financial Aid Shopping Sheet.

3.2.8 Older Americans


The Bureau serves as a member agency of the Elder Justice Coordinating Council. The Elder

Justice Coordinating Council was established by the Elder Justice Act of 2009 to coordinate

activities related to elder abuse, neglect, and exploitation across relevant Federal, state, local, and private agencies and entities. 39 The Council is chaired by the Secretary of Health and Human Services (HHS), and the CFPB is one of 11 member agencies, in addition to HHS, that

HHS has identified for membership based on their administering programs related to abuse,

neglect, or financial exploitation of older Americans. The Bureau, through its Office for Older

Americans, is coordinating and building cooperative plans with its Council partners to address

mistreatment of elders. Older Americans’ staff members serve on the Elder Justice Interagency

Working Group that staffs the Council. The Working Group is developing recommendations and

proposed action steps for the Council based on white papers that were submitted by expert

witnesses at the Council’s inaugural meeting in October 2012.


As an outgrowth of meetings between the Office for Older Americans and the Financial Crimes

Enforcement Network (FinCEN), a component of the U.S. Department of the Treasury, FinCEN

developed a report detailing incidences and trends in elder financial exploitation reflected in

Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) that financial institutions sent to FinCEN between February

2011 and August 2012. 40 The May 2013 issue of the SAR Activity Review, a bi-annual FinCEN

publication, includes a summary analysis of the elder financial exploitation report and a

39 Pub. L. No. 111-148, § 6703, 124 Stat. 119, 782 (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 1397k).

40 FinCEN receives and encourages the use of SARs for reporting cases of suspected elder financial exploitation. See Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, Advisory to Financial Institutions on Filing Suspicious Activity Reports, FIN-2011-A003 (Feb. 22, 2011), available at




“Message from the Office for Older Americans.” 41 Helping to heighten awareness of elder financial exploitation among financial institutions that have Bank Secrecy Act reporting

obligations can help to protect the public, since financial institution staff often speak directly

with older consumers who are making large withdrawals or transfers of funds in response to

financial scams.


The Office for Older Americans is assisting older American protection networks of state and

local governments, elder justice advocates, law enforcement agencies, financial service

providers, and other key stakeholders that are working to improve community response to elder

financial exploitation. The primary goals of the networks are to increase prevention of, and

improve collaboration and response to, elder financial exploitation. The Office for Older

Americans staff has been monitoring and participating in network activities such as community

education events; and public awareness campaigns and cross-training programs for

stakeholders, first responders, advocates, and industry professionals.


The CFPB and the Federal Deposit Insurance

Corporation (FDIC) have developed Money Smart

Money Smart for Older Adults

for Older Adults (MSOA), a curriculum for the

provides information for older

FDIC’s Money Smart program to provide older

adults and their caregivers on

consumers and their caregivers with information on

preventing and responding to

preventing and responding to elder financial

elder financial exploitation.

exploitation. 42 Older Americans and the FDIC will

offer several train-the-trainer webinars on the FDIC’s Money Smart online training platform.

Older Americans will also provide primers and train-the-trainer sessions to national non-profit

organizations that have expressed interest in becoming Money Smart Alliance partners for the

41 Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, The SAR Activity Review, Trends Tips and Issues (May 2013), available at

42 Money Smart is a financial education curriculum designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals enhance their financial skills. See FDIC, Money Smart – A Financial Education Program, (last visited June 27, 2013).



distribution of MSOA. The program was released in June 2013. Participant guides are available

for download at, or for order at Instructor materials are available from the FDIC at

3.2.9 Traditionally underserved consumers

The Office of Financial Empowerment is working to integrate financial empowerment strategies

into existing public-sector and non-profit programs that assist low-income and economically

vulnerable people who comprise the traditionally underserved.


The Office of Financial Empowerment is developing a toolkit for front-line staff in organizations

that provide direct social services to consumers. The toolkit will provide staff with tools to

incorporate financial-empowerment support into their work with their clients and to make

effective referrals to specialized providers. The toolkit includes information that staff can share with clients on topics such as emergency savings; understanding, correcting, and building credit

history; managing debt; cash flow budgeting; and identifying financial products to use to pursue

various financial and life goals. The toolkit also includes worksheets and other tools individuals

can use to strengthen their personal money management skills. A pilot program is projected for

fall of 2013. Workshops in local communities and internal staff trainings within national

organizations are projected to reach over 6,000 caseworkers and other front-line staff by mid-

fiscal year 2015. These staff members, in turn, have the potential capacity to reach up to 80,000

low-income and economically vulnerable clients.


The Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act requires that each child age 16

and older in foster care receive annually a free copy of any consumer credit report pertaining to

the child until the child is discharged from foster care, and receive assistance in interpreting and resolving any inaccuracies in the report. 43 State and county child welfare agencies are currently 43 Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act, Pub. L. No. 112-34, § 106, 125 Stat. 369 (Sept. 30, 2011) (codified at 42 U.S.C. § 675(5)(I)); see 42 U.S.C. § 671(a)(16).



working with the national credit reporting agencies to implement these requirements. The Office

of Financial Empowerment is working with stakeholders at the Federal Trade Commission and

the Department of Health and Human Services Children’s Bureau to help streamline the credit

report-pulling procedures for child welfare agencies, and assist them in developing capacity to

appropriately assist foster youth in identifying identity theft, fraud, and errors, and

understanding and resolving inaccuracies in the reports.



4. Research and innovation:

identifying what works

The Bureau is developing and implementing initiatives to educate and empower consumers to

make better-informed financial decisions. This requires that we know what approaches are

effective in improving financial decision making and financial well-being. There has been a

growing realization among experts in financial education, however, that there is not enough

evidence-based evaluation to indicate which financial education strategies are most effective.

According to a 2011 Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on financial literacy,

“[r]elatively few evidence-based evaluations of

financial literacy programs have been conducted,

The Bureau is conducting

limiting what is known about which specific methods

research to build on current

and strategies are most effective.” 44 The CFPB is

knowledge of what approaches

taking up this challenge to provide stronger evidence

to financial education are

of what works, in order to support and guide efforts

effective and how to measure

to improve the effectiveness and quality of financial


education, and therefore improve consumer decision

making and outcomes.

The Bureau is pursuing a research agenda to help inform its financial education work and

ultimately to serve consumers. From a statutory perspective, there are a number of mandates

that are served by the Bureau’s financial education research strategy. For example, the Dodd-

Frank Act requires the Office of Financial Education, together with the Office of Research, to

44 U.S. Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-614, Financial Literacy: A Federal Certification Process for Providers Would Pose Challenge s (June 28, 2011), at Highlights, available at



“conduct research related to consumer financial education and counseling.” 45 The statute also charges the Office for Older Americans with conducting research to identify “best practices and

effective methods, tools, technologies and strategies to educate and counsel seniors about

personal finance management . . ..” 46 In addition, the Bureau’s strategy to include research as a tool to improve the financial literacy of consumers is consistent with FLEC’s National

Strategy. 47

The Office of Financial Education, in coordination with the Office of Research, has developed a

research program that focuses on (1) determining how to measure financial well-being, and

identifying the knowledge, skills, and habits associated with financially capable consumers, (2)

evaluating the effectiveness of existing approaches to improving financial decision making and

outcomes, and (3) developing and evaluating new approaches. Current projects are focused on

the following:

 Evaluating the effectiveness of financial coaching programs and identifying the specific

elements that are effective and why;

 Developing measures of financial well-being for working age and older Americans, and

determining what types of knowledge, skills, and habits are associated with those

measures of financial well-being;

 Piloting and evaluating approaches to enhance the financial capability of low-income and

economically vulnerable consumers by integrating financial capability-enhancing

products or services with other types of financial products and services that consumers

want or use; and

45 12 U.S.C. § 5493(d)(3)(B).

46 12 U.S.C. § 5493(g)(3)(D).

47 See Financial Literacy & Education Commission, Promoting Financial Success in the United States: National Strategy for Financial Literacy 2011, at 11 (Goal 4), available at




 Piloting and evaluating innovative approaches to address common consumer financial

decision-making challenges.

These projects are described further below.

4.1 Financial education evaluation project

The Bureau is conducting a quantitative evaluation of two existing financial coaching programs.

Financial coaching generally involves one-on-one sessions with clients to increase clients’

awareness of their financial decisions and to provide support for clients to reach financial goals

mutually set by the coach and client. 48

Based upon preliminary evidence of the programs’ effectiveness, their willingness to participate

in a rigorous evaluation, program size, diversity of geography and client base, and other factors,

the CFPB selected two community-based financial coaching providers for the evaluation. The

evaluation will use a randomized control trial to determine the extent to which the selected sites’

financial coaching strategies increase household non-retirement savings and reduce financial

distress among program participants. The two evaluations have begun, and final results are

expected in early 2015.

The project also includes a peer-learning component, comprising a network of eight financial

education programs focused on improving financial decision making and outcomes, and

researchers engaged in rigorous evaluation of the programs. The first meeting of the peer-

learning network was held in April 2013. The meeting facilitated the sharing of programmatic

best practices and evaluation methodologies that promote effective financial education


48 See generally University of Wisconsin Cooperative Extension, Financial Coaching Strategies, (last visited June 27, 2013).



4.2 Measuring financial well-being

The CFPB is conducting a research project to develop measures of financial well-being for

working age and older American consumers. To this end, the project is focused on learning:

 What knowledge and behavior predict financial well-being;

 The importance of financial knowledge relative to other factors (personal traits and

social context) in improving financial well-being; and,

 How to effectively measure financial knowledge, behavior, and well-being in order to

assess consumer financial well-being and effectiveness of financial education.

The Bureau has completed background research and developed a detailed qualitative research

plan, to be implemented in 2013, to develop definitions of financial well-being for working-age

and older Americans and hypotheses regarding the drivers of financial well-being. The

qualitative research will involve interviews and surveys with both consumers and various types

of financial professionals, such as financial educators, advisers, planners, coaches, tax preparers, and credit counselors. In 2014, the Bureau will create survey items to test the hypotheses it has

developed about the determinants of financial well-being. The next step will be to use the survey

items to qualitatively test the hypotheses.

The products of this project should allow the CFPB, other government agencies, and others

involved in financial education to further hone informed approaches to improving consumer

financial well-being. Further, by creating or vetting rigorously developed measures of consumer

financial knowledge, behavior, well-being, and related factors, the project will create a strong

basis for evaluating financial education policies and programs. More specifically, these metrics

should significantly increase the ability of the CFPB, other government agencies, and other

financial education providers to select approaches that make the biggest difference in improving

consumer outcomes.



4.3 Building financial capability through

product design and program delivery

The Office of Financial Empowerment is conducting a three-phase research, evaluation, and

pilot project that will help the Bureau determine whether the financial capability of low-income

and economically vulnerable consumers can be enhanced through bundled financial products

(such as a prepaid card that also has a savings function) and/or integration of financial coaching

and counseling into the offering of financial products.

The Bureau is currently completing the research phase of the project. This research has entailed

a scan of the field to build a comprehensive database of existing strategies, products, or

programs that seek to help consumers build positive credit histories and savings through

bundled products and bundled services; a literature review of existing research on savings and

credit building strategies, products, or programs focused on economically vulnerable

consumers; and a report documenting findings of discussions with academic and practitioner

experts on types of barriers for consumers, program features that overcome those barriers, and

recommendations for specific types of programs the Bureau should consider for evaluation. The

second phase of the project, scheduled to begin in summer 2013, will be a randomized control

trial of two programs, designed to determine whether the programs are successful in building

the credit histories and/or savings of economically vulnerable consumers. The third phase,

expected to begin in 2015, will be a pilot project involving two “ideal case” approaches identified in the research and evaluation stages.

4.4 Innovation pilots project

A wide range of financial education and empowerment practices are currently in use by

organizations and institutions that are involved in financial education, asset building, and

related services. Many of these provide significant benefit to consumers. However, as discussed

above, many American consumers are still struggling to manage their financial lives and make

the financial decisions that will best serve their own life goals. Innovative approaches to

financial education and financial empowerment can help consumers face these challenges.

Information alone is not always sufficient in leading to financial decisions that will serve one’s

life goals. According to a 2011 GAO report on financial literacy, “[i]nsights from behavioral

economics, which blends economics with psychology, have been used to design strategies apart



from education to assist consumers in reaching goals without compromising their ability to

choose approaches or products.” 49 This GAO report discusses effective practices such as changing the default option, using commitment mechanisms, simplifying decisions, and

leveraging the impact of peer support and influence in leading to desirable consumer financial

outcomes. Using such strategies has the potential to lead to more effective financial education

and empowerment efforts.

In order to meet its goal of promoting effective financial education practices, the CFPB is

conducting an innovation pilot project to develop prototypes of approaches to help consumers

overcome common decision-making challenges and then evaluate the effectiveness of the

approaches. When final results become available in 2014, the Bureau expects that this project

will increase knowledge of innovative approaches to improve financial capability, which can

strengthen financial education content and strategy both within the CFPB and among a range of

external stakeholders who serve consumers. The project may also inform policy at the CFPB, by

providing insights into how consumers respond to product features and other aspects of the

decision-making context.

49 See Government Accountability Office, GAO-11-614, Financial Literacy: A Federal Certification Process for Providers Would Pose Challenge s (June 28, 2011), at 18, available at



5. Outreach: sharing

information and forging

relationships to reach


In order to accomplish its financial education strategy, the Bureau is engaging extensively with

consumers, as well as a wide range of organizations that interact with consumers in their

financial lives or have insight into the financial challenges consumers face. These organizations,

which include financial education providers, federal, state, and local government agencies,

financial institutions, and various other private and

non-profit organizations, are essential conduits

The Bureau is engaging with a

through which we can reach and assist consumers.

wide range of organizations in

This outreach work both informs our strategy on an

order to reach a larger portion of

ongoing basis and enables us to forge relationships

the American public with

with organizations that are relevant to financial

effective financial education

capability and that can deliver value to the public.


More specifically, through our outreach efforts we do

the following.

 We introduce the Bureau, the financial education component of its mission, and its

financial education resources to consumers, financial education providers, and others.

This helps to make the Bureau known as a source for information and tools for

navigating the financial marketplace, and as a potential partner for financial education

initiatives and research.

 We learn about consumers’ financial needs, aspirations, and experiences and the

challenges that both consumers and financial education providers face, and hear



recommendations for what the Bureau can do to improve consumers’ financial capability

or augment the efforts of existing financial education providers. This information

informs the Bureau’s financial education strategy and initiatives.

 We forge relationships and lay the groundwork for collaborative action, as we identify

opportunities to leverage existing resources and strengthen existing approaches, or

initiate new ones.

 We pave a two-way street for sharing information and developing comprehensive

approaches, so that we can broadly share the fruits of our education and research and

innovation initiatives, and the effective financial education and research work of other

organizations, and amplify the effects of successful efforts.

Highlights of the Bureau’s financial education outreach efforts are set forth below.

5.1 Financial education

During its first two years of operation, the Office of Financial Education engaged with

consumers and a wide range of financial education providers and other stakeholders to

introduce the Bureau and its financial education mission and resources, engage in a dialogue to

shape its financial education strategy and initiatives, and build relationships for collaborative

efforts. In addition to reaching 7.3 million consumers with tax refund inserts, the Office of

Financial Education has reached more than 15,000 individuals through these efforts. Highlights

include the following.


In partnership with the Department of Treasury’s Fiscal Bureau, the Office of Financial

Education provided CFPB inserts for approximately 7.3 million tax refund checks. The inserts

introduced the Bureau and its mission and provided information about how to access Ask CFPB

for answers to questions about financial products and services and how to submit a complaint.


The Office of Financial Education published a request for information on effective financial

education in the Federal Register in August 2012, and received over 100 comments from

organizations, individuals, financial institutions, and other entities addressing consumers’



common financial decision-making challenges, common challenges in providing financial

education, challenges around research and data, and promising practices and approaches. 50 In May 2013 the Bureau issued a report summarizing the comments and the results of the listening

sessions. The report, Feedback from the Financial Education Field, is available at


The Office of Financial Education held a series of four listening sessions in 2012 with financial

educators and financial institutions in New York, San Francisco, rural Mississippi, and St. Louis.

The listening sessions in New York focused on general financial education topics, while the other

sessions focused, respectively, on innovation in financial education, rural-specific concerns in

financial education, and research needs in this field. Through these sessions, OFE met with

approximately 120 individuals and organizations that collectively serve thousands of individual



The Office of Financial Education has conducted over 300 meetings with a wide range of key

financial education stakeholders, including financial educators, community leaders, and

organizations that could provide insight into financial education needs of consumers. These

organizations included faith-based organizations; organizations that serve minority populations

and/or communities of color, immigrant populations, rural communities, and Native

Americans; and domestic and international financial education organizations. The meetings

have focused on what challenges these stakeholders face when serving consumers and what the

Bureau can do to help them better address the financial education needs of their constituencies.


The Office of Financial Education has conducted a series of online presentations featuring

experts within the CFPB in order to disseminate information about the CFPB and its financial

education resources, and provide learning opportunities for financial education providers. These

webinars have reached approximately 900 participants representing organizations such as

50 See Request for Information on Effective Financial Education, 77 Fed. Reg. 46069 (Aug. 2, 2012), available at



financial institutions, academic institutions, non-profit organizations, and other government

agencies that can use the resources to serve consumers directly, or share them with constituents

that serve consumers. We further expand our reach by participating in webinars offered by other

federal agencies and entities.

5.2 Servicemembers

Since its formation in January 2011, the CFPB’s Office of Servicemember Affairs has conducted

a wide range of outreach to deliver financial education information to military and veteran

consumers and interested organizations, build a digital network, and build relationships with

other federal agencies and state and local governments to serve the needs of servicemembers

and veterans.


Servicemember Affairs has conducted 112 outreach events, delivering consumer financial

education information to more than 33,380 military and veteran consumers. These events have

included reaching out to servicemembers where they live and work by visiting 51 military

installations/National Guard units and participating in 20 town halls and 33 roundtable

discussions with senior military leaders. At these events, Servicemember Affairs leadership and

staff listened to servicemembers discuss the financial challenges they face, observed financial

education training, and provided educational information.


The Office of Servicemember Affairs participated in 75 outreach events sponsored by external

organizations seeking educational information about the office and the CFPB. Servicemember

Affairs also delivered financial education information and updates about the work of the office

through the Bureau’s and other stakeholders’ digital social media properties. Servicemember

Affairs launched its own branded social media properties to serve the military and veteran

communities in November 2012. Between launch and March 31, 2013, the channels reached an

average of 4,356 users per week.


The Office of Servicemember Affairs has worked with the Federal Trade Commission, Board of

Governors of the Federal Reserve System, Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, and Federal



Housing Finance Agency, and the Departments of Defense, Veterans Affairs, Justice, Housing

and Urban Development, Education, Treasury, and Labor to raise awareness of the CFPB’s

mission and Servicemember Affairs’ specific efforts on behalf of the military and veteran

community. At the state level, the Bureau’s efforts have centered on introducing state and local

resources to the military community. Military consumer-focused events included the

participation of twenty state National Guard Adjutants General and the Attorneys General of

sixteen states. The Office of Servicemember Affairs has also established regular communications

with all the state Directors of Veteran Affairs.

5.3 Students

The Office for Students engages with younger consumers and stakeholders throughout the

higher education community by conducting direct outreach on college campuses, by hosting

events with college students and student advocates, and by participating in conferences. The

Office for Students has leveraged these relationships as distribution channels for the programs

and products developed to help younger consumers make smarter choices in the marketplace.


The Office for Students meets regularly with students, campus leaders, and student advocates.

To date the Office for Students has met in person with more than 600 individuals from

organizations that collectively represent tens of thousands of students from over 20 states.


In partnership with the Consumer Engagement team, the Office for Students has hosted

webinars to demonstrate the features of our Paying for College suite of tools. These webinars are

attended by a range of audiences including students, student advocates, financial aid advisers,

and college counselors. Since the launch of the first Paying for College cost comparison tool in

April 2012, the Office for Students has conducted more than a dozen webinars and in-person



In an effort to inform consumers about the complaint process and Consumer Response, the

Office for Students sent letters to more than 7,000 college and university officials across the

country, notified state banking regulators in all 50 states, and hosted a series of conference calls 54


with student groups, college and university officials, consumer groups, and customer advocates

at major financial institutions.

5.4 Older Americans

The Office for Older Americans has engaged in extensive outreach with older consumers and

other stakeholders to learn what efforts have been underway to strengthen the financial literacy

of older consumers, and to engage them in the office’s work to help older consumers protect

themselves from unfair, deceptive, and abusive practices and strengthen their financial

capability with current and future financial choices. In furtherance of these goals, the Office for Older Americans has held or participated in over 200 events, which have been attended by more

than 7,900 people. Participants have included, among others, older consumers, public officials,

and representatives from financial institutions, the consumer services industry, consumer

advocacy organizations, and other stakeholders. Highlights include the following.


The Office for Older Americans made presentations at the June 2012 World Elder Abuse

Awareness Day conference at the White House; the State of Illinois’ Elder Rights Conference;

the Association of Anti-Money Laundering Specialists Conference; the annual meeting of the

California District Attorneys Association; the Adult Abuse Training Institute/Hunter College

(NY State); the Utah State Senior Expo; and the National Association of State Securities

Administrators National Investor Education training conference for 120 state securities

administrators. Older Americans also made presentations to the National Committee to Prevent

Elder Abuse, the National Adult Protective Services Association, the National Center for Victims

of Crime, and the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions.


The Office for Older Americans issued a request for information in the Federal Register in June

2012, and received over one thousand comments in response to specific questions about senior

financial exploitation and financial literacy efforts, including questions about how to protect



seniors from fraudulent or misleading use of senior designations by financial advisers to imply

specialized expertise in financial planning for older consumers. 51


The Office for Older Americans held public listening sessions in Washington, D.C. and San

Francisco in 2012 to obtain input from consumer advocates, industry professionals, and

regulators on the use of senior designations for financial advisers. These sessions helped inform

the Bureau’s findings and observations for its report and recommendations on the use of senior

designations. 52


The Office for Older Americans convened an invitational, interdisciplinary Research Roundtable

on Elder Financial Exploitation in April 2013. The goals of the Roundtable were to assess the

current state of research on how to protect older Americans from financial exploitation; obtain

input from experts on what additional research is needed to advance protections in this area;

generate ideas on appropriate and promising research methodologies; and help the Bureau

shape its own research agenda on this topic. Attendees included leading academic researchers

on aging issues as well as colleagues from other federal agencies that are members of the Elder

Justice Coordinating Council (Administration on Aging and National Institute on Aging,

Department of Health and Human Services; Department of Justice; Social Security


5.5 Traditionally underserved consumers

A key aspect of the early and continuing work of the Office of Financial Empowerment has been

outreach to entities at the local, state, and national level that are concerned with the financial

stability of low-income and economically vulnerable people and their use of financial products

51 77 Fed. Reg. 36491 (June 19, 2012), available at


52 CFPB, Senior Designations for Financial Advisers: Reducing Consumer Confusion and Risks (April 18, 2013), available at



and services, in order to inform Empowerment strategies. These organizations include social

service agencies, municipal agencies, financial institutions, product developers, researchers,

civil rights and consumer organizations, organizations that serve communities of color, and



In November 2012, the Office of Financial Empowerment brought together over 100

representatives of financial institutions, prudential regulators and other government agencies,

consumer and civil rights organizations, municipal officials, local program administrators,

researchers, and others for the Bureau’s first national Financial Empowerment Convening. The working sessions of the convening were organized in three tracks representing the driving

themes of Empowerment’s work: access, data, and scale.


The Office of Financial Empowerment held listening sessions in San Francisco, Seattle, New

York, St. Louis, Cincinnati, Dallas, and Louisville. At these sessions, 131 participants from 87

organizations shared information on their financial education/empowerment efforts and on

low-income consumers’ experience with financial products, including barriers in accessing

credit and bank accounts and debt traps they encounter.


The Offices of Financial Empowerment and Financial Education participated in a one-day free

health clinic attended by approximately 1,200 patients and 1,000 volunteers. Empowerment

and Financial Education staff provided CFPB consumer financial education publications in

English and Spanish to clinic patients and spoke to approximately 100 patients about financial



On March 5, 2013, the Offices of Financial Empowerment and Financial Education hosted a

webinar that reached over 300 Legal Aid and Legal Services entities. These “first responders”

work with low-income and economically vulnerable consumers every day; their insights and

information are important to understanding the financial challenges faced by these consumers.

The webinar provided participants with information about the Bureau’s consumer protection

tools, including Ask CFPB and the complaint process.



6. Conclusion

All Americans, regardless of income and level of educational attainment, need to be able to

evaluate the choices available to them in the financial marketplace and understand the

implications of their financial decisions in order to build secure financial futures. The Bureau’s

statutory function to educate and empower consumers to make better informed financial

decisions has created an enormous opportunity to reach consumers at the right moment with

targeted information, tools, and signposts so that consumers can increase their financial

management skills and money confidence. In its first two years, the Bureau has launched a

broad range of initiatives to provide consumers with information, resources, and opportunities

to develop the knowledge and skills to manage their financial resources effectively and plan for

future life events. Working side by side with other governmental agencies, the private and non-

profit sectors, schools, workplaces, and faith communities, the Bureau looks forward to

continuing to serve the public in this manner in the years to come. Financially capable

consumers are essential to fully and responsibly harness the financial system’s tremendous

capacity to enhance economic stability and opportunity to help all people in America to reach

their life goals.