Our submission to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s request for information on its financial education programs:
Financial literacy is a global concern. Dozens of countries, including the U.S., have formal strategies for educating the public about personal financial matters. Financial education is top of mind among many of the 50 state treasurers too. Conferences on the topic are held worldwide, and academics have produced at least 1,400 research papers looking at personal financial habits and how to improve them.
This is a broad but disparate effort, and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is uniquely situated to seize control of the issue and set the global agenda. The bureau has emerged as the leading financial literacy voice in the U.S., which is among the most energized nations on Earth as it relates to financial education. The bureau gathers information, offers learning materials and encourages and leads research. It is a trusted source of vetted financial advice. Pulling back now, as the issue gains traction, would be a mistake.
The current administration clearly has a different view than predecessors on consumer protection. That is fine. Lose the heavy hand on enforcement and rulemaking if you must. Let the free markets work. All the more reason to double down on financial literacy. This is not a political position. It is a clear need, especially in a free-market economy, and has been recognized as such on both sides of the aisle. Just about everyone agrees financial education can make a difference for individuals and, collectively, for the economy. There are no losers, political or otherwise, if the bureau remains empowered to lead this charge.
As the U.S. and others move further from private pensions and institutional financial security, personal financial knowledge and responsibility can fill the gaps. But this knowledge will not just happen. We need research, programs, campaigns, leadership, learning materials, and big ideas. The bureau is already there. Let it continue its important work in this area.