February 12, 2015
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has issued its latest Strategic Plan, Budget, and Performance Plan and Report. I was critical of last year’s strategic plan as it related to financial education. I felt that the CFPB was too optimistic about the efficacy of financial education, given the current state of research on this topic.
I was impressed, however, by the CFPB’s approach in this year’s strategic plan:
The CFPB believes that financial education’s primary goal is to help consumers to take the steps necessary to make choices that will improve their financial well-being and help them reach their own life goals. However, prior to the start of the CFPB’s work, very little empirical research had been conducted in the financial education field regarding what variables measure financial health in terms of real-world outcomes for consumers. By defining these variables through data-driven research, the Bureau will be able to define what knowledge and skills are associated with financial health. This research will inform the Bureau’s ongoing efforts to identify, highlight, and spread effective approaches to financial education. (64)
I am pleased that the CFPB appears to be more skeptical about the efficacy of consumer education in this strategic plan and that is reflected in its performance measure:
FY 2013: Identify variables that are likely to be key drivers of financial health
FY 2014: Develop and test metrics (questions) that accurately measure these variables
FY2015: Develop and implement framework for integration into Consumer Education and Engagement Activities; Complete testing financial health metrics
FY2016: Use metrics to establish a baseline of U.S. consumer financial well-being and begin testing hypotheses of identified success factors in consumer financial decision-making (64-65)
This performance measure does not make assumptions about the efficacy of financial education. By treating the topic like a blank slate, it is more likely that the Bureau will be able to avoid dead ends and blind alleys as it attempts to help people to navigate the world of consumer finance.
This is not to say that the Bureau will necessarily be successful. But it does appear that the Bureau is not falling for some of the wishful thinking that some of those in the financial education field have succumbed to.| Permalink