Gail Hillebrand, CFPB Associate Director, on the Money As You Grow Book Club
WASHINGTON, D.C. (September 15, 2016) — Thank you for joining us. Today’s call is not to discuss new regulations or to announce an action that the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is taking against bad actors in the financial marketplace. Today we are talking instead about the importance of building financial capability in our young people and describing how we are working to ensure parents have the resources they need to talk to their kids about money. Specifically, I want to highlight our recently created “Money as You Grow” book club, a resource that lets parents and caregivers use children’s books as a way to discuss financial concepts and issues with their children at different stages in their development.
Here at the Consumer Bureau, financial education is a critical part of our mission. As part of this mission, we are committed to helping consumers increase their own financial capability in order to make sound choices to attain financial well-being and achieve their life goals.
Our Office of Financial Education has undertaken research to define what financial well-being is and how consumers can achieve it. What we have found is that embarking on a successful financial journey in life requires building the foundations of financial capability from a young age. Unfortunately, too many families simply avoid talking about money at all. There are many reasons for this, such as sensitivity or embarrassment or uncertainty, which can make parents feel that it is taboo to talk about the family’s finances. Some people might just not know how to get started talking about money with their children. Whatever the reason, we need to help parents overcome their hesitations if we are going to ensure that our young people can be better prepared to make sound financial decisions later in life.
Fortunately for parents and caregivers, the process of developing financial capability in young people does not simply involve teaching them about dollars and cents. Last week, we released a report entitled, “Building Blocks to Help Youth Achieve Financial Capability.” It shows that building financial capability in young people involves developing a range of abilities at different stages. For example, the report recommends ways to support the growth of executive function skills in early childhood, such as setting goals, making decisions, and sharing and prioritizing activities. As young people build these skills, they are gaining not only knowledge but also the abilities that will help make them more financially capable down the road.
To make it easier for parent and caregivers to teach young people about money, the Bureau launched our “Money as You Grow” web page this past March, which builds on some really fine work that was done by the President’s Council on Financial Literacy and Beth Kobliner, chair of the Council’s Money as You Grow working group. We believe these resources will make it easier for parents and caregivers to talk to children about money topics. “Money as You Grow” is filled with activities for each age group, from children only three years old to teenagers and young adults. The activities, conversation starters, and tips that make up “Money as You Grow” are fun and interactive ways for parents and caregivers to help young people develop money skills and habits that serve as an important part of the foundation for their financial futures.
Our Book Club is a key part of our “Money as You Grow” resources. It currently features nine books intended for children ages 4 to 10. Going forward, we plan to add one new book each month that parents and caregivers can read with their children. Reading books with children is a creative way to learn about the many aspects of money management. The Book Club can help parents and caregivers by supporting their efforts to discuss money concepts through reading the stories and focusing on the ideas and characters in each book.
The books we have selected are popular children’s books that are easily accessible in libraries, at bookstores, and online. In making selections for the Book Club, we emphasized key ideas that are important to both childhood development as well as building the foundations of financial capability. The first category is planning, where the key ideas are setting goals, prioritizing, solving problems, and making decisions. The second category is money, where the key ideas are earning, spending, saving, and sharing and borrowing. And the third category has to do with behavior patterns, such as self-control, follow-through, staying true to yourself, and flexibility.
Each of the nine books contains between two and four of the key ideas just mentioned. To take an example, in the book “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday,” the title character makes mistakes with his money and learns that it is important to exercise self-control and save money to buy things he really wants. After reading “Just Shopping with Mom,” parents and caregivers can discuss with their child how shopping at the grocery store means spending wisely on priority items and saying “no” to some of the things you might want to buy. When parents or caregivers visit the “Money as You Grow” page, they can download discussion guides for each of the nine books. Each provides guidance about how to use the book to talk about the relevant ideas relating to money, what questions to ask, and some activities to reinforce the key ideas.
We know that when it comes to delivering value to consumers, we need to meet people where they are with the information and support they need. One of our most promising partnerships is with a large and growing number of libraries across the country. Our goal is for the Bureau to help libraries become the go-to place for people to learn more about how to deal with their financial affairs. For this reason, we have created hard copies of the discussion guides from our “Money as You Grow” Book Club. Libraries can order the discussion guides for free from our website, consumerfinance.gov, and then can offer to share them with their library patrons.
For too long in this country, our young people have been forced to learn about money the hard way. Lacking proper financial education, they end up learning in the so-called “school of hard knocks” where they repeat the same mistakes others have made before them – mistakes that can harm them for the rest of their lives. This does not have to be the case, and it should not be the case. We all bear responsibility to make sure that people can get the education and resources they need, starting at a young age, to become financially capable consumers. The “Money as You Grow” Book Club is a golden opportunity for parents and caregivers to talk about money topics and instill important financial values in their children. The lessons learned from these stories will help our young people gain the building blocks of financial capability that they can build on as they grow into adult consumers. So we appreciate your spending time with us today and helping us spread the word about how we can make progress in this important area, which is pivotal to creating a stronger economy and improving people’s lives. Thank you.
About Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
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 consumerfinance.gov.