CFPB Working For You: Empowering Low-Income Consumers
By Consumers Union on Tuesday, August 5th, 2014
It’s not unusual to feel bewildered when faced with complicated banking fee policies or pages of fine print when you’re trying to get a loan. Many consumers worry that they don’t have enough financial savvy to reach their goals.
We’ve heard from frustrated consumers like Yolia of Washington, DC, who told us that money concerns gave her doubts about starting a family. She wants to take control of her finances, but can’t understand why her bank is charging her so many overdraft fees:
“I have been trying to train myself to be more diligent in my finances. My husband and I are planning on having a family soon, but when moments like these occur it is discouraging and scary to think this stuff can happen. Money is not an object we need for only pleasures in life, but for the simple things, security and the ability to help others when their in need. I have over drafted multiple times. A few of those times, overdrafts were results of careless money management. I will admit that. But a lot of the occurrences of overdrafts were because I didn’t know anything about holds; and payments taken, put back in my account and taken again.”
Low-income consumers face a unique set of challenges in managing their money. Some struggle to find affordable banking services. Many are overburdened by debt. And all labor to pay their bills and handle unexpected expenses on a very tight budget. As banking and lending policies become increasingly complicated, consumers need free, reliable advice to help them handle their finances.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) is here to help. They’re training social workers and other social services staff to give money management advice and hands-on instruction to their clients. They’ve created a training toolkit called “Your Money, Your Goals” that anyone can use to learn how to teach others to manage debt, deal with credit reports, and save money. This low-cost strategy aims to educate those who often feel powerless as they try to correct errors on their credit reports or create a workable budget.
This is just part of the CFPB’s work to protect and empower consumers. For example, take a moment to look at some of the consumer stories videotaped by the CFPB. The videos explain how the CFPB intervened to help consumers who had almost given up hope resolve their disputes with banks and other financial services providers.
You, too, can get help from the CFPB. If you need help with a bank, lender, or other company, you can submit a complaint to them online, by fax or mail, or by calling 855-411-CFPB and they will contact the company for you to work to get it resolved. They’ve also assembled a database of easy-to-read advice, where you can also submit your own questions.
Unfortunately, the big banks don’t like having such an effective advocate working on behalf of consumers. The banks and their supporters in Congress are working to pass bills that could undermine the CFPB. Please let your lawmakers in Congress know that you want them to vote NO on these anti-consumer bills!
Have you ever been helped by the CFPB? We’re collecting consumer stories to educate others about their important work. Please share your story here!