If we can reach people at key decision-making moments—when they are making choices about where to live or work, or how to educate their kids or themselves—we can have a great influence on their financial decisions. The book What It's Worth identifies the community partnerships we can build to reach people in these key moments. It also catalogs the latest research on the real financial lives of Americans, and how concepts of financial health and well-being shape our thinking about the goals of our work. This session explored these themes and how a financial counselor can deploy services to lead to behavior changing impact and have a meaningful career.
Household financial health and well-being is the bridge to a better life, a better community, and a better economy. Our challenge is to make that idea intuitive to policymakers in all parts of society—education, health, housing, justice, the financial markets; to the financial services sector in all its manifestations; and to all those who work with and employ ordinary Americans, particularly those of modest means. As Federal Reserve Board Chair Janet Yellen reminds us in her foreword, a large share of Americans extraordinarily financially vulnerable.
Financial capability is an important strategy to reach household financial health and well-being, which is in turn a bridge to much more. Recognizing that the success of a myriad of the nation’s social programs and strategies in education, health, workforce development, community development, criminal justice reform, and elsewhere depends on financially healthy families, we need to embed effective financial capability strategies into all these systems. That means giving people the information, tools, and opportunity to make financial decisions in real time that are right for them in the short- and long-term. At the same time, we cannot let the financial services sector and other private market players off the hook. They have an obligation to rebuild trust and provide the products and services that facilitate financial health and well-being. Government, too, has a role, in making policy, including tax policy, implementing programs, and in regulating. Above all else, What It’s Worth shows that moving toward a more equal society and improving the overall economic health of this country depends on the state of financial health and well-being of every one of us.