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Highlights

The Financial Literacy and Education Improvement Act created, in December 2003, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission. Responding to the act's mandate that GAO assess the Commission's effectiveness, this report reviews its progress in (1) developing a national strategy; (2) developing a Web site and hotline; and (3) coordinating federal efforts and promoting partnerships among the federal, state, local, nonprofit, and private sectors. To address these objectives, GAO analyzed Commission documents, interviewed financial literacy representatives, and benchmarked the national strategy against GAO's criteria for such strategies.

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Recommendations

Recommendations for Executive Action

Agency Affected Recommendation Status
Department of the Treasury To help ensure that the National Strategy for Financial Literacy serves its goal of improving the nation's financial literacy and education, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other agency representatives of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, should incorporate into the national strategy a concrete definition for financial literacy and education to help define the scope of the Commission's work.
Closed - Implemented
In its April 2008 update to the National Strategy for Financial Literacy, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission included in its introductory section concrete definitions for "financial literacy" and "financial education."
Department of the Treasury To help ensure that the National Strategy for Financial Literacy serves its goal of improving the nation's financial literacy and education, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other agency representatives of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, should incorporate into the national strategy clear, specific goals and performance measures that would serve as indicators of the nation's progress in improving financial literacy and benchmarks for what the Commission sets out to achieve.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Financial Literacy and Education Commission released a new strategy in 2011 and subsequently has produced an accompanying implementation plan (still in draft). The strategy and plan do not include the types of goals, performance and benchmarks that we recommended.
Department of the Treasury To help ensure that the National Strategy for Financial Literacy serves its goal of improving the nation's financial literacy and education, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other agency representatives of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, should incorporate into the national strategy actions needed to accomplish these goals, so that the strategy serves as a true implementation plan.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Financial Literacy and Education Commission released a new strategy in 2011 and subsequently has produced an accompanying implementation plan (still in draft). The strategy and plan do not include the types of concrete actions that we recommended that would achieve specific goals and benchmarks and make the documents true implementation plans.
Department of the Treasury To help ensure that the National Strategy for Financial Literacy serves its goal of improving the nation's financial literacy and education, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other agency representatives of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, should incorporate into the national strategy a description of the resources required, which would help provide policymakers information on allocating resources and directing implementation of the strategy.
Closed - Not Implemented
The Financial Literacy and Education Commission released a new strategy in 2011 and subsequently has produced an accompanying implementation plan (still in draft). The strategy and plan do not include a description of the resources required to help allocate these resources or direct implementation of the strategy.
Department of the Treasury To help ensure that the National Strategy for Financial Literacy serves its goal of improving the nation's financial literacy and education, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other agency representatives of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission, should incorporate into the national strategy a discussion of appropriate roles and responsibilities for federal agencies and others, to help promote a coordinated and efficient effort.
Closed - Implemented
The Financial Literacy and Education Commission released a new national strategy in 2011. It also has produced an accompanying implementation plan, which is still in draft form and expected to be released publicly by the end of September 2011. The draft implementation plan incorporates a discussion of appropriate roles and responsibilities for federal agencies and others. For example, it outlines what actions are the responsibility of the Commission as a whole, its working groups, and federal agencies, respectively, and it encouraged roles as well for non-federal entities.
Department of the Treasury To ensure that the My Money Web site best serves consumers seeking financial education, the Secretary of the Treasury and other representatives of the Commission should provide for its Web site subcommittee to conduct usability testing to measure the quality of users' experiences with the Commission's Web site.
Closed - Not Implemented
According to the Treasury Department, the MyMoney website was completely redesigned in 2009. Although a number of best practices were incorporated into that redesign, consumer usability testing was not among them and has not been conducted to date.
Department of the Treasury To ensure that the My Money Web site best serves consumers seeking financial education, the Secretary of the Treasury and other representatives of the Commission should provide for its Web site subcommittee to measure customer satisfaction with the site, using whatever tools deemed appropriate, such as online surveys, focus groups, and e-mail feedback forms.
Closed - Implemented
From mid-September through mid-December 2008, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission measured customer satisfaction of its MyMoney.gov Web site by using a Web-based survey accessible through a link on the site. The survey included questions about the characteristics of the user as well as the user's impressions, complaints, and suggestions about the site.
Department of the Treasury To help ensure the efficient use of federal resources, the Secretary of the Treasury, in conjunction with the Commission, should provide for an independent third party to carry out the review of duplication and overlap among federal financial literacy activities as well as the review of the availability, utilization, and impact of federal financial literacy materials.
Closed - Implemented
In late 2008, the Treasury Department signed a volunteer service agreement with a doctoral student whose field of study includes program evaluation to collect, analyze, and report available data on the availability and duplication of financial education resources offered by federal agencies that are members of the Financial Literacy and Education Commission.
Financial Literacy and Education Commission To encourage effective and efficient use of scarce human and financial resources, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other representatives of the Commission, should consider ways to expand upon current efforts to cultivate sustainable partnerships with nonprofit and private entities. As part of these efforts, the Commission should consider additional ways that federal agencies could coordinate their efforts with those of private organizations that have wide networks of resources at the community level. The Commission should also explore additional ways that the federal government might encourage and facilitate the efforts of state and local governments to improve financial literacy.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2007, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission established the National Financial Education Network, a network of state and local governments designed to communicate and collaborate on projects and ideas related to improving financial literacy. In January 2008, with the backing of the Treasury Department, the President created the President's Council on Financial Literacy, which consists of 16 members representing both nonprofit and private entities and tasked, in part, with working together with the public and private sectors to improve financial literacy.
Department of the Treasury To encourage effective and efficient use of scarce human and financial resources, the Secretary of the Treasury, in concert with other representatives of the Commission, should consider ways to expand upon current efforts to cultivate sustainable partnerships with nonprofit and private entities. As part of these efforts, the Commission should consider additional ways that federal agencies could coordinate their efforts with those of private organizations that have wide networks of resources at the community level. The Commission should also explore additional ways that the federal government might encourage and facilitate the efforts of state and local governments to improve financial literacy.
Closed - Implemented
In April 2007, the Financial Literacy and Education Commission established the National Financial Education Network, a network of state and local governments designed to communicate and collaborate on projects and ideas related to improving financial literacy. In January 2008, with the backing of the Treasury Department, the President created the President's Council on Financial Literacy, which consists of 16 members representing both nonprofit and private entities and tasked, in part, with working together with the public and private sectors to improve financial literacy.

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