Financial Literacy: A Federal Certification Process for Providers Would Pose Challenges

GAO-11-614 Published: Jun 28, 2011. Publicly Released: Jun 28, 2011.
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Financial literacy plays an important role in helping ensure the financial health and stability of individuals and families, and efforts to improve consumers' financial literacy have grown in recent years. Currently, hundreds of nonprofit, private, and governmental entities provide some form of financial education to Americans. The federal government does not certify or approve organizations in general that provide financial literacy, although the U.S. Trustee Program and the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) have approval processes for financial literacy providers for the purposes of meeting requirements of, respectively, the bankruptcy process and certain housing programs. In response to a mandate in the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, this report addresses (1) what is known about which methods and strategies are effective for improving financial literacy, and (2) the feasibility of a process for certifying financial literacy providers. To address these objectives, GAO reviewed relevant literature, focusing on evidence-based evaluations of financial literacy programs or approaches; conducted interviews in the federal, nonprofit, private, and academic sectors; and examined the lessons learned from the approval processes of the Trustee Program and HUD.

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