CONSUMER EMPOWERMENT MUST INCLUDE NATIONAL FINANCIAL COUNSELING PROGRAM, SAYS NCLR
June 25 2009
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 25, 2009
Washington, DC—In testimony presented today before the U.S. House Committee on Financial Services Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit, Lautaro Díaz, Vice President of Housing and Community Development for NCLR (National Council of La Raza), the largest national Hispanic civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, called on Congress to establish a national financial counseling program that would help low-income families build savings and wealth. His testimony, titled Empowering Latino Consumers through Financial Counseling, is available at www.nclr.org.
“NCLR applauds the efforts of the Obama administration and Congress to modernize our financial regulatory system. Empowering low-income consumers through a federal financial counseling program must be an important part of that effort. With one-on-one counseling, families can get meaningful, tailored advice that will help them better understand their financial options, set goals, and plan for the future,” said Díaz.
The ratio of wealth between non-Hispanic Whites and Hispanics shows a staggering disparity of more than eight to one, according to a recent study using data from the Federal Reserve Bank 2007 Survey of Consumer Finance. The Pew Hispanic Center has reported that more than 35% of Latinos surveyed said they did not have a bank account, and that number rises to 42% for foreign-born Latinos. This makes Latinos vulnerable to fringe financial providers and abusive lenders, often paying too much for check cashing, remittances, auto loans, home loans, and other financial services and products. Many are enticed into predatory or high-cost loans with exorbitant interest rates and fees.
Díaz emphasized that access to safe and affordable credit is a critical means for Latino and other underserved borrowers to buy homes and otherwise build wealth and financial security. He cited the NCLR Homeownership Network (NHN) as a model that brings together the federal government’s largest wealth-building programs and provides homeownership counseling to minority and low-income families. His testimony cited the following elements as vital to a national financial counseling program:
- Serve families at all stages of the economic continuum, as households of modest means will need financial advice throughout their lifecycle.
- Provide advice on a wide range of financial services, such as opening banking, savings, and retirement accounts, shopping for credit cards or insurance products, and evaluating car, personal, and student loans.
- Focus on in-person, one-on-one services that give families the opportunity to meet with an advisor and review the details of their financial and credit history, needs, and goals.
- Deliver counseling through experienced community-based organizations that already offer asset programs and can help families graduate from one program to another.
- Build financial counseling capacity and performance standards through technical assistance and training.
Issues: Financial Counseling, Housing