Remarks by Richard Cordray, Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
at the Jump$tart Annual Awards Dinner in Washington, DC on April 18, 2012
Thank you for inviting me tonight. From my work with Jump$tart over the years, I know you to be a leader in improving financial literacy from kindergarten to college. So I am glad to be here with so many who share the same objectives as the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.
My own history with your organization has been very positive. Back when I served as a county treasurer in Ohio, my primary initiative was to collect more unpaid delinquent property taxes. And let me tell you: That kind of project really makes a person popular! Reflecting back, I can now see how actually doing that hard work brought my team and me face to face with very different categories of people. Some resisted paying their share because they had gotten away with ducking us before. Some would not prioritize payment until they were sure we were serious about pursuing them. But many people were simply "down on their luck," to borrow a quaint but apt phrase – with the adversity consisting of unplanned and unwelcome events such as disease, divorce, job loss, or a death in their family.
People's troubles were often magnified by their incomprehension of financial matters. Difficult situations led to bad decisions. That experience led me to form a local committee on personal finance education. We gathered information about school programs for young people and community programs for adults, such as there were, and looked to match people up with those available resources. Eventually, we became more ambitious and set a goal to pass legislation that would require every student to receive personal finance education before graduating from high school. It is not easy to change anything about the high school curriculum, but we managed to do it, with the help of a broad coalition that included Jump$tart. And what we found next was that there was so much more work to do. By this time, I was serving as State Treasurer, and we worked with the same broad coalition to develop curricula and organize teacher training in hundreds of school districts. It was hard work, but we believed deeply in it and the difference it could make for people, which made it all feel enjoyable and worthwhile.