In spending, financial marketing trumps education

Financial companies spend $25 on marketing for every dollar spent on financial education, according to new analysis from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB).

That’s a “staggering” discrepancy, according to CFPB Director Richard Cordray, which can make it hard for Americans to get fair, unbiased information about loans, credit cards and other financial services.

The difference in dollars “means that a majority of information consumers receive about financial products comes from a company trying to sell them something,” he told reporters on Monday. 

According to the consumer bureau’s report, financial companies spend about $17 billion each year advertising their products and services, while businesses, governments and nonprofits spend about $670 million to provide financial education to consumers. 

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The marketing spending adds up to $54 for each American each year. Meanwhile, only about $2 is spent on each of their educations.

That disparity highlights the need for the CFPB’s work, agency officials said.

“Empowering consumers to make the financial decisions that will help them meet their own life goals is a critical part of the CFPB,” said Camille Busette, assistant director of the agency’s financial education office.

She said that the agency was reaching out to consumers of all stripes, in English as well as in Spanish, to help them get the best information available. 

“This study suggests that financial educators should further enhance efforts to identify and promote innovative, scalable methods for providing financial education to consumers,” the report concluded.