Community Service

Why Financial Empowerment Matters

Consumer financial education amplifies the impact of other social programs.

June 14, 2013
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Jonathan Mintz

Public policy should encourage financial empowerment, according to Jonathan Mintz, New York City's commissioner for consumer affairs.

That's because investments encouraging consumer financial education amplify the impact of other city investments, such as job programs, he says.

"You want to make sure when you help people get a job that they are going to know what to do with those paychecks,”Mintz says.

Combining workforce development with financial counseling up front can prevent people from falling backward and needing help from government programs in the future. That's a lesson, Mintz adds, that New York City has learned.

"We were spending huge amounts of money on the impact of financial instability, but we weren't spending a lot on financial stability," he says. "That is not very smart."

Mintz says New York City has learned these lessons:

Regulation works. Placing controls on industries that have a direct impact on people’s financial stability, such as debt collectors and process servers, makes a difference in people’s lives.

New York City found that, in many cases, collection agents were attempting to recover debts that were not owed.

The structure of programs can make a big difference. For instance, a government assistance program that requires direct deposit can go a long way to leading unbanked individuals toward mainstream financial services.

Politics is a valuable tool. Financial empowerment is an easy sell to political leaders.

By encouraging financial empowerment, "everybody wins," Mintz says, "as opposed to a lot of the current anti-poverty efforts where nobody is ever happy, there are never enough resources, and there is always too much demand."

Mintz addressed the 2013 Annual Conference of the National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions in Baltimore.

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Great article! Unfortunately, most employees don’t feel valued or appreciated by their supervisors or employers. In fact, research has shown that the predominant reason team members quit their jobs is because they don’t feel valued. This is in spite of the fact that employee recognition programs have proliferated in the workplace – over 90% of all organizations in the U.S. has some form of employee recognition activities in place. But most employee recognition programs are viewed with skepticism and cynicism – because they aren’t viewed as being genuine in their communication of appreciation. Getting the “employee of the month” award, receiving a certificate of recognition, or a “Way to go, team!” email just don’t get the job done. How do you communicate authentic appreciation? We have found people have different ways that they want to be shown appreciation, and if you don’t communicate in the language of appreciation important to them, you essentially “miss the mark”. Additionally, employees need to receive recognition more than once a year at their performance review. Otherwise, they view the praise as “going through the motions”. A third component of authentic appreciation is that the communication has to be about them personally – not the department, not their group, but something they did. Finally, they have to believe that you mean what you say. How you treat them has to match the words you use. If you are not sure how your team members want to be shown appreciation, the Motivating By Appreciation Inventory ( will identify the language of appreciation and specific actions preferred by each employee. You then can create a group profile for your team, so everyone knows how to encourage one another. Remember, employees want to know that they are valued for what they contribute to the success of the organization. And communicating authentic appreciation in the ways they desire it can make the difference between keeping your quality team members or having a negative work environment that everyone wants to leave. Paul White, Ph.D., is the co-author of The 5 Languages of Appreciation in the Workplace with Dr. Gary Chapman.

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