A newly launched financial education program has garnered millions of dollars in funding from Bank of America, Chase, GE Capital Retail Finance and Wells Fargo. Each of them has donated at least $1 million to become founding members of the Sharpen Alliance, which will underwrite the Sharpen Your Financial Focus initiative, created by the National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC).
Susan Keating, CEO and president of the NFCC, calls the initiative an ideal opportunity for the finance industry to join up with nonprofit credit counseling firms in making better financial education readily available to consumers. She says the three-step program will increase consumers’ understanding of their own financial situations as well as issues that affect them.
As part of the program, people will use online self-assessment tools, have a one-on-one financial counseling session with an NFCC certified credit counselor, and complete a financial education program tailored to their specific needs. Folks can choose to begin with whichever piece of the program they feel is the best first step for them. The goal of the program is three-fold: to address consumers’ immediate financial concerns, become educated about the issues that are factors in their financial health, and make progress on the road to long-term financial well-being.
Participating in the program is free, for both online and in-person services. The online assessment asks detailed questions about household size, income, debts and expenses before making recommendations based on the respondent’s answers.
NFCC board member Nelson Diaz, former counsel to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, said that the initiative was created not only to increase “the level of financial competency in America” but also to help people who fell on hard times during the recession “in part due to a lack of financial skills.” He and Keating said that the Sharpen Alliance would expand the initiative to include more organizations over the next several months.
There are more than 600 NFCC member agencies in the United States and Puerto Rico, all of which are participating in the initiative. People can contact their closest community-based office to begin the program, or get started online at SharpenToday.org. The online tools are free and available in both English and Spanish.