Stephanie Eidelman

Stephanie Eidelman

Last week I attended Consumer-Action’s 43rd Annual Awards Event, along with Rob Meck, CEO of Premiere Credit and Tim Heber, Compliance Officer of FIS Global. We represented the Consumer Relations Consortium (CRC), which was a sponsor of the event along with Google, CapitalOne,, TracFone, Amazon, AT&T, Microsoft, and Time Warner Cable.

Consumer-Action is an education and advocacy group that was founded in 1971. Based in San Francisco, the group now partners with nearly 7,500 community based organizations nationwide to educate consumers on financial literacy, Internet safety, medical privacy, homeownership, and other topics.

Each year the group honors individuals or organizations within three categories that have made a significant impact on consumer literacy. This year’s theme was “Train the Trainer: Teach One to Reach Thousands.” The event was held at Google’s splashy new headquarters, literally in sight of the US Capitol in Washington, D.C. The program was opened by Google’s Jenny Backus, who talked about her firm’s commitment to technology as a door-opener to opportunity and a better life for everyday consumers.

This year’s awardees were:

Regulatory Award – Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Division of Consumer Education and Engagement

Community Award – National Endowment for Financial Education (NAFE)

Media Award – Michelle Singletary of The Washington Post

Among other things, I learned that the CFPB’s Consumer Education and Engagement group currently numbers about 80 employees across six Offices: Financial Education, Consumer Engagement, Students, Servicemember Affairs, Older Americans, and Financial Empowerment.

NAFE, on the other hand, launched its first program in 1984 and seems to run on a shoestring budget with a very small staff, and accepts no financial support of any kind from individuals, government, or corporations. Funding is provided through investment of the Endowment’s assets. Of interest to me is that this organization’s history is rooted in the Denver-based nonprofit College for Financial Planning, which helped define the concept of financial planning and establish it as a profession. My mom, who years ago was a single parent, went through this course and became a financial planner to help other women who found themselves in a similar situation.

A gifted speaker, Michelle Singletary was the star of the evening. If you are not aware, she is a nationally syndicated columnist for The Washington Post, author of three books on financial literacy, and host of a one-hour PBS special “Spend Well, Live Rich”. Her award-winning “Color of Money” column is carried by about 100 newspapers across the country, and she has appeared as an expert on Oprah, The View, Meet the Press, NBC’s The Today Show… and on and on.

Introduced by Visa’s Jason Alderman (who also seems to be a gifted speaker), he noted that “even when Michelle is skewering our industry, she does it in such a friendly and endearing way that you can’t help but love her.”  In fact, Michelle was pretty Oprah-esque as she described the financial lessons she learned from her mother and grandmother, and the gift she received of graduating debt free from college, in spite of coming from a low income family – and her intention to provide that same gift to her children.

The CRC was proud to support this event and Consumer-Action’s considerable efforts to enhance financial literacy. This involvement aligns perfectly with our mission to proactively engage with consumer advocacy groups to bridge the gap of understanding and expectations often present between consumers and collectors. We look forward to future opportunities to work with Consumer-Action and other groups.

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