August 7, 2013

Financial Literacy Advice from a Long Standing Nonprofit

Source: If you don’t know anything about Consumer Action, a nonprofit serving consumers since 1971, it is time to listen up. Linda Sherry has been part of the national consumer education and advocacy group since 1994, and has a lot to information to provide regarding financial literacy.

Upon contacting Linda Sherry of Consumer Action, I was excited about the prospect of hearing her take on questions related to financial literacy and what her organization brings to the table.

After receiving her answers via email, my excitement grew as I am personally interested in what the nonprofit group is all about.

Here is the Consumer Action mission statement:

Consumer Action is dedicated to helping individual consumers assert their rights in the marketplace and to advancing pro-consumer industry-wide change for the benefit of all.

We achieve this mission through consumer education, multilingual and multicultural community outreach and issue-focused advocacy.

Time to Talk Financial Literacy

Now that you know more about Consumer Action, including what the group has been focused on for more than 40 years, here is some detailed information from Sherry regarding financial literacy:

1. In terms of financial literacy, what does Consumer Action provide consumers?

So many things! For one, we have hundreds of free, easy to read multilingual consumer education publications, on finance and more, on our free website. Then there’s our outreach to more than 7,000 community based organizations across the country. Through these groups, who order publications and training guides free and in bulk, Consumer Action distributes approximately close to one million pieces per year. And we pay the postage on these orders because we know community non-profits don’t have big budgets. We also offer free trainings around the country to staff members of these groups, and then they educate their community members, in a “trickle down” effect.

2. What is it about the content and advice your organization provides that sets it apart from the rest?

I think the wealth and breadth of our multilingual publications is unique. And I don’t really know of another consumer education and advocacy nonprofit with a free national hotline that provides consumers with an easily accessible information hub where they can receive one-on-one assistance, request educational materials and get referrals to complaint-handling agencies. Multilingual counselors handle approximately 700 contacts (phone calls, emails, and messages submitted at www.consumer-action.org) per month on virtually all topics a consumer might inquire about.

Another rarity is our free Take Action Center. At http://www.consumer-action.org/action, we offer e-advocacy tools to help consumers make their voices and opinions heard by elected officials in order to stop unfair practices in the marketplace. The free service allows consumers to play active role in the political process by finding contact information for federal and state elected officials, writing to Congress, sending letters to the editor, responding to key legislation and more. We have consumers of all political stripes using the email your legislator service to write on a myriad of issues, in addition to our pre-written alerts on topics we believe are important. Even these are editable by consumers. Again, all free!

3. Can you tell us more about the group’s newsletter, including how it compares financial products and services?

We have two newsletters. Consumer Action News is quarterly and we still print paper copies (but of course it’s available on the web, too). This publication focuses on one issue, and often includes the results of staff research into financial and telecommunications services. For example, in recent issues we have examined credit card comparison websites, peer-to-peer lending/investment sites and peer-to-peer payments, or how you can send money electronically to other individuals.

Our second newsletter is online only, and produced monthly. In this newsletter, called Consumer Action INSIDER, we focus on our own activities on behalf of consumers. It’s in its 4th year now, and one of the most popular features is “Hotline Chronicles,” a series of articles based on complaints made to our hotline.

Final Thoughts

As you can see, Consumer Action is just as serious as many of you when it comes to financial literacy. From their multilingual publications to their online tools, it is nice to see that there is so much free information out there for those who are seriously interested in improving their situation.

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