CFPB Serves up Financial Tips to Seniors

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and Meals on Wheels America have created multilingual educational resources about financial scams that target the elderly which can be easily distributed to seniors in the communities they serve, and downloaded or ordered in bulk for free by the general public.

The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s (CFPB) Consumer Education & Engagement division offers a variety of financial education resources and tools. Our Office for Older Americans specifically strives to find the resources that best meet the needs of older adults in America age 62 and older. We have resources for older adults who prefer holding a resource in their hands and putting pen to paper rather than clicking around or scrolling on their smartphones. We felt this may be especially true for some of the most vulnerable seniors who might more easily fall victim to scams and financial exploitation.

We collaborated with Meals on Wheels America and put financial tips and information about common types of financial scams on placemats. To explore this new educational resource and format, we engaged the CFPB User Research Team to test our first two placemats. The feedback was positive, but there was room for improvement. Some of the users suggested that the placemats could be easier to read with larger fonts and brighter colors, as well as more engaging and interactive. The users mentioned they liked graphics with animals and patriotic themes, too.

A placemat for financial scams in English.

Guided by the results of the usability findings from the first two placemats, we developed a suite of three placemats—a word search, a word scramble, and a fill-in-the-blank puzzle with lessons in the format of simple word games. These placemats share information about common scams with tips to prevent or report them.

The placemats were tested at two meal sites with a diverse group of users, including non-native English speakers. We received important feedback from meal recipients whose primary language was not English. Some of the users shared that the terms used on the placemats did not resonate with them, even with those who could speak, read, and understand English well. We also learned that there was a need for versions of the placemats at the site in different languages.

At the conclusion of testing, we made a few more tweaks: increasing the font size even more, removing some of the copy, and clarifying the instructions. The final version of each placemat is available for everyone to download or order in bulk for free.

A placemat for mail fraud in Spanish.

The feedback we received from our user research led us to translate two of the existing placemats into nearly 10 additional languages. An unanticipated result of our user testing was that more research is needed to find out how to more effectively engage non-English speaking older adults. That’s the benefit to doing usability testing; you may find the need exists for additional educational materials which will guide future work for our office.

Our tools are available to consumers through our website in English and Spanish and on social media, including Facebook and Twitter. We also have resources for practitioners— those who have a stake in consumers’ financial well-being. And we’re always on the lookout for new, innovative, and effective ways to share our educational content with more people.

Erin Scheithe, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau
Erin Scheithe is a Content Specialist in the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s Office for Older Americans, which focuses on educating and engaging with consumers 62 and older on financial matters. In this role she writes, edits, and presents material on fraud and scam prevention, financial caregiving, and retirement planning.

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