April is National Financial Capability Month!

National Financial Capability Month, as proclaimed by President Barack Obama, is a month-long campaign to raise public awareness about the importance of financial capability and the need for financial education; encouraging collaboration and acknowledging the many and diverse contributions that organizations like the Chicago City Treasurer’s Office have made in support of this effort.

Check our website for updates and resources throughout the month!



Why use a bank or credit union? Before you cash that check or purchase a pre-paid card—consider going to a bank or credit union instead. Below are some benefits to using a bank or credit union, as opposed to a pay day lender, check casher, or pre-paid card:

  • Low fees
  • Easier saving: Many banks and credit unions offer a small interest rate when you put your money in a savings account. (Make sure you shop around for a bank or credit union that doesn’t charge you to open or maintain a savings account.)
  • Cheaper small dollar loans: Many payday lenders charge interest of 300% for a small dollar loan; banks and credit unions often charge less than 20%.
  • Credit-building
  • Direct deposit
  • Safer car loans, mortgages, and other major loans

To find a bank or credit union that meets your needs, visit BankonChicago.com. The website provides a list of community partners that can help you find the best financial institution for you, as well as a list of banks and credit unions that have agreed to offer affordable checking accounts.

Checking and improving your credit score.

A credit score is a number (usually between 300 and 800) that lenders use to decide whether or not to give you credit or a loan, and how much interest to charge for it.

Your credit score affects how much you pay for a new home, car, and other major purchases. A good credit score can save you $250K over a lifetime. The good news is that it’s very possible to check and improve your score!

  • Check your credit report for free: Go to annualcreditreport.com and request a free annual credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Transunion, and Equifax. You get three free reports a year—one from each bureau.
  • Review your credit report and report any errors:

Get your credit score: Your credit score is composed of your individual spending and borrowing information. Some common factors that make up a typical credit score:

  • Your bill paying history
  • The number of credit accounts you have and what kind
  • How much of your available credit you are using
  • How long you have had your accounts open
  • Your recent credit activity
  • Whether you’ve had a debt referred for collection, foreclosure, or bankruptcy, and how old these are

More questions? Visit: http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/search/?selected_facets=tag_exact%3Acredit+report

Visit the CFPB website for helpful financial resources! http://www.consumerfinance.gov/askcfpb/

Young adults

Choosing a college: Trying to decide which college to attend? The U.S. Department of Education’s College Affordability and Transparency Center can help you find a college that’s the best fit for you: http://collegecost.ed.gov/scorecard/index.aspx/. You can search by degree, major, occupation, location, size, awards offered, campus setting and other criteria.

Paying for college: Having trouble calculating the cost of college or managing your college loans? CFPB has tools that can help you compare college costs and financial aid offers, and optimize your loan payments.

Talk with your teen about money: As teens, many are starting to earn and spend money on their own—which presents the perfect opportunity to talk to them about good money habits! Talk With Your Kids About Money outlines some important topics to consider discussing:

  • Creating a budget: It can be hard (even for adults!) to remember how much money you spent and what you bought in the past month.  Creating a budget will help you understand how much money to expect for the month and how to best spend it.  You can use this sample budget worksheet to keep track of monthly income and expenses.

Going to prom or another high school dance? This budget template can help you anticipate and track expenses.

  • Living on your own: Looking to live on your own? This website offers advice on what costs to expect and how to prepare financially to move and settle into an apartment.


Talk with your kids about money: Research shows that kids benefit from early discussions about money, as it can help them build the skills needed to make sound financial decisions in the future. This website outlines activities, games, books, crafts, websites, and entertainment that can help start conversations about money with your kids. Some examples:

  • View a weekly food flyer with your child and make a list of what you plan to buy, noting the items that are on sale. At the grocery store, ask your child to help you find the sale items, point out the difference in regular and sale price, and tell them how much you saved for each item.
  • Make a family chores chart to help build responsibility and reliability in children—skills that will help them handle money in the future. The reward for doing a good job doesn’t have to be money, but some form of recognition can help build confidence and an “enterprising” spirit in children.
  • When watching TV with your children, take a few minutes to discuss the commercials that are shown. Ask your child: What do the ads want you to do? Have you ever wanted something based on an ad, only to learn later that it wasn’t what you thought it was? Emphasize that it’s important to think carefully about advertising and use it to make good decisions.


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