Michael Collins, Cathie Mahon, Monica Martinez, and Karen Walsh studied the impact of financial counseling on financial stability, within the context of methodology employed by the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment.
Financial counseling may be an effective way to improve individuals’ financial behavior and outcomes. However, its impacts have not been adequately studied. Previous studies show weak positive effects of counseling, but are subject to a number of limitations. Most significantly, individuals who choose to attend counseling are not representative of the general public, making it difficult to measure counseling’s true impact. This study, a collaboration between CFS and the New York City Department of Consumer Affairs Office of Financial Empowerment, partially addresses this issue by comparing the effects of one-on-one financial counseling to generalized financial education. In both cases individuals are seeking financial assistance. The study will use credit report data and knowledge assessments in combination with self-reported information to gain a comprehensive picture of counseling’s impacts on financial knowledge, behavior, and outcomes. This report—a progress update at the study’s midpoint—describes the study design and presents baseline data.