Research Reveals Positive Impact of Financial Counseling
The positive client impact of nonprofit counseling is revealed in this groundbreaking study of the NFCC Sharpen Your Financial Focus program, led by independent researchers from The Ohio State University.
In April 2016, the NFCC unveiled the findings from a comprehensive, independent evaluation of credit counseling which was conducted by researchers at The Ohio State University. “The NFCC Sharpen Your Financial Focus Initiative Impact Evaluation” assessed the long-term impact of nonprofit financial counseling by comparing financial health outcomes for Sharpen Your Financial Focus clients with those of noncounseled individuals.
Sharpen Client Outcomes: Key Findings
Sharpen Client Profile*
- 63% of Sharpen clients are female, with an average age of 43.
- The median Sharpen client has reported $2,800 in monthly income, $10,000 in nonliquid assets (such as housing equity) and no savings.
- The median amount of monthly housing- and debt-related expenses for clients are around $910 and $1,000, respectively.
* 43,072 consumers received services through the Sharpen initiative from September 2013 through March 2015.
Reasons for Seeking Counseling: Financial Shocks
- 63% or clients face a reduction of income due to a change in employment or job loss.
- Almost 30% struggle with medical expenses or increases in debt payments driven by higher interest rates.
- Many have a poor or declining credit standing.
Clients’ Precounseling State: Falling Behind
- Only about one-third keep a budget, and only 60% of those follow it “most of the time.”
- Of the two-thirds of clients with credit cards, 56% regularly use more than one card. 21% regularly use five or more credit cards.
- For clients with credit cards, 41% pay the minimum amount due on their last credit card statement. Another 30% pay less than the minimum amount due.
Client Impact After Three Months Of Counseling
Based on the responses from an NFCC survey, Sharpen clients reported that the program is making a positive impact in their financial lives just three months after counseling.
- 73% now pay their debt more consistently.
- 70% have improved their overall financial confidence.
- 68% felt Sharpen helped them in setting financial goals.
- 67% are now better at managing their money.
- 23% reported having an increased sense of trust in their financial institution.
Financial Improvement Six Quarters After Counseling
In addition to tracking survey outcomes, the evaluation tracks credit report outcomes for a subsample of nearly 9,000 Sharpen clients. This analysis demonstrates that Sharpen is making a positive financial impact on participants’ financial lives.
Six quarters after counseling, Sharpen clients achieved:
- $17,000 average decrease in total debt.
- $8,000 average decrease in total revolving debt.
- 50-point average* increase in their credit score from baseline.
*Average bottom 25th percentile of clients.