Establishing a Baseline and Looking Ahead

Written by Thea Garon, Director, CFSI

As 2018 draws to a close, I’m proud of the work CFSI has done to launch the U.S. Financial Health Pulse, a groundbreaking research initiative designed to understand the financial lives of people in America.

In November, we released the inaugural 2018 Baseline Report which established a baseline to track changes in financial health over time. Using CFSI’s Financial Health Score®, we assessed how people in America are spending, saving, borrowing, and planning across the eight key indicators of financial health. While the results are sobering, we are optimistic that they will inspire dialogue among a wide array of stakeholders about how they can measure and improve the financial health of people in America.

In this seminal report, we also explored the role that demographic characteristics and financial behaviors play in shaping financial health in America. We found that while certain segments of the population are more likely to be financially healthy than others, financial behaviors related to planning and savings are associated with greater financial health. We also explored how larger societal trends are shaping financial health for millions of people in America. Collectively, these findings suggest that stakeholders beyond the financial services sector — including leaders in housing, healthcare, education, and labor — can continue to play an important role in improving the financial health of Americans.

What’s Next?

In 2019, we plan to build upon the foundation we laid this year by:

  • Releasing the first financial health segment deep dive on the financial lives of low-and-moderate income Americans over the age of 50.
  • Collecting trended and longitudinal data from the 2019 Benchmarking Survey to assess how consumers’ sentiments and self-reported financial health is changing over time.
  • Collecting and analyzing consumers’ transactional and account records to build a nuanced and granular measurement framework to track changes over time.
  • Sharing findings from the initiative with a wide group of stakeholders, including financial service providers, policymakers, regulators, thought-leaders, academics, media, and leader in adjacent sectors.
  • Continuing conversations with companies and organizations interested in better understanding and improving their customers’ financial health.

Thank You to our Funders and Partners

A study of this size and scale would not have been possible without the support of our funders — Omidyar Network, MetLife Foundation, and AARP. We would also like to thank the team from the University of Southern California Dornsife (USC) Center for Economic and Social Research for fielding the study to their online panel and for serving as academic advisors to the initiative. We are looking forward to working with Plaid in next year to help us collect and analyze customers’ transactional and account records. And we are grateful for the guidance of an esteemed group of individuals with a diverse set of expertise who serve on the initiative’s Advisory Council.

Interested in Getting Involved?

There are many ways that your organization can get engaged with the U.S. Financial Health Pulse in 2019. We are eager to share findings from the 2018 Baseline Report with your organization and discuss what these findings mean for your work. We are also looking for companies interested in sponsoring financial health deep dives on particular topics or population segments. Additionally, we are seeking general sponsorship of the initiative. If you are interested in learning more about these opportunities, please reach out to me at Tgaron@cfsinnovation.org.


To learn more about the U.S. Financial Health Pulse, visit www.cfsinnovation.org/financialhealthpulse or watch our webinar here.

This post is the second in a series from the authors of the U.S. Financial Health Pulse baseline report (view the first post here). In the coming months, we plan to discuss different cuts of the data and respond to compelling questions and feedback we receive from our audience.


Thea Garon is a Director on CFSI’s Program Team. She leads the U.S. Financial Health Pulse, a groundbreaking research initiative designed to monitor and track the financial lives of Americans. She holds a Masters of Urban Planning from NYU’s Robert F. Wagner School of Public Service and a B.A. in History from Carleton College. She resides in Chicago, IL.