Recently the CFPB joined the FDIC’s program against financial abuse of senior citizens by cooperating on the creation of a Spanish language tool for Hispanic seniors.  We have previously blogged about the CFPB’s initiatives to prevent elder financial abuse.  This new product is a Spanish-language version of a pre-existing FDIC publication in English, Money Smart for Older Adults, which is a financial resource tool that is distributed free of charge and is designed to help adults age 62 and older and their caregivers prevent, identify, and respond to elder financial exploitation.

Inaugurated in 2001, the Money Smart program is a comprehensive financial education curriculum designed to help low- and moderate-income individuals outside the financial mainstream enhance their financial skills and create positive banking relationships.  The specific, instructor-led module for senior citizens was developed by the two agencies last year, and the Spanish-language version, Money Smart Para Adultos Mayores: Prevener la Explotaciόn Financiera, is the latest offering.  A participant/resource guide and PowerPoint slides in Spanish can be downloaded from the FDIC website and can be ordered in hard copy from the CFPB website.

This effort to provide financial education to seniors for whom English is not the first language is laudable, to be sure, but it raises an obvious policy question.  In recent years the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division has investigated, pressured, and entered into agreements with several states in connection with providing interpreters for non-English speaking litigants in the courts, not just criminal defendants but civil litigants and not just Spanish-speaking but all non-English-speaking immigrants.  If federal agencies provide assistance to Hispanic immigrants, must they also provide foreign language financial education products to other elderly people, e.g., immigrants from China, Cambodia, former Soviet republics, and so forth?  Is failure to do so discriminatory?