What Happened With Personal Finance in 2011


In her Washington Post/Bloomberg column, Michelle Singletary does a retrospective on personal-finance changes in 2011. She determines that the one good thing that arose during the year was the opening of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, which writes federal rules to combat unfair, deceptive and abusive financial practices and products, among other things.


The bureau, despite not having a director, has been busy. I’m a huge fan of its “Know Before You Owe” initiative aimed at helping people understand the consequences of the debt they take on. The agency began collecting public comment on a simplified credit-card agreement, and it’s testing two prototypes of mortgage disclosure forms to simplify the paperwork consumers have to tackle at the closing table.

Partnering with the Education Department, the bureau has drafted a one-page shopping sheet to help students better understand the type and amount of financial aid they qualify for, and to allow them to compare college offers. The bureau is also looking more closely at the private student-loan industry.

Also on the good side, the federal government began requiring all post-secondary institutions that participate in Title IV federal student-aid programs to begin posting a net price calculator on their Web sites. The net price is what a student might have to earn, save or borrow to go to his or her selected school. I’m hoping the calculator will help families reduce the debt they take on.

Read Michelle Singletary's entire column at the Washington Post/Bloomberg.