September 24, 2019 | Jonathan Walker
Recently, Elevate’s Center for the New Middle Class hit the road for a pair of events in Washington, D.C. Our work advocating for the New Middle Class gives us opportunities to speak to many different industry groups and stakeholders, as well as directly from everyday Americans. The events demonstrated the breadth and depth of our work: we started the week with a congressional event on Capitol Hill then pivoted to a personal finance conference that hosted more than 2,000 personal finance bloggers.
Let’s dive into our biggest takeaways from each event:
Effecting change on Capitol Hill
Our lunch and learn for congressional staffers featured a panel of four non-prime consumers from the D.C. area, sharing their experiences with credit and stories of their access (or lack thereof) to traditional financial products like credit cards and loans. I had the pleasure of moderating a panel for more than 45 staffers from both sides of the aisle (standing room only!) to hear directly from non-prime consumers.
We learn a lot from the New Middle Class – here are a few highlights that demonstrate the daily financial realities and attitudes of the New Middle Class:
“There’s a big difference between my debt and my income, and there’s a burden to that. I could afford more instruction because I’m not in a position where I can go to a bank and ask for a loan.”
“I understand that I have to be intentional about every purchase, every step taken, in order to get my financial health into a secure place for ourselves and for our children.”
“In my 20s, I had a different picture of what my life would look like, but I had no idea I’d lose my good job and the multiple family circumstances would come up, but they did. $300 may not seem like a lot, but it is. The lack of financial security imposes great stress onto me daily.”
“My credit is not great, and I’m being judged harshly. I’ve never missed rent in DC, but I still got denied [a rental application] because of my credit. Things can affect you years later and bring a lot of negativity.”
Events like this can be powerful agents for change on Capitol Hill. The stories of these non-prime Americans brought to life the data the CNMC produces about the financial lives of credit-constrained Americans[RF1] . Meaningful change starts with real understanding. By creating a platform where staffers can hear these stories first-hand increases the likelihood that congressional representatives draft or support policies that will effect meaningful change for the New Middle Class[RF2] .
Participants from Elevate included Jonathan Walker, CNMC executive director; Paul Bruney, head of customer insights; Nathan Foley, head of customer progression; Dion Harrison, head of bank products at Elevate.
Getting personal with bloggers
The CNMC team then headed to FinCon, an annual financial blogger conference that celebrates #moneynerds everywhere and gathers them together for four days of networking, collaboration, panel sessions and podcasting. The CNMC team came out in full force to represent the Center at our booth, meeting hundreds of bloggers and distributing financial tips based on proprietary CNMC data.
We found the blogger community to be most interested in a few themes, including credit score myth-busting and how access to financial education and knowledge affects personal finance throughout a person’s entire life.
The CNMC team also hosted four sessions of financial trivia at the booth and awarded each knowledgeable winner a $50 gift card. Our favorite part? In the spirit of ‘Winning Together,’ each trivia winner also got to forgive a loan randomly from a selection of RISE customers currently in good standing. Congratulations to the trivia winners, and to the lucky Elevate customers who had their loan forgiven.
Thanks to all those we met and took the time to learn more about the New Middle Class. Until next time, D.C.!