Seven months since its debut, the Filene Research Institute said its Debt in Focus software tool has helped nearly 120,000 consumers across North America measure their debts and improve their financial fitness.
The debt measurement tool provides consumers with anonymous financial assessments and budgeting tools "void of industry jargon and over-the-top salesmanship of competing off-line solutions," Filene said. The research institute's i3 team discovered that many Americans do not seek financial guidance due to discomfort and embarrassment. Those who do seek third-party assessments often find that the reports are filled with complex financial industry terminology that ends up being more confusing than helpful.
Early results are promising signs that the Debt in Focus (www.debtinfocus.com) approach has allowed credit unions to effectively reach out to consumers intimidated by traditional face-to-face financial assessment. Three quarters of users indicate their primary relationship is with a credit union, but the rest say their primary relationship is with a bank. Users gain access to the tool through their credit union's Web site.
Half of Debt in Focus users are younger than 36, which means many of those checking out their debt situation through their credit union Web sites are members of the coveted younger demographic, Filene said. The Debt in Focus tool relies on self-reported data for personal use and never collects personally identifiable information, so users remain anonymous, according to the institute.
"Debt in Focus is what so many of us ask for from credit unions: a simple, attractive and useful tool for members," said George Hofheimer, chief research officer at Filene. Users spent an average of 15 minutes with the Debt in Focus tool. The average reported credit score of users is 637 and their average overall debt load was $128,000, indicating that those who tune into the tool have real challenges with their finances, according to Filene.