Innovations in Financial Services

The Treasury Financial Empowerment Innovation Fund (Innovation Fund) was a special one-time initiative that supported public and private entities in developing and testing cutting-edge and technology-based financial products and financial education strategies.

Under this initiative, the Treasury awarded contracts to nonprofit and for-profit entities, academic institutions, and state and local governments to implement 11 projects in the areas of classroom-based financial capability; post-secondary education decision making; and cutting-edge financial services and products as described below. Treasury awarded these multi-year contracts in FY2014.


Classroom-based Financial Capability

Evaluation of an Experiential School Classroom-based Financial Education Curriculum

Contract awarded to University of Wisconsin, Center for Financial Security

Evaluated the My Classroom Economy method as implemented in fourth and fifth grade classrooms in Palm Beach County, Florida. The method features a simulated economy in the classroom in which students make saving and spending decisions. Final report:  Evaluating Experiential Financial Capability Education: A Field Study of My Classroom Economy


Rise ‘n’ Shine Gamified Financial Capability Curriculum for High School Students

Contract awarded to MindBlown Labs

Developed and evaluated a high school financial capability curriculum in which classroom teaching was paired with a mobile game to provide participating students with game-based learning opportunities. The approach also encouraged students to open savings accounts at financial institutions in their community. 


Post-Secondary Education Decision Making


Exploring the Potential for Information to Transform the Market for Post-Secondary Education             
Contract awarded to Brookings Institution.

Implemented research on post-secondary education decision-making among high school seniors in Virginia.  The work examined the impact of providing senior students at participating high schools with information on the potential financial benefit of attending specific colleges, such as salaries and other indicators of career success among graduates. Final reports: Choice Deserts: Geography Limits the Potential Impact of Earnings Data on Higher Education and Rethinking Consumer Information in Higher Education


Borrow$mart:  A Field Study of an Online Financial Capability Tool’s Effects on the Schooling and Financing Decisions of Private-Sector College Students

Contract awarded to Center for Financial Security, University of Wisconsin (link to

Implemented a comparative evaluation of the U.S. Department of Education’s online student loan counseling system with a comparable privately developed and administered online loan counseling system.


Evaluation of the Financial Capability Components of the College Possible Near-Peer Post-Secondary Education Coaching Program

Contract awarded to College Possible

College Possible, which is a national non-profit that administers a near-peer post-secondary education coaching program, implemented a three-year evaluation of the impacts of its coaching and financial literacy education and counseling services that are geared to the specific needs of low-income high school juniors and seniors and first year college students.


Gamified Mobile App that Teaches High School Students about Choosing and Financing Post-Secondary Education

Contract awarded to Commonwealth

Developed and piloted Ramp it Up, a game-based mobile app that provides high school students information on applying for and financing their post-secondary education.  The project developed policy insights on approaches for reaching and influencing low- to moderate-income high school students about post-secondaryeducation and student financial aid. Final report: Ramp it Up: Gamifying College Financial Readiness


Invest in College Success

Contract awarded to The Midas Collaborative

Midas Collaborative, a Massachusetts-based non-profit organization, piloted a comprehensive strategy to increase post-secondary education access and retention among low- and moderate-income students at three Massachusetts community colleges.  Tested interventions were: providing recent high school students with text- and email-based information and reminders to encourage them to enroll in community college; providing community college students with financial capability classes, counseling and coaching; and providing the students with a matched savings program to encourage them to save for meeting their financial needs.  The Federal Reserve Bank of Boston evaluated the pilot. Summary information: Invest in College Success Pilot in Massachusetts: Knowledge and Tools for Community College Students  and Full Report: Invest in College Success Final Evaluation Report


Innovative Financial Products and Services


Saving Tax Refunds for Retirement
Contract awarded to Washington University in St. Louis, Center for Social Development
National research study that examined strategies to enable tax filers to open and fund  retirement accounts at tax time via an online tax preparation service. The project also tested the effects of behaviorally informed messages to encourage tax filers to open and fund accounts with tax refunds.  Final report:  Assessing Retirement Needs and Interest in myRA: Findings from the Refund to Savings Initiative.

Prepaid Card and Secured Credit Card Product that Helps Consumers Build Credit

Contract awarded to Banking Up

Developed and piloted an innovative financial product with a for-profit company that aimed to help low-income consumers strengthen their credit by using a prepaid card in tandem with a secured credit card. The new product also featured a mobile app that provided nudges and “just in time” information to aid the consumer with using the cards with the goal of strengthening their credit.


Financial Literacy and Education Services for Public Housing Residents

Contract awarded to the City and County of San Francisco, Office Financial Empowerment

Piloted a suite of services designed specifically for San Francisco Public Housing residents including financial coaching and counseling and a matched savings program. The pilot also explored ways in which the public housing authority could help residents build their credit by reporting on-time rent payments to national credit bureaus.


Distributing Foster Youth Stipends via Payment Cards

Contract awarded to New Jersey Department of Children and Families

Implemented and evaluated the New Jersey QuickCents for YOUth initiative, in which the state agency distributed cash stipends to foster youth via “Q Card” payment cards, along with online information on using benefit payment cards effectively.