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U.S. Financial Diaries

The Hidden Financial Lives of Working Americans:

Early Findings from the U.S. Financial Diaries Project

December 3, 2014

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On Wednesday, December 3, researchers and national experts shared and discussed early findings and data from the U.S. Financial Diaries project, a first-of-its-kind study into how working Americans make ends meet. Unpredictability—in income and expenses—creates serious financial challenges for many households. Yet these challenges get little attention in national conversations driven by annual data on economic mobility and employment.

The U.S. Financial Diaries (USFD) project seeks to change those conversations by shedding new light on how American families get by, week to week. Over the course of a year, USFD researchers tracked every dollar earned, spent, borrowed, saved, and shared by 235 low- and moderate-income households in five states. This event offered first access to USFD findings, which highlight:

  • The surprising amount of volatility in incomes from month to month.
  • The hidden systems that families use to cope with unexpected expenses and fluctuating incomes.
  • How households use traditional and alternative financial services and strategies.
  • The intersection of finance with health, transportation, housing, and benefits.

A panel of financial, poverty, and community development experts discussed the implications of the research for innovations in policy, products, services, and regulation to help working American families.

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US Financial Diries

Leadership support for USFD is provided by the Ford Foundation and the Citi Foundation, with additional support and guidance from the Omidyar Network. For more information, please visit

Jonothan Morduch

Jonothan Morduch

Bill Bynum

Bill Bynum

Rachel Schneider

Rachel Schneider

Raj Date

Raj Date

Ellen Seidman

Ellen Seidman

Jonathan Morduch

Jonathan Morduch is Professor of Public Policy and Economics at the NYU Wagner Graduate School of Public Service, and Managing Director of the Financial Access Initiative (, a consortium of researchers focused on financial inclusion. His research centers on microfinance, social investment, and the economics of poverty. He is currently developing a theoretical framework with Jonathan Conning for understanding how governments and philanthropists can use market forces to create social change.

Morduch is co-author of Portfolios of the Poor: How the World's Poor Live on $2 a Day (Princeton 2009) and The Economics of Microfinance (MIT Press 2005, 2nd edition 2010). He has taught on the Economics faculty at Harvard University, and has held visiting positions at Stanford, Princeton, and the University of Tokyo. Morduch has worked with the United Nations and World Bank, and advises global NGOs. He is Associate Editor of the Journal of Economic Perspectives and on the board of the Journal of Globalization and Development.

Morduch holds a BA from Brown and Ph.D. from Harvard, both in Economics. He was awarded an honorary doctorate from the Université Libre de Bruxelles in December 2008 in recognition of his work on microfinance.  

Rachel Schneider

Rachel Schneider is Senior Vice President of Insights & Analytics for the Center for Financial Services Innovation. Under her leadership, CFSI produces independent, data-driven consumer and industry research and advice, including the Compass Principles - which are aspirational standards for excellence in the delivery of consumer financial services. These analyses inspire financial services providers, policymakers and others to stretch to create financial services that are a force for good in people's lives, and offer actionable guidance about how to design and deliver services that will increase consumer financial health.

Rachel is a Principle Investigator on the U.S. Financial Diaries research study, a ground-breaking project in partnership with the Financial Access Initiative at New York University that is collecting highly detailed data about how more than 200 households save, spend, borrow and plan their financial lives over the course of about a year. She speaks and writes broadly about consumer finance issues, always offering her frank assessment of the financial challenges facing the majority of Americans. Rachel began her career as an investment banker at Merrill Lynch & Co., though she hails her commitment to the potential for innovative finance to solve major social problems from her days as a VISTA Volunteer (now AmeriCorps). She holds a J.D./M.B.A. from the University of Chicago, and a B.A. from UC Berkeley.

Bill Bynum

For three decades, Bill Bynum has worked to advance economic opportunity for disenfranchised populations. He began his professional career by helping to establish Self-Help, a pioneer in the development finance industry, and later built nationally recognized programs at the North Carolina Rural Economic Development Center. He moved to Jackson in 1994 to become the founding CEO of the Enterprise Corporation of the Delta and in 1995 organized Hope Credit Union.

Today HOPE (Hope Enterprise Corporation/Hope Credit Union) is a regional community development financial institution, intermediary, and policy center that provides and promotes responsible financial services and related assistance for entrepreneurs, home buyers, and community development projects in distressed communities across Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi, and Tennessee. Bill has advised Presidents Clinton, Bush, and Obama on community development, small business, and financial service matters, serving for ten years as a presidential appointee and chairman of the Treasury Department's Community Development Advisory Board. In 2012, he was named vice chairman of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's inaugural Consumer Advisory Board.

A Salzburg Seminar Fellow, Bill is a recipient of the University of North Carolina Distinguished Alumnus Award, Ernst & Young National Entrepreneur of the Year Award, National Rural Assembly Rural Hero Award, and National Federation of Community Development Credit Unions Helping Hands Award. His board/ trustee service includes Millsaps College, Jackson State University Development Foundation, University of Mississippi MIND Center, Mississippi Children's Museum, Corporation for Enterprise Development, NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation. Bill is a 1998 Henry Crown Fellow of the Aspen Institute and a member of the Aspen Global Leadership Network.

Raj Date

Raj Date is the Managing Partner of Fenway Summer LLC, a hybrid advisory and venture investment firm focused on financial services.

Raj serves on the Boards of Directors for two Fenway Summer-sponsored startups: a mass-market credit card venture, and a prime non-agency mortgage originator. He also serves as a Director for a number of other innovative, high-growth firms in consumer finance, including Prosper, the peer-to-peer lender; Circle, the digital currency firm; and Kensington Vanguard, a national title insurance agent. Through Fenway Summer’s advisory practice (FS Advisory), Raj counsels a range of clients – banks, finance companies, and investment firms – on strategic and financial issues.

For Raj, Fenway Summer is the latest chapter in a long and varied career in and around U.S. financial institutions — as a senior policymaker, as a bank executive, and on Wall Street.

Raj was the first-ever Deputy Director of the U.S. Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB). As the Bureau’s second-ranking official, he helped steward the CFPB’s strategy, its operations, and its policy agenda. He also served on the senior staff committee of the Financial Stability Oversight Council, and as a statutory deputy to the FDIC Board.

Before being appointed Deputy Director, Raj acted as the interim leader of the new agency, serving as the Special Advisor to the Secretary of the Treasury. He led the CFPB for most of the first six months after its launch.

Before his time in public policy, Raj was a Managing Director in the Financial Institutions Group at Deutsche Bank Securities, where he led the firm’s investment banking coverage for the largest U.S.-based banks and thrifts. His client work focused on calibrating credit deterioration, evaluating capital-raising alternatives, and generating liquidity. Before that, Raj was Senior Vice President for Corporate Strategy and Development at Capital One Financial, where he led M&A development efforts across the U.S. banking and specialty finance markets. He began his business career in the financial institutions practice of the consulting firm McKinsey & Company. He has also served as an attorney in both private practice and public service.

He is a graduate of the College of Engineering at the University of California at Berkeley (highest honors) and the Harvard Law School (magna cum laude). 

Ellen Seidman

Ellen Seidman is a Senior Fellow at the Urban Institute, focusing on housing finance and community development. During 2012 and 2013, she has been a visiting scholar with the Community Development Department of the Federal Reserve Bank of San Francisco, and has been a Research Fellow of the Filene Research Institute since 2011. In 2012, she was appointed to the Consumer Advisory Board of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau.

She is the 2013-2014 NYU Stern-Citi Leadership & Ethics Distinguished Fellow, and is a research fellow at the Filene Research Institute. From 1997 through 2001, she was the Director of the Office of Thrift Supervision, the federal regulator of the savings and loan industry, and concurrently served on the Board of Directors of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and as Chair of the Board for the Neighborhood Reinvestment Corporation. From 2002 through 2010, Ms. Seidman held various positions at ShoreBank Corporation and its affiliates. From 2007 to 2010, she was a scholar in the Asset Building Program at the New America Foundation, a Washington, D.C. think tank.

Ms. Seidman has also been Senior Counsel to the Democratic Staff, House Financial Services Committee (2001-02), Special Assistant to the President for Economic Policy (1993-1997), and has held senior positions at Fannie Mae, the Department of the Treasury and the Department of Transportation. She was a founder of and serves on the board of the Center for Financial Services Innovation and is a member of several other boards, including Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), City First Bank of DC and the CDFI Assessment and Ratings System (CARS).

Ms. Seidman received her M.B.A. in Finance and Investments from George Washington University, her J.D. from Georgetown University Law Center, and her A.B. from Radcliffe College.

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