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Innovators Using Federal Data to Help Consumers Make Informed Decisions

By Sarah Gearen

From shopping for an airline ticket to choosing a college or purchasing a home, consumers face increasingly complex choices in today’s marketplace. Too often, the effort required to make informed financial decisions leaves many Americans in the dark – and often paying a price, missing a better product or surprised by hidden fees.

With April being National Financial Capability Month, there is no better time to highlight the promising field of smart disclosure. Smart disclosure, the timely release of data in standardized, machine-readable formats, is already providing consumers with information from a wide array of vendors so they can easily compare options before making a purchase. To encourage the release of this data, the Obama Administration recently launched the first Smart Disclosure Data Community at

This data community is a centralized portal to federal government data and resources to empower consumers and spur innovation among entrepreneurs. In fact, several companies have already shared stories about how this data has enabled them to build apps and other tools that help consumers make more informed financial decisions.

Here are a few examples of just how entrepreneurs are leveraging the Administration’s open data efforts to build these tools:

Using the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Occupational Employment Statistics, GetRaised offers consumers a tool that enables them to determine whether or not they are underpaid, and assists them in creating a raise request to discuss the possibility with their supervisors. To date, GetRaised reports that nearly 70 percent of women who have submitted raise requests have succeeded in obtaining raises, at an average of $6,700.

HelloWallet pulls data from the Federal Reserve System’s Survey of Consumer Finances and the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Expenditures Survey to provide consumers with information about the financial habits of their peers. The company’s aim is to encourage healthy financial behavior by presenting consumers with comparative mortgage, retirement and credit card data, and offering suggestions about where to save and reduce debt.

Calcbench is a financial information and analytics platform that uses free eXtensible Business Reporting Language (XBRL) data from the Securities and Exchange Commission to deliver financial information about 8,500 companies listed on US-based stock exchanges. By using XBRL data, Calcbench is able to offer everyday investors detailed information that has been traditionally been reserved for institutional investment firms to help them make smarter, more informed decisions on everything from business strategy to retirement investing.

By combining data with technology, these companies are able to offer data analytics tools that are customized to address the goals and financial needs of individual consumers. If your company or organization has a story to share about how you are using data to empower consumers, tweet us @USTreasury.

Sarah Gearen is a Senior Policy Advisor in the Office of Consumer Policy at the U.S. Department of the Treasury.

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