CHARLENE CROWELL

CHARLENE CROWELL

News—we read it, talk about it, even complain about it from time to time. But if you look close enough, the good news can still be found—like Olympic gold medalists of all colors winning in Rio, or a series of voter suppression laws ruled unconstitutional in several states.

And there’s even more good news on the financial front. New research finds that 90 million consumers are saving $2.2 billion each year. These savings didn’t come from pay raises or bonuses, or new jobs. Instead, these financial gains came when a pernicious form predatory lending became illegal.

Let’s call these locales “shark-free” states where interest rates on small-dollar payday loans are legally limited to no more than 36 percent. Instead of living on financial tightropes from one payday to the next, these consumers are paying off bills and even saving some money on a regular basis.

Call me old-fashioned, but when bills are paid and I’ve still got money to call my own, I feel like things are going OK. I’m betting others do too. As one of my colleagues recently remarked, “When $2.2 billion of fees go away, who wouldn’t feel better?”

That colleague’s name is Robin Howarth, and she’s a senior researcher with the Center for Responsible Lending (CRL). She and another colleague, Delvin Davis, also a senior researcher are co-authors of the policy brief, “Shark-Free Waters: States are Better Off without Payday Lending.”  Working together, the two of them found that consumers in payday-free states have found multiple ways to manage temporary cash shortfalls and at a fraction of the cost of payday loans.  Their conclusions were informed by a series of academic studies, surveys and focus group results.

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