April is National Financial Literacy Month, a powerful opportunity to raise awareness of the importance of maintaining smart money management habits.
Financial literacy is key to understanding how to save, earn, borrow, invest and protect your money. It’s also essential to developing short- and long-term financial habits and skills that lead to greater financial well-being.
This knowledge is critically important for the Black community, as the lack of financial literacy is one of the reasons why the average white family’s wealth is eight times higher than the wealth of an average Black family, according to the Federal Reserve. Systematic inequality, high default rates on student loans, employment discrimination and redlining (housing discrimination) are some of the other factors that have limited access to wealth-building vehicles for generations, allowing the racial wealth gap to not only persist, but to grow.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation report, the 2019 national Black poverty rate (22%) was more than double the white poverty rate (9%) in the U.S.
According to National Credit Union Administration, becoming financially capable could be as simple as:
- Creating a financial plan that includes a budget to determine which expenses are flexible or fixed, as well as ensure you have enough emergency savings to prepare for unexpected expenses.
- Pulling your credit report once a year to make sure the information is accurate, complete and up- to-date. Reviewing your credit report will also help to guard against identity theft.
Licensed financial professional Toni Sanders, believes financial literacy is critical for changing the game for Black people’s current and future realities.
“Growing up as a little girl, I was never taught about money, and we never talked about money at the dinner table,” said Sanders. “I wanted to be one of those people who changed the narrative, who changed how we as a people view and handle money.”
Sanders, who owned multiple businesses for over 27 years, realized that someone as business savvy as she had a lot to learn when she was first introduced to financial literacy lessons that led her to her career change.
“I want to change the legacy of my family, but in order to do that I had to learn. I have a daughter, and I couldn’t teach her something that I didn’t know. And that’s what’s happening in our community,” said Sanders.
Financial Education professional Angela CeZar said this lack of financial knowledge is all too common in Black households as only 38% of financial independence needs questions (P-FIN) were answered correctly by Blacks polled.
“Even Blacks with college degrees, 47% weren’t able to correctly answer P-FIN questions,” said CeZar. “That means many Black doctors, lawyers, accountants and more don’t know basic finance.”
Similar results are found when looking at income. Only 52% of Blacks earning $100K and over annually answered those P-FIN questions correctly.
“I want my community to be educated and empowered to make better money decisions, to be financially fit, to be financially free and financially independent. We cannot do that without the education,” said CeZar.
MORE FINANCIAL STATS
- While 66% of Blacks report that they are doing at least OK financially, the comparable figure among whites is 78%.
- Median household income among Blacks was $35,400 in 2016; median household income of whites was $61,200.
- Black household net worth was $17,600 in 2016 and 19% had zero or negative net worth; the analogous figures for white households were $171,000 and 9%, respectively.
- Blacks are far more likely to be “unbanked” — that is, having no traditional bank or checking account — compared to other races. Whereas the white population has an unbanked rate of 3.3%, according to a Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City study, the rate for Blacks is 18.2%.
- 62% of working-age Black households do not have any assets in a retirement account, versus 37% of white households with no retirement accounts, per the National Institute on Retirement Security. What’s more, people of color nearing retirement age have an average savings of $30,000, versus $120,000 for white households.
- The wealth gap tends to grow as people get older. Looking at Americans born from 1943 to 1951, the Urban Institute found that white households’ average wealth was $395,000 in their late 30s, spiking to $1.3 million in their late 60s, compared to $127,000 and $204,000, respectively, for Black households.
- The proportion of Black families with zero or negative net worth was 37% in 2016, compared to 15.5% for white families.
- Closing the racial gap would make the American economy grow immensely. McKinsey & Company estimates that closing the racial wealth gap by 2028 could increase U.S. GDP by 4% to 6%.
AREA FINANCIAL LITERACY PROGRAMS
Children’s Museum of Houston
Bank on It WonderWeek
Sponsored by Bank of America, Monday, Sept 28 thru Friday, Oct 2, is Bank on It WonderWeek, a period where sponsors Bank of America is bringing Kidtropolis to your home highlighting financial literacy tactics families can start practicing together. For schedule information, visit www.cmhouston.org/events/bank-on-it-ww.
Chinese Community Center (9800 Town Park Dr., Houston 77036)
THRIVE/Alief Financial Opportunity Center
This program for individuals 18 and over, offers a multi-faceted and bundling approach to income and wealth building with a focus on income support through financial education and coaching, workshops, employment placement, job search assistance, and career improvement through vocational training. For more info, visit https://ccchouston.org/.
City of Houston
Bank On Houston
Bank On Houston is a financial initiative supported by City of Houston Controller – Chris B. Brown, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, the Cities for Financial Empowerment Fund, the Federal Reserve, local banks and non-profit organizations that offer Houstonians the opportunity to open low-cost bank accounts that are free of excessive fees and requirements. The program exists specifically for those who rely on expensive check-cashing services and payday loans, or those who simply don’t know where to start when it comes to managing their finances. Visit www.BankOnHouston.org or www.houstontx.gov/bankonhouston/ for more information.
Houston Area Urban League (HAUL)
Financial Education Workshop
HAUL’s Housing and Social Services Department offers Financial Education workshops to educate families with basic money management skills, including goal setting, understanding your money, developing and maintaining a budget, savings, credit/debit, and credit management. The curriculum utilized is “Building Wealth, A Beginner’s Guide to Securing Your Financial Future” by that Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas. For more information, visit https://www.haul.org/programs/housing/.
Houston Community College System
HCC’s financial literacy initiative aims to help HCC students take control and create lifelong healthy financial habits by developing financial literacy as a life skill that can propel students into a more successful future. Critical to this effort is HCC’s Financial Coaching Department, a financial outreach and educational program administered by HCC’s Financial Aid Department. The FCD offers personal, one-on-one coaching sessions to help students understand budgeting, assess their financial aid package and refund, reduce their student loan debt, navigate student loan repayment and emergency funding to help students stay in school. FCD also offers presentations and workshops upon request, and works with community partners to provide community resources to HCC students. For more info, visit https://www.hccs.edu/applying-and-paying/financial-aid/financial-literacy-for-students/.
Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center (3930 W. Fuqua, Houston 77045)
MLK’s Financial Literacy Program
The Martin Luther King Jr. Early Childhood Center has integrated financial literacy into the curriculum with the goal of preparing pre-K to kindergarten students for college. The program helps children develop concepts about financial basics at an early age, including understanding that objects have different values, coins have different values and that people work to earn money. According to the program’s website, “One of the most important aspects involves being financially aware and responsible. We know that helping our students understand how finances work will prepare them even more for their remarkable future. For more info, visit https://www.houstonisd.org/Page/72740 or call 713-797-7900.
Women’s Resource of Greater Houston (730 N. Post Oak Blvd., Ste 203, Houston 77204)
YourLife Finance Classes
Provides a six-class series of free one-hour virtual classes that cover topics such as tracking expenses, utilizing a budget, reducing debt, credit building, saving for emergencies, and more. Each participant who attends an in-person class receives a packet with information and examples along with a list of community resources. Classes are taught by trained volunteers at local nonprofits, libraries, businesses, government agencies, and now online, in more than 35 ZIP codes across the Houston area. For information on the April Class Series which runs from April – May 10, visit https://thewomensresource.org/classes/.
Worklife Institute (11900 St. James Place, Ste 880, Houston, 77056)
Texas Veterans Worklife Transition Program
This program provides transition and sustainability services for military personnel, veterans and their families. Services include career transition, personal and family counseling, legal and financial counseling, weekly career transition workshops, a 4-session entrepreneur training series, mediation courses, military caregivers, access to benefits and hiring fairs. For more info, call 713-266-2456.
University of Houston
Financial Literacy Programs
UH offers its students and staff several different programs and services that help strengthen their financial IQ. Money Matters Institute is an intensive course for UH staff prepping them with basic “Financial Literacy 101” knowledge to give students the answers they need. UH also offers iGrad, a financial education platform offered to UH students via a partnership with Our Money Matters, a partnership between The HBCU Community Action Development Coalition and the Wells Fargo Foundation. The platform allows participants to gain personal finance knowledge and build positive money habits through access to personalized educational material based on individual money personalities. The school also makes available to its students Semester Budget Worksheets and the Wells Fargo sponsored Beyond College: 2022 Webinar Series, monthly webinars covering a variety of financial topics. For information on these programs, visit https://uh.edu/financial/undergraduate/financial-literacy/.
FINANCIAL EDUCATION CURRICULA
Here are some of the most popular curricula used to teach financial education to youth, adults and senior citizens.
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation “Money Smart for Young Adults” (FDIC)
- Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Building Wealth
- Junior Achievement (JA)
- National Endowment for Financial Education (NEFE)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation “Money Smart for Adults” (FDIC)
- Federal Reserve Bank of Dallas Building Wealth
- Money Management International (MMI)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation “Money Smart for Small Business” (FDIC)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation “Money Smart for Older Adults” (FDIC)
- Eldercare.gov – Administration on Aging
MORE ONLINE RESOURCES
- Texas Department of Banking: https://www.dob.texas.gov/consumer-information/financial-education
- List of Financial Programs: https://www.findhelp.org/money/financial-education–houston-tx
- Article providing a step-by-step guide to learning about financial literacy and getting your financial house in order: https://www.moneymanagement.org/blog/financial-literacy-month
- For kids, Sesame Workshop, the nonprofit behind Sesame Street: https://www.sesameworkshop.org/
- Article: “How to Teach Kids to Save Money – 15 Easy Strategies” http://www.itsahabit.com/strategies.html
- United Way of Greater Houston Financial Literacy Training, https://referral.unitedwayhouston.org/MatchList.aspx?k;;0;;N;0;0;Financial%20Literacy%20Training