Each one, teach one.
This is a slogan used often in educational settings. Its origin is often traced back to an African proverb. Some say that due to its African origin, it became a motto of slaves in the United States in the 1800s. The simple message that slaves used it to convey to one another was that if you are so brave as to defy your captors and learn a valuable skill such as reading or writing, you then have a duty to impart your newly acquired wisdom to another.
Today we still struggle with adult literacy in the United States. As a finance professor, however, the challenge that I have taken on is financial literacy. Wikipedia says that financial literacy is an individual’s ability to make informed judgments and effective decisions about the use and management of his/her money. According to this definition and data from the Networks Financial Institute at Indiana State University, only 25% of Americans are financially literate.
African-Americans and Money
This is where my expertise lies. Therefore, I – just as those slaves hundreds of years ago – have a duty to impart my wisdom to others. This duty is only strengthened by the fact that I too am a person of color. Unfortunately, people who “look like me” tend to be the least savvy when it comes to matters of personal finance. Look at the statistics:
- Over 90 percent of African-American families earning between $10,000 and $24,999 had credit card debt (Source: Demos.org study, November 2007)
- 26 percent of Americans, or more than 58 million adults, admit to not paying all of their bills on time. Among African-Americans, this number is at 51 percent. (Source: National Foundation for Credit Counseling, 2009 Financial Literacy Survey, April 2009)
Students and Money
I also feel a duty to look out for my students. Although the CARD Act of 2009 has specific provisions to protect young people from being targeted by credit card companies and others, the statistics are still alarming:
- Half of college undergraduates had four or more credit cards in 2008 with an average balance of $3,173 and 21 percent of undergraduates had balances of between $3,000 and $7,000. In spring of 2008, only 15 percent of freshman had a zero balance, and their median debt was $939. (Source: Sallie Mae, “How Undergraduate Students Use Credit Cards,” April 2009)
- Seniors graduated with an average credit card debt of more than $4,100 – up from $2,900 in 2004. Close to one-fifth of seniors carried balances greater than $7,000. (Source: Sallie Mae, “How Undergraduate Students Use Credit Cards,” April 2009)
- The average
college graduate has nearly $20,000 in debt; average credit card debt has increased 47 percent between 1989 and 2004 for 25-to 34-year-olds and 11 percent for 18- to 24-year-olds. Nearly one in five 18- to 24-year-olds is in “debt hardship,” up from 12 percent in 1989. (Source: Demos.org, “The Economic State of Young America,” May 2008)
- One-fourth of the students surveyed in US PIRG’s 2008 Campus Credit Card Trap report said that they have paid a late fee, and 15 percent have paid an “over the limit” fee. (Source: U.S. PIRG, “Campus Credit Card Trap”)
These statistics all help to reaffirm my goals for this project. Through my journey, discoveries and observations I hope to enlighten others. Otherwise, I could have written all this in a journal kept on my nightstand. In order to fulfill my duty to teach others, I have to reach them. Please help. Embedded in every one of my posts is a “nugget” or two of information regarding personal finance that maybe you or someone you know might find useful. Share those nuggets with others. Suggest that they read the blog. Hopefully they will be informed and maybe even mildly entertained at the same time. Also, please comment. Let me know if you think my nuggets are pure gold or simply lumps of coal!
- Financial literacy is a problem all over the world. It is imperative that all of us know how to manage our own money. There are an abundance of resources available to help us all learn how to do a better job of this. Get started now!
- Once you learn something valuable, pass it on.
A Little Shameless Self Promotion
Finally, to help me reach my goal of getting this message out to as many people as possible, would you consider nominating this blog for an award? I know that is presumptuous and self-serving, but hear me out. As I mentioned earlier, I can’t help if I can’t reach. This cause is so important to me that I will do all that I can to get my message in front of as many people as possible. I share my posts on Facebook and Twitter. I encourage my students to read and comment. I’ve given numerous speeches on this topic. Won’t you please take a moment and help spread the word? (If the answer is yes, then click here and nominate me for best new blog — or any other category that you think is fitting!