‘It gave me hope’: Financial literacy organizations empower marginalized youth with knowledge

As a graduate of Boston International High School in Dorchester, Valeus is taking steps to do just that. With the help of Invest in Girls, an organization that partners with schools in Boston and across the country to educate young women about personal finance and financial careers, Valeus feels empowered to follow her dreams.

“Because I was born and raised in Haiti, I didn’t even know credit cards existed,” Valeus said. “[Now] I know credit cards are an important thing, and if you use them, you need to make sure you pay off your debt on time.”

So say the experts and advocates stories like Valeus’s highlight how important it is to educate young people, especially people of color, low-income people, first-generation Americans and girls, about personal finance. Having the tools to manage money and build assets early in life is a step toward closing the racial wealth gap, equipping minority populations to build generational wealth and exposing young women to careers in a male-dominated industry, experts say.

A 2015 study by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston shocked many Bostonians when it put hard numbers on the wealth gap between black and white families in the city. The researchers found that in Greater Boston, the net worth of American-born black households was just $8, compared to $247,500 for white households. The study, which is receiving an update, also showed that black and Latino households were less likely than their white counterparts to own assets associated with home ownership, transportation and retirement.

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Organizations like Invest in Girls hope to do just that address this issue by targeting young people who do not normally access professional financial advice to create a new generation of financially literate young people.

“If you sow [financial literacy] early, it will be beneficial to all populations and certainly to disproportionately disadvantaged populations,” said Vincent Muscolino, a finance professor at Northeastern University, adding that such efforts could help establish “building blocks throughout life.”

Sunaina Tipirneni, a senior at Acton-Boxborough Regional High School and president of the school chapter of Invest in Girls, said she learned the value of saving money her parents, who immigrated to the United States from India in 1999. But after joining the after-school club, Tipirneni learned how to spend responsibly and even invest in the stock market, something she would never have dared to do before.

Invest in Girls also empowered Tipirneni to pursue a career in asset management. At first, feeling outnumbered in a male-dominated financial industry intimidated her, but the organization created a safe space for her to learn, Tipirneni said.

“I felt like I was an underdog and [Invest in Girls] it gave me hope,” she said. “The way my family raised me made me shy away from these kinds of things, but I think it’s important to address them head on.”

Talks about money are often uncomfortable or “an emotional sore point” within marginalized households, advocates say. But the Babson Financial Literacy Project aims to make money less taboo and more accessible through free virtual workshops that cover everything from managing a credit card and investing in stocks to planning a budget.

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To ensure youth-oriented programming people who need it most, co-founder Kathleen Hevert, an associate professor of finance at Babson College, said the project connects Massachusetts community colleges, which serve “the highest percentage of low-income students in higher education” and account for “49 percent of credit enrollment in graduation,” he says. the Massachusetts Association of Community Colleges.

“Those who are intimidated by financial knowledge or would just rather do something else … that’s who we want to reach the most,” Hevert said. “That would be our goal [students] live a happier, healthier and more secure financial life.”

Azalea Rodas, who is studying hospitality management at MassBay Community College, said the project’s workshops have helped her manage the money she makes working at the Hampton Inn in Natick. In high school, Rhodes got financial advice from YouTube videos and later invested money in the trendy cryptocurrency Bitcoin. But when Rhodes lost more than $2,000 to a confused stock market, I knew it was time to rely on financial experts for reliable information.

“There are many things on the Internet that you don’t know whether to believe or not. So I wanted to learn from someone who really knew, and that’s what Babson offered me,” Rodas, 20, said.

To help the youth of Boston manage your money smart The Vincita Institute, another financial education organization associated with Northeastern University, offers free financial literacy courses to young people of color.

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Chief executive Nicholas Josey said people from marginalized communities often fall prey to ads that encourage consumers to spend money. Meanwhile, online get-rich-quick schemes and lackluster financial education standards in Massachusetts public schools create the perfect storm for money management mistakes. But this summer, the institute offered a course focused on savings, insurance, investing, retirement and estate planning for teenagers ages 14 to 19 through the Madison Park Development Corporation’s summer youth development program.

Participants like Rodnisha Granger, a student at Boston Preparatory Charter Public School, shared the information they learned with the adults in their lives.

“We fight because money doesn’t grow on trees,” Granger, 17, said. “But [Josey] it gave me a lot of knowledge to improve my family’s financial means. … Every day, when I was learning something new, I went home and told them”.

The Vincita Institute encouraged Granger to study entrepreneurship and accounting in college, and she hopes to own a business one day. But Granger said the value of her new knowledge extends beyond herself, a testament to the lasting and far-reaching benefits of financial education among underserved youth.

“[My dad] he has dreams… and I want him to start his dreams now,” Granger said. “It just makes me feel better about helping the next generations of my family.”

Katie Mogg can be reached at [email protected] Follow her on twitter @j0urnalistkatie


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