Financial Literacy Summit 2014

Today’s Financial Literacy Summit 2014 hosted an impressive lineup of panelists who gave brilliant insight and inspiration toward the promotion of financial literacy.  The Master of Ceremonies was Bill Sheedy, Executive VP, Mergers & Acquisitions and Government Relations for Visa, Inc.  The live summit, hosted by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago and Visa, Inc., was also shown by webcast and accompanied by Twitter commentary where people could post comments as well as ask questions.

The overall topic of the summit was “Bringing Financial Literacy to the Unbanked and Under banked,” and while the first panel focused on general population, the second panel leaned toward bringing financial literacy to young Americans through schools and other programs.

Jennifer Tescher, President and CEO for the Center for Financial Services Innovation (CSFI), wrapped up the overall sentiment of the summit by saying, “It’s important to break the taboo about talking about money.”  Bringing financial education into our schools will not only help our kids get a better start, but they will bring home that discussion to their dinner tables.  Opening up a dialogue for students and family members is a way to promote financial empowerment among people who did not grow up talking about money.

Women, many of whom are single mothers, tend to be the prime financial activists in a family, and though their financial literacy is often lower, they are the often the main ones responsible for finances, and finding ways to promote financial literacy among women is a big focus, especially in countries besides our own.

The second set of panelists boasted John Hope Bryant, new U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans, a TIME Magazine 50 (Leaders) for the Future, and an Oprah’s Angel Network award recipient. He gave inspirational messages citing leadership icons Abraham Lincoln and Martin Luther King, stating, “We can change people’s lives. When we do poor neighborhoods become emerging markets…”  His commentary was inspirational to say the least as he talked about reconnecting kids to learning by teaching them topics that matters like entrepreneurship, so they can succeed with programs like his Hope Business Academy which is being brought to 200 schools across the nation.

Ted Beck, NEFE president and CFO, provided invaluable insight into the research behind the literacy movement.  We “need locations and opportunities so people can learn to make responsible decisions.”  Following up with these programs a year or more later becomes key in determining their successes, paying people to tell you where you made your mistakes and being ready to start over if necessary are all excellent points Beck drove home regarding the budding financial literacy movement.  He also drew attention to the fact that people receive in general a minimum of 25:1 ratio based on why you should spend money vs. why you should not spend money.  Noting that we are constantly bombarded with a barrage of input from companies who count on our collective ignorance.

The common belief between the panelists was that starting financial literacy as early as possible and helping people apply the learning as quickly as possible are keys to financial literacy program successes. Providing more and more role models and programs in the schools to help young Americans to connect the dots between learning and success is essential.

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