Financial Literacy: The Importance Within the Black Community

By Paul A. Holston

Statistics show that African Americans are heading towards a greater financial progress in the 21st century, compared to their evolvement in the past; however, African Americans are still faced with current financial adversities and hardships. According to a recent study, Prudential’s 2013 “African American Financial Experience,” African Americans have remarkably more debt with 94 percent, compared to the general population’s 82 percent, specifically with credit card debt, student loan debt and personal loans. A statistic by a Gallup poll states that, “Half of 2000-2014 black college graduates in the U.S. report graduating with more than $25,000 in undergraduate student loan debt. By comparison, 34 percent of recent white graduates report similar levels of debt.” Here, a business employee in the nation’s capital and two students from Howard University, an undergraduate and a graduate, all give their perspectives on financial literacy and the state of African American financial knowledge…

Photo Credit: Paul Holston

Name: Mollie Harris
Age: 70 / F
Hometown: Upper Marlboro, Md.

Q: What is your main financial concern for 2015?
A: We [African-Americans] are beginning to come back, but not in the way that we expected to come back. My concern is the housing finance in D.C. because of rent being so high…it’s a lot. It’s not helping the black communities and businesses that have been in D.C. for a long time.

Q: What is the biggest reason behind the lack of financial knowledge among African Americans?
A: It depends on the African American, but it especially pertains to the younger generation, who has a greater issue with discussing money because they maybe did not learn how to manage it. We have generations of kids that were brought up on welfare programs, then had to work in welfare programs where one has to work in order to get subsidy. They have a mindset of getting materialistic things versus learning to invest, but it all depends on how they were taught from their family as well.

Q: Why do African Americans dislike discussing money issues? How can we change this mindset as a community?
A: There may be some who are incompetent of speaking about it because they do not know how to. Something is preventing them from actually talking to an advisor or person that can help them be financially stable. There are some who may have been on drugs at point, never had a job, got away with stealing, etc. and now they can’t figure out how to talk about learning to solve their money issues. This financial issue must be openly discussed to change the mindset.

Q: What is your advice for people as far as ways to save money (for themselves, family, future, etc.)?
A: Pay yourself first. People say “I can’t do that,” but they can. You must pay yourself first. You work for the money so it’s your money. Every dollar counts.

 

Photo Credit: Paul Holston

Name: Desmond Pat-Ekeji
Age: 19 / M
Hometown: Abuja, Nigeria

Q: What is your main financial concern for 2015?
A: As of right now, finding a job on or off campus so I can make more money for myself as a student.

Q: What is the biggest reason behind the lack of financial knowledge among African Americans?
A: To me, it’s hard to answer because it really depends on the person’s surrounding and upbringing that determines their knowledge of finances and money.

Q: Why do African Americans dislike discussing money issues? How can we change this mindset as a community?
A: Some dislike discussing these issues because of the stereotypical image of African Americans, such as being poor, bad looks as far as reputations and being lazy. With these images, some feel very uncomfortable talking about money and it’s sort of like a kind of responsibility politics. The feeling is almost like neo-1960s Civil Rights era.

Q: Specifically here on campus, what type of people do you believe know how to file their taxes more?
A: I believe that more students in business and finance majors would be prone to have more knowledge about the topic of taxes.

Q: What advice would you give for people as far as ways to save money, whether it’s for themselves, their family, future, or college students who are soon to graduate?
A: Make a budget like a scale of preference of what you need and don’t need. Go for paying things that pertain to you the most such as bills, books or debt versus things that aren’t that important such as shoes, clothes and materialistic things.

 

Photo Credit: Paul Holston

Name: Isaac Collins
Age: 27 / M
Hometown: Tampa, Fla.

Q: What is your main financial concern for 2015?
A: Getting a good, starting salary once I graduate since I’m going full time as a graduate student.

Q: What is the biggest reason behind the lack of financial knowledge among African Americans?
A: The lack of education on the subject. I don’t recall anytime during the studies that I’ve had where it’s been an issue or brought up. It’s something that needs to be talked about more. If no one talks about it, then there’s not going to be any knowledge about it.

Q: Why do African Americans dislike discussing money issues? How can we change this mindset as a community?
A: Money represents status. If people feel like their status is being compared to someone else, they’re not going to be willing to talk about it unless they can show off how much better they are than someone else…that seems to be the only time it comes up. People aren’t willing to discuss their status against someone else if they are not comfortable about it.

Q: On campus, what do you think is the percentage of people that do not know how to file their taxes? Do you know how to file your taxes?
A: Since the majority of people on campus are undergraduate students, they do not have to worry about it as much. For graduate students, I believe it would be 50/50. I started filing three to four years ago and it’s pretty easy.

Q: What is some advice you can give for people as far as financial literacy and how to save, whether it’s for their future, their family, or their overall goals?
A: As far as saving, take out a percentage of your check and put it into a savings account. You will never see it as money lost. When you need it, with interest and everything, it will be more than what you put in. For financial literacy, you should find a mentor or financial advisor because you can ask personal questions that you not might ask in a workshop. On the contrary, workshops can also help you get in touch with a mentor and staying in contact with that person.

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