I am sitting in a meeting with brilliant social scientists at the Gallup Organization in Washington, D.C., along with the Gallup-HOPE Index Advisory Board. The Advisory Board includes representatives from U.S. Treasury, U.S. Department of Education, along with the CEO's of MetaPay and Bank of the West.
Traditional financial literacy data measures only left brain test results, around supposedly standard financial literacy norms. The only problem is, I have found, money is emotional, psychological, links to aspirations, hope, family background, even self esteem. All of this impacts ones "financial literacy." Example; young lady in Operation HOPE Banking on Our Future Program in Maywood, California 'thought' she was financially literate, but reality is in 1994, the year HOPE came in, there was NO BANK in Maywood, California. This young lady, Arianna, thought a check casher was a mainstream financial service provider. She thought that the Bank of America, was literally the BANK OF AMERICA. The government's central bank, she meant. She 'thought' she was financially literate, and 'thought' she understood the financial system in America. And this young lady was and is smart. The problem is, "it's what you don't know that you don't know that's killing you."
As she was the 12-year de-facto head of household, as she was the only person who spoke English in her Spanish household. Every week, on Friday, she was directed to remove the money from the cookie jar that her father had placed there, and to secure money orders to pay a range of household bills. What she had heard from a member of our HOPE Corps who taught the Banking on Our Future course was something completely different. Arianna ultimately gained the confidence to ask our volunteer to convince her parents to open her first bank account. We did this, and today Arianna is completing college, and has literally pulled her entire family into the 21st century of financial services.
Young Arianna use to 'think' she was financially literate, but the young adult and empowered Arianna, knows that she now is. Silver rights empowerment in action, in her life.
Perspective on "Banking" Maywood
Before Operation HOPE moved into Maywood, California, bringing traditional mainstream banking into that community, there was no bank serving a dignity rich community of 30,000 residents in Southern California; only check cashers. Today, Maywood is fully banked, thanks to the leadership of Operation HOPE, as well as Congresswoman Lucille Roybal-Allard, who singularly provided her leadership support in 1998, in East Los Angeles (and capital, providing $1 million from a Congressional Appropriation for minority small business support), and our first bank partner there, Home Savings of America (now US Bank).
John Hope Bryant is a thought leader, the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc., author of Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business book LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), and a Member of the U.S. President's Advisory Council on Financial Capability.