Financial literacy may not be a sexy topic, but financial illiteracy is literally everywhere. And in this new economic age we all live in today, it's wrecking lives, hopes and dreams both large and small.

The number one cause of divorce, is money.
The number one reason for domestic abuse, is money.
The number one reason why police get injured on the job is not car chases or shootouts, but domestic abuse calls. 
The number one reason why minorities (and increasingly mainstream America too) drop out of college is not grades or GPA, but money.
The number one cause for heart disease is stress, so says the American Heart Association. The number one reason for stress – money.

Financial illiteracy is no longer the thing we assign to the so-called poor, and those without a college degree, or a degree of material success.  It is something that now effects and impacts all of us, and we need to do something about it. Now.  But before we put out the urgent call to our elected officials, we need to also look at ourselves, our own lives, and our own decisions. 

From singers to super-star athletes, the story is so often the same. Wealth — gone, and soon thereafter comes the filing for bankruptcy.

And the stories…. The professional basketball player that lost $100 million due to arrogance and financial illiteracy, and the professional boxer that somehow walked through $250 million — cash.  The basketball player might have failed simply because he would not listen to what everyone was telling him not to do, in the name of common sense, but the boxer just appeared to confuse the definition of a salary-income-based millionaire, with a compound interest-based billionaire. 

Recently, a fairly visible celebrity proudly proclaimed, "…I'm like a billionaire…I have no concern about money. I make it, I spend it, and I will always have it.” Actually, the answer to that is "ahhh, no you aren't," and "no you won't." This unfortunate, overly confident individual, like so many others with the same mindset, will likely be dead broke in 10-years unless they radically change their ways.  This means changing their viewpoint on money, financial literacy, even their outlook on life too. Humility required.  And note to self: this wild and fun financial amusement park ride many of us are on —- will end.

Or take myself for example.  I was confused in the head about money, before I was ever clear headed about my financial choices.  As I chronicled in my bestselling business book Love Leadership: The New Way to Lead In A Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), Loss Creates Leaders.  I was homeless at age 18 for six months of my life, and precisely because I had too much month at the end of my money, even though I was doing fairly well.  Unfortunately, I had very little common sense to go along with my opportunities, and challenges. 

In my teenage years I confused busyness for business. I made the mistake of actually becoming impressed with myself. This is the first step away from true greatness, and right towards that cliff. 

Like so many others super-ambitious, (at that time) highly irrational individuals, I only lived 'in the moment.'  The good news for me is, I did learn to listen and I grew some common sense along the way. Rainbows after storms.  You cannot have a rainbow, without a storm first.

Yes, it's time for governments and leaders here and around the world to act on financial literacy legislation for all, but it is also time for each and everyone of us to take a powerful, and honest look at ourselves.  In far too many cases, we helped create this perfect storm we now find ourselves in.

Okay, let's go.


John Hope Bryant is an empowerment leader, the founder, chairman and CEO of Operation HOPE and Bryant Group Companies, Inc. Magazine/CEO READ bestselling business author of LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World (Jossey-Bass), the only African-American bestselling business author in America, and is chairman of the Subcommittee for the Under-Served and Community Empowerment for the U.S. President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability, for President Barack Obama.  Mr. Bryant is the co-founder of the Gallup-HOPE Index, the only national research poll on youth financial dignity and youth economic energy in the U.S.


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