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Introducing the Gallup-Operation HOPE Financial Literacy Index

In 1960, the issue here and around the world was the emergence of democracy, and making it real to you and me. Well, let's say the minority and the poor you and me. The way we commodified democracy and "made it relevant," was the right to vote, equal access and equal rights. But today, in the backdrop of a global economic crisis, there are more people in America with no bank account than didn't have the right to vote in 1960, or 40 million (unbanked and under-banked). Today everyone — be you white, black, red, brown or yellow — wants some more green. Today, 70% of Americans were living from paycheck to paycheck, and that was before the economic crisis. Today, everyone needs to be bi-lingual. You need to understand English and the language of money, or financial literacy. Today, if you don't understand the language of money, and you don't have a bank account, you are an economic slave.

But this movement may prove much more difficult than the last, as money is emotional and elusive. Understanding the language of money and financial literacy is often buried in the shadows of an odd, colorless shame. 50% of those in foreclosure never pick up the phone and call their lender. The number #1 reason for divorce in America is money. The #1 reason why kids drop out of college, and particularly, black and brown kids, is not academic success but money. This year alone, 350 young ladies, who had stellar academic records, initially could not return to Spelman College simply because they could not afford tuition. Thanks to some private Spelman donors, this stark reality was reversed for all but a few of these young women on a mission to improve themselves. The "gap" here was not ambition or work ethic, but money.

How we fight this war on financial literacy will not be in the streets, but in the suites. It will feature amongst other things, a five-part strategy including:

1. Mandatory financial literacy for every youth 4th through 12th grade;

2. A domestic Peace Corps of relevant role models which connects education to real success or failure in life;

3. An electronic debit card accessed FDIC or NCUA insured bank or credit union account secured at birth, no different than your Social Security number. This would also help to push financial predators, such as payday lenders and check cashers, out of business;

4. The mother of all national financial literacy assessment — the Gallup-HOPE Financial Literacy Index.

5. Private sector adoption of financial literacy in financial products and services, as well as Human Resources department, such as the 5-year HOPE agreement has entered into with the Financial Services Roundtable.

Read and comment on thefull Huffington Post story here.


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