Financial Literacy Topic of Discussion at April Black Giving Circle Fund Meeting

On April 27, over 50 members and guests attended the Black Giving Circle Fund’s first meeting of 2017 at the Women’s League Child Development Center in Hartford to begin exploring this year’s topic of study. The evening’s theme was “Money Matters: Preparing Black Children and Youth to Attain Financial Literacy.”

Hartford Foundation interim president Yvette Meléndez welcomed the group and commented on the development of the fund and congratulated members, who voted on the fund’s first grant award last year. Meléndez recalled the series of discussions with area residents that followed the Foundation’s 2014 event celebrating black philanthropy, and culminated in the establishment of the new giving circle.

Marie Spivey and Daryl Thames, co-chairs of the Black Giving Circle Fund Steering Committee, opened by thanking members for their work thus far and discussed the fund’s plan for 2017. Spivey provided a brief history of the fund starting from its inception June 2015, through the 2016 grant process on literacy from birth to third grade. Thames talked about the importance of financial literacy in the African-American community.

The crowd was then greeted by Terry Schmitt, interim executive director of the Women’s League Child Development Center, which, this year, celebrates 100 years of service and support for women, children and families in Hartford.

Chari Anderson, senior development associate at the Foundation, introduced the evening’s keynote speakers: Christine Traczyk, vice president of community development and executive director of Farmington Bank; and Patrina Dixon, owner and chief executive officer of P. Dixon Consulting, LLC. The guest speakers defined financial literacy, spoke about its importance, and discussed some of the current challenges and gaps in financial education.

Ms. Traczyk noted that U.S. household debt increased 11% in the past decade. She shared national debt statistics from the Federal Reserve that show the average household with any kind of debt owes $134,643, including credit cards, auto loans, student loans and mortgages. As of Q4 2016, the total debt (any type) owed by U.S. consumers was reported to be $12.58 trillion. Traczyk named several factors contributing to the nation’s debt and financial literacy problems, including consumers facing more financial decisions than in the past, and widespread use of credit cards, which, to children, can appear to be an unlimited money source. Conversations about money and finances should start early with children. Traczyk informed the crowd that just 13 states have mandated financial education, and Connecticut is not one of them. She advocated for mandated financial education and talked about resources for teachers and classrooms.

There are differing opinions about the best age to focus on financial literacy for children, but both speakers stressed the importance of ongoing financial education for youth. While single session financial programs are the norm for most institutions, Ms. Dixon’s firm offers workshops and programs that are designed as a series of seminars, which aids in knowledge retention. Dixon noted that one of the biggest gaps in financial literacy is with high school students who generally are not interested in the subject matter. The students primarily live at home with family members who take care of all finances on the behalf of the adolescents. She encouraged talking about financial literacy a the family table and advocates for family learning, pointing out that Black families have statistically low home ownership and high rates of foreclosure.

Following the presentations, the speakers took questions from the crowd, including one asking for recommendations about what the giving circle members should look for as they continue their study of financial literacy. Traczyk stated that the topic is a family issue, and both children and parents need financial education. She believes issue needs programming that takes a multigenerational approach and pointed to the group’s 2016 grant to Parker Memorial Family Center’s Fatherhood Program, which simultaneously support children and fathers, as an example. Dixon thinks of financial literacy as a 3-legged stool consisting of the teacher, student and family/parents. She noted that financial stability requires that each “leg” be strong. Other questions were related to outcome data for programs currently in existence, statistics about financial literacy for Black children, and how to engage parents who are not in the room during programming.

The meeting ended with small group discussions. Participants offered thoughts about which age range the 2017 grant should support and talked about collaboration among nonprofits and taking a two-generation approach to financial literacy programming. They also shared what they hope to learn from presenters at the next session.  

The Black Giving Circle Fund will hold its second program of the year on June 22, 2017 at the Hartford Foundation.  For more information, please contact Chari Anderson at the Hartford Foundation for Public Giving at or 860-548-1888.


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