First off, I just want to thank all of the schools that gave their students the opportunity to attend YCS this past Wednesday. We had an incredible time presenting to kids from all around Chicago and hey, I got to go on stage and talk to everyone!

 

So What is YCS?

 

For those who don’t know, YCS stands for Young Chicago Saves, an annual conference which aims to connect students with companies and organizations that are working to ameliorate the problem of financial illiteracy and financial pressure that prevents much of Chicago’s youth from attaining higher education. Through their pledge program, YCS has been successful in getting over 10,000 Illinois students to collectively pledge to save over $3 million per year.

 

It’s precisely the type of organization that we wanted to become involved with when we first launched Rapunzl, and through a partnership with On the Money magazine, we were able to attend YCS and talk to students about the app.

 

This is where I shamelessly plug that Rapunzl was featured in On the Money magazine and asked to present last Wednesday 😉

 

We also announced our April scholarship competition, where we’re giving away $15,000 in prizes sponsored by Ariel Investments for top performing, Chicago-high school student users.

 

Although we know many of our users come from beyond Chicago, our goal is to launch this competition as a pilot. Over the next few months, we’re going to dive into research, learn as much as we can from our first competition, and then begin to expand across the country.

 

Taylor, Chance, and Ken Bennett (Left to Right)

 

Wait, What? Chance’s Dad Was There?

 

Chance the Rapper’s dad showed up to the same financial fluency event as us? What are the odds!

 

Incredibly high, actually. Chance’s dad has been involved in public service for years, and last year, Chance followed in his father’s footsteps by founding SocialWorks. SocialWorks empowers youth by fostering leadership, accessibility, and positivity within the youth throughout Chicago by providing arts, education, and civic engagement programming.

 

The organization leverages grassroots marketing which aligns with my friend Chance’s own growth, which culminated, as we all know, with him becoming the first streaming artist to be nominated for and win a Grammy.

 

SocialWorks is filling a void and providing a community-driven approach to solving our city’s problems.

 

SocialWorks strives to empower students to find themselves and builds on that confidence to create meaningful experiences, and thus, futures, for our city’s youth.

 

In light of the recent CPS school closings, it is apparent now more than ever that we need community involvement. We need organizations that are funded by individuals who aren’t afraid to dream big and aren’t intimidated by the daunting challenges that confront our city.

 

We need more organizations like SocialWorks, and if you haven’t checked them out, do so here after reading everything else I have to say…

 

The Importance of Financial Fluency

 

At this point, everyone knows that financial illiteracy is a major issue that is directly contributing to the poverty cycle and making it harder and harder for our kids to reach successful futures. Whether it’s avoiding predatory lenders, balancing a budget, or contributing to a retirement account, everyone needs help with something financial in their lives.

 

That’s NOT their faults. It’s our fault for not teaching people and giving them the tools to live financially free lives. Our students today do not even realize what they don’t know. According to the National Endowment for Financial Education, only 24% of millennials demonstrate basic financial fluency but 69% of those same millennials rated their financial knowledge highly.

 

If we’re going to live in a society where we systemically place young adults into debt, then we have a moral imperative to educate them about how to manage it.

 

The National Financial Educators Council surveyed over one-thousand young adults aged 18-24 last year, and the majority (51.4%) responded that “money management” was the high school-level course they thought would be most beneficial to their personal lives.

 

That answer fits a chilling narrative in our country where those most in need of our financial and educational assistance are the very people being fleeced by our financial system. Over two in ten adults report that they took out a payday loan because they couldn’t get a loan elsewhere (21%). That number is unacceptable.

 

For people of color, the numbers are worse.

 

39% of blacks and 34% of Latinos have used high-cost forms of borrowing such as pawn shops and payday loans, compared with 21% of whites and Asians. How is that okay?

So What?

 

The problem of financial illiteracy is compounding (pun intended, and here’s an article for those unclear about compounding interest).

 

Black students are one-third less likely to complete their college degrees, often because of the greater financial burden that precipitated student loan borrowing in the first place. So let’s change the way we teach financial fluency, particularly in low-income and marginalized communities, because the status quo is not working.

 

The fact that 2 of every 10 Americans have relied upon a predatory lender in the past 12 months means our country is suffering a tragedy of misinformation.

 

That’s why we attended Young Chicago Saves. We need more people like Ken Bennett, who are willing to come speak to our children about the importance of financial education. We need more organizations like SocialWorks that empower students across the city with arts, education and civic engagement.

 

We believe in a more financially literate and financially aware future. Or as Chance’s dad put it, [Pursue money with integrity and knowledge, because knowledge power, power is change.]