No Better Time to Instill Financial Literacy in Black and Brown Virginian Youth

by Sherifah Munis

Racial systemic inequalities have recently been brought to the forefront of our national conscience, shedding light on the centuries of policies that have disadvantaged Black and Brown Americans’ ability to build, maintain, and pass on wealth. A striking 2019 statistic shows that the median family wealth (the difference between gross assets and liabilities) for White Americans was $188,200 compared to $24,100 for Black Americans and $36,100 for Hispanic families.

One area of resounding disparity is the inequality between Black and Brown Americans and their White counterparts regarding access to and knowledge of financial literacy – the ability to understand and apply financial skills related to personal financial management, budgeting, and investing. This gap is evident in the research on Black Americans with regard to low home ownership, low participation in the financial marketplace, high credit card and student loan debt, and expensive credit card behavior (such as paying minimum fees, incurring late fees, and taking cash advances).

The financial literacy education in U.S. public schools is inconsistent across states, often integrated into history or other social studies curricula, or only offered as an optional topic. The good news is the Virginia Board of Education approved one standard unit of credit in economics and personal finance as a requirement for high school graduation beginning with students who entered ninth grade in fall 2011. However, as a mom of teenagers, I noticed first-hand that the personal finance classes my kids participated in were varied in that an economics class fulfilling the personal finance requirement didn’t necessarily teach how to create a budget, or what it takes to build and maintain credit, etc. One potential solution to this problem is a standardized, culturally-relevant, and youth-oriented financial literacy program.

Drawing from our seven years of experience as a trusted nonprofit organization, Newwave Foundation’s (NWF) mission is focused on inspiring the next generation of dreamers by creating opportunities for educational equality. To that end, NWF is launching a new project named Money Talk$ Financial Literacy Program. Inspired by the success of our virtual seminar and workshop series, Money Talk$, this initiative has the potential to increase the economic and political capital of our Black and Brown communities. By creating a new cycle of generational wealth, increasing responsible participation in a more equitable marketplace, and empowering our youth to utilize their financial know-how, our underrepresented communities will leverage influence in the policies and politics that have historically marginalized and disenfranchised their communities.

To take on this challenge, Newwave Foundation will provide practical financial literacy skills in a workshop format to high school students through our existing community partnerships in Northern Virginia, Washington D.C., and Maryland. Our program differs from school-based programs in that our culturally relevant and age-appropriate curriculum will be designed to engage our Black and Brown teens and acknowledge their different post-high school life tracks. In addition, our goal is to connect financial knowledge to real-world application; for example, students will be offered mentored opportunities to open bank accounts and manage a budget while in high school.

Our goal is to “instill the dream” where we can bridge the wealth gap by having more Black and Brown people investing in assets, owning homes, becoming entrepreneurs, passing on wealth and knowledge, and building legacies. An early start to acquiring financial literacy skills is key to success; a strong foundation in personal financial knowledge can support life goals including entrepreneurship, saving for education and retirement, stimulating a new cycle of generational wealth, and using debt responsibly. The Money Talk$ Financial Literacy Program, rooted in the belief that our youth will be our tomorrow, is focused on cultivating and facilitating a lasting impact for the youth of our Black and Brown communities. Although our program will be targeting Black and Brown students, it will be open to any and all students who are being served by our partner organizations who wish to participate.

Sherifah Munis is the Founder and Executive Director of the Newwave Foundation (NWF), an organization focused on inspiring the next generation to action. The Foundation’s vision is to “Instill the Dream” in deserving students through scholarship opportunities, educational workshops, and partnering with like-minded organizations who want to make a positive difference. Guided by her passion for empowering students, building relationships, and her heart for service, Sherifah supports the mission of the Foundation by leading NWF in its development and implementation of strategic initiatives for educational equality. A resident of Arlington County, she is actively involved in her local community as a member of the Business Women’s Giving Circle (BWGC) of Northern Virginia. Sherifah holds a Bachelor of Science and a Master’s of Art in Economics from Morgan State University and a Global Executive MBA from Georgetown University.