Knowledge is Power: On Financial Literacy
Style Magazine Newswire | 3/24/2017, 12:15 p.m.
By: Houston City Controller Chris Brown & Dr. Laura Murillo, President & CEO; Houston Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Financial literacy is a bit of mystery.
It’s a simple concept, yet it is difficult to fully define. It’s an important goal, yet is a moving target. It’s an expected reality of most adults, yet it is not something that’s taught in primary or secondary schools. Financial literacy is mostly about knowledge, yet most people aren’t aware of the resources available to them.
And while the concept is fluid, there is one thing that is for certain – making informed decisions about money can change the trajectory of all Houstonians, their families, and our city. Financial empowerment is critical to the future of our city and it is incumbent on our business, community, and elected leaders to lead on this important issue.
The truth is, Houston has a lot of work to do in equipping its citizens with the knowledge necessary to create a brighter financial future for their families and themselves.
Today, more than 18% of the city’s population is “unbanked,” a figure that is three points higher than the national average. This means that one in ten Houstonians does not own a checking or savings account and instead relies on alternative financial services like payday and auto title loans to get by. These products come with exorbitant interest rates and oftentimes make it more difficult for Houstonians to achieve financial independence.
What’s more is that one in four Houstonians is “underbanked” – they own a checking or savings account, but still utilize alternative financial services. This figure is exacerbated in Houston’s minority communities, where over 50% of households are classified as “underbanked.” These communities are also disproportionately impacted by poverty – over 30% of Hispanic and African-American Houstonians are below the poverty line – and thus face untenable financial positions.
The good news is that there are resources available to Houstonians that are looking for them.
With Houston Money Week taking place April 1st – 8th, right now is a great time for Houstonians to learn how to make more informed fiscal decisions. Houston Money Week is an initiative that is committed to enhancing the financial education of the community by providing information and resources to help individuals manage their personal finances. During Houston Money Week, Houstonians can participate in hundreds of free educational classes covering topics from budgeting to estate planning.
Another resource – Bank On Houston – seeks to create financially secure families and neighborhoods by helping Houstonians begin to build assets. Bank On Houston engages our “unbanked” and “underbanked” populations and connects them with partner banks, credit unions, and other resources to help develop a more stable financial plan. These partner financial institutions also help educate Houstonians about the benefits of utilizing checking and savings accounts, as well as the perils of relying on alternative financial services.
Financial literacy is an attainable goal for all Houstonians because, no matter someone’s background or socioeconomic status, it is largely about knowledge. And, in the case of financial literacy, knowledge is power.