Financial literacy and investment experts stressed at a meeting last week the need for Prince George’s County residents to have access to financial training, but added that perhaps even more important is the need for teens to get the same education.
At a town hall meeting Thursday at Oxon Hill High School, state and federal officials and financial experts discussed the importance of financial literacy and sought to connect the roughly 40 attendees with local training groups, such as the Maryland CASH Campaign, a Baltimore-based nonprofit focused on providing financial literacy and stability in the state.
Maryland Comptroller Peter Franchot (D) said the meeting was part of his campaign to improve financial literacy and residents’ ability to plan for their futures. He also cited the recent implementation of a system allowing state residents to automatically deposit their Earned Income Tax Credit refunds across their checking, saving and retirement bank accounts as part of the effort.
Franchot, who arranged the event, described financial literacy as “a civil right,” adding that students in Maryland should be required to take the subject as a six-week course before graduating from high school.
“We have a responsibility to educate them about the economy and personal finance,” Franchot said. “We need to teach budgeting, saving and how to build credit. And it will have far-reaching effects.”
Financial literacy courses are key to encouraging teens to aspire to be entrepreneurs and small business owners, said John Hope Bryant, chairman of the Underserved and Community Empowerment Subcommittee of President Barack Obama’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability.
“Often, financial literacy is thought of as only how not to be preyed upon, but that’s only half of it,” Bryant said. “...It’s learning ‘the language of money,’ and the opportunities available to you.”
A few students attended the meeting, choosing to stay late after their extracurricular activities, they said.
Oxon Hill resident Lyndair Jones, 15, a junior at Oxon Hill High, said the subject interested her.
“I just wanted to know about it,” Lyndair said. “I wanted to know how to do it and how to manage money.”
Prince George’s County School Board Member Edward Burroughs III (Dist. 8) of Temple Hills, who attended the meeting, said that some, though not all, county schools offer some form of financial literacy training in their curriculums.
“Some schools have a course on business that’s heavily related to financial literacy, while others have integrated it into other subjects,” Burroughs said. “But it’s something that needs to be offered in every school.”
Many residents asked officials how financial literacy could be made relevant to students.
Carmen Johnson, founder of the Largo-based Katie Able Foundation, which targets youth with financial literacy courses, said that children are interested in the subject but that adults must do better involving students in the learning.
“We have to learn to listen to what they have to say,” Johnson said. “Often [when we’re trying to teach financial literacy], we don’t give them a chance to say anything. They understand, but they don’t get a chance to speak and interact.”
Oxon Hill High School freshman Quincy McBeth, 14, of Suitland said after the meeting that he wants to continue to pursue training in financial literacy as he looks at potential careers.
“I can see it help outside of school,” Quincy said. “But mostly, I think I might have a future in it.”