Teaching Kids About Money

Teaching Kids About Money

While driving my daughter, Whitney, to school recently we were listening to Whitney Houston’s rendition of the classic song, “Greatest Love of All. The first line of that song is, “I believe the children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way”. It made me think of recent conversations about money that we’ve been having at our house.

With two teens—a son soon to head off to college and a daughter in high school, money comes up a lot. And, that fits nicely with my professional pursuits—as I lead the team that recently launched our refreshed Student Union site. (If you haven’t seen the site yet, take a look. Here students can find engaging tools, and resources that are critical to building financial literacy in a fun and positive learning environment.)

Conversations about money with my kids is so different than the way I learned about money. My mother was a widowed mother of five so our conversations about money went something like this, “now we’re going into this grocery store, don’t look at nothing, don’t touch nothing, ‘cause you ain’t gettin’ nothing”. All I knew about money was we didn’t have any. Hell, I wanted to go “cuckoo” for Cocoa Puffs just like every other kid, but my mom bought the cereal that just said Cereal on the front of the box. No brand name or fancy packaging, just that white box and black letters-Cereal. My mom kept it all the way Real! I guess she was teaching us delayed gratification.

My kids are privileged, certainly not as privileged as some, but privileged none-the-less. My kids think I’m an ATM. My daughter recently asked me about tickets to go see Adele. Once I realized how much Adele tickets were I told her, “if you want to go see A-Dele, you need to get A-Job”! Does this play out at your house, too? I’m really fortunate though, my kids don’t ask for a lot of “stuff” and their identity and self worth certainly aren’t tied to material things; that’s something I’m really proud of.

Talking to your kids about money is a critical—but not always easy—part of parenting. It’s like talking about sex, drugs, race; all the really hard stuff. They’re uncomfortable and so are you, but it is your obligation to your kids to teach them about money, it will make their life so much easier if they have an understanding of credit, budgeting and saving.

As the author J.K. Rowling’s said, “I’m teaching my kids to be more than consumers”. That’s really at the crux of it for me.

What kind of money conversations do you have with your kids? What conversations do you still need to have?


U.S. Bank awards $700,000 to UNCF for Ujima Scholars Program

U.S. Bank awards $700,000 to UNCF for Ujima Scholars Program


I was recently made aware of the incredible story of three young men from Baltimore who were featured in a CNN story in the wake of unrest following the death of Freddie Grey, a young Baltimore man who died while in Police custody. After seeing the CNN story, Bethune-Cookman University President Dr. Edison Jackson was inspired to act, and quickly offered the three boys full four year scholarships to his University.

The story of these three Baltimore teens is not uncommon in inner cities all cross this nation. In fact, it was my story and the story of my friends and family. Faced with insurmountable odds brought on by disparities in equal access to a quality education, jobs and a solid financial education, many young black men and women feel hopeless and trapped by their circumstances.

Closer to home, by most measures Minnesota outperforms the rest of the nation and enjoys a high quality of life- from education to housing and health. Sixteen of the Fortune 500’s largest US corporations are located in the Minneapolis/St. Paul region, and the Department of Employment and Economic Development recently reported that Minnesota now has the lowest unemployment in nearly 15 years. Huge disparities exist in education, housing, unemployment and income levels between African Americans and whites, even when compared to other people of color in other states.

Consider these facts:

– The Household income for blacks in Minnesota dropped 14 percent from 2013-14- from $31,500 to $27,000.
– The state wide poverty rate (White) 6%; (Black) 24%

– Among the 50 states, including D.C. and Puerto Rico, Minnesota ranked 45th in median black household income; Mississippi is 44th.

(source: US Census Bureau)

There are no easy answers to deep seeded problems that affect our communities so drastically, but Dr. Jackson’s actions were a wake up call for me. When he said, “I didn’t even need to think about it.” I had to ask myself, what was I willing to do to take action? What could I influence? How could I help? The good news is, I work for U.S. Bank, where we support programs and organizations that help small business thrive, people succeed in the workforce, provide pathways to higher education and gain greater financial literacy. Simply put, I work for a company that when faced with difficult challenges, decides to roll up its sleeves and go to work, versus wringing its hands.

So on Friday we announced a $700,000 multi-year scholarship program in partnership with the United Negro College Fund (UNCF) at the 7th Annual State of Minnesota Leaders Luncheon on Education, and offered a call to action for other Minnesota corporations to join us. Named after the third principal of the seven-day African American holiday Kwanzaa, the Swahili word “Ujima” (oo-JEE-mah) stands for “collective work and responsibility.”

Through the UNCF Ujima Scholars program we aim to provide the neediest of students with one on one academic assistance, scholarships, career preparation, financial education and job opportunities.

I’m grateful to work with and among such talented and committed people who put their time, resources and passions towards building vibrant communities and helping all people work towards their Possible.
For more information on the UNCF Ujima scholarship visit: UNCF.org

Baltimore Students on CNN

Financial Genius

It’s true that most Americans struggle to fully grasp financial matters. Consider that only 1 in 3 Americans actually know their credit score, and nearly 70% consider money as their “number one stressor”. Having sound financial knowledge is key to having peace of mind.

Beginning today, U.S. Bank is extending it’s “The Power of Possible” campaign to celebrate Black History Month and assisting customers and communities by providing financial education tools to help you make sound financial decisions. Whether it’s Financial Basics, Tips on Saving, Buying a home, or Saving for College; U.S. Bank’s Financial Genius website has the resources to empower your best self.

Visit https://financialgenius.usbank.com learn more.

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Tied to Greatness.

Tied to Greatness.

I was honored to speak on a panel to over 150 high school boys, primarily African American, gathered at the University of Saint Thomas’ John Roach Auditorium as part of the United Negro College Fund’s (UNCF) Empower Me Tour today. Our topic: Mastering the Power of Your Image and Manhood to Achieve Success. Our first question to the gathered young men, “how many of you know how to tie a necktie? Guess what, yawl gon’ learn TODAY.”  The necktie has such important symbolism, we wanted to show the boys that in a literal sense, a shirt and tie are important tools for shaping your image going forward. IMG_5530More importantly,  it’s a symbol of your connection, a tie to your past and our heritage of greatness; we’re bonded forever by our commitment to each other. We didn’t leave until every young man in the room knew how to tie a neck tie.

As co-chair of the UNCF’s Minnesota campaign for the next two years,  I’m excited to help the most needy of students get TO and Through college.  In Minnesota alone the UNCF awards over $1 Million a year in scholarships to local students.  As a UNCF member college alum, Clark-Atlanta University, I know first hand how important UNCF’s work is; I would not have been able to attend college without its support.

Historically Black Colleges and Universities represent only 3% of the nations colleges but produce nearly 20% of all African Americans who obtain a bachelors degree; there isn’t an educational system in the world that can compare. Recently the New York Times featured one of our member colleges, Xavier University, which sends more African American students to medical school then any other school in the country. Click below to learn more, and please give to the UNCF at uncf.org

New York Times Magazine article

TED Talk: Thoughtful discussions about race in America

TED Talk: Thoughtful discussions about race in America

Race is a subject people rarely want to talk about, these TED talks explore race in America in a thoughtful, honest and unflinching manner.

“when we say that black lives matter, it’s not because others don’t, it’s simply Unknownbecause we must affirm that we are worthy of existing without fear, when so many things are telling us we are not”.  – Clint Smith

TED Talks on Race in America- Click Here

Fathers & Daughters

My daughter is the perfect reflection of me. My son looks like me, but my daughter IS me. Everything about her reminds me of myself at her age; reserved, aware, contemplative and earnest.

It’s odd how as a father I parent my two kids differently. With my son I’m challenging, tough, firm and authoritative. With my daughter, well let’s just say I’m “putty”. If you really want to know a man, to truly understand him at his essence, watch him around his daughter(s). He can be the hardest,IMG_4009 most cold hearted thug in the world, but with his daughter he’s kind, thoughtful, considerate, and understanding. Why is that?

My theory is that when fathering a boy, we try to steer him, make him strong and tough and he’ll be okay. We encourage him to hide his vulnerabilities and never show weakness or fear; “man up” is a common refrain.

With our daughters we’re in touch with all those emotions  society tells us we shouldn’t be . You can be vulnerable, fearful anxious, and even moved to tears because of your daughter. I talk with dads all the time about this, and to a man, we all want to put a “forcefield” or build a protective glass case around our daughters. Remember the scene in the movie “Clueless” when the really cool dude shows up to take Alicia Silverstone’s character Cher out on a date and the father says, “I have a gun and a shovel; I doubt anyone would miss you”.  Another of my favorites is from the film Bad Boys 2, when Will Smith says to a terrified teenage boy who is about to take his niece out on a date; (waving a gun in the air) “I ain’t afraid to go BACK to jail”. Classic!

With our daughters we seek to keep them close and away from boys (like us). We share little about our daughters, except her accomplishments; mostly because to do so would be to expose our own vulnerabilities. It’s true, try this next time you’re around a guy with a son and daughter. The conversation may go something like this:

You: hey man your son is getting so big and handsome

Father: yeah thanks, I appreciate that, but he better learn to clean up his room and keep them grades up, or me and him gonna lock horns.

You: and your daughter, my goodness, she’s so beautiful

Father: aw, thank you, and did you know she was captain of the track and volleyball teams, is starring in the spring musical, got accepted to Harvard by the 8th grade, and volunteered at a homeless shelter for a month after school?  She has no flaws and can do no wrong.IMG_0354

Fellas am I right? To keep it all the way real, she is our perfect reflection so indulge us.