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.

Youth Sports: Your kid’s not going pro, so relax and let them have fun.

Youth Sports: Your kid’s not going pro, so relax and let them have fun.

“As students and families sign up for sports this fall and winter, we should be asking: if you knew this was just for fun, would you still do it? Would you do this much of it? Would you do it differently? Because if you wouldn’t — or more important your child wouldn’t — then it’s time to put some or all of those hours and dollars into something else.” 

Writer KJ Dell’Antonia puts youth sports in the proper perspective in her NY Times article titled ” Odds Are, Your Sport-Playing Child Isn’t Going Pro. Now What?” (see full article below).  Just because your little “superstar” is scoring five touchdowns a game, scoring five goals in soccer or hitting five home runs doesn’t mean it’s time to go house shopping.  Consider  these sobering facts from the National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA).

# of High School Players # of NCAA School Players # of pro draft spots % of NCAA Players who go pro* % of High School players who go pro
Football 1 Million 71,000 256 1.6% .02%
Men’s Baskeball 541,000 18,000 60 1.2% .01%
Women’s Basketball 433,000 16,000 36 0.9% .008%
Baseball 482,000 33,000 1,216 8.6% .2%
Soccer 417,000 23,000 76 1.4% .01%
Hockey 35,000 4,000 211 6.8% .6%

Source: NCAA                                                                                *Includes all pro leagues

Watching your kid participate in youth athletics is one of the most enjoyable activities for a parent. And for the kids, sports teaches them invaluable life lessons: discipline, commitment, overcoming adversity, persistence and selflessness to name a  few; not to mention the health benefits from all the physical activity.

Recently I’ve been  introduced to several wonderful organizations that are doing great work in the area of youth sports. Positive Coaching Alliance (PCA) is a national non-profit developing “Better Athletes, Better People” by working to provide all youth and high school athletes a positive, character-building youth sports experience.


Student/Athlete advocate and ambassador Seneca Blue is doing fantastic work through his Blue Print for Success organization, working with school districts across the country to improve opportunities for kids by providing character building tools to help them succeed at life.

Most of all youth sports are about helping kids build confidence and self-esteem.   Nothing bothers me more then to see a kid getting screamed at by some adult who peaked in high school and threatens to destroy a kid’s image of themselves.  Nothing can derail a child’s confidence faster then an adult expressing disappointment in them.  There is absolutely nothing at stake during youth sports, except our ability to raise happy, well adjusted, and confident kids who have a positive sense of self.

So your kid’s not going to the NFL, NBA, MLB, or NHL and that’s ok; remind them that sports are fun and win or lose, you’re going to get ice cream after.



Support Your Kid’s Dreams, but Bring Tissue.

Support Your Kid’s Dreams, but Bring Tissue.

Just outside the Leafs Ice Arena in Normal, Illinois the side walk and parking lot were filled with anxious parents waiting for their dream chasing sons to emerge. Over two hundred 17-20 year old young men from the US, Canada and Europe were invited to the Bloomington Thunder’s main tryout camp.  Each hoping to be one of twenty selected to join the team for the upcoming United States Hockey League (USHL) season and catch the eye of college scouts in attendance. The USHL is the premiere amateur league in the US for aspiring college and professional hockey players. Typically these young men play one, or more commonly, two years in the USHL before moving on to college or pro hockey. Since the average age of a freshmen Division I college hockey player is 20 years old, the USHL experience gives them time to mature physically and mentally.

As the young men began to emerge from the rink, you could see the exhaustion from four days of non-stop competition and evaluation wearing on their hopeful faces. For those who exited early, there would be no invitation to join the team and no college scholarship offer on this day. For these players it meant more camps and more nerve wracking tryouts and evaluations .

While my wife Jacqui took the opportunity to work on her tan and make small talk with other waiting parents, I was starting to wonder what was taking so long for our son Myles to come out. After about an hour, Myles’ tall athletic frame walked through the doors of the arena towards me. He walked with that athlete’s swagger;  slow and deliberate with a slight lean.  His hair was matted and his face white and drawn. We didn’t expect that Myles would be invited to join the team because we’d already notified them that he’d be returning to Minnesota for his senior year of high school. Despite that, Bloomington used the 40th overall pick in the USHL’s spring draft to select Myles, so there was a chance they’d want him play right away.

He acquitted himself extremely well against some tough competition at the camp. His size, strength, and athleticism were obvious despite being one of the younger players. Over the course of the four days he stood out, not only to Jacqui and me, but to other parents who commented on his terrific play.   Although he’s a defensemen, Myles likes the puck on his stick and looks to make plays offensively, fittingly scoring a goal in the first game of the camp. All of this was made even more timely since the coach from Brown images-6University, and scouts from many other schools, were in attendance. Just a few months before, Myles accepted an offer and verbally committed to play at Brown. Of the two hundred kids in attendance, only eighteen had secured a college scholarship to this point.

“Well, how’d it go”? I asked. “They want me to join the team, but they wanted to know if I was committed to returning to Blake for my senior year of high school”. It never dawned on me that we might reconsider a decision we’d seemingly already made.   Over the next month or so we consulted with coaches, players, advisers and anyone who we felt had a useful point of view. Generally the assessment was that the USHL was a grind and would be difficult at first. He would likely be in and out of the lineup until he adjusted to the speed and physicality of the league. From a hockey development standpoint there was no question this was the best move for him but was it too soon, and what would it mean for his educational future?

Brown was supportive of our decision either way.  His grades, ACT score and visit convinced them they were getting much more than a hockey player. With Brown already committed, the focus shifted to how best to get him ready to become a Division I hockey player. Knowing he had at least one and maybe two years of USHL hockey, we now had to give Bloomington serious consideration.

We sacrificed a lot to send both our kids to private school and invested in their education as our number one priority. Ironically, this is how he landed on Brown. There were several other schools interested in  him, some  with more prominent hockey programs, but none could match the education and future opportunities that Brown could offer .  Myles took little time to ponder his college decision, but a decision about leaving home at seventeen was wearing on him and us.

“So what do you think, what do you want to do,” I asked. “Dad, I want to TRY” was his response.

“I want to TRY”. I knew exactly what he meant. He has a dream (and talent) and wants to “claim it”. I’m intoxicated by his fearlessness, yet terrified by the thought of letting him go.  On rapper Wale’s hit single “Matrimony”  none other than Jerry Seinfeld provides the intro by describing engagement and marriage this way: “getting engaged is like the first hill of the roller coaster. All you hear is that clanking noise. Clanking, clanking, clanking up the hill, and then you say to yourself, wow this thing goes high. You reach the top and that’s marriage; marriage is at the top of the hill. And then you go over and you’re just screaming'”. It’s classic Seinfeld. Although Jerry is talking about marriage here, I think the metaphor works perfectly to describe parenting. There’s that initial sense of excitement followed by apprehension and fear as your kids grow more independent. Whether you’re IMG_2644dropping your kids off at daycare the first time, teaching them to drive, or seeing them off to college; it’s all the same thing.  You’re filled with pride as you witness your child’s growth, but terrified of the thought of “losing” them.  It’s cruel that pride and pain can live as such natural companions.

I lost my dad when I was 5 years old, so I struggled deeply with confidence as a kid. My kids inherited none of my self-doubt. Typically, we fail to reach our potential because of the things we say to ourselves, about ourselves. I’m not smart enough, I don’t have the time, what will other people think? Self-confidence is one of the hardest things to acquire, but one of the most critical things to have. For us, this situation was an opportunity to support our son while he stepped out on the “thin branches of  the tree” with confidence. Life is about trying and failing, and trying again and ultimately succeeding; that’s called growth.

By now you’ve likely guessed that we decided to let him go. This past weekend we dropped our son off in a strange place, to live with a family we’ve only met twice, to play for an organization we trust is filled with people of good character, and to finish his senior year at a new high school.  As we said our goodbyes and choked back tears, none of it made sense, and yet it all made sense.  Growth is painful. It’s like that roller coaster Jerry was describing. Raising kids who are “fierce and fearless” means letting go and throwing your hands up in the air on the roller coaster.  It’s a lot more fun and a lot less scary to step out on faith when you BELIEVE.

We couldn’t be more excited to support our son’s dream, and to be blessed with a faith that gives us strength.

IMG_5344Lebron Gretzky: Soul on Ice…to be continued