( ENSPIRE Community Spotlight ) Our Money Matters, a Financial Wellness Initiative for Communities of Color
ENSPIRE Contributor: Halima McDoom
The Historically Black Colleges & Universities (HBCU) Community Development Action Coalition (CDAC), a renowned non-profit, recently launched a financial wellness program, Our Money Matters (OMM), to benefit people of color. The $5.6 million initiative, funded exclusively by the Wells Fargo Foundation, was conceived to address the wealth gaps that disproportionately plague communities of color. According to a 2020 Brookings Institute Report, the scale of the average white family’s accumulated wealth far outweighs that of the average Black family by 148%, with most of this disparity attributed to racial oppression, intergenerational inheritances, and income taxation. OMM is positioned to mend a wealth gap that, without question, continues to disenfranchise and ravage the futures of Black people living in America.
OMM is assisting students of color, faculty, and staff of HBCUs and MSIs, who may face food and housing insecurities, college debt, and other financial hardships, in establishing a reality of financial wellness and opportunities for growth; it’s also available to the community residents that live near HBCU and MSI campuses. Its moniker – Our Money Matters–is a testament to the Black financial empowerment movements that precede it.
On January 27, 1865, John W. Alvord, a minister and abolitionist, proposed establishing a savings bank to put aside and safeguard the monies of Black soldiers and former slaves. Two months later, with the help of philanthropists and local business leaders, the Freedmen’s Saving and Trust Company was born. Alvord’s attempt to integrate Black people into America’s mainstream economy, and foremost, produce their financial independence, was one of many. The South Carolina Freedmen’s Saving Bank and the Free Labor Bank also secured the finances of Black depositors. Unfortunately, these efforts, regardless of their virtue and utility, were short-lived. The banks, on account of mismanagement, fraud, and lack of federal protection, closed. As a result, assets intended to produce and sustain a Black generational wealth were irretrievably lost.
Our Money Matters is as much a product of this devastation as it is an audacious response to it. It’s proof that, even under the most oppressive of circumstances, the cost of freedom is worth risking it all for. With considerable funding and data compilation, the program offers services designed to assist people of color in developing their own financial literacy. “Through its holistic ‘wrap around’ approach to addressing the myriad of factors that have contributed to the persistent wealth gap, OMM’s programs, and resources will engage, educate, support, and scale financial capability and wealth creation in communities of color while disrupting and removing barriers to economic opportunity…We expect the program to become an invaluable financial tool for students, faculty, and the surrounding communities,” says Ron Butler, CEO of HBCU CDAC.
OMM offers personalized financial counseling concerning budgeting, retirement planning, paying off student loan debt, purchasing a home, as well as leasing or buying a car. In addition, students, alumni, faculty, staff, and community members can benefit from the program’s adaptive learning technology, which aids in creating a tailored experience to ensure individual, and thus, communal success. At OMM, there is no price on knowledge. The provided courses on financial wellness are, understandably so, free of charge.
“The Financial Curriculum, developed in collaboration with academics and financial professionals, includes a wide variety of financial health courses and interactive activities, which faculty and staff can also integrate into general education and degree programs. Additionally, the OMM’s Online Financial Counseling Hub, powered by iGrad, is a digital platform that helps students manage their day-to-day finances and build new skills and habits for life after college, including personalized tools for managing student loans, car loan calculator, investment analyzer, and access to certified financial planners.”
The program also provides career closets equipped with professional attire, including pants, suits, ties, dresses, and shoes for students with scheduled interviews. Besides this, OMM assists with resume-building.
Our Money Matters is currently programmed at 7 schools: Allen University, Bowie State University, Lincoln University, Miles College, Morris Brown College, Southern University at New Orleans, and the University of Illinois at Chicago. In addition, the CEO of HBCU CDAC intends to expand OMM to 25 HBCUs and MSIs.
MORE ABOUT HBCU CDAC
“The HBCU Community Action Development Coalition (CDAC) was developed to help bring stakeholders together such as HBCU’s, MSI’s (minority-serving institutions), CDCs (Community Development Corporations), and the Community Economic Development Industry. By connecting these organizations, HBCU CDAC helps build long-term economic opportunities for the HBCU/MSI students, small businesses near the campuses, and the broader surrounding community.” More information can be found here.
MORE ABOUT WELLS FARGO FOUNDATION
“Wells Fargo is committed to building an inclusive, sustainable recovery for all through a focus on opening pathways to economic advancement, championing safe, affordable homes, empowering small businesses to thrive, and enabling a just, low-carbon economy.” More information can be found here.