Financial Literacy in the Haitian Community
Education? Check! Well-paying job? Check! Preparing for the future? Maybe or maybe not.
Recently, the president of our organization recounted how he practically hounded a couple of friends and family members who, like himself, are college-educated and hold professional jobs. Considering that his friends are married and have responsibilities, Serge Renaud was surprised that they had not consistently planned for their future financial needs.
Of course, as much as we may be concerned about the financial circumstances of people we care about, telling them what to do outright is not such a simple matter. For starters, people may be suspicious of ulterior motives. For another, regardless of our own educational or work experience, only credentialed professionals should take the risk of advising them. Taking that upon yourself can bring undesirable legal consequences.
The person seeking advice must perform their own due diligence about the character and competence of that advisor. How many times have we heard of Ponzi schemes that originated in circles as intimate as churches? Does that mean that influential resources such as churches, civic organizations and others should shy away from the subject? Not in Serge’s opinion. In fact, he recommends that these organizations facilitate financial literacy by “hosting monthly workshops, and inviting financial experts to speak to their members and stakeholders.”
This is not to say that only Haitian-Americans face this problem. Serge echoed SEC Commissioner Luis A. Aguilar about some scary statistics. Relatively few people of color own financial products, such as 401(k)’s, IRAs, stocks, bonds and mutual funds. The commissioner commented that “often these communities also have a suspicious attitude toward banks.” While true, some of these fears are not without reason. In recent years, we have seen ample evidence of malfeasance.
Nonetheless, it is best to arm ourselves with information. Where to begin? Serge challenges our readers to “start the conversation with your family or friends about the importance of cultivating healthy financial habits.” Different people may need different types of financial products, within the context of your goals, risk tolerance, and other conditions. We caution you to do your homework, and research the background of such people, to make sure that they take your financial well-being seriously.
As for Serge’s friends…one of them finally saw the light and actually took action to secure his family’s well-being. You may not have all the answers yourself, but you can encourage others to do the right thing.