[Business: Guest Commentary]
Empowering Consumers Through Electronic payment technology Imagine if you didn’t have a credit or debit card, checks or a safe mechanism to save money for a rainy day. That is the reality for more than half of African-American households in the New York City area.
These financially underserved families are classified as unbanked or underbanked, and they have little or no access to traditional financial services. Studies indicate there is a strong correlation between a lack of education and a lack of financial inclusion.
Here in the New York City area, nearly 48 percent of households led by someone without a high school diploma are financially underserved, compared to just 18.4 percent of households led by a college graduate, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
These families often rely on costly alternative financial services like check cashers, payday lenders and money orders. However, new technologies are creating pathways for financially underserved families to enter the economic mainstream—often using devices they already own.
The time and money savings of electronic payment technologies like prepaid and payroll cards are leveling the economic playing field and creating a bridge to full financial inclusion for everyone.
For instance, the growing use of prepaid payroll cards means that unbanked families can avoid check cashers by receiving wages through direct deposit. They can stop purchasing money orders and instead pay their bills online. Innovative smartphone apps even allow prepaid card users to create budgets and to track spending in real time.
Electronic payment technology empowers families to take control of their money and chart a course for greater prosperity. These tools eliminate the costs and risks associated with cash and free up precious time that can be spent pursuing an education, exploring career opportunities or taking care of family and friends.
I have devoted my life’s work to empowering youth through financial education. That is why I founded World of Money 11 years ago and why I joined the African American Advisory Board of Master Your Card, a community empowerment program designed to provide the information and resources that financially underserved families need to join the mainstream economy.
One of the most encouraging parts of what I do is teaching youth to become financial team leaders, as individuals and within their families. World of Money’s Youth Financial Education Institute teaches the skills necessary to enter adulthood and the workforce with confidence.
Today’s innovative financial tools, coupled with a growing desire among our youth to learn key financial principles, is a recipe for greater financial inclusion across New York.
What we need now is an army of champions who can cultivate the leaders of tomorrow through education and access to resources.
It’s time to change and stabilize our financial lives and world, one empowered student at a time.
Sabrina Lamb is the founding CEO of World of Money and a member of the Master Your Card African American Advisory Board.