Native American Youth Grasp Money, Budgeting During High School Financial Literacy Event

Published April 11, 2018

ALBUQUERQUE — Miranda Lente is a wise spender and a saver. The 22-year-old has three bank accounts — one for spending, another for expenses and the other for savings. Lente credits her grandmother, a retired auditor for Isleta Casino, who encouraged her to watch where every penny goes.

“She was the shadow to make sure that I didn’t do anything reckless and didn’t do anything foolish,” said Lente, an Isleta Pueblo tribal member.

Lente, however, is among a small pool of young people who received financial advice from their guardians. Only 27 percent of parents spoke with their children about money at least once a month, according to investment firm T. Rowe Price’s annual Parents, Kids & Money survey. Parents who discuss finances with their children weekly are more likely to have kids who say they are smart about money, according to the firm.

One financial institution is hoping to help initiate that conversation with a shopping simulation game and discussions on budgeting and financial goals during the 3rd Annual Native American Youth Empowerment Summit on April 10 at the Isleta Resort & Casino.

The event, hosted by Isleta Pueblo and Tiwa Lending Services, a community development financial institution assisting Pueblo residents with home and personal loans, is held during Financial Literacy Month in April to help Native youth learn about money management.

These discussions with youth become more important as Native Americans in general lag behind whites and Asian Americans in financial knowledge, demonstrating lower levels of financial literacy and lower use of formal financial products, according to a 2017 joint study by First Nations Development Institute and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. The research also suggests that Native Americans are less likely to learn about managing finances from parents and demonstrate lower levels of confidence in managing their money.

Young people in America in general are having more money problems. The fastest growing group of bankruptcy filers are 25 years or younger, according to the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs.

“As adolescents can get trapped or tricked into acquiring major debt if they don’t have that financial foundation,” said Sheila Herrera, Tiwa Lending Executive Director. “Parents can be theirs first teachers.”

Herrera suggests parents or guardians talk with their children about household expenses, budgeting, needs vs. wants and credit. She also suggests that when high school students turn 18, they create an IRA retirement account, the age they can legally start one.

Lente, who interned at Tiwa Lending and is now a loan assistant and homeownership counselor at the CDFI, also says youth should also initiate conversations with their parents and guardians about banking, credit cards and savings.

“Make it fun so that kids can get involved. Understanding how money works is a valuable life skill that can save you and your children future headaches and heartaches,” she said.

Lente and Herrera will be on Native America Calling, a national, live radio call-in show, on April 11 at 11 a.m. MST to discuss youth financial literacy.

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