*Teri Williams knows the importance of financial literacy. With more than 30 years of banking experience to back up her status as president and chief operating officer of OneUnited Bank, the former Brown University student has come a long way from having no knowledge of banking and how to properly handle money while growing up in the projects of Bridgeport, CT.
Nowadays, Williams is leading the way to pass down what she has learned to youth with her new book, “I Got Bank! What My Granddad Taught Me About Money.” The story centers around the friendship of two young African-American boys, Jazz Ellington and his friend Key, as they learn about money. Through his granddad, Jazz utilizes the elder’s lessons about the importance of saving money and having good financial discipline. However, those teachings are put to the test when his family experiences money and troubles and are looking for him to help in light of the money has saved.
“What the book talks about is how he is able to do that, how he figures that out,” Williams shared with EUR’s Lee Bailey. “It covers topics such as savings and checking and credit scores and check systems records. We find that a lot of people talk a lot about credit scores but there isn’t enough information available about check systems. So that, I think, was an important topic for us to cover.
In addition to collateral and foreclosures, repossessions (“All the things that our community is confronted with, especially today”), Williams wanted to touch on how it’s not impossible to recover after making a mistake with “I Got Bank!”
“The idea is for our children to be knowledgeable and avoid some of the mistakes that can be avoidable with more knowledge,” she said.
Williams’ journey towards becoming an author started three years ago when she participated in a program OneUnited developed for school children.
“I am an author because I saw a necessity that was not being filled and felt as though I just couldn’t allow that necessity to go unfilled any longer. The necessity being books that are written to teach financial literacy to urban youth,” the mother of two confessed. “…our goal was to go in to schools to teach young kids about financial literacy and about financial matters. So I looked for some books that we could use and I was really surprised to see that 1) there aren’t a lot of books for children on financial literacy but 2) that there were really even fewer books that were focused, targeted or spoke to urban youth. And the books that were available just gave sort of a, what I would call, an impression of a more suburban environment. More suburban kids and I would even say more suburban issues. And what I saw as being a need that wasn’t met was, again, literature books that would really speak to our kids and it would both be entertaining, interesting and educational.”
“What I have found in banking and serving the needs of urban communities and growing up myself in a family and in a community very much like Jazz’s life, is that for a lot of families there may be one or two individuals that have some resources that are confronted with the kinds of challenges Jazz faces. ‘How do I maintain these resources while at the same time helping my family?’” the Harvard University graduate said.
“There typically aren’t enough resources to do everything that a family needs, let alone what they want and how those decisions are made and what could be done in those situations,” Williams continued. “I think those decisions are really important to focus on, I think for a lot of kids that are confronted with those kind of decisions as well as young adults [and] adults. It is important for them to know that they’re not alone, that this is very common to families.”
Although “I Got Bank!” is targeted for kids ages 8-12, Williams feels the book can be a “helpful” tool for adults, whom she hopes will “read it separately from their children.”
“If you look at any family, you’re gonna have some that are more financially responsible than others. You’re gonna have some that have greater needs than others. And how you, I would say, help the family move forward while at the same time not being so drained by helping others that you end up depleting resources so that no one moves forward. That’s the way I would describe it to an adult, but I think the book does it in a way that a child can relate to,” she said.
To promote” I Got Bank!” and spread the word about financial literacy, Williams will sign copies of her book from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. Saturday (Oct. 8th) at OneUnited’s Compton, CA branch on 205 E. Compton Blvd. In addition to the signing, Williams will exchange copies of “I Got Bank!” for used books to be donated to BookEnds, a nonprofit organization that recycles children’s books through student-run book drives and places them in schools and youth organizations in need of books.
OneUnited is also offering free copies of “I Got Bank!” to public libraries and schools upon request (supplies are limited). For more information, visit www.oneunited.com/book.