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Finance 101 for the Latino community

Marketplace Staff Jun 29, 2007
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TESS VIGELAND: The Automated Teller Machine celebrated its 40th birthday this week. With any luck, it gave itself an extra $20 bill.

Most of us are pretty comfortable with the U.S. banking system.
We learned about it in middle school or junior high Home Ec.
How to write a check, track deposits and withdrawals. And over the years, we’ve become pretty comfortable with cash machines and online banking.

But for many Latino immigrant families, the system remains a mystery.
So a program in Omaha, Neb. is teaching students to teach Home Ec to their parents. From Nebraska Public Radio, Avishay Artsy reports.

AVISHAY ARTSY: It’s a Thursday evening. Parents mull around the lobby of RM Marrs Magnet Center, a middle school in south Omaha. It’s an area that’s predominantly Latino. And the students have invited their parents so they can teach them how to be better financial managers.

ERIN RUIS: Hello.

PARENT: What is this?

OK, this is a brochure that tells you what’s going on tonight. . .

Erin Ruis, an economics teacher at RM Marrs, greets parents with a list of workshops on topics like budgeting, taxes and online banking.

RUIS: These are seventh and eighth-grade students are putting on these presentations tonight. We’re the only junior academy of finance in the nation. And we’re really excited about this, because our kids are learning about things that students in other junior highs aren’t exposed to.

AARON ALVAREZ: We will show you how to be more comfortable with using an online banking account. Si ustedes qui . . .

Twelve-year-old Aaron Alvarez helps lead one of the workshops. His mother, Nora Chavez, says she’s glad her son has learned about managing money, and can tell her how.

NORA CHAVEZ: Because we didn’t know about the banking online, about the things like credit cards, interest. And we just were, you know, borrowing money and doing things that we made a lot of mistakes by. Didn’t paying attention at the interest and things like that.

Chavez says now, her son won’t make the same mistakes she did.

A third of U.S.-born Hispanic residents and over half of all Mexican immigrants lack bank accounts, according to the 2000 Census. Latinos also have lower homeownership rates and less access to brokerage services.

Sasha Chavez teaches social studies at the school:

SASHA CHAVEZ: The Latino community is a great sleeping giant, it’s been said time and time again. And the buying power is there, but I just sometimes wonder if there’s enough knowledge about how to spend wisely and how people can make more of their money.

U.S. Hispanic purchasing power has surged to nearly $700 billion, and could reach a trillion dollars by 2010. Chavez says these students can help their parents take the lead in the global marketplace, but not until they learn who to trust with their money.

CARLOS MOSCOSO: There’s stores like Sol’s Jewelry and Loan, EZ Money and Pay Day Express. And there’s a map right here, EZ Money taking cash in south Omaha.

Carlos Moscoso projects a map onto the wall of what he calls local predatory lenders that charge as much as 28 percent monthly interest rates. This 12-year-old’s parents, Santiago Garcia and Dora Moscoso, say the language barrier keeps many Latinos from going to banks.

SANTIAGO GARCIA: Latinos, we need more . . .

DORA MOSCOSO: . . . information.

GARCIA: Information.

MOSCOSO: And in Spanish.

GARCIA: Yeah, and in Spanish.

While about two-thirds of the students at RM Marrs are Latino, school principal Pam Cohn says how to handle things like credit-card offers and opening a bank account is information that all kids need to know.

In Omaha, Neb., I’m Avishay Artsy for Marketplace Money.

TESS VIGELAND: And this is Marketplace Money from American Public Media.

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