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Counting on change

April 15, 2019 

April is National Financial Literacy Month and Assemblywoman Angela McKnight wants you to understand your money
By: Gabrielle Saulsbery

Lack of financial knowledge cost Americans $295 billion last year, according to research by the National Financial Educators Council. On average, survey respondents estimated they lost $1,230 over the course of the year because they didn’t understand their finances, and 20 percent estimated they’d lost $2,500.

Assemblywoman Angela McKnight, D-31st District, wanted to put a stop to that, so she came up with a law to help.

“[People] are living paycheck to paycheck. They’re in debt with student loans. I had to do something to make sure our young adults grow up and make sound decisions,” McKnight said. “About 70 percent of U.S. workers are in debt. How do we stop that cycle? We need to change the narrative.”

Assembly Bill 1414, which mandates financial literacy education in grades six, seven, and eight, was signed into law in January after a similar bill authored by McKnight was pocket-vetoed by Gov. Chris Christie in 2017.

Financially literate people can make money management decisions that lead directly to sustainable security and a future that protects assets built today. April is National Financial Literacy Month, and McKnight is hosting financial literacy events every Monday with Cross River Bank at the Mary McLeod Bethune Life Center in Jersey City.

Money Mondays

When prompted with the question “what high school level course would benefit your life the most?” by NFEC in 2017, 51.4 percent of young adults 18 to 24 years old responded “money management.”

Money Mondays aim to teach people money management at all financial stages of life.

“The most important thing is education, education, education. The more that residents take the time to understand their financial circumstances, the more it enables them to better plan for the present and for the future,” said Phil Goldfeder, senior vice president of public affairs at Cross River Bank.

While the April 8 event was geared toward children, April 22 will focus on senior issues like retirement savings and estate planning. On April 15, Goldfeder will discuss the use of technology to manage funds, and on April 29, Personal Finance Coach Kerry Deliz will help attendees of all ages clarify financial goals.

So far, around 100 people have attended Money Mondays over the first two events.

The April 15 event will focus on financial technology, or fintech, as a tool for financial literacy. Forbes recently called Cross River, a community bank based in Fort Lee, “one of the world’s most valuable fintechs,” placing it to the Fintech 50 list.

Cross River is the bank behind online lenders RocketLoans and Affirm, providing billions of dollars in loans all over the country.

“Fintech offers families a wide selection of financial products that enables them to make the most informed decision and choose the service that’s right for them,” Goldfeder said. “And fintech has enabled Cross River and the financial world to reach more people any time, day or night.”

Teaching financial literacy also can help improve New Jersey’s business environment.

“When we are financially savvy, we will have more entrepreneurs that want to take that risk and start a business,” McKnight said. “When they do become an entrepreneur and create a product or service that others will buy, and they’ll become self-sufficient. They’re putting money back into the economy. They’re paying their taxes.”

“When you know how money works, you can have the money work for you,” McKnight said.

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