Anacostia Ground Zero for Global Financial Summit

Kevin M. Briscoe | 6/24/2009, 9:44 p.m.

Highlighted by keynote addresses from Federal Reserve System Chair Ben S. Bernanke, Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. Chair Sheila C. Bair, and senior White House advisor Valerie B. Jarrett, as well as a Web cast announcement on new financial regulations from President Barack Obama, the summit explored the importance of financial literacy to economic recovery and stability.

€We are hosting [this event] because we find ourselves in the midst of a global economic crisis. For the sake of our shared future global security, we should empower everyone with €silver rights,€€"financial literacy,€ said John Hope Bryant, Operation HOPE founder, chair and chief executive officer.

€The summit makes a strong business case around the importance and enormous potential of a world rooted in financial literacy.€

A common theme throughout the daylong event was that financial literacy is not about individuals becoming experts in investment banking or real estate, but in assisting them in how to open and maintain bank accounts, how to avoid predatory lenders and helping them make sound financial decisions.

€Cash management, debt management, savings and investment planning, insurance planning and estate planning are the core competencies of financial literacy,€ said Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, president of Charles Schwab Foundation, who was one of the more than 50 speakers who participated in the summit€s seven plenary sessions.

Many people make significant financial decisions while lacking vital information, Schwab-Pomerantz added, often leading to tragic outcomes like home foreclosures, poor credit and inadequate retirement savings.

John Hope Bryant, Founder/CEO, Operation HOPE: €For the sake of our shared future global security, we should empower everyone with €silver right,€ €" financial literacy.€ Photo by Lafayette Barnes IV
€So anxious are we to have that dream house, that we didn€t seek the proper advice, because we didn€t know to seek the proper advice,€ said U.S. Rep. Elijah E. Cummings (D-Md.). €But, if we had financial literacy, we could€ve asked the better questions.€

Both in the public policy arena and in the financial services industry, steps are being taken to equip individuals with a strong financial acumen.

In March, Cummings€ colleague Rep. Sheila Jackson-Lee (D-Texas) introduced an amendment to the Higher Education Act of 1965, requiring colleges and universities to provide financial literacy counseling for students accepting college loans. The amendment, which is now before the House Education and Labor Committee, requires that the counseling include information on banking, budgeting, credit cards and ratings, loans, grants, education tax credits, and scholarships, renting and housing and investing.

During his speech, Bernanke stressed the importance of community development financial institutions, banks, credit unions and venture funds, that offer affordable financial services.

€Economic recovery, like economic development, is a bottom-up as well as top-down process,€ Bernanke said.

The summit included a Web cast announcement from the White House in which President Obama outlined what he called the €most sweeping overhaul of the financial regulatory system since the Great Depression.€

Obama€s plan will impose supervision and regulation on financial institutions; increase market discipline and transparency; create the Consumer Financial Protection Agency to protect consumers in the credit, savings and payment markets; provide the government with tools to better manage financial crises; and raise international regulatory standards and coordination.