OneUnited Bank President Teri Williams Talks About Book, ‘I Got Bank’

Even though Financial Literacy Month has come and gone, it’s never too late to discuss financial management. Black Enterprise sat down with OneUnited Bank president, Teri Williams, to talk about her book, get her thoughts on how to teach children financial literacy, and the importance of the bank’s UNITY Visa Card. What inspired you to write the book “I Got Bank“?

Teri Williams: One United Bank had an initiative to work with local schools to teach financial literacy. These were communities of color located in Boston, Miami, and Los Angeles. As I was looking for some material for the classes we were going to be teaching, I couldn’t find any books that taught financial literacy and represented the communities we served. I noticed there weren’t any financial literacy books for children of any community, and there were almost none for kids growing up in urban communities. So I wrote a  brochure just to use in the workshop, and those few pages ended up turning into a book. This is my first book, and there is a sequel that is in the works. It’s important for children of color, and specifically black children, to have characters and books in their lives that represent them and speak to the importance of saving and maintaining good financial habits.

What advice would you give to parents who don’t know where to start when it comes to financial literacy?

Teach your children the concept of spend, save, and share. It is important to have all three of those in your life. And when kids are given money or an allowance, help them use their money in those three ways. It is also important to help your child open a bank account.

I also tell people to look around their home and see if you can assess how you’re spending your money by what you see around your home. Before kids actually understand the concept of money, they’re basically taking in values and understanding what we as parents find important. So if there are a lot of books around your home, kids will understand that books or education is important. Whatever you have a lot of in your home, you’re sending a message to your children. I think it’s helpful to have the visualization of money. It’s not just about dollars, but about what it’s used to buy.

When should parents start having conversations about money with their children?

I don’t think you can have it too early or too late. Money conversations can start as early as two or three years old. As soon as your child starts saying, “Mommy, can I have this?” I think it’s an opportunity to start sharing lessons about money. One of the things I used to always say to my kids is, “Money doesn’t grow on trees,” or “No, I can’t afford that.” Even if the item was small and I could afford it, I wanted them to have the understanding that there is something called affordability. Even at an early age, it’s important to instill that message. Our goal as parents should be to help our children avoid some of the mistakes we made.

Stay tuned for Part 2 of this interview with OneUnited Bank President Teri Williams.