By SCOTT MCKIE B.P.
One Feather Asst. Editor
CHEROKEE, N.C. – The Investment Committee of the Eastern Band of Cherokee Indians (EBCI) is working to increase the financial literacy of tribal members of all ages.
Hope Huskey, EBCI Investment Committee member, said their main goal is to start financial education earlier. “We’re going to start trying to provide educational support resources to Cherokee kids. I think most of them don’t hit the ‘Manage Your EBCI Money’ until their senior year so that was really kind of our first initiative. Let’s start younger and let’s get more education throughout their school years. This actually goes until they’re 25 so it can live with them throughout their time in the Minor’s Trust Fund.”
“We know that if the parents, or the person in the home, isn’t doing their finances right, the kid’s not going to learn from just the website. It needs to be practiced in front of them.”
Lavita Hill, EBCI treasury specialist, is a liaison between the EBCI Investment Committee and the EBCI Office of Budget and Finance. “This is available to anyone and everyone. So, yes, it is targeted toward our Minor’s Trust Fund participants beginning at the fourth-grade level through adulthood, but it’s also available to parents. If any participants’ parents want to create an account, they’re welcome to and we encourage that as well.”
“It’s essentially designed for education toward enrolled members.”
A part of this new initiative is the website, www.usicg.com, which provides updates on the Minor’s Fund accounts. To sign up for this site, you first must contact Hill (828) 359-7085 or email@example.com or Christi Climingbear (828) 359-6650 or firstname.lastname@example.org to have your account reset – a security feature of the site. Download instructions for signing up here.
Hill noted, “What we’ve done is made it simple and accessible so that, as a fourth grader, we’re giving the information to the parent and we’re hoping that the parent will say ‘hey, let’s log into this portal and check out this website and begin learning’. Make it fun for them and make it easy. The beginning modules are designed for the fourth-grade mindset and it should be a learning experience, but fun. Hopefully the parent is engaging with their child.”
Another aspect of this education is on another website, https://edu.stocktrak.com/ebci/ where users can track the stocks the Minor’s Fund is invested in. The site provides up-to-date real-time updates.
Hill commented, “Part of the stock-tracking is not only to watch how the stock market moves – whether it’s earning or losing, you’re watching this as real-time data because that’s what it’s sharing – it’s also teaching you, though, about the different types of assets or stocks and bonds out there. It really is teaching you how investing works. A lot of us hear terms like ‘stock market’, ‘interest earned’, ‘compound interest’, but we don’t really know what that means. So, when you’re in this system and you’re playing the game or going through the modules, you’re using it – hands-on learning. Then you actually have knowledge about what all of those terms mean.”
Huskey said it is about empowering EBCI tribal members of all ages. “Financial education is so important to your everyday life. It’s how you’re able to have a home, a car, money to eat. And, whenever you can provide those things for yourself, I think it gives you a very good sense of self and a very good sense of self-worth. I think it opens up new opportunities for people. Once they kind of realize that they understand how money works and how finance works, all of a sudden you can start a business, you can buy your own home. It really helps identify who you are. Then, as individual members, the stronger we are, the stronger the community is as a whole. So, if we know how to manage money as individuals, then it’ll just spread out throughout our community and make us better, stronger, smarter, and more well-off.”
“We’re hoping that it will help make the connection that this is a long-term plan. Investment means long-term in most cases. So, we want kids to be thinking about ‘how can I make the money work for me in the future, not just right now’.”