Sabrina Lamb and World Of Money: Financial Education and Opportunity For Kids
Reading time: 6 minutes
For Black History Month, 2021, Financial Journalist and Founder of Best Money Moves, Ilyce Glink, sat down for a one-on-one interview with Sabrina Lamb, Founder/Executive Director, World of Money/YWCA Metropolitan Chicago. Through her work at World of Money, Sabrina aims to bring financial education to the families and communities who need it most.
Sabrina Lamb wasn't educated about the power of money growing up. She lived in a household where connections about money weren't passed down, parent to child, and has often wondered just how different her life would have been had healthy money management been taught.
So, it's no surprise that the former radio broadcaster started World of Money, a 501(c)(3) not-for-profit organization based in New York City, that helps youth across the United States learn about, and become comfortable with, saving, investing, entrepreneurship and philanthropy. The World of Money is global, with partners in Senegal, South Africa, Rwanda and Ghana.
In addition to being executive director of World of Money, she is the author of several books, including Do I Look Like An ATM? A Parent's Guide To Raising Financially Educated African- American Children, has written cover stories for Essence, Heart and Soul and Black Elegance magazines, is a television producer and solo performance artist, and a seasoned keynote speaker, competition judge and workshop leader. She has won numerous awards in her career, including Spectrum Television's "New Yorker of the Week," Rainbow Push/Wall Street Project Honors, the BDPA Small Business Innovator Award, the National Black MBA New York Metro Chapter Entrepreneur of the Year Award, and the State Farm's National Dream Achiever Award. She is currently developing technology based on artificial intelligence.
ILYCE: Why did you start World of Money?
SABRINA: At least 16 years ago, I attended a financial workshop. And, sometimes in life, you receive an "Aha!" moment. For me, the [first] question was, "'What if children could receive the same kind of financial information that you're learning this weekend?' And the second question came, which really hit me very hard, was, 'How different would my life have been if I had received financial education?' And, the answer was "It would be totally different."
My parents and extended family adored me. They expressed their love and affection by not only giving me everything that I needed, but always satisfying all my wants. It felt good, but was not a good life plan. And so, I've dedicated the last 16 years to changing the financial conversation in every household so that children now can understand not only the power of money in their own lives, and their family's lives, but to change the trajectory of their money for generations.
ILYCE: So, your perspective is that being money smart starts in childhood.
SABRINA: In my world, it all starts with children, right? Very young children are keenly aware of the power of money. If we are serious about generational wealth, then the foundation begins with youth financial education. It starts with children.
ILYCE: What programming do you offer?
SABRINA: Every July, we offer 120 classroom hours of financial education for children ages seven to 18. The Institute operates over three weeks, from 9:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m., and the children learn everything from the financial history of money, how to have a "wealth mindset," to trusts, wills, ethics, as well as Mandarin Chinese and [how to read] Excel spreadsheets. Our approach is immersive. We don't believe in doing a workshop here or a workshop there because for many children and their parents, financial education is similar to learning a foreign language. So, we always believe that an immersive approach is impactful.
We also provide field trips to investment banks and to financial historical sites, such as the New York Federal Reserve and the home of Alexander Hamilton. It is important that our children experience money and the historical significance of it in real time.
ILYCE: It sounds a little like money camp.
SABRINA: I don't say "camp," and the reason why I don't say camp is because often when you say camp, children think of swimming pools and movie stars. It's an institute because every day they have homework assignments, called wealth work, and they also have a final exam. There are attendance policies, behavioral policies, and a dress code.
ILYCE: World of Money focuses on bringing financial education to underserved communities. How do you define "underserved?"
SABRINA: It's an interesting question because underserved is a buzzword. We attract economically diverse households for whom the commonality is no one understands or has received financial education. "Underserved" means that these children for generations have never received financial education.
So, they're underserved not just economically, where they may or may not be, but also they're kind of parched for financial education. And because I always believe that words have power, we use the words "financial education" and "financial capability."Why? Because children and parents have said that when they hear the word "literacy," it's almost inferred that they're illiterate or that they're dumb. That's how they perceive it. It's not the intent. But that's the perception.
And so, we teach children - and their parents are encouraged to participate in their child's financial education - how to become financially empowered and financially capable.
ILYCE: This is Black History Month, so I wanted to ask you how Black families, in particular, have been underserved when it comes to access to commercial capital and how you think World of Money can change the paradigm going forward.
SABRINA: Every day, I learn something new about this, but the financial significance of underserved communities and families, particularly in the African-American community, is historic. From redlining neighborhoods, from lack of access to business capital, to the difficult relationship with banks to being offered only subprime mortgages to not feeling capable or worthy enough to ask questions and feeling compelled to sign documents simply because this person seems like they know what they're talking about. It runs the gamut.
You talk about any aspect of financial education, and the African-American community has really been decimated. When we talk about the wealth gap, and how the lack of knowledge has impacted the black community, the only way that we can change it or hit the reset button is with financial education.
So, it starts with pouring financial education into children, with their parents alongside, so they understand that they're worthy of living a financially prosperous life. That they have a voice in how they use their money and what they spend their money on, and that they believe they should save and commit to a life of community service. If you don't believe that your life is worth saving, you're not going to save one nickel.
ILYCE: Can you give me an example of parents and students "not feeling worthy"?
SABRINA: When parents attend an orientation, I give them a one-page document and ask them to complete one exercise about saving and then I ask them to sign the document. Everyone does the exercise and signs the document. And then I'll ask those that signed to raise their hand. Everyone does. And, then I say, "Why did you sign this document?" And the answer is, "Because you told me to." But in the small print, at the bottom of the page, it says that by signing the document, you owe World of Money and Sabrina Lamb every nickel you will ever earn in the future.
ILYCE: You really have to read the fine print.
SABRINA: It goes beyond that. These people said they did not believe they had the power to say no. That is the fundamental foundation of financial education: the power to say yes and the power to say no. The power to delay gratification. But the principal power is to believe that your voice matters, no matter how confident that person is who is encouraging you to sign a contract that does not serve your best financial interests.
Ilyce Glink is the founder and CEO of Best Money Moves. This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.