Financial Literacy, Bankruptcy, and the children of New York City

Countless Bankruptcy cases come through my doors and I’m happy to help.  I learned Bankruptcy, primarily, by doing Pro Bono work for the Brooklyn Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers project.  I still do. It allowed me to hone my skills while also giving me an opportunity to give back to the community.  But, for the most part, what we do is reactionary.  In other words, we help people in New York City file for Chapter 7 Bankruptcy after they ‘ve fallen into the financial pit which they can’t come out of.  It’s too late for them.

For years now, I’ve thought there must be a better way to deal with some of the endemic problems surrounding money management in New York City.  You see, many of us don’t know what “credit” really means.  We don’t understand how, even a 100 point difference in your credit score, can mean the difference between being able to afford a certain home or not.  Or how a judgment on your record can come back to bite you ten years down the line, with interest.  Or how saving money in your 401k from the time you start working, can help you out tremendously down the line.  Or…about spending (COUGH).  And so I began searching for a way to educate people about these common pitfalls.  Simple, small things which we need to learn in order to live better lives.  Literally, better lives.

Over the past several months, we met with a wonderful organization, Pencil.org.  PENCIL teams private businesses with local schools in need of teachers, leadership, hands on training, etc.  We discussed the problems facing children today in education.  And we realized that children were really never taught a thing about saving or investing.  No one explained how compounding interest can make them thousands over their lives, and how important keeping a solid debt/income ratio would be for their college loans. There were too many other issues children faced.   But if we were going to do this, we realized we wouldn’t have been able to do it alone.  We partnered up with The Street Academy for Financial Literacy, where I am a proud Board Member.  Street Academy is a grass roots organization comprised of some of the most dedicated people I know.  Their goal is to educate kids about financial literacy and prepare them for the complex world we live in.  In other words, getting to the problem early.  Teaching proper money habits.  We’re teaching the next generation about the mistakes that many have made, and how to avoid them.  I don’t remember the last time I’ve been so genuinely excited to start a Pro Bono program.  But here we are.  We’re teaching the kids at the NorthStar Academy, in Flatbush, Brooklyn starting next week.  We want to expand the program to various schools around New York.  We want to make a small difference in these childrens lives.  We want to, and will, help in any way we can.

We encourage you to learn more about Pencil.org and The Street Academy for Financial Literacy.

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