Lifting the Vast Population of Unbanked in Memphis
By Right About Money Staff Report
February 7, 2017
One out of four people in Memphis, TN, lives in poverty and some 90,000 are underbanked, meaning they have little or no access to modern financial services. The city’s 19.5% rate of unbanked households is the highest in the nation.
Unbanked communities struggle with credit issues, and often resort to high-cost alternative sources such as pawnshops and payday lenders. This leads to a cycle of debt that is difficult to break.
In Memphis, the nonprofit Operation HOPE is teaming with First Tennessee Bank to try to reverse the cycle by bringing financial education to youth, adults and small business owners. The First Tennessee Financial Education and Empowerment Program will provide $1 million for a financial literacy curriculum that aims to improve credit scores and money management skills.
This is meant to be a model others can employ to spread financial literacy to underserved populations. First Tennessee volunteers will offer financial lessons. Operation HOPE will open counseling offices in Memphis and 14 other locations around the state including Knoxville and Nashville.
In the Memphis office at the Church of God in Christ world headquarters, advisers from First Tennessee will provide financial counselor that will offer seminars and one-on-one counseling on credit and money management, and entrepreneurial training for startup businesses.
First Tennessee made a four-year commitment to this program, now its flagship effort in financial education. “Before, we were doing one-off things,” Melissa Duong, First Tennessee’s Community Reinvestment Act program manager, told the Memphis Daily News. “Now we’re really being intentional about being out in the community and making sure that our youth, our adults and small businesses get the financial education they need to make sound decisions and build wealth.”
This effort furthers the mission of Operation HOPE, which strives to bring economic empowerment to underserved populations. The organization says it has helped more than 2.6 million underbanked people around the world, helping them break the cycle of poverty through smarter money management, access to low-cost borrowing, and understanding how to build wealth through homeownership.