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Money Smart News - January 2004

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Tapping Into the Unbanked Market
Panel 1: Financial Education and Reaching the Unbanked - Perspectives from Congress

Powell then introduced the Congressional Panel, "Financial Education and Reaching the Unbanked-Perspectives from Congress": Congressman Spencer Bachus, R-Alabama, Chairman, House Subcommittee on Financial Institutions and Consumer Credit; Congressman Rubén Hinojosa, D-Texas, Member, House Committee on Financial Services; Congressman David Scott, D-Georgia, Member, House Committee on Financial Services. Judith A. Kennedy, President and CEO, National Association of Affordable Housing Lenders, was the panel moderator.

Bachus reviewed the work done in Congress in recent sessions to improve access for the unbanked. "But this is a complex issue," he said. "We've found that many of the unbanked have had a bank account in the past and left. Many leave banks by choice. Many people who have had check trouble tend to stay away from banks and checks altogether. As a nation, ours is a history of people staying outside an institution for years and only coming in later. Not everyone participated in our constitutional form of government, at first-women have only recently participated fully in government. But our history, thank goodness, is one of including more and more people as we progress."

Hinojosa reviewed his personal history, as one of many children in a family of poor immigrants. "My father worked very hard and taught all his children good work ethics," he recalled. "But even though I worked hard and did my best growing up, I never felt fully accepted in the financial world. Eventually I came to Congress and I found that this is a problem all over the financial community for my people. Many of us don't trust government in general and banks in particular. Many of my people prefer to deal in cash, to be sure of their transactions. If banks can help us be more sure of what they have to offer, then there is the potential for a lot of business from my community."

Scott reminded the gathering of the concerns of Alexander Hamilton, who feared the new nation would never prosper unless its people became financially literate and learned to manage the wealth they were working so hard to build. "There must be a vision of financial success," Scott noted, "for it has been said, that 'without a vision, the people will perish.' Today, people are perishing for their lack of financial vision. Predatory lending is a monster that preys upon the failures of financial literacy. We need to fight that."

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Last Updated 01/15/2004

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