It’s called “Minor’s Trust,” “Big Money” or “18 Money,” and for a number of Native American youth, it represents a blessing and a curse.
A small number of tribes pay out dividends from tribal businesses, or per-capita payments, to their members. For tribal members who are age 17 or younger, these payments are usually held in a financial trust until the youth turns 18. At age 18 (although sometimes later) minors can apply for their minor’s trust payout and sometimes receive a very large payment. Thus, many young people are faced with the responsibility of managing their “Big Money” at a young age. With funding from the FINRA Investor Education Foundation, First Nations launched the My Green campaign in April 2013 to help Native youth learn to manage their money. The main feature of the campaign is the My Green website at www.mybigmoney.org. It features four spokespeople – Native youth ages 17-23 – who present their stories about how they managed their Big Money. They share their lessons learned in a series of videos, and they serve as guides throughout the different components of the website. The site contains several money tools that Native youth can use to learn how to better manage their payments, including a Big Money simulation game that mirrors real-life spending decisions one must make. The website also features an advice column that covers a number of financial topics that are especially pertinent to Native youth receiving minor’s trust payments.
First Nations created the campaign and website in response to the demand to provide financial education to the growing number of Native youth who are receiving a large lump sum of money as part of their minor’s trust payout. Studies have shown that most Native American youth have very low rates of financial literacy, and are more likely to be “unbanked.” The national Financial Literacy of Native American Youth report (2007) showed that nearly 87% of Native American high school seniors in their study received a “failing” score in financial literacy. Similarly, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) found that 28.9% of American Indian and Alaska Natives are “underbanked,” and 15.6% are “unbanked.” With this low level of financial knowledge and high “unbanked” rate, Native youth who receive a large Minor’s Trust payment (sometimes amounting to $50,000 or more) are especially vulnerable to making poor financial decisions.
“Receiving a large minor’s trust payment when one turns 18 can be an exciting but also very stressful time for Native youth,” said Shawn Spruce, a program consultant for First Nations. “We are confident that the My Green website will offer these kids a number of valuable tools to explore how to invest in their future.”
First Nations will continue to promote the website at several conferences over the summer and fall, including hosting a My Green booth at The National Indian Education Association (NIEA) conference Oct. 29 – Nov. 3, 2013. We first launched the campaign at the Native American Financial Officers Association conference in April in Nashville, followed by the Gathering of Nations PowWow in Albuquerque.