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Author: Don Obrien

Tribal Finance offers new platform for Minors Trust Fund – The Cherokee One Feather


 

By JONAH LOSSIAH

One Feather Staff

 

If you or your child participate in the EBCI Minors Trust Fund, you may now view the progress of your account online.

In a push to increase financial literacy, the EBCI Office of Budget and Finance has developed a website with USI Consulting (usicg.com) for anyone participating in the Minors Trust Fund. The site launched at the beginning of August is aimed at offering access to those who will be receiving per capita distribution.

Lavita Hill, treasury specialist with the EBCI Office of Budget and Finance, said that this is a step towards transparency and education. She said that while she currently sends out a quarterly report to all participants in the Minors Trust Fund, this will be unparalleled access. She also said that about a third of those current quarterly reports get bounced back due to incorrect addresses.

“This is a huge asset for any participant. It is something that they should care about and take pride in. They should monitor it just to say, ‘yes, you’re doing great with my fund’ or they could even come back and say, ‘this isn’t performing, I have questions’. We should always call things into question,” said Hill.

“We’re offering them the transparency to see their account. Here are your numbers, real-time. If there’s a dip, they’re going to see it. When there are increases, they’re going to see it. Just to have the education to say, ‘this is my account, I know what’s happening with it’. To me, it’s so monumental.”

Hill said that while the website already offers a valuable service, one of the most important pieces to the project should be on its way in the next month.

“What’s coming is we recently entered into a contract with a company called StockTrak, and they’re going to add an educational component to this website which is also going to be free. It’s geared toward fourth grade and up. So, start them young and encourage financial literacy all their life. What’s good about it is if a parent is logging in with their younger child, they’ll go through the educational components too. So, they will also have either a refresher course or it could be very new to them,” said Hill.

She said that the classes will be focused from fourth grade and up. They will teach participants about budgeting, checking accounts, banking, and investing. Hill said that she expects this to be available by the end of September.

Cory Blankenship, secretary of the EBCI Treasury, said that his team is pushing to get the best assets in the hands of Tribal members.

“I think we’re laser-focused on looking at different age groups. How do we target programming starting at a young age? Because by the time we get to high school and they’re getting ready to start aging out of the account it’s too late. So, we want to have a series of financial literacy programs that hit different age brackets,” said Blankenship.

Blankenship said educating kids is important but developing financial literacy in their mentors is just as vital for ensuring the best foundation for the next generation.

“We have to hit at every level. Employees, parents, grandparents. In our experience talking to other tribes that have a minors’ trust, there’s this generational gap where grandparents may not have had a bank account. Parents maybe can’t manage a bank account. So, if they don’t know about banking and the products that are available at their local deposit bank, then they can’t tell their kids about that. So, I think there’s almost a responsibility there to educate all generations of Tribal members,” said Blankenship.

He said that deciding who to partner with moving forward will be crucial to offering the best services to Tribal members. They are just now finalizing the contract with StockTrak.

“What we’ve been most surprised by is there’s existing programs out there that are targeted toward different age brackets that are curriculum specialists. How do you talk about money and finances with a first grader? There’s existing programs out there that are already doing that. So, how do we leverage our resources here and tap into those existing resources? I don’t think we need to create anything new. It’s the Investment Committee looking at what’s the best product out there and how do we get that to our members.”

The Minors Trust Fund is approaching a total value of a billion dollars. Hill says that with these tools, the 6,151 current participants in the program can learn how to follow the market and become smart investors. She says that it will be able to start a conversation between households and friends. That is if people take advantage of the resources. Hill also said that there had only been 300 logins to the site

“That is super exciting. I can’t wait. But it’s not relevant if no one’s using it.”

Anybody participating in the program can check their account at any point at usicg.com. For any further questions, concerns, or other information you can contact Lavita Hill 359-7085 or lavihill@ebci-nsn.gov.

 





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