Malcolm Jenkins with kids

Malcolm Jenkins, above center, wants to open bank accounts for 1,000 students in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio and Louisiana. Jenkins said he has called each of these states home. —TRIBUNE PHOTO/ABDUL R. SULAYMAN

Former Philadelphia Eagles safety Malcolm Jenkins said research shows that children who have bank accounts are more likely to go to college and more likely to own stocks when they become young adults.

That’s why his Malcolm Jenkins Foundation’s goal is to open 1,000 bank accounts for students in Philadelphia, New Jersey, Ohio and Louisiana. Jenkins said he has called each of these states home. He’s now a safety for the New Orleans Saints, played college football at Ohio State and is originally from New Jersey.

In May, his foundation kicked off the effort by opening up banking accounts for all 260 students enrolled at Parkway Northwest High School for Peace and Social Justice. Jenkins, a two-time Super Bowl champion, said it was a natural growth of his fight for social justice.

“Over the years I’ve been engaged in social justice issues, such as criminal justice reform, trying to move hurdles for marginalized communities,” Jenkins said in an interview with The Tribune. “If we are going to have an impact on people’s lives, people have to be able to make money and grow wealth to break the cycle of poverty.”

Parkway Northwest High School was chosen because of its 99% graduation rate. In addition, the students there average $10,000 in college scholarships and have been cited by Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf for civic engagement.

The initial deposits of $40 remain locked until the students turn 18. The Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. added $10 to each account, for a total of $50 per student. The money is put into a Goalsetter Foundation account, a New York-based group that promotes financial literacy for underserved communities of color.

Several other groups are promoting financial literacy among traditionally underserved communities, such as young people and people of color.

For example, Fidelity Investments reports strong interest in its Fidelity Youth Account, with tens of thousands of account openings since it was introduced in May.

For its part, Fidelity said it is the industry’s first retail brokerage account with all of the saving, spending and investment decisions made by savers ages 13 through 17. These accounts can only be opened by parents who have existing Fidelity accounts.

“It is a perfect example of how we are receptive to novice and younger investors,” said Nicole Goodnow, a Fidelity Investments spokesperson. “This year ignited more interest in investing. We want to help them learn.”

So Fidelity provides educational articles and videos on financial literacy available on its website and social media platforms.

“Our hope is that we have more educated and knowledgeable investors,” Goodnow said. “This should help them engage in a conversation about money.”

To get started, teenage investors must co-open an account with their parents or guardians. Then the parent or guardians must transfer the ownership to their teen.

Other brokerage firms have custodial accounts for minors, but parents have complete control over them.

Parents or guardians can monitor the accounts through alerts on their smartphones.

“This is an opportunity to get your child thinking about money, making it and investing it,” said Ivanhoe Smith, managing partner of Coral Island Investments in Philadelphia. “It’s a great program. But you (account holders) have to do your homework. Every child should be financially literate and Black children are no different.”

Critics of the Fidelity Youth Account say it should be open to parents or guardians who are not Fidelity customers. Also, young investors in these accounts are responsible for any taxes on earnings or fees related to a particular investment. If account holders cannot pay, their parents or guardians are held responsible. For parents or guardians looking for more control, this isn’t the account for them. They cannot, for example set any spending limits on the account holder.

Meanwhile in West Philadelphia, Bridges to Wealth is a University of Pennsylvania program that teaches financial literacy to community groups and churches. Founded in 2012 by two Penn professors, the program’s goal is to increase wealth-building for families living in underserved neighborhoods.

Bridges to Wealth has about 2,000 community investors who contribute about $10 every two weeks. The group invests about $200,000 a year in low-cost mutual funds. Most of the investors are people of color and about 75% are women.

Bridges to Wealth works with organizations such as the People’s Emergency Center in West Philadelphia. The center provides housing, job training, early childhood education and financial education to families and youth who are experiencing homelessness.

Since 2012, the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation has worked to improve graduation rates, college eligibility and enrollment in underserved communities through its Project REWARDS program in partnership with College Track. The foundation rewards students seeking higher education with scholarships from Malcolm Jenkins Scholars.

To date, more than $175,000 in scholarships have been granted, providing financial assistance for books, supplies and other expenses. Also, the Malcolm Jenkins Foundation has funded college tours, career exposure and job networking workshops.

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