In recognition of Financial Capability Month, the SEC’s Office of Minority and Women Inclusion (OMWI) and the African American Council (AAC) hosted their annual financial literacy and career day event for high school students and teachers.
Attendees from 16 schools in Washington, D.C., Virginia, Maryland, and Oklahoma joined the virtual event that included information on the basics of investing and career advice from SEC staff, including OMWI Program Manager Evelyn Williams, AAC Co-host Pamela Timus, Division of Enforcement Senior Examiner Sharon Bryant, and Office of Investor Education and Advocacy Deputy Director John Moses. SEC Chair Gary Gensler gave the opening remarks and participated in a Q&A.
“Nobody is going to shape your future more than you do,” said Chair Gensler. “You’re in the driver’s seat, and that begins with financial literacy.” He walked participants through the history of the SEC and gave five pieces of advice as they begin their career journey: pursue your passions; make your opportunities and seize them; work with mentors; know and stay true to your values; and finally, balance your personal and work lives.
Chair Gensler emphasized working with mentors, mentioning that they are people who can give advice, help with networks, and provide connections to get where you want to go in life. He noted that he still speaks with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and seeks her advice. “If you’re efficient, gracious in asking for advice and don’t waste people’s time, they’ll help you out.”
During Bryant’s remarks, she explained how her career did not end up the way she had imagined when she started college. The daughter of Mississippi sharecroppers, she knew she liked math, and decided to major in finance at Howard University. Following graduation, her first jobs were administrative, and despite a lack of professional connections, she worked her way up through the securities industry, first in Richmond, Virginia, and eventually making it to New York City. She is now considered to be one of the foremost experts in securities.
She offered four pieces of advice to the participants: know what you like in school; always stay open to new information and be curious; learn how to overcome challenges, course correct, and persevere; and believe in yourself. “When I started, I didn’t have a lot of people who looked like me in the industry,” she explained. “But I thought if they could do it, so could I. I’m living proof that you can have a career where you don’t see a lot of role models that look like you, or you don’t have connections to help you out.”
“It’s very important to understand that not everyone takes a linear career path,” Bryant said. “I am someone who doesn’t believe there’s one way to do things. You have to stay persistent, be creative, continue to refine what you know, and you’ll eventually get to where you want to go.”
During the financial empowerment portion of the event, Moses gave participants smart ways to invest and grow their money. “The goal here is to manage your money, not have your money manage you,” he explained. “You have a superpower, and that’s time.” He mentioned that if he was younger, he would have invested even more aggressively, and that the students would be wise to begin saving now because of the power of compound interest. If they were to invest $100 a month for the next 40 years, an initial $48,000 investment would grow to nearly a quarter million dollars by retirement age. “The key is saying to yourself ‘I want to get started.’ You could save five dollars a week, or five dollars a month. Start setting up a framework where you can budget automatically and remove it from being a chore.”
Timus encouraged persistence. “If your ideas are not there, create them,” she said. “If the doors are closed, keep knocking, and if they don’t open, find another way in. If nothing else, please remember never to give up on your dreams and you. They’re key components to who you are, and I hope we’ve planted the seeds for tomorrow.”
Modified: April 6, 2023