3 Financial Literacy Lessons from Jay-Z's 4:44 Album

By Charlene Fadirepo

Last week Jay-Z dropped his new album called ‘4:44’. And at first, the busy mom/entrepreneur in me shrugged it off and said who cares. Ever since I had my son, my once burning tendency to listen to hip hop and rap music has all but faded away. But I just couldn’t escape the chatter about the album on Facebook--so I decided to listen. When the first few bars of “Legacy” played and I heard Blue Ivy’s voice say “Daddy what is a will”?, I knew I was hooked. As a financial educator, I am always looking for cool and innovative teaching tools to share with students and parents. So I was absolutely delighted to discover that the 4:44 album was designed to be a modern blueprint for our financial lives On track after track, Jay-Z artfully makes a compelling case for the importance of financial education and financial independence. The jewels and lessons are endless. Here are three of my favorite takeaways.

Lesson 1: Parents should talk to their kids about money while they are still young. According to Jay-Z, the song, “Legacy” is a verbal will to his five-year-old daughter, Blue Ivy. It should be noted that on this track, Jay-Z is having a deep money conversation with his daughter who is barely out of pre-school. Let that sink in. I have always believed that financial education conversations needed to start early. This was part of the reason I decided to write my children’s book on money management, Ayo’s Money Jar. Data from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, shows that children as young as five can learn to save. In the song, Jay-Z advises Blue Ivy on how to spend the financial resources her father worked so hard to build for the Carter family. He suggests that she consider starting an institute to “put poor kids in school” and that he would like to see a considerable portion of those resources go to “fund ideas from people who look like we”. There is so much here. In addition to acknowledging that Blue Ivy is well positioned to be wealthy, Jay-Z is encouraging her to use her inherited resources to help support the less fortunate and invest in entrepreneurs of color. The parental advice here is just perfect.

Lesson 2: Families should focus on building generational wealth -  Jay-Z continues to drop financial knowledge throughout “Legacy”. He talks about his intentional plan to amass significant resources for his family. He mentions the plethora of businesses he currently owns: Roc Nation, TIDAL, the champagne D’USSE’, all businesses and income streams that he plans to pass down to his children, Blue Ivy and the twins. Jay-Z goes on to say that he expects the Carter kids to pass those inherited resources on to their own children, thus creating generational wealth for the Carter lineage. In February 2017, a public policy group named Demos published a study titled “The Asset Value of Whiteness: Understanding the Racial Wealth Gap”, where they share that “white children are five times as likely as black children to receive substantial gifts and inheritances, and the sums they receive tend to be much larger.” This extra foundation of money gives those white children a head-start in wealth accumulation. This study goes onto conclude that the transfer of generational wealth is a very powerful factor in determining the long-term wealth of a family. Bloomberg Businessweek published an article about the Demos study and put it this way”…whites’ wealth advantage—and blacks’ disadvantage—gets passed down from generation to generation.” In the song, “Legacy”, Jay-Z mentioned that his parents didn’t have any resources to pass along to him –so he was tasked with the responsibility to start the generational wealth building process for his family.

Lesson 3: Financial freedom should be the ultimate goal. The song “Legacy” loops a sample from Donny Hathaway’s famous song “Someday We’ll All Be Free”. I believe Jay-Z chose to use this particular sample in order to offer financial freedom as a potential pathway to escape the injustices that many poor people and people of color experience in the United States. Jay-Z doubles down on this concept in the song, “The Story of OJ” where he says

“Financial freedom is my only hope. “[Forget]* living rich and dying broke.”

A few bars later, he drops another practical money gem.

 “You wanna know what's more important than throwin' away money at a strip club? …Credit”

(Mic Drop. This line made me giddy.) Between “Legacy” and the “Story of OJ” Jay-Z’s lyrics send a clear message to encourage his fans to think bigger than their current financial situation and start down the path to financial freedom. The path includes making wise choices with your money by investing in appreciating assets, protecting and maintaining good credit, and diversifying your streams of income.

Hov, you did it again, and I could not have taught the lessons better myself.

Writer's Note: * I substituted the word "forget", instead of Jay-Z's original word choice -given the number of young children that use my website for its financial literacy resources. 




3 Cool Money Games For Your Toddler, Middle Schooler, or High Schooler

Research shows that parents and caregivers have the most influence on their children’s financial knowledge. So, yes that means that you have the power ensure your child has a bright financial future. You don’t need to rely on your child’s school or even someone else to teach this stuff. You can do it. I think games are a great and easy way to help teach financial education. Now that my son is almost 4 and is a walking talking energizer bunny –I am thankful to have a few games downloaded on my phone –just to slow him down! I limit his screen-time but when he does get my phone I try to get him to play as many educational games as possible.

So I am a sucker for a bargain-so we will focus on the FREE GAMES for now. So here is my list of 3 really cool financial education games for you and your child. All of these games are created by financial literacy non-profit organization, Commonwealth. This organization has been in the financial education space for a long time, I remember when they were operating under their original name -Door Ways to Dreams. I like Commonwealth since they get it –the believe that financial capability doesn’t have to be boring at all. In fact it can be fun and engaging. Check out all of Commonwealth's financial education games here


 This game is really quite adorable with cute little characters and a fun backdrop play area. In the game, you inherit a farm from your crazy uncle. During game play, your main task is to harvest vegetables from your farm to earn money. However your earnings also need to used to pay off the loans you had to take out to buy seeds for your new farm --and you are expected to save a portion of your earning for to build an emergency fund. Your loans are represented by bunnies that multiply over time (via finance charges). The game teaches the concepts of compounding interest on a loan and the importance of saving for emergencies. Although the content of the game seems complex, playing it is simple. To earn money, you line up three of the same growing veggies, but please beware because in the middle of gameplay, a tornado can blow through your farm, destroy your crops and drain your account. Crops that go unmatched for too long wilt and die and each round is timed. When I played the first time, I was lining up veggies like a champ (and earning lots of money on my farm) –but each time I saw a new bunny appear (which is a loan), I winced! The game really does help you and your kids feel the “burn” of debt. At the end of each round you get an account balance to see the worth of your farm, your debt load and the amount in your emergency fund.

Commonwealth partnered with Capital One to share this game with high schoolers around the nation. Even though the game is being targeted at the high school level – it is simple enough for elementary school children to play and enjoy (with adult supervision). The game is cute, fast paced and your kids are sure to enjoy it. Note, I was not able to get the +/- on the savings area to work when I played on my phone. So for that reason, I think this is a great pick for a tablet.


Con Em If You Can is the perfect game for middle school boys. It is a scenario based game -so it is complex enough to hold their attention, yet simple enough so that they don’t get too discouraged. The game is about spotting financial fraud. It was developed by Commonwealth and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation. In the game you are the bad guy, an expert con artist, who has recently moved to Shady Grove town, a town untouched by greed, or deception. Your job is to use dirty financial tricks to dupe people out of their money and avoid getting caught by the Fraud Fighting Agency. The game cleverly introduces the player to the myriad of financial fraud schemes that out there. Note – the game takes up a TON of space on your phone 160 MB—so you might have to delete some existing apps. I recommend that you download the game on a tablet so you can get the full benefit of the cool graphics in the game.




Ramp It Up is gamified college readiness mobile app for high school students that helps them navigate the world of college financing options. In the game, each player is an athlete getting ready to “compete”on their college campus. Before competing, each player has to train by completing the various scenarios related to debt decisions, securing financial aid, and analyzing the best college return on investment. I like this game since most parents don’t even think about college financing options until they have a high schooler with one foot out of the door. That is way too late to start thinking about these items. This game was recognized as a promising and pioneering innovation by the US Treasury Department’s Financial Empowerment Innovation Fund.



Honor Dr. King Everyday Through Economic Activism

Monday, January 16, is the day we honor the life of civil rights hero, Dr. Martin Luther King. Some of us will use this day as a day of volunteer service, others will visit museums honoring people of color and still others will attend marches and community events. And some will do nothing at all. As part of my own effort to celebrate Dr. King – I offer an approach that allows us to honor him everyday single day.

Achieving economic and social justice in America continues to be a complex challenge for politicians, activists, and local citizens. The social activism led by Dr. Martin Luther King in the 1960s started with protests against racism, but also focused on the plight of the poor, unemployable, and unemployed. Unfortunately, near 60 years later, many of the problems Dr. King identified as focus areas still persist today. So what does it mean to continue the economic justice legacy work of Dr. King in 2017? And how might we, the young, able bodied and engaged parents of this country practice what I call, Every Day Economic Activism?

I believe Economic Activism begins with you --everyday. It starts with taking full responsibility about how you spend your most important resources –time and money. It doesn’t matter if you have a little money or a lot—this is the time to be more conscious of every dollar you own and every minute you have on this earth. Both of these resources must be put to their highest and best use at all times. There is so much work to do and we all have a part to play in the quest for equity in all schools, healthcare systems, throughout the business community, and throughout the justice system. Here is my list of 4 strategies for Every Day Economic Activism.

1. Live within your means: As a parent, you can put this strategy in practice today. No matter if you make $10,000 or $100,000 a year –spending more than you make is a very  bad idea. It is just that simple. Learn to be responsible with your money. Buy a drink when you are out –but don’t buy the bar. Keep gift giving expenses to a minimum. There is nothing wrong with splurging, but splurge within reason. Develop a budget for yourself and stick to it. Need to know how to start budgeting? Click here. 

2. Support businesses that support you and your community: According to a 2014 Neilson report on the African American Consumer[1], the buying power of African-Americans is $1 trillion and expected to grow to $1.3 trillion in the next few years. Curious about how much a trillion is ? –click here. The sheer magnitude of that number is powerful. And this economic spending power should not be taken lightly. Use it to your own advantage. Only support businesses and establishments whose values resonate with your own ideas, values, and principles. Business that don’t align with your personal priorities simply don’t deserve your time OR your money.  Any business that that does not respect you as a consumer, or creates an environment where you feel mistreated or uncomfortable should be boycotted indefinitely. Don’t spend your time arguing and talking about it –just simply take your business elsewhere. Voting with your feet (or boycotting) is one of the loudest and most effective protests of all. 

3Maximize your earning power through career advancement and/or entrepreneurship: Benjamin Franklin once said “An investment in knowledge pays the most interest.” I could not agree with him more. Strive to understand the career path in your chosen field. Set ambitious goals and work toward progressive promotions. Committing to your personal career advancement helps to drive your earning power which in turn will help you build wealth for your family. Building wealth for your family ensure that you will be able to absorb financial shocks of life, save money for your childrens’ college funds, and adequately prepare for retirement. In addition to your full-time job, explore entrepreneurship in an area that you are passionate about. 

4Become a life-long learner of financial literacy: I believe that all parents should strive for two things: gaining financial education --gaining the knowledge of financial products and attaining financial capability, the ability to use math numeracy and critical thinking skills to make good decisions with the acquired financial knowledge. Parents arm yourself with unbiased information from reputable sources. Sign up for my newsletter on my blog www.smartchoicemoms.com, for helpful money principles, tips, and simple common sense money lessons for you and your family.

So what do my 4 strategies have to do with Dr. King ? Everything actually. Dr. King understood the importance of economic justice and the power that it affords. Dr. King’s last campaign before he died on January 15, 1968 was about fighting poverty and achieving economic justice for all people. It was called the Poor People’s Campaign. According to the King encyclopedia at Stanford, “King believed that African Americans and other minorities would never enter full citizenship until they had economic security. These steps will enable you to honor Dr. King’s legacy within your own family by ensuring your own economic stability and security now and for years to come.

[1] http://www.popai.com/Research%20Library/Nielsen%20Essence-2014-african-american-consumer-report-Sept-2014.pdf

Money Skills For Your Middle Schooler

Middle School is such a pivotal time in a child's life. During this period, your child is learning to juggle peer pressure, school activities, and their own independence. This is also the time that children begin to develop their own financial habits and personal identity. What are the most important money skills in middle school? Check out our list below.

Financial habits and norms – According to the CFPB’s youth building blocks of financial capability, middle school is the timeframe when students begin to build their financial habits and norms. These norms include how they view money, how they handle money, and how they feel about having or not having enough money. Middle school also represents a critical opportunity for parents to set a solid foundation of healthy money habits. Children learn financial habits through observation of the adults and caregivers closest to them. In addition, outside influences play a significant role in the lives of middle schoolers. Interactions with friends, individuals in the community, television/internet advertising all impact your child’s view of money.

Teaching Tip: The best way to teach positive financial habits and norms, is to be intentional about them and model them!

Money Skills For Your Toddler

Early Childhood is absolutely the best time to start teaching your kids about money. Data shows that kids can grasp the concept of saving as early as the age of five.  By 2 years old your child has figured out sharing or not --and by 3 he or she might even be a pro at it. Here is our list of the most important money skills for your toddler.

Early Childhood: Ages 3-5

1) Executive Function - According to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), Executive Function is the most important skill your toddler should work on. This can be defined as "The mental processes that enable us to plan for the future, focus our attention, remember information, and juggle multiple tasks." 

I like to think about Executive Function as your toddler's ability to control or manage his/her own behavior. This reminds me of the time when my very own sweet boy, then 2, was unhappy with me in a restaurant--and he threw himself on the floor in a crying fit of rage. I can still remember the pangs of embarrassment I suffered as I tried to collect his wriggling body from the floor. It was a terrible day and felt like the worst parent in the world. That was clearly the opposite of self control...but toddlers will be toddlers and they just can't help it. But seriously, self control is really quite important since it sets the foundation for teaching patience and delayed gratification.

Teaching Tip: Executive Function skills can be built little by little every day. Create incentives for good behavior (we use cupcakes) and consequences for bad behavior (we use "no TV" days). Also practice being slow to meet your child's demands. It is ok to make them wait sometimes. They will cherish that juice, toy, or cheese even more if they had to wait patiently for it. Be sure to lavish praise for little ones that can wait patiently for their turn. Plant the seeds of planning for the future during snack time by encouraging your child to "save some snacks for later". Lastly encourage your child to strengthen his/her ability to focus on a particular activity for a set amount of time. I usually focus on this skill during storytime each night. Achieving more than 10-20 minutes of undivided toddler attention is a real feat. 

2) Empathy: Your toddler is already great at understanding his or her own needs. The next step is to help teach your toddler empathy or "the ability to put themselves in the shoes of another child or person". Empathy is such a critical skill to build at this age. Focusing on empathy now will enable you to help your child become both compassionate and caring. Find out more  about empathy and giving here.

Teaching Tip: Build empathy for your child by asking questions. If another child drops his candy, ask your child how dropping their own candy would make them feel. Encourage your child to verbalize how that situation would affect them. As parents we can model empathy too. We can show concern and compassion for others through the use of kind words, and giving to others in need.

3) Counting: This is a given. It is never to early to start counting. Most toddlers I know can already count up to 30 well before age 4. Don't assume your baby knows all of his numbers. (I made this mistake and was a little embarrassed when I heard my son counting out loud proudly for a relative.) He was on a roll until he hit 14, somehow good ole 15 got left behind. He didn't even notice and cruised proudly on to 20. Needless to say --this is a still work in progress for our family. 

Teaching Tip: This one is easy! We count everything, everywhere, with everybody --out loud. 

So there you have it 3 simple money skills to work on if you have a toddler. Drop a comment and let us know if your baby has put any of these skills in practice!