How I Learned to Read – and Trade Stocks – in Prison: Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll (Transcript)

Then I discovered that according to MarketWatch, over 60 percent of the American population has under 1,000 dollars in savings. Sports Illustrated said that over 60 percent of NBA players and NFL players go broke. 40 percent of marital problems derive from financial issues. What the hell?

You mean to tell me that people worked their whole lives, buying cars, clothes, homes and material stuff but were living check to check? How in the world were members of society going to help incarcerated individuals back into society if they couldn’t manage their own stuff? We screwed. I needed a better plan. This is not going to work out too well.

So I thought I now had an obligation to meet those on the path and help, and it was crazy because I now cared about my community. Wow, imagine that I cared about my community. Financial illiteracy is a disease that has crippled minorities and the lower class in our society for generations and generations, and we should be furious about that.

Ask yourselves this: How can 50 percent of the American population be financially illiterate in a nation driven by financial prosperity? Our access to justice, our social status, living conditions, transportation and food are all dependent on money that most people can’t manage. It’s crazy! It’s an epidemic and a bigger danger to public safety than any other issue.

According to the California Department of Corrections, over 70 percent of those incarcerated have committed or have been charged with money-related crimes: robberies, burglaries, fraud, larceny, extortion — and the list goes on.

Check this out: a typical incarcerated person would enter the California prison system with no financial education, earn 30 cents an hour, over 800 dollars a year, with no real expenses and save no money.

Upon his parole, he will be given 200 dollars gate money and told, “Hey, good luck, stay out of trouble. Don’t come back to prison.” With no meaningful preparation or long-term financial plan, what does he do ? At 60? Get a good job, or go back to the very criminal behavior that led him to prison in the first place? You taxpayers, you choose.

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Well, his education already chose for him, probably. So how do we cure this disease? I cofounded a program that we call Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy. We call it FEEL, and it teaches how do you separate your emotional decisions from your financial decisions, and the four timeless rules to personal finance: the proper way to save, control your cost of living, borrow money effectively and diversify your finances by allowing your money to work for you instead of you working for it.

Incarcerated people need these life skills before we reenter society. You can’t have full rehabilitation without these life skills. This idea that only professionals can invest and manage money is absolutely ridiculous, and whoever told you that is lying.

A professional is a person who knows his craft better than most, and nobody knows how much money you need, have or want better than you, which means you are the professional. Financial literacy is not a skill, ladies and gentlemen. It’s a lifestyle.

Financial stability is a byproduct of a proper lifestyle. A financially sound incarcerated person can become a taxpaying citizen, and a financially sound taxpaying citizen can remain one. This allows us to create a bridge between those people who we influence: family, friends and those young people who still believe that crime and money are related. So let’s lose the fear and anxiety of all the big financial words and all that other nonsense that you’ve been out there hearing.

And let’s get to the heart of what’s been crippling our society from taking care of your responsibility to be better life managers. And let’s provide a simple and easy to use curriculum that gets to the heart, the heart of what financial empowerment and emotional literacy really is.

Now, if you’re sitting out here in the audience and you said, “Oh yeah, well, that ain’t me and I don’t buy it,” then come take my class — so I can show you how much money it costs you every time you get emotional.

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Thank you very much. Thank you.

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