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Irvin Ashford discusses Comerica’s financial literacy plans, NASDAQ and Everfi

Innovation in Financial Education Awards, Presented by NASDAQ and EverFi, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in New York.

Innovation in Financial Education Awards, Presented by NASDAQ and EverFi, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in New York. (Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff Photography)

Comerica Bank was honored on April 6, 2016, at the second annual Innovation in Financial Education Awards presented by Nasdaq and EverFi. The award recognizes Comerica’s significant efforts to improve the financial capability of Americans through unique digital learning initiatives. Thirty-five institutions were honored with this distinction at a ceremony at Nasdaq Marketsite in New York City.

Honorees were selected based on a set of criteria that included the scale and reach of their financial education initiatives, the duration of their commitment, and unique employee volunteering activities that supplement their programs.

“Helping students and adults develop a foundation of financial understanding and capability is absolutely critical,” said EverFi founder and CEO Tom Davidson. “The organizations we’re recognizing here today are tackling this issue head on and taking positive steps to prepare millions of individuals with the critical financial management skills needed to move our country forward.”

Comerica is committed to providing students with the skills and knowledge needed to successfully navigate the increasingly complex financial world. Comerica has partnered with EverFi to bring the Comerica Money $ense Program to local students at no cost to schools or taxpayers and has reached over 2K students who have completed 5,300 learning modules since the 2014-15 school year. The web-based program uses the latest in simulation and gaming technologies to bring complex financial concepts to life for today’s digital generation.

“Comerica is committed to the communities it serves and enhancing educational opportunities that give students a better chance of being successful,” said Irvin Ashford Jr., senior vice president and community development and external affairs director for Comerica Bank. “We’re proud to be a partner in this quest to prepare our students to become good financial stewards.”

Here, Ashford expounds on the importance of financial literacy, setting financial goals and innovative programs.

Why is financial literacy important?
In today’s complex economy, it is absolutely essential for youth and adults to understand how money works. From basic budgeting to preparing for college or a first home, knowing how to deal with your personal finances can make a huge difference in your financial future.

Why does Comerica support financial literacy?
Financial literacy is a key community development initiative for Comerica Bank because of the pressing need to empower students and adults with knowledge and tools to make sound financial decisions. And, because we want to raise expectations of what a bank can be, which is to be a true community partner.

What have you learned from supporting community literacy efforts?
Our work around the topic of financial literacy reaffirms our belief that education and training can make a positive difference in peoples’ lives and in the communities we serve.

Describe your goals for financial literacy in the community.
Our primary goal around financial literacy is to shine a bright light on how these programs can change people’s behavior. Becoming educated about your personal finances is the most important step you can take to make a dramatic change in your personal financial life and future. Other goals are centered around making sure we identify the right partners, such as Nasdaq and Everfi, that can bring additional expertise and experience to the table.

What should families know about financial literacy?
Families need to understand that financial literacy is within their grasp and not as complicated as finance can sometimes be. In addition, it is important for them to understand that is a parental responsibility to make sure their children are more prepared for their financial futures than they were. At the same time, it is never too late for parents – or grandparents – to make an investment in their own financial education.

Innovation in Financial Education Awards, Presented by NASDAQ and EverFi, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in New York.

Innovation in Financial Education Awards, Presented by NASDAQ and EverFi, Wednesday, April 6, 2016, in New York. (Photo Credit: Diane Bondareff Photography)

Three tips for establishing a good relationship with a bank.
The most important tip is to look for a bank you know is involved in your community, and not just making loans and taking deposits. You want to establish a relationship with a bank you know is doing good things in the community where you live and work. The second tip is to find a banker – not just a bank – that you believe has your best interests in mind. The third tip is to foster an open dialogue with that banker; good communication between you and your banker is essential in any relationship with a bank.

Why is it important for a family or couple to set financial goals?
Setting financial goals is important in order to determine what you need to do to reach them. For example, if a couple has a financial goal to own their own home in five years, then they need to determine – in consultations with their personal banker or financial consultant – what it will take for them to make that downpayment. It may require saving more than you do now.

Name two financial literacy programs you thought were innovative.
We just received word that our financial literacy program for students, which we call Comerica Money $ense, was a Financial Education Innovation Award recipient. This is a tremendous honor for our bank. It reaffirms we are taking a creative approach to helping thousands of youngsters get the skills they need to manage money better. Another program I believe is innovative is one we undertake with the Direct Express® card program called PayPerks. PayPerks is a rewards program that equips cardholders with information they need in order to use their Direct Express® cards in the most beneficial, convenient, and secure way.

What does this award represent to you about Comerica?
It means we are making a difference and that our relationship focus enables us to offer programs and services that not only meet community needs, but the individual financial needs of youth, adults, older adults and families. It’s all about enhancing financial educational opportunities in our communities. I am proud to say Comerica Bank is helping to meet that need.