White House Adviser: 'Make Smart Sexy Again'

Operation Hope's Bryant blames the mortgage crisis in part on lack of education.


But let me tell you about one young 12-year-old, Hispanic, dual-language-speaking child, whose parents speak only Spanish. She goes through our program. We find out she is the head of household. So she would leave school and go to a check casher. She thought Bank of America was the bank of America. She thought check cashers were a mainstream financial services provider. Only after our program, she understood her parents' experience was not the totality of the American experience.... Her family got banked, because she got knowledge.

Education is not a panacea; it can't change everything by itself. Role models [are a big part of it]. We got the president's council to create a financial literacy corps at volunteer.gov. You can volunteer in any ZIP code in America. We are trying to recruit 25,000 volunteers around this country. It's essentially a Peace Corps for financial literacy.

What are the council's other goals?

We will be introducing a money math curriculum, which is Treasury Department approved, for every middle school child. We want it to be in every middle school in the country, ingrained in the curriculum. We will be reaching out to all superintendents. It's free. They can download it from the Treasury Department's website. Second, [council chairman] Chuck Schwab will lead the effort to get financial literacy embedded into the workplace. Third, I'll be leading the effort to encourage institutions to bank the unbanked. We'll have an honor roll program for employers, so an employer can qualify to be listed on the Treasury Department's website, and we'll be doing a similar program for high school students, a rewards program for outstanding financial literacy. It includes scholarships and acknowledgment by the president of the United States for their exemplary efforts.

What would you like to be the state of financial literacy in a decade?

I would like to ensure that this conversation doesn't happen. That it's so commonplace that there's no necessity to have an interview on why there's a necessity to have financial literacy. It should become as commonplace as driving. Right now, people say "reading, writing, and 'rithmetic." Well, I believe in "reading, writing, 'rithmetic, and financial literacy." It should be a common core building block for our culture.