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Learning Financial Literacy with Candace Okin

Houston, TX

Written by Kenya Zandrowicz

When it comes to planning for our financial futures, we can sometimes miss the mark. Financial literacy is just as important today’s if not more, especially for our youth. However, it had not been made a priority by society for the young children in our communities until recently. The art/gift of entrepreneurial ship used to be something you highlighted after you became an adult and entered the workforce. It was usually around that time a person would decide to take the chance to go out on a limb, have faith, and become “their own boss”. What if financial literacy and entrepreneurship were something you would cultivate and implement in the minds of our youth early on? Instead of it being a penny saved is a penny earned, it could be a penny saved is a dream to be made.

Steller Magazine had the honor and the privilege to meet with author/entrepreneur Candace Okin who is doing just that. Teaching our children, the importance of preparing for their futures, bringing their dreams to life, and showing them how money and entrepreneurship really work.

Steller: Candace, you started as a writer, and you hold a degree in broadcast journalism. How did you go from that to being the author of a children’s book?

I’ve always been a writer in varying capacities throughout my life. As a child, I wrote short stories and poems, so creative writing was the entry point to writing for me. While I chose to utilize a more technical/structural writing style professionally, writing a children’s book was my return to the style that made me fall in love with the art form.

Steller: Mason Makes Money takes children and parents on a journey of entrepreneurship and money-making skills. What was the inspiration for this book?

After experiencing financial hardship, a year before publishing the book, I was inspired to teach my own child about money management in a format that was digestible for him as a child. I hoped to teach him from my own mistakes to keep him from doing the same. In doing so, I realized the potential I had to do so for other children as well.

Steller: When it comes to the things, we were taught about finances back in the day, do you feel that our community missed the mark on the information needed to help its youth become financially self-reliant? 

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I think one of the greatest opportunities missed was simply talking about money. Also, knowing the dismal history of our community economically compared to other subgroups, perhaps our community has felt that they could not speak on certain topics based on the state of their own lives. For instance, if a parent has a lot of debt, they may feel as though they’re ill-equipped to talk to their kids about avoiding debt, but therein lies the issue. Oftentimes, adults do not use their mistakes as learning opportunities. You do not have to be a finance professor or someone with perfect money management skills to impart financial knowledge.  

Steller: Mason Makes Money inspired you to go a step further in assisting our youth in understanding what entrepreneurship is and the fundamentals of money management by starting a wonderful non-profit. Can you tell our readers a little bit about that? 

Absolutely. Mason Makes Money Fund was established in 2020 to help invest in the entrepreneurial efforts of youth ages seven to 13. Mason Makes Money Fund follows the pathway of the book’s purpose to expose children to fundamental concepts of entrepreneurship and money management. Mason Makes Money Fund accomplishes its mission by providing free in-person and virtual workshops which cover an array of entrepreneurial and financial topics which include marketing; budgeting; customer service; branding; business planning; tax preparation; and more. The crown jewel of our program is our awarding of three micro-grants to three kid entrepreneurs each year in the amount of $500 to be used to fund their businesses.

Steller: We understand that you just recently wrote and published a new book earlier this year; does this new work have the same premise as Mason Makes Money? What is that book about?

My second book, Joseph the Great, was released in February of this year and takes on the premise of highlighting Black History and encouraging healthy coping skills. Joseph is a young boy who travels from Texas to New York as an unknowing participant in the Great Migration. Confronted with inevitable difficulties along the way, Joseph must find the courage within himself to overcome his fears and conquer the challenges of his new journey. It is my hope that Joseph the Great will nurture and inspire courage in young readers when they confront challenges in their lives and embolden readers to find and utilize their inner strength.

Steller: What’s next for you?

I will continue writing and releasing projects. I have a workbook for kid entrepreneurs coming out soon, I’ll continue to read and engage with kids through my books. I’m looking forward to expanding Mason Makes Money Fund’s programmatic offerings, as well as the number of kids we grant funding to. In 2023, I plan to launch a service that will help others develop and publish stories, just a few immediate things that I have lined up.

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