Years ago, I negotiated the lease of a building for a multi-million dollar organization for which I worked. After some dialogue with the building owner, he said, “You are looking at the wrong thing.” His point was that if I looked at the big picture, we were getting many benefits and a great deal. My take away and life lesson was, always look from the highest possible vantage point.
I was reminded of this lesson as I attended this year’s “Financial Markets and the Economy,” part of the 3rd Financial Literacy Day. The day was presented by a partnership of USF Sarasota-Manatee, Cumberland Advisors, and the Global Interdependence Center. It was a forum focused on economic and financial matters from global, national, and local perspectives presented by renowned experts.
One session was of particular interest, a Special Session: Health, Hunger, and Philanthropy. This session illustrated dynamics at work about local, national, and global financial literacy to a broad perspective, including issues deeply relevant to the complexities of healthy markets and economic stability.
Dr. Judith Monroe, President and CEO, CDC Foundation
According to a global study, acquiring and maintaining in health is a major challenge—64% of kids under the age of five have some form of health problem(s) in developed countries. At age 80 and above, it’s 99.97%. Monroe said, “The most important public health issue of our time is poverty, and it is an emergency. We should be approaching it like you would a drowning person.” Our astronomical national costs do not get the outcomes that other countries get in large part because we do not invest in the social determinants of health. Our investments are not connected to outcomes.
The AARP Foundation reported President Lisa Marsh Ryerson, stands for a future without senior poverty in which cross-sector health partners address the interrelated areas of social determinants to solve hunger as a health issue. Ten million adults are hungry every day, another 37 million are one event away from going into financial free fall and become unable to buy food. Poverty among older adults exists in every zip code. It’s hidden, and it’s a stigma among older adults. The key is that all organizations focused on health and a better future must focus on root causality—like improving access to affordable good food. Her call to action is: Let’s work together to make that happen.
Erin McLeod, CEO, Friendship Centers took us to yet another perspective. “We all know hunger exists, but it exists on many levels. Think ‘holistic’ hunger. Older adults are hungry for food, and they are starved for connection to other people. Socialization is medicine for the soul.” “Social isolation has the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day,” added Ryerson. “It is related to a poor diet and alcohol consumption, which then leads to falls and a whole spiral of challenges.” Friendship Centers and its cousins are portals for human connection—food for body, mind, emotional, spiritual, and social worlds. Food and hunger go so far beyond the cupboard or refrigerator.
Gabriel Hament, Investment Advisor Representative, Foundations, Charitable Accounts and Private Individuals, Cumberland Advisors further expanded the scope of our perspective with national to local statistics. For example, nationally, 4 in 10 adults, if faced with an unexpected expense of $400, would either not be able to cover it or would cover it by selling something or borrowing money. Locally, 43% of families in this region are “Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed” or those who are not earning enough to cover necessities: housing, childcare, transportation, food, and necessary technology.
In what public institutions is the population confident? The two highest are small business 67% and nonprofits 49%.
Another survey asked which institution is most likely to lead to a better future for this nation? Nongovernmental organizations were rated the highest at 29% followed by business at 22%.
Hament discussed harnessing the power of global financial markets to enhance the philanthropic sector. He concluded there are investment opportunities with greater returns to enable greater good.
This session was enlightening and eye-opening about the complexity of local, national, and global decisions. It affirmed my belief that only together can we strengthen our communities not only to be financially literate but also make choices from the place of broad-based knowledge.