Oprah Winfrey Champions Financial Literacy Through Funding, Advocacy and Visibility

by | 07/31/14 | Commentary, News, Uncategorized

With Oprah Winfrey’s widely anticipated “The Life You Want Weekend” getting closer to its September launch, the media mogul, actress, producer and philanthropist is once again putting the spotlight on financial literacy, as the multi-city tour convening thousands of consumers for weekends of powerful personal transformation will include elements that underscore the importance of financial education in empowering individuals to maximize the quality of their lives.

Winfrey, who is best known for her legendary talk show, The Oprah Winfrey Show, which was the highest rated program of its kind in history, is rolling out this initiative as a series of groundbreaking two-day events that will include her own on-stage presentation of her personal life story and insights in what is expected to be a deeply moving appearance, followed by presentations from handpicked “life trailblazers” whose lives represent motivational case studies that are intended to galvanize participants to take actions to improve their lives.

One such inspirational leader who will participate in Oprah’s The Life You Want Weekend is Deepak Chopra, who has been vocal in recent years regarding the significance of financial literacy in a holistic view of individual wellness. Chopra has been promulgating the virtues of financial education in his talks, emphasizing that in order for individuals to have a bright future, they need to focus on their financial health and that “the road to wealth” cannot be fully traveled without a commitment to financial wellness.

Winfrey is no stranger to supporting financial literacy, as her devotion to financial education began with her own life experience and has continued through her funding of and advocacy for financial literacy, in addition to the global media platform she has afforded to financial capability themes through her vast empire of media properties. Winfrey contends that she learned “the hard way” about the importance of financial education. Specifically, at age 22, Winfrey was fired from her job as a television reporter as she was deemed unfit for television. She later lost her job as a co-anchor of the evening news program on Baltimore’s WJZ-TV following the show’s low ratings. But seven years after Winfrey’s first failure, she moved to Chicago, where her talk show proceeded to dominate daytime television for the next twenty-five years. Along the way, Winfrey had struggled with personal finance matters, not only when she suffered from low income-related issues, but also as she earned significant money in her rise to stardom, as a lack of financial literacy impacts people at all levels of the income spectrum.

Financial literacy also has been a cornerstone of Winfrey’s recognition initiatives. One example that sparked significant interest among financial literacy professionals was Winfrey’s very public recognition of Operation Hope’s “Banking on Our Future” program with her “Use Your Life” Award. The award was accompanied by a $100,000 grant that enabled Operation Hope to expand its work in financial education for young people.

One of the greatest impacts that Winfrey has had on the financial literacy movement has been the high profile attention she has afforded to financial education through her media properties. In one of many examples, Winfrey launched a series of shows called “The Great American Debt Diet” in which Winfrey leveraged her prominence to drive mass attention to the debt crisis and the huge negative impact that debt is having on individuals and families in both developed and developing countries. For her work in this area, Winfrey received the “Wealth Watchers Financial Literacy Advocate Award” that recognizes individuals and entities that makes a substantial contribution to the field of financial literacy at a national level.

Given Winfrey’s long and deep commitment to financial literacy over the years, combined with her recent focus on shining an immense spotlight on the virtues of financial education, it is fitting that her upcoming “The Life You Want Weekend” program will include financial literacy elements. The financial literacy industry has been moved by Winfrey’s commitment to the cause and her continued support of financial education should result in even greater outcomes on financial literacy funding, advocacy and visibility in the years ahead.

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