NBA star James Harden throws his support behind financial literacy

James Harden of the Philadelphia 76ers looks to pass against the Toronto Raptors during game five of the Eastern Conference First Round on April 25, 2022.

Tim Nwachukwu | Getty Images

For NBA player James Harden, boosting financial know-how among young adults is personal.

Harden, a point guard and shooting guard who recently signed a reported $68.6 million two-year contract with the Philadelphia 76ers, remembers being a 20-year-old rookie in 2009 with a suddenly sizable salary. As a first-round draft pick — third overall — he had just signed a two-year contract with the Oklahoma City Thunder worth $4.76 million, according to

“You want to buy everything,” Harden told CNBC in a phone interview. “And you deserve it, so you buy your first car, your first house or whatnot.”

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But Harden had to learn about money matters on the fly. 

“For me, it was learning how to not just save, but how to make smart investments,” Harden said. “You might have money in a bank account or in savings, but for longevity, your money’s got to be working for you when you sleep.

“That’s something I’ve learned.”

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Once I started to do well in wealth management, it really started to become a mission of mine.

Jordan Awoye

managing partner of Awoye Capital

With many of the country’s youth reaching adulthood with a lack knowledge about money matters, some state legislatures have passed laws requiring public school systems to teach personal finance. Fifteen states guarantee, or have committed to guaranteeing, that all high school students will get a standalone personal finance course, according to Next Gen Personal Finance’s 2022 State of Financial Education report. Other states have the curriculum baked into another class (i.e., economics) or offer it as an elective. Still others have no personal finance requirement at all.

At the same time, Americans are shouldering $890 billion in credit card debt, which comes with interest rates that average more than 18%. Additionally, 56% of U.S. adults would be unable to cover an unexpected $1,000 bill with savings, according to a Bankrate survey.

In other words there’s room for a lot of improvement when it comes to financial literacy.

For Awoye, his interest in boosting financial knowledge is a matter of “if only I knew then what I know now,” he said.

“Once I started to do well in wealth management, it really started to become a mission of mine to help with financial literacy,” Awoye said.

“If we can give that to the next generation, everybody will be better off for it,” he said.