How I learned to read – and trade stocks – in prison | Curtis “Wall Street” Carroll | TEDxSanQuentin

Translator: Delia Cohen
Reviewer: Ellen Maloney I was 14 years old, inside of a bowling alley, burglarizing an arcade game, and upon exiting the building, a security guard grabbed my arm, so I ran. I ran down the street,
and I jumped on top of a fence. And when I got to the top, the weight of 3,000 quarters
in my book bag pulled me back down to the ground. When I came to, the security guard
was standing over top of me and he said, “Next time, you little punk,
steal something you can carry.” (Laughter) I was taken to juvenile hall, and when I was released
into the custody of my mother, the first words my uncle said was
“How’d you get caught?” I said, “Man, the book bag was too heavy.” He said, “You weren’t supposed
to take all the quarters.” I said, “Man, they were small.
What am I supposed to do?” Ten minutes later, he took me
to burglarize another arcade game. We needed gas money to get home. That was my life. I grew up in Oakland, California, with my mother and members
of my immediate family addicted to crack cocaine. My environment consisted
of living with family, friends, and homeless shelters. Oftentimes, dinner was served
in breadlines and soup kitchens. The big homey told me this: He said, “Money rules
the world and everything in it. And in these streets, money is king. And if you follow the money, it’ll lead you to the bad guy
or the good guy.” Soon after, I committed my first crime, and it was the first time
that I was told that I had potential and felt like somebody believed in me. Nobody ever told me that I could be
a lawyer, doctor, or engineer. I mean, how was I supposed to do that?
I couldn’t read, write, or spell. I was illiterate. So, I always thought
crime was my way to go. And then one day I was talking to somebody, and he was telling me
about this robbery that we could do. And we did it. The reality was that I was growing up
in the strongest financial nation in the world,
the United States of America, while I watched my mother
stand in line at a blood bank to sell her blood for 40 dollars
just to try to feed her kids. She still has the needle marks
on her arms to this day to show for that. So I never saw community; I never
cared about my community. They didn’t care about my life. Everybody there was doing what they
was doing to take what they wanted, the drug dealers,
the robbers, the blood bank. Everybody was taking blood money,
So I got mine by any means necessary. I got mine. Financial literacy
really did rule the world, and I was a child slave to it, following the bad guy. At 17 years old, I was arrested
for robbery and murder, and I soon learned that finances in prison
rule more than they did on the streets, so I wanted in. One day, I rushed to grab
the sports page of the newspaper so my cellie could read it to me, and I accidentally
picked up the business section. And this old man said,
“Hey youngster, you pick stocks?” And I said, “What’s that?” He said, “That’s the place
where white folks keep all their money.” (Laughter) And it was the first time
that I saw a glimpse of hope, a future. He gave me this brief description
of what stocks were, but it was just a glimpse. I mean, how was I supposed to do it? I couldn’t read, write, or spell. The skills that I had developed
to hide my illiteracy no longer worked in this environment. I was trapped in a cage,
prey among predators, fighting for freedom I never had. I was lost, tired,
and I was out of options. So, at 20 years old, I did the hardest thing
I’d ever done in my life. I picked up a book, and it was the most
agonizing time of my life. Trying to learn how to read, the ostracizing from my family, the homeys. It was rough, man. It was a struggle. But little did I know I was receiving the greatest gifts
I’d ever dreamed of: self-worth, knowledge, discipline. I was so excited to be reading that I read
everything I could get my hands on: candy wrappers, clothing logos,
street signs, everything. I was just reading stuff. (Applause) Just reading stuff. I was so excited to know how to read
and know how to spell. The homey came up, said,
“Man, what you eating?” I said, “C-A-N-D-Y, candy.” (Laughter) He said, “Let me get some.”
I said, “N-O. No.” (Laughter) It was awesome. I mean, I can actually now,
for the first time in my life, read. The feeling that I got
from it was amazing. And then at 22, feeling myself, feeling confident, I remembered what the OG told me. So, I picked up the business section
of the newspaper. I wanted to find these rich white folks. (Laughter) So, I looked for that glimpse. As I furthered my career in teaching others how to financially
manage money and invest, I soon learned that I had to take
responsibility for my own actions. True, I grew up
in a very complex environment, but I chose to commit crimes, and I had to own up to that. I had to take responsibility
for that, and I did. I was building a curriculum
that could teach incarcerated men how to manage money
through prison employments. Properly managing our lifestyle
would provide transferable tools that we could use to manage money
when we re-enter society, like the majority of people did
who didn’t commit crimes. Then I discovered that according to MarketWatch, over 60% of the American population
has under 1,000 dollars in savings. Sports Illustrated said that over 60% of NBA players
and NFL players go broke; 40% of marital problems
derive from financial issues. What the hell? (Laughter) You mean to tell me that people
work their whole lives buying cars, clothes, homes, and material stuff
but were living check to check? How in the world were members of society
going to help incarcerated individuals back into society if they
couldn’t manage their own stuff? We screwed! (Laughter) I needed a better plan. This is not going to work out too well. So… I thought. I now had an obligation
to meet those on the path, and help. And it was crazy because
I now cared about my community. Wow, imagine that. I cared
about my community. Financial illiteracy is a disease that has crippled minorities
and the lower class in our society for generations and generations, and we should be furious about that. Ask yourselves this: How can 50% of the American population be financially illiterate in a nation
driven by financial prosperity? Our access to justice, our social status, living conditions,
transportation, and food are all dependent on money
that most people can’t manage. It’s crazy! It’s an epidemic, and a bigger danger to public safety
than any other issue. According to the California
Department of Corrections, over 70% of those incarcerated have committed or have been charged
with money-related crimes: robberies, burglaries,
fraud, larceny, extortion, and the list goes on. Check this out: A typical incarcerated person will enter
the California prison system with no financial education, earn 30 cents an hour, over 800 dollars a year, with no real expenses, and save no money. Upon his parole, he will be given
200 dollars gate money and told, “Hey, good luck. Stay out of trouble.
Don’t come back to prison.” With no meaningful preparation
or long-term financial plan, what does he do? At 60, get a good job? Or go back to the very criminal behavior
that led him to prison in the first place? You taxpayers, you choose. Well, his education already
chose for him, probably. So how do we cure this disease? I co-founded a program that we call
Financial Empowerment Emotional Literacy; we call it FEEL, and it teaches how do you separate
your emotional decisions from your financial decisions, and the four timeless rules
to personal finance: the proper way to save, control your cost of living, borrow money effectively, and diversify your finances by allowing
your money to work for you instead of you working for it. Incarcerated people need these life skills
before we re-enter society. You can’t have full rehabilitation
without these life skills. This idea that only professionals
can invest and manage money is absolutely ridiculous, and whoever told you that is lying. (Applause) (Cheers) A professional is a person
who knows his craft better than most. And nobody knows how much money
you need, have, or want better than you, which means you are the professional. Financial literacy is not a skill,
ladies and gentlemen. It’s a lifestyle. Financial stability is a byproduct
of a proper lifestyle. A financially sound incarcerated person
can become a tax-paying citizen. And a financially sound,
tax-paying citizen can remain one. This allows us to create a bridge
between those people who we influence: family, friends, and those young people who still believe that crime
and money are related. So, let’s lose the fear and anxiety
for all the big financial words and all that other nonsense
that you’ve been out there hearing. And let’s get to the heart
of what’s been crippling our society from taking care of your responsibility
to be better life managers. And let’s provide a simple
and easy-to-use curriculum that gets to the heart, the heart of what financial empowerment
and emotional literacy really is. Now if you’re sitting out here
in the audience and you said, “Oh yeah, that ain’t me,
and I don’t buy it,” then come take my class, so I can show you how much money
it costs you every time you get emotional. Thank you guys, thank you. (Applause) (Cheers)

Posts Tagged with…

Reader Comments

  1. Sean Wright

    inspiring & introspective. This young brother is exceedingly intelligent and humble. I definitely hope that he's released on parole on his 1st time up to the board

  2. TheStressD

    Brilliant speech, some people do deserve a second chance. He was born to become a public speaker, its amazing how people can turn their life around, maybe he was put on this earth do get convicted felons to follow in he's foot steps and make a change in society. Keep up the good work, he has a bright future ahead.

  3. kosha dillz

    would be thrilled. fi people checked my TedX talk. even knowing this guy did one is awesome. Shoot man. Hope to meet you one day. Freestyle Rap Saved My life – Tedx kosha dillz

  4. Jhampell Bowman

    Wow! I ALWAYS love Ted Talks…But This?!! This is! Curtis really has a way of projecting! What an outstanding presentation.

  5. Matt DeLong

    Love this! Making good decisions about your life can happen at all financial levels, whether you live in a gated community or an orphan living on the streets of Zambia.

  6. L. L.

    "Financial stability is a BYPRODUCT of a proper lifestyle." "Let me show you how much money it costs you every time you get emotional." Truly worthy of that standing ovation.

  7. OttogiCurry

    Too many people focusing on the backstory. It's probably making them emotional, and they're gonna go spends some money lol. But seriously, that message about emotions and money is heavier than any of the backstory. He's talking about people getting out of prison, but the message is just as relevant to all of us that just "need my Starbucks!"

  8. Sheppie Het

    If anyone deserves a pardon, Curtis does. Ignorance and the lack of guidance led him to prison and now Knowledge, Humility and that Innate Talent are leading him out. Not only can he now read but he can definitely comprehend and interpret (somethings most educated persons lack). Folks pay for the MBA, but he just pulled his from the inside. When one studies Curtis, he is the poster boy for putting this profit driven-misleading education system out of business. The Elders told us "Man Know Thyself"
    President Trump you'd better jump on his early release with a pardon cause you might need him to help you get your coins back up by the time your criminal cohorts are done with you.

  9. Sparklein Youreyes

    Curtis definately has a gift. He has a brilliant mind and he's a phenomenal speaker…had me longer to hear more. He sounds rehabilitated to me. Good luck !!

  10. artisthelping artists

    I really commend this young man he did not let is circumstances stop him from reaching his ultimate goal congratulations Curtis.

  11. Anne Marita

    You gotta love this guy. He proves everyone wrong who blames their history, society, circumstances, parents…etc. for their failure. No-one stands in your way but you. I cannot imagine any more difficult start in life than what he had. If he can get out if it, the rest of us can too….and he has no excuses. What a great man! The best Ted Talks Speech I've seen.

  12. Nedz Nazz

    Curtis you are greater than you thought, you so much INSPIRED me, i will save some money to start trading mid next year 2019 but i really want your mentor-ship or guide to a profitable trade in stocks, how can i contact Curtis? dont know if hes still in prison or not. If anyone has his social media page or handles, email or contact mail address, please kindly help.


    I dropped my last GF because she's financially illiterate. She had time to watch hours of reality TV but when i asked her to log onto her retirement website for 10 minutes per week it was a problem.

    All this after she had complained about me formulating an EXCEL SHEET for another make co-worker she refused to use the one I made for her. But she plans to travel abroad upon retirement.


  14. David Wong

    Can we safely say that the problems of the country isn't actually racism? It's actually friends and families teaching the kids improper philosophies and beliefs. Solve that and we solve a lot of problems. Good video. Thanks.

  15. Augustine Ernest Tino

    Waaoh!!! I listen and listen again and still have something new to learn. All the best brother and I wish you one day you will be out AmenπŸ™πŸ™πŸ™

  16. Zed Nine

    5:35 his delivery of this complex series of English words is flawless and delivered as one who is purely communicating meaning rather than one who has practiced some lines. This one moment itself is inspiring, even without the rest of the interesting talk.

Write a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *