One of the biggest issues facing our society is economic inequality. And, economic inequality today leads to a lack of economic mobility tomorrow. As a digital financial institution, we at Ally feel we’re in a unique position to help educate consumers and change that trajectory.

As head of Corporate Citizenship at a company that always aims to “Do It Right,” my team and I took a step back from our grant funding, volunteer scheduling, and planning at the end of last year to see if there was a way that our giving as a company could have greater social impact. I think we’ve found that way.

A large portion of Ally employees live and work in either Detroit or Charlotte, which ranked 43rd and 49th in a study conducted by Harvard University and the National Bureau of Economic Research that measured the extent to which children’s opportunities for upward economic mobility are shaped by the neighborhoods in which they grow up.  That means the communities closest to us need more opportunity and education to help children and adults in them climb the socioeconomic ladder.

To help this cause, we’ve chosen to focus our giving and volunteer activities on efforts that reduce barriers to economic mobility. Our key pillars are Workforce Preparedness and Digital Job Training, Affordable Housing, and Financial Education.  Ally employees are out in the community working with organizations like Habitat for Humanity, Dress for Success, and Junior Achievement, focusing on efforts that help children and adults develop the financial confidence to face their futures.

Financial Literacy Month

The month of April, Financial Literacy Month, is also particularly important to our efforts to increase economic mobility. This April, Ally participated in events around the country, offering resources that reinforced money mindfulness and helped parents and educators teach children simple money skills.

A recent study by Mintel, a leading market intelligence agency, found that many Americans lack confidence in their money smarts, with more consumers grading their financial literacy knowledge a “B” or “C” versus an “A.” This may be because basic financial education skills and concepts aren’t taught at a young age.

Last year Ally released “Planet Zeee and the Money Tree,” a book with a fun and futuristic storyline that parents and educators can use to teach kids ages six to ten basic financial literacy skills, helping future generations gain financial knowledge and confidence. In April 2017, Ally employees read the book to more than 21,000 children.

This year, we’re aiming to drive even more engagement with kids and have teamed up with Everfi to introduce “What’s Zeee Answer?” an interactive game where players answer questions based on the concepts covered in the book. Throughout Financial Literacy Month, Ally mobilized employee volunteers and consumers to read “Planet Zeee and the Money Tree” and play the game with children at schools and libraries across the country.

These materials for parents and teachers are an extension of Ally’s year-round Wallet Wise program, which provides financial education courses and tools to help consumers of all ages better manage their money.

How You Can Get Involved

If you think the children in your life can benefit from learning these important skills, the “Planet Zeee and the Money Tree” book and “What’s Zeee Answer?” game are free and available for download at

We hope that building an understanding of basic money skills and good savings habits at a young age can positively impact the future economic mobility of today’s children by giving them a solid foundation of skills that they can use to manage their finances at every phase of their lives. I’m not going to claim that we have the answer to this issue that has so many causes, but with a focused effort, we hope Ally can make an impact by lifting children and families up towards future success.

Ali Summerville is the business administrative executive at Ally. Ali oversees Ally’s corporate citizenship and community relations efforts, and is responsible for liaising on behalf of the CEO’s office on enterprise-wide business initiatives. She serves on the Board of Directors and Executive Committee for Habitat for Humanity Charlotte and was listed on Mecklenburg Times’ 2019 list of 50 Most Influential Women. For a full bio, click here.