Leaders of the Ho-Chunk Nation are considering revising their policy for trust fund distributions for members entering adulthood, commonly known as “18 money.”
Under the current system, when members of the Ho-Chunk Nation turn 18 and graduate high school, they receive a lump sum of cash from casino profits that have accrued over their lifetime.
Those who graduate this year will receive approximately $200,000 before taxes.
According to Ho-Chunk President John Greendeer, the current system was originally intended to help the Ho-Chunk ensure as much financial stability for its members as possible, and further review will determine whether the system is working.
“It could take years [to change the policy], and there’s a lot of feedback [to go through],” Greendeer said. “This isn’t something that the greater majority leans towards one point here. This is something that requires more than public feedback. There’s a lot of analytics here.”
The tribe currently requires Ho-Chunk children take finance classes before receiving the money in hopes of helping them make responsible financial decisions.
According to Greendeer, since today’s finances are credit-based, education in these classes is key.
When it comes to long term financial sustainability, he believes teaching people about long-term planning, developing a good credit rating and saving incrementally are helpful in guiding Ho-Chunk’s decisions about the “18 money.”
“The concept behind that is to ensure that the resources are out there for better decision making,” Greendeer said.
The biggest debate within the nation is whether distributing the “18 money” incrementally is an infringement upon civil liberties, Greendeer said.
There are some young people who, no matter the situation, would “lose their head” if they were given a lot of money, Greendeer said. However, he said the majority of people are responsible, and the nation does its best to educate them.
“When you look at someone who has won a lottery, someone who has received an inheritance, perhaps young professional athletes whose career was a lot of riches in a short period of time, it’s very similar,” Greendeer said. “This is not a Ho-Chunk thing; this is an anyone thing.”
Despite recent criticism, he said many in the Ho-Chunk Nation see their trust funds as opportunities to better themselves.
He added the nation is very proud of young people who receive their distributions and use it in a very smart way: to assist family, to assist community and to better themselves in the long term.