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3 Sad Truths of Why Minorities Struggle Financially – Reversing the Trend
When I finally had my first full-time job at 17, I wondered why I later found myself a few years later in my early twenties, broke and struggling to make ends meet. After all, making more money during the promotion on the “food chain” would solve my problems right?
Why I soon found myself living paycheck to paycheck. Probably… it had to do with my upbringing and ethnic culture.
Does it really matter if you are a minority in the US as it relates to your level of financial literacy and ability to make smart money decisions? Does being raised on the “other side of the tracks” actually matter?
According to several reports it absolutely does.
1) Lack of Financial Education and Awareness
Back in the late 90’s, I was in the middle of my second enlistment serving active duty in the US Marine Corps. After returning from a counter-drug deployment in the Bahamas, I walked into my home located in military housing at Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to a stack of credit card bills. Oh joy.
My wife at the time charged over $15,000 between 3 credit cards. As a Corporal, that was close to one year’s worth of annual pay. Needless to say, this was a major area of argument between us that ultimately led to our divorce and two years of child custody battles. (An inside military joke, but not true, is that you can’t leave active duty without getting married, having a child…then getting divorced. Ask around, it’s sadly true.)
What was my attempt to get financial aid? I would ask fellow Marines, senior leaders who happened to be black and Hispanic, only to discover that they also faced the same financial difficulties just at different levels. Bottom line, they had no answer. It was a blind man leading the blind.
I learned my first rule of personal finance…stop asking your broke friends (and even family) for financial help.
If it hadn’t been for retired Master Sergeant Carleton Enloe, who I happened to meet in a bathroom at a Best Buy in Laguna Hills (don’t laugh), I never would have started a journey to learn how to win the money game. He worked at a financial firm that opened my eyes and took me under his wing.
My solution before to get out of a financial hole was just to find ways to make more money out on the town, off duty, as a Jiffy Lube hood technician and bartender at the Officers Club on base.
When I share this story at financial conferences and even our weekly financial workshops, I find that this scenario resonates with most in the room…even non-minority Caucasians who were also raised on the same side of the tracks that I was .
2) Underserved, Abandoned and Biased by Financial Services Industry
In fact, if you are Black and Hispanic, you are deeply underserved by the financial services industry. Most financial firms won’t even extend a conversation to help a potential client unless you have at least $250,000 of liquid investable assets or you don’t have the one-time planning fee of $500 (some up to $5,000) to pay a Certified Financial Planner/Investment Advisor. just to tell you that you… “you’re broke!”
I was speaking at a Women’s Diversity Conference and I became friends with a financial planner who was the ONLY Black financial professional in the ENTIRE state of Illinois for his national firm. And yet, her office was in the suburbs… nowhere near the city.
Do you think you can find a minority financial professional who you can relate to and understand your cultural struggle and desire to get out of the financial rat race? They are not very common. The American Council of Underwriters points to a significant gap in pass rates just for minorities passing a simple life insurance exam as an entry point to the financial services industry.
3) Education and Cultural Financial Ignorance
Does it have to do with cultural trends and parental education to handle your personal finances? Comedian Kevin Hart made credit score jokes towards dark-skinned women, for which he later apologized, relating to the commonality of bad credit.
Sure, it’s a comedy, but could it be true? When was the last time your parents taught you the value of credit and how to build your credit score over the kitchen table?
You know the answer.
Like me, you’ve had past experiences holding your breath while dining with friends hoping the server won’t come back asking for another payment.
Over the past two years, I’ve been proud to help build a financial movement where we’ve recruited and trained a new breed of financial professionals entering the money business.
The level of connecting with our audience, relating to their financial struggles and finding solutions to transform their financial lives was nothing short of transformative.
We’re helping to close the sizable gap of minorities earning $100,000 a year, where today less than 5.9% of six-figure earners are Asian, 5.6% are Hispanic and 5.5% are Black. (Source: Wikipedia.com)
Of the 43 financial professionals I will mentor as a marketing consultant and coach, 35 are either Black, Hispanic, or Asian. 8 are biracial couples raising biracial children. We already have a six figure earner who is a Hispanic woman and a retired Filipino nurse who cash flowed over $13k last month.
My advice? Keep loving your friends and family, but unfortunately, facts show that they are not the ones to help lead you on a path to financial freedom.
From what you learn about money, bring it to your community and be that change agent in your family…regardless of their negative views of you. Stand strong, stand firm, stay focused, stay disciplined.
Extend, search and to win the mentoring and association of people who want to have more, be more and want to do more. Look beyond the color of their skin. After all, money has one color and wants to hang with those who know how to take care of it.
Your children, grandchildren, even great-grandchildren will be glad you did.
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