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3 Sad Truths of Why Minorities Struggle Financially – Reversing the Trend
When I finally got my first full-time job at 17, I wondered why I found myself a few years later in my early twenties, broke and struggling to make ends meet. After all, making more money while being promoted up the “food chain” would solve my problems, right?
Why did I quickly find myself living paycheck to paycheck. Chances are… it has to do with my upbringing and ethnic culture.
Does it really matter if you’re a minority in the United States when it comes to your level of financial literacy and your ability to make wise money decisions? Does being raised on the “other side of the tracks” really matter?
According to several reports, this is absolutely the case.
1) Lack of financial education and awareness
In the late 90s, I was in the middle of my second enlistment serving on active duty in the United States Marine Corps. Returning from an anti-drug deployment in the Bahamas, I walked into my home in military housing on Marine Corps Air Station El Toro to a pile of credit card bills. Oh joy.
My wife at the time had charged over $15,000 between 3 credit cards. As a corporal, that amounted to almost a year’s annual salary. Needless to say, this was a major area of contention between us that ultimately led to our divorce and two years of custody battles. (The inside military joke, but not really, is that you can’t leave active duty without getting married, having a kid…and then getting divorced. Ask around, it’s sadly true.)
What was my attempt to get financial aid? I would ask other Marines, senior leaders who happened to be black and Hispanic, to discover that they too were facing the same financial challenges on different levels. In short, they had no answer. He was a blind man leading a blind man.
I learned my first rule of personal finance… stop asking your broke friends (and even your family) for financial help.
If it hadn’t been for retired Master Sergeant Carleton Enloe, whom I met in the bathroom of a Best Buy in Laguna Hills (don’t laugh), I would never have started a journey for learn how to win the money game. He worked in a financial company that opened my eyes and took me under his wing.
My solution to getting out of a money pit used to be to simply find ways to make more money in town, off duty, as a Jiffy Lube hood tech and a bartender at the Base Officers Club.
When I share this story at financial conferences and even our weekly financial workshops, I find this scenario affects almost everyone in the room…even non-minority Caucasians who were also raised on the same side as me.
2) Underserved, abandoned and biased by the financial services sector
The fact is, if you’re black and Hispanic, you’re deeply underserved by the financial services industry. Most financial companies won’t even extend a conversation to help a potential client unless you have at least $250,000 in liquid assets to invest or don’t have the one-time $500 planning fee. (some as high as $5,000) to pay a Certified Financial Planner/Investment Advisor. just to tell you that you… “you’re broke!”
I spoke at a women’s diversity conference and befriended a financial planner who was the ONLY black financial professional in the ENTIRE state of Illinois for their national business. And yet, his office was in the suburbs… far from the city.
Think you can find a minority finance professional that 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 Insurers exposes a wide gap in pass rates just for minorities who pass a simple life insurance exam as an entry point into the financial services industry
3) Education and cultural financial ignorance
Does it have to do with cultural trends and parenting about managing your personal finances? Comedian Kevin Hart threw jokes about credit scores at dark-skinned women, for which he later apologized, regarding a common low credit score.
Sure, it’s comedy, but could it be true? When is the last memory of your parents teaching you the value of credit and how to build your credit score on the kitchen table?
Do you know the answer.
Just like me, you’ve had past experiences of holding your breath while eating with friends hoping the waiter doesn’t come back asking for another form of payment.
Over the past two years I have been proud to help build a finance movement where we have recruited and trained a new generation of finance professionals entering the world of money.
The level of connection with our audience, regarding their financial struggles and finding solutions to transform their financial lives has been nothing short of transformational.
We’re helping close the huge gap of minorities earning $100,000 a year, when 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 finance professionals I mentored as a marketing consultant and trainer, 35 are black, Hispanic, or Asian. 8 are bi-racial couples raising bi-racial children. Already, we have a six-figure salary that is a Hispanic woman and a retired Filipina nurse who banked over $13,000 last month.
My advice? Keep loving your friends and family, but unfortunately the facts show that they are not the ones who will help pave your way to financial freedom.
From what you learn about money, take it back to your community and be that agent of change within your family…regardless of their negative opinions of you. Stay strong, stay firm, stay focused, stay disciplined.
reach, seek and earn mentoring and connecting people who want to have more, be more and willing to DO more. Look beyond the color of their skin. After all, money has a color and wants to hang out with those who know how to handle it.
Your children, grandchildren, and even great-grandchildren will thank you.
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