Earlier this week I tweeted that “Black trauma has a direct relationship with Black spending, lack of saving, and aversion to investing” in response to a reflection I had on the Derek Chauvin trial, the killing of Daunte Wright, and the seemingly never endless assault on our senses with Black lives being extinguished. “If I don’t believe I'm going to live into my 20s, 30s, 70s, and 80s then why do I need to plan for the future? YOLO right?” I tweeted as a rhetorical follow up question while thinking of the work I do to empower and educate anyone and everyone on the importance of financial literacy.
“What do you feel is the most important financial literacy subject?” I’m asked on a panel via Experian’s Twitter chat, “The most important subject is actually an often neglected one and that is cultural competence related to mindset”, I respond. It takes more than a financial education to break through the constant traumas associated with seeing people who look like you, Black people, assaulted and killed with minimal (and far too often nonexistent) repercussions. So I ask again, why should I invest, save, build credit, budget, and plan for retirement when my existence is not guaranteed to benefit from it? How do you convince a generation of young people growing up on YOLO (a popular acronym that stands for you only live once) that their Black life does indeed matter and that despite the many obstacles they will face it’s worth being optimistic and executing on disciplines like paying themselves first, investing in their ROTH IRA, or learning about how to build credit? You take a 3 step approach to helping to empower them.
See Related: Here are 10 answers to why financial education is important
Acknowledge the trauma -- Refusing to acknowledge that race, culture, economic status, and lived reality influence how well someone will absorb financial education material is a sure fire recipe for failure. At best, you’ll have an engaged audience who don’t know how to apply the lessons to their current reality and at worst you’ll have a disengaged audience who don’t believe financial freedom is for them. By acknowledging the trauma and creating a safe space to discuss beliefs around money, how it should be used, and what are current views and reality around money you can get your audience to reveal the roadblocks in their mind around what financial success looks like.
Representation -- By pointing to successful examples of individuals your audience can relate to via where they come from, obstacles, age, etc. You address the limiting belief that says “that’s not for me”. How many times are Black students exposed to Black financial educators they can relate to in comparison to the Dave Ramsey’s, Suze Orman’s, Robert Kiyosaki’s, and Tony Robbins of the world? Why aren’t the Farrah Gray’s, Daymond John’s, Sean Carter’s, Nasir Jones’, Tiffany Aliche’s, Ayesha Selden’s, or any other Black investors, financial educators, or financial success stories invoked? Representation says I see your obstacles and I raise you my drive to get it done and I have a blueprint for what that success looks like through these people.
See Related: Why representation matters in financial education efforts!!
Provide Solutions -- One of the most common remarks I hear when working with students, clients, or peers is “we didn’t learn this at home or in school”. Sometimes we need to get into real world solutions for real world problems that don’t exist in a handbook or manuscript that tells you how to educate on finance. Providing solutions might involve active listening to the problems your audience has and giving them the tools they need to solve those problems or, at the very least, to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
Black trauma, generational trauma, has shaped how we view money, use money, abuse money, and misunderstand money for far too long. It’s time for financial educators to face that trauma head on and take steps to empower Black lives.