We know about the wealth gap and poverty.
We know about systemic inequities in place from centuries ago and that are still there that have hit Black communities time and time again with financially crippling ripple effects that leave some drowning in debt or on the brink of poverty.
We also know of local business owners, entrepreneurs and others on the other end of the financial spectrum making a way for themselves to create more financial opportunities in Black communities for others who need a leg up. People like Kenji Lemon, 42, of Detroit, owner of Detroit-based One Stop Property Maintenance LLC. When Lemon started his company in 2006 he did so with a vision in mind: build wealth for self and his community.
“For a long time I’ve been focused on being prepared for the future,” Lemon said. “I’ve seen what happens to family members that don’t have savings for health issues or a nest egg for life post-retirement. That’s made me anxious to not repeat those decisions.”
Lemon added that it’s vital to let dollars recirculate locally.
“Look at it like this. I’m a Detroit resident, operating a business within Detroit, open to hiring Detroiters with barriers to employment, that services other entrepreneurs in Detroit. Every dollar that I generate gets funneled back into the city multiple ways,” he said.
Lemon also said that he didn’t get this way overnight.
“When I was in my teens my focus was on chasing skirts and trying to get rich. In my 20’s I started thinking more about retirement, social security, and how I could take advantage of every program to increase the amount of money I had in my nest egg. It wasn’t until I had my first child that I took seriously the notion that I needed to think about what resources and funds I could leave for the next generation to work with,” Lemon said. “Since then, I’ve worked to improve the foundation that my kids will be able to work from.”
He added that he uses several resources and people to keep his affairs in order and to surround himself “with folks smarter than me.”
“Before I got my head on straight I made mistakes that set me back. As I matured I found the more I focused on not making bad decisions the more positive things happened to me,” Lemon said. “I would also say start saving now. Don’t pocket that raise, put that increase into your savings account. Max out your 401(k) match. … Building wealth can sound intimidating but it’s really just making the best decisions with what you have and incrementally improving your situation until you can start making moves to account for future goals.”
According to an article from The Washington Post, Black people donate a higher portion of their wealth than their white counterparts despite having a lower net worth. Black people, as we know, have a rich culture of charitable giving at church, through philanthropic efforts in their communities and more.
Also, a recent study from T. Rowe Price, an investment management company, reveals that compared with other racial/ethnic groups, Black families put more emphasis on having conversations about saving money, spending wisely, setting financial goals and family finances.
Rowe Price’s 12th annual parents, Kids & Money Survey, (released last year) sampled over 2,000 parents of eight–to 14-year-olds and their kids showed insights on how parents of different racial/ethnic groups discuss financial concepts with kids.
“Homeownership and retirement savings can serve as powerful generators of wealth creation,” says Renee Christoff, head of Global Associate Engagement + Corporate Responsibility at T. Rowe Price, said in a published report. “Helping Black children understand how to access these wealth-building investments will be integrated into our program going forward, as part of our ongoing and evolving commitment to advancing racial equity in our communities.”
Money conversations and attitudes can vary by race according to T. Rowe Price:
- Black parents are more likely to say discussing money is important: Black parents talking about saving money and spending wisely 58 percent more important than white parents, 44 percent, Asian parents, 38 percent and Hispanic parents, 46 percent.
- White parents are more likely to say they only talk about money when kids ask: thirty-eight percent of white parents agree with the statement, “I generally only talk to my kids about money when they ask,” compared with only 3 percent of Black parents who agree with the statement, according to the article.
- Conversations make a difference: more Black parents and their kids (30 percent and 26 percent, respectively) say that conversations about finance make a difference versus white parents and their kids (18 percent and 19 percent, respectively).
- Potential differences in allowances: Black parents report giving an allowance to their kids more than white parents (78 percent versus 68 percent). Previous Parents, Kids & Money Surveys have revealed that providing an allowance can be an effective teaching tool in helping kids understand money.
Lincoln Park business owner Tasha Danielle, 34, of Detroit-based Financial Garden, operates a curriculum-based program that teaches students about money smarts while “planting financial seeds” of growth for adults and parents, too, according to her website, https://financialgarden.com.
Danielle said that as a child her grandmother talked to her about the importance of budgeting, saving, certificate of deposits, credit and homeownership.
“I had this solid foundation before the age of 10. My mother had an entrepreneurial spirit of baking and selling cookies in addition to working part-time jobs as a single mother. I really learned how to earn money from my mom and my grandmother taught me how to manage it,” she said. “Aside from that there was no conversation on wealth building or investments outside of homeownership and CDs. But the money management conversations with my grandmother helped me to dream big and having a life outside of Highland Park.”
Danielle added that her company teaches kids K-12 about financial basics focusing on emotions and money, entrepreneurship, budgeting, banking basics, debt fundamentals and investing.
Danielle, who grew up in low-income housing in Highland Park and Taylor, knew as a kid the importance of having a plan for your money and creating an example for others.
She also takes her own advice and listens to financial podcasts and encourages others to also to learn how to build financial wealth.
Her favorites are “Redefining Wealth” by Patrice Washington, “Brown Ambition” with The Budgetnista & Mandi, “Earn Your Leisure” and Financial Garden’s YouTube Channel.
“By teaching … children directly, they get excited and it gets their parents involved. Plant financial seeds with children and eventually a financial garden will grow,” she said, adding that Black women are the fastest-growing group of entrepreneurs, but the least funded from a capital venture standpoint. “This is why it’s so important to support Black businesses because the possibilities of getting funding to further a great business idea or plan are really low for us. We need all the support from [our] communities that we can get.”