How to Be a Better Ally to the People the Personal Finance Industry Ignores
Who gets left out of the conversation about money? Our first Healthy Rich panel discusses how we can better serve BIPOC, women, LGBTQ and formerly incarcerated folks.
Financial media, education and products are overwhelmingly created by and for middle-class white men — that leaves a lot of us out of the conversation!
How can we make money better for everyone if we’re only listening to the needs and ideas of an unrepresentative few voices?
We make space for more voices.
In our first Healthy Rich Conversations panel on April 1, we brought together some of our favorite leaders in the finance industry and beyond to talk about what we can do to make money better for the folks we’ve been leaving out.
Sarah K Peck is the founder and CEO of Startup Parent and the host of The Startup Parent Podcast, which features women in entrepreneurship, business and parenting.
Aaron Smith is the founder of Escaping The Odds Media, a movement that highlights the stories of people who bounced back from prison through entrepreneurship.
Kandace Sanders is a serial entrepreneur and founder of the Black Women's Equal Pay Network.
K. Kenneth Davis a.k.a. “The Trans Capitalist,” is a Black transgender financial literacy activist and coach.
We spent an hour with the Healthy Rich community discussing the financial realities and needs of their communities. Here are a few nuggets to help us all take action on the lessons learned in this conversation.
Rethink the ‘rules’
Kenneth does the work he does because, he says, “the financial rules that worked for your parents are a thing of the past.”
The list of the “right” ways to do money is outdated (and, we might argue, never worked for many of our parents, anyway). As much of our society makes moves toward diversity, equity and inclusion, we have to consider what those mean for personal finance, as well.
Kenneth points out one taken-for-granted rule of personal finance he dispels with his clients: paying down debt. Many financial experts recommend prioritizing debt payoff ahead of saving or investing, advice more rooted in the stigma around debt than financial realities.
“When you pay off debt,” Kenneth points out, “what do you get back? Nothing.”
Savings, on the other hand, is money you can use to fund the life you want. For transgender folks, that can mean access to an expensive medical transition that could be lifesaving or increase job prospects.
Aaron points out another problem with the “rules” of personal finance as we know them: credit scores.
While incarcerated, people don’t have the opportunity to participate in our financial systems in the ways that build financial stability. Someone who’s never built a credit history, or who’s incarcerated long enough to lose their credit history, Aaron points out, “does not exist to TransUnion, Experian, things of that nature.”
Our over-reliance on credit scores as a measure of financial responsibility sets people up for failure.
“The system doesn't allow for you to have a financial life outside while you're still incarcerated,” Aaron says, “which I think goes totally against the whole reentry model they talk about.”
Advocate for workplace benefits
“Equity in the workplace is really about leveling the playing field so that everyone can maximize their earning potential and their development potential,” says Kandace.
Equity in the workplace goes beyond equal pay — though that’s important, too! It includes seemingly small benefits and attention from leadership that many of us take for granted.
“Equity in the workplace could be something as simple as just being considered for promotional opportunities, or being assigned special projects to develop as an executive if you're looking to move into the leadership sphere,” Kandace explains. She adds, “small things like tuition reimbursement, so you can further your education; or manager and training programs, so you can develop while you're still maybe at an associate level.”
Sarah is a vocal advocate for paid leave — for families and for caretaking of all kinds.
The benefits of paid leave are enormous, and Sarah explains their wide-reaching effects:
“It helps reduce the number of people in poverty. It just does such a tremendous amount to change poverty levels, for children, for mothers, for people who don't have access to extra support or resources, for people that have been systematically disadvantaged throughout time and discriminated against.”
Support entrepreneurship and ownership
“They don't do a background check for an LLC,” Aaron says, “but they do a background check for J-O-B.”
At least in the short term, entrepreneurship and self-employment might be the most attractive paths for the folks we’re not serving with traditional opportunities around work and money.
“I always push on entrepreneurship,” Kenneth agrees, “because this is a way one [queer and trans folks] can actually stay safe so they're able to make their own income.”
But running a business is a battle itself. It’s easier than it’s ever been, with opportunities to set up shop online and make money offering services through freelancing or consulting. But entrepreneurs who aren’t cis, white men still face barriers to the funding and networking that support success.
We can support marginalized entrepreneurs and freelancers, simply, by giving them business. Use directories like We Are Women Owned, Women and Minority Businesses, Writers of Color, Blacks Who Design and the Database of Diverse Databases to put your resources behind helping folks carve their own paths through our fraught systems.
There was so much good in this panel conversation — and we could have gone on for hours more! But we’ll wrap up with one key message from Kenneth: We need to speak up.
“If you claim you’re an ally, speak up,” he says. “Ask for more diversity and inclusion workshops. Ask why there's no transgender or LGBTQ people around [your] working environment. Speak up, and fight for us. We need help.”
Photo by lalesh aldarwish via Pexels.