Category Archives: Think

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

This latest installment in the Intersectional Money Series is by Jamila Souffrant.

We’d all like to think that success is attainable for anyone who has the proper tools, drive and necessary grit to withstand all the challenges that come, building wealth and accomplishing goals along the way. 

Unfortunately, not everyone has access to the same resources or begins at similar starting points in the money and entrepreneurship game. 

Why is it important to represent minorities?

Sometimes, the advantages that push you closer to success are tangible such as supportive parents or access to a well-connected social network. Some advantages are not as easy to detect because if you are not affected by them, they are somewhat invisible to you.

Personal characteristics such as confidence and courage are major intangible advantages any entrepreneur or business owner must have to succeed. If you were lucky, these personal attributes were first instilled in you by your parents. 

But we also receive this messaging of self worth and capability through mainstream media and from the world around us. 

In other words, seeing people who look like you, who talk like you and who you can relate to in positions of success matters when building your confidence. 

My experience with misrepresentation in finance media.

A couple of years ago, Entrepreneur Magazine picked up an article that I wrote for another site called Why Quitting My 6-Figure Job Was The Best Decision For My Family. When Entrepreneur first ran the story on its site, a white family was used as the stock photo. 

Once it was brought to Entrepreneur’s attention that the stock photo picture was a misrepresentation of me as the author, the image was changed to one that more closely represented my family — a black family. 

I don’t think Entrepreneur purposely used a white family as the story image knowing that I was a black author. I didn’t directly submit the article to the site and it was picked up as a syndication article from another site. Entrepreneur picked the image that they thought went best with the article. 

But why should a white family be the go-to image of happiness and success? This is an example of the implicit bias and systematic inequalities that exist in our society. The default image of success is usually white.

Representation reinforces that success is possible.

In a society where people of color, specifically black people, have been blocked from building wealth and attaining economic freedom, we desperately want and need to see more people who look like us achieving happiness and financial success. 

For so long, we didn’t see ourselves in the traditional happy and positive news stories. There is still a big discrepancy today in how black people are portrayed in the media. 

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you, too, can be successful, is seeing just one person who looks like you. One person doing something you want to do, but thought was impossible.

I get excited every time I see someone accomplishing something amazing reported in the media who looks like me. Not only do I cheer them on like they are a friend in my head, but it creates a sense of hope that if it were possible for them to achieve it, it can be possible for me to achieve it, too. 

Why representation in financial media is important for everyone.

Representation does not only matter for people of color and other marginalised groups. It also really matters to everyone else. 

It’s important that non people of color see positive representation of people who don’t look like them in the media. This further reinforces inclusion, diversity and challenges the overall perception of what the typical success looks like.  

About the Author

Jamila Souffrant is a podcaster, writer and founder of JourneytoLaunch.com where she shares her journey to reach Financial Independence while helping others do the same. 

Jamila is considered a go-to financial thought leader in the personal finance field and is the resident financial expert on a weekly segment on News12 — the most watched local TV news-station in NYC. She has been featured in other notable media outlets such as ESSENCE, Refinery 29, Money Magazine, CNBC, CBS, Business Insider and more. The Journey To Launch Podcast was also named one of “27 Podcasts You Need To Start Listening To In 2018 by BuzzFeed”.

Jamila and her husband saved $169,000 in two years and are debt free besides their mortgage. She is also a mother of three young children and lives in Brooklyn, NY. 

More from the Intersectional Money Series

Black woman wearing a white shirt with black trim smiling. Background is blurry trees.

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you can be successful is seeing just one person who looks like you represeneted in the media.

Black woman wearing black sweater typing at a blue keyboard

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

When I first heard of the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. I connected with that assumption, but learned that I was wrong.

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.

First-hand account of disableism impacting your money situation from an autistic woman.

How Disableism Has Affected My Finances

How hard is it to get a job when you're autistic? And then, once you have a job, how hard is it to keep even if the quality of your work is excellent? Read this important and eye-opening post--and then pass it along to the HR manager at work.

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

This is the most recent Intersectional Money feature.

When I first heard of and read articles that referenced the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. As someone who is a twice immigrant, of mixed race and identifies as a Black woman, I connected with that assumption and for a time explained it as such when asked about the Black tax. 

I learned that I was wrong.

What is the Black tax, really?

In the fall of 2019, I began to learn more about what the Black tax truly is. I realized that many were talking about its emotional impact, but few correlated the historical context and quantified the economic ramifications of how Black Americans are systemically treated. Only after reading The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America by author Shawn D. Rochester did it become clear to me how pervasive this tax is because it affects every aspect of our lives.

What is the Black tax? It is the financial cost of multi-generational economic disparity and discrimination against Black Americans due to explicit and implicit anti-Black bias. 

This prejudicial tax is found in virtually every sector of our economic landscape including:

  • Employment.
  • Real estate.
  • Auto lending. 
  • Business financing. 
  • Education.
  • Healthcare.
  • Government policies. 

To understand how the Black tax impacts nearly 50 million Black Americans today and the fact that they own only 2% of the wealth in the U.S. after four centuries, we must look in the rear-view mirror of history.

Note: The author of The Black Tax, Shawn D. Rochester, will be speaking at the first day of the Elevate conference. Grab your free ticket here!

History of the Black Tax

The Emancipation Proclamation issued on January 1, 1863 by Abraham Lincoln said that all slaves in the South should be set free. The reality is that it took several years for all Black slaves in the U.S. to be liberated. White landowners had no intention of giving up their primary source of labour —  i.e. black slaves — that easily. 

Former slave owners, along with elected officials, devised new ways to continue slavery by another name. Black codes, vagrancy laws, convict leasing, and sharecropping contracts, served as a legal means to continue to discriminate against Black Americans and ensure that former Black slaves would end up working their lands for little to no pay or be forced into debt servitude.

The Homestead Act

The wealth gap for Black Americans was exacerbated through measures such as The Homestead Act of 1862 which gave a combined 270 million acres to 1.6 million families until the legislation was repealed in 1976. 

Former slaves were also eligible to submit a claim. However, the filing cost of $18 plus $6 to receive an official land patent, paying $1.25/acre, and requirements that included building a home and farming the land was unaffordable for the vast majority. 

Over 99% of the 1.6 million who benefited were White families. It is estimated that up to 93 million Americans today are beneficiaries of this land allocation. 

40 Acres and a Mule

Special Field Order N15 issued by General Sherman in 1865, commonly referred to as the original reparations for slavery act which promised “40 acres and a mule” to former Black slaves, was essentially nullified when President Andrew Johnson issued a proclamation to return the 400,000 acres of confiscated land back to White southern owners. 

Jim Crow Laws

Jim Crow laws, enacted in the late 19th through early 20th century, entrenched racial segregation in every aspect of public life: Education, transportation, facilities, and workplaces. The laws also contributed to the financial inequality suffered by Black Americans and lack of access to land and/or capital prevented the creation of wealth building opportunities. 

Black citizens who were able to build a community that flourished, such as Black Wall Street in Tulsa, OK, and in Rosewood, FL, among others, were perceived as a threat to the White establishment. Their towns were literally burned to the ground and many Black residents were beaten and/or murdered.

Redlining

The practice of redlining was formalized in the National Housing Act of 1934 — an act which also established the Federal Housing Administration (FHA). Residential maps were created for cities across the U.S. and housing zones from the newest to the declining areas were outlined. The older areas tended to be where many Black neighborhoods were situated. 

These maps were used by government and private mortgage lending entities to facilitate racial segregation through the denial of loans to Black applicants who wanted to purchase property in new White suburban communities and refusing to insure mortgages in predominately Black communities. Redlining and the use of blacklists directly contributed to Black neighborhoods not being able to attract and keep families, and spurred a decrease in their property values.

The Wagner Act

In 1935, Congress passed The Wagner Act, legalizing labour unions. But it made certain to allow unions to exclude non-Whites until the late 1970s. As a result, many Black Americans did not have access to higher paying jobs with benefits and healthcare. 

Discrimination Continues into the 21st Century

Lest we think that policies such as redlining and other discriminatory practices against Black Americans have ceased, we only need to look at recent settlements. 

Big Banks Facing Consequences for Racial Discrimination

In 2015, the U.S. Dept. of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) substantiated complaints that Associated Bank intently rejected mortgage applications from Black and Latino applicants. Another investigation by the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) proved that Hudson City Savings Bank also denied fair access to mortgages for Black Americans and Latinos. In both instances, in addition to a sizable monetary penalty, the settlements required the respective banks to open branches in non-White communities.

Just last year, in 2019, Wells Fargo paid $10 million in a settlement stemming from a lawsuit that alleged that they engaged in discriminatory lending practices which caused high foreclosure rates in Black and minority neighborhoods. In 2012, the same bank agreed to pay $184.3 million for allegations that it charged higher mortgage interest rates and fees along with issuing subprime loans to Black Americans and Latinos despite them having favourable credit scores. 

Racial bias against Black Americans persists to this day in corporate America. In the most recent bias allegation against Bank of America, the latter paid $4.2 million in 2019 to settle government claims that the bank discriminated against Black, Latino, and female applicants in their hiring practices. 

The Black Tax, Business and Career

Black men and women continue to lag financially and professionally compared to their White counterparts in the workplace due to factors such as: 

  • The pay equity gap. 
  • Lack of salary transparency. 
  • Biased hiring and management practices. 
  • Poorly implemented diversity, equity and inclusion programs that do not address issues that are specific to Black employees
  • Lack of career growth and advancement opportunities to senior management and C-suite roles.

Access to business capital and financing continues to be a hurdle for Black Americans. If they do manage to obtain credit it will likely cost them more, however the typical result is that they are denied access. Since the net worth of Black American families only accounts for one tenth of that of Whites, Black business owners are forced to use personal credit or borrow from family and friends to fund a start-up. The disparity of business financing results in Black businesses not being able to scale or employ others to further benefit their communities. 

Online survey results reported by TIME magazine regarding the 2020 U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) EIDL and PPP loans issued in response to the economic impact of COVID-19 further underscores the financial challenges that Black business owners experience.

The Black Tax Exists Today 

It is estimated that Black Americans have been deprived of upwards of trillions in today’s dollars due to anti-Black discriminatory laws and practices that instead benefitted the economic trajectory of White Americans. The latter are significantly more likely to receive inheritances and a larger amount of it than Black Americans. 

The Black population continues to pay the price for being Black in America and the cumulative effects from slavery to this day have led to a collective emotional and financial trauma that seems nearly impossible to overcome. Yet the words of the poem written by the late Maya Angelou, “Still, I Rise”, rings ever true. 

Black Americans are committing themselves in greater numbers than ever before to economic development and giving of their talents, time, and resources to their community. They have realized that higher education is not the only “pathway to success”– especially as there are serious racial inequities and financial obstacles regarding access to quality education. It will take a concerted and consistent effort on all fronts to make the necessary inroads for Black people to create intergenerational wealth.

Reducing the Impact of the Black Tax

The collective purchasing power of Black Americans is reported to exceed 1.2 trillion annual US dollars. There is a growing consensus of the need to direct more of that purchasing power towards supporting Black businesses. Some of the key ways to reduce the impact of the Black tax include:

  • Purchasing products and services from Black establishments. 
  • Hiring Black Americans for well-paying roles.
  • Banking Black.
  • Requiring that governments and corporations devote a larger percentage of their annual spend to Black companies. 

In closing, consider this article as a brief introduction to the Black tax. My hope is that readers of all races will further educate themselves on the topic. Also, that readers will be motivated to act upon what they can do to counter anti-Black bias, both at a personal and systemic level. 

Kassandra Dasent is a financial wellness engineer and speaker. Focusing on how emotional awareness can have a direct and lasting impact on one’s relationship with money, Kassandra provides her audiences with practical solutions to help them achieve holistic wealth. Kassandra is also a certified project manager (PMP/CSM) and Founder of BridgeTech Enterprises. She has been featured in numerous media outlets including Forbes, US News & World Report, Business Insider, Fast Company, Travel Noire, Thrive Global, Yahoo! Finance and News, and Glamour.

More from the Intersectional Money Series

Black woman wearing a white shirt with black trim smiling. Background is blurry trees.

Why Representation Matters in Finance Media

Sometimes, all it takes to spark the confidence that you can be successful is seeing just one person who looks like you represeneted in the media.

Black woman wearing black sweater typing at a blue keyboard

A Lesson Learned: The Black Tax

When I first heard of the Black tax, it was often described in the context of Black Americans and immigrants who are having to deal with the financial and emotional pressure of supporting family members. I connected with that assumption, but learned that I was wrong.

domestic violence advocate

The Intersection of Islamophobia and Domestic Violence

Nour Naas shares her important story and perspective on domestic violence and how marginalized groups face additional barriers when it comes to reporting.

First-hand account of disableism impacting your money situation from an autistic woman.

How Disableism Has Affected My Finances

How hard is it to get a job when you're autistic? And then, once you have a job, how hard is it to keep even if the quality of your work is excellent? Read this important and eye-opening post--and then pass it along to the HR manager at work.

This is not new.

Things can feel really heavy sometimes right now. I — futilely, perhaps — try to grasp for rays of hope where I can. And one of the things I’ve been appreciating over the past few weeks is how much I have had the opportunity to learn.

Here’s some of what I’ve been learning. And some of the things you can expect from Femme Frugality moving forward.

The American Criminal ‘Justice’ System

Ava DuVernay is beyond talented at what she does. I would recommend watching everything she’s ever made.

But in this moment in particular, watch 13th. It’s a Netflix documentary, but Netflix has made it free in full on YouTube. So you don’t even need a subscription.

If you do nothing else after reading this post, watch this documentary. It’s mandatory viewing.

Donate to Pittsburgh Organizations.

Our city has an incredible capacity to grow and change into a better version of itself. But right now, we have a lot of work to do to activate that potential.

Significant action is required to help make necessary improvements happen. Here are a bunch of great organizations in SWPA on the ground doing the work. Please support them if you can.

Short on cash, or simply want to do more than just reach in your pocket? Here are some other things white people can do.

Moving Forward.

To learn more about personal finances from an African-American perspective, check out the talented creators listed in this Jason Butler article.

In the coming months on this site, you will see a revival of the Intersectional Money Series here on Femme Frugality. Honestly, this effort has been in the works for a while.

When you read the articles by the phenomenal contributing writers, it may seem like some of the subject matter is curated for this moment.

It was not.

Which may send a message in and of itself: These issues were important before. They were as real and as visceral earlier in the year when the writers selected them as they have been in the past weeks. They will continue to be urgent until and even after there is significant and meaningful change.

Let us all actively choose and work to be part of that change.

Watch. And subscribe to Candice’s channel.

6 Great Ways to Promote Teamwork in the Workplace

This post is brought to you and contributed by an outside writer.

Regardless of how big or small your company is, teamwork is one of the best ways to get the most out of your employees. It not only provides a better working environment but can also boost productivity. Here are 6 great ways to promote teamwork in the workplace.

Employ the right people.

To achieve a good team environment, you need to employ the right people. Being impressed by a candidate’s resume and experience is all well and good, but if they are not likely to work well with your existing staff, they are probably not the right fit for your team. 

When interviewing, think about how each potential employee will fit in with the current dynamic and follow your instincts, being careful that your instincts are not prompted by internalized discriminatory beliefs.

Employee wellness programs.

Employee wellness programs are designed to help maintain employee health and mental wellbeing. When carried out as a group effort, they can also be great for teamwork. Wellness activities for groups can range from organized walks to charity fundraising. They are a fabulous means of getting employees to interact and work together as well as promoting a healthier lifestyle. 

Communication.

If staff don’t communicate effectively, they are not likely to work well as a team, which can result in tension and animosity. Actively encourage communication at all levels and explain to your staff why it’s so important.  

If there is a lack of flow of information between departments, explain to them what the information is used for, why it is needed, and the impact it could cause if not communicated correctly. Going back to basics can be enough to make a difference.

Deal with issues straight away.

If you notice an issue forming between certain members of staff or specific departments, nip it in the bud. Find out from everyone involved what the issues are and agree on a resolution. It’s important to hear both sides and don’t alienate anyone. If someone feels like they aren’t being heard or are being treated unfairly, teamwork isn’t going to be a priority for them. 

Teambuilding days.

Teambuilding activities are specifically designed to reach an end goal that can only be achieved if everyone works together. From an organized treasure hunt to building a treehouse, the activities not only provide lots of fun but promote good communication and help staff build trust in each other.

Socializing outside office hours.

Socializing is a great way to promote teamwork. Many companies host an annual barbeque or family fun day where employees meet up for a few drinks and some food and get to know each other on a different level. It’s an opportunity for colleagues to let their hair down and spend a bit of informal time with each other. 

Conclusion

Good and effective collaboration can not only make a business more productive but can increase employee satisfaction levels. Actively promote teamwork within your organization, and you might be surprised at the results.

Contextualizing Trauma in Personal Finance Content

Hi, I love you all and hope you are holding up okay. Just a note before today’s post to remind you that I’m not a psychologist, psychiatrist or any other type of mental health professional. Also, a trigger warning that this post deals with themes that are congruent with other types of trauma outside of or concurrent with the effects of the current pandemic.

We are all grappling with what’s happening around us. It’s been traumatic. While it’s definitely been harder for some more than others, this pandemic is something that has affected us all.

I really liked this analogy from Brittany Packnett Cunningham, that we’re all in the same storm, but we are NOT all in the same boat.

This type of trauma is difficult. It’s persistent. Inescapable. You learn to live in it without fully getting the chance to step out of it and recover.

In the midst of all this, we’re all more irritable. Our buttons are easier to push than ever, with stress maxing out our tolerance for bullshit.

In the midst of all this trauma, I want to contextualize the personal economic discussions you’re sure to see flying around the web right now, especially on personal blogs like this one.

These are my interpretations of what I see happening around me in my community — and honestly within my own content. My interpretation may differ from your own, and I welcome respectful discussion in the comments.

Responses to Trauma

There are three basic responses to trauma with which I’m familiar enough to reference. None of these responses are right or wrong. They’re defense mechanisms your body is using to try to survive. To get through to that next moment when danger is no longer imminent.

Fight

One response to trauma is to try to fight your way out.

This might manifest in your personal finances with a newfound hyper-vigilance over your budgeting spreadsheet.

It might make you side hustle super hard.

You might also find yourself fighting for the health and safety of those around you above economic impact.

Whether that’s begging your mom not to go to work or working on a larger scale to assist those most exposed to the virus get the equipment, care or social programming they need.

Because this economic hardship and all the trauma that comes along with it is likely to last for a long time — though I do not yet believe it will last forever — a sustained fight response is also likely to lead to burn out. Maybe even crash-and-burn-style burnout.

Flight

If your response is flight, right now things are complicated.

If you’ve been on social media lately, you’ve seen that vlogger who tried to escape to Hawaii. And another blogger who packed her family in an RV to escape the NYC area.

Both situations were met with much ridicule, and understandably so. No links because this is not about shaming these people. Their responses are anecdotally relevant here, though.

In normal times, flight is an okay thing to do. These are not normal times. Exercising flight in traditional ways can be dangerous to the health of others around you, if not to your own.

Diet & Exercise are just like Personal Finance!

Exercising as a way to express flight is a thing — especially right now as we’re metaphorically running from a temporally inescapable problem.

So if you’re really annoyed by everyone pretending they’re a marathon runner or feel like simply scrolling through your feed right now is akin to ritual shaming, know that it’s not about you.

Also, remember you got that mute button. 😉

A lot of people are dealing with the stress this way. It’s normal. For some people, it’s even super healthy.

You’re probably going to see a lot of blog posts about how diet and exercise are just like personal finance.

If it doesn’t resonate with you, that’s okay. You can go read something else, perhaps even noting that this content may be helping others who are dealing with all this trauma in a different way than you are.

If you’re creating this content, it would also be cool if you could be conscientious that flight is not the only way of dealing with all the stress. That you can take things too far with diet and exercise. And that if someone comes out of this thing without a six-pack or $100k net worth, it definitely doesn’t make them an inferior human being.

But like also don’t touch that 401(k).

The market looks scary right now.

But rocky times in the economy should already be accounted for your long-term plan. Pulling out of the market feels like the right thing to do thanks to the flight response, but depending on how you’ve invested, it’s likely to be detrimental to your own long-term financial goals.

Even if you’re not able to contribute to your retirement account, try to do everything you can to avoid touching your retirement savings.

Know that in so many cases, even in bankruptcy, creditors cannot touch most tax-advantaged retirement account savings.

That being said, the complications of living with a bankruptcy on your record can be dire in the best of times. Make the best decisions you can based on your own, individual circumstances. You may even be able to consult with a pro bono lawyer to get personalized legal guidance when considering bankruptcy vs. pulling from your retirement savings.

Also beware long-term that those who have endured trauma tend to be unnecessarily and sometimes detrimentally conservative with their investments.

Freeze

Freezing is another perfectly valid response to stress. Traditionally, your body might shut down or shield you from pain responses to help you survive the initial impact of physical trauma. You might feel the need to cut yourself off from others virtually, even when we are separated physically already.

In response to economic trauma, you might need this time to rest. To not hustle super hard. To gather your energy for what comes next. Emotionally recover from all the freedom and personal power you have lost in the past month.

That’s okay, too. Just know it’s going to be helpful long-term to generally keep on top of your finances as much as possible, even if you can’t give them the boost they may need right now. None of this is your fault.

There are no right or wrong reactions.

In response to trauma, there are no right or wrong reactions as far as which response manifests. I think as we each pull through this thing in our own way, we need to remember that we’re all going to respond differently.

Because this experience is sustained, we might even cycle through different reactions. That’s actually supposed to be healthier than habituating one of them, even though habituation is likely to happen in cases of sustained trauma.

That means not every article is going to speak to our individual experience. That’s okay. In fact, that same article that doesn’t speak to you today could end up being really motivating or reassuring a few weeks or even days down the line.

Take as little offense as possible if you’re not reacting the way a certain writer proposes you should be. It’s just going to add to your stress. In many cases, it’s an unnecessary burden in this time of sheer overwhelm.

If you’re creating content, it’s helpful to remember this, too. To not insult those who are dealing with the stress differently in any given moment in an attempt to inspire.

Because while there’s not one, right reaction to the trauma we’ve all experienced, we also need to remember that there are multiple ways of dealing with this experience.

Just because we haven’t experienced a reaction personally doesn’t mean it’s not valuable.

And just because we have experienced a reaction personally doesn’t mean it’s superior to the response of others.

Harnessing our reactions for the better.

If you find yourself in fight mode, by all means use that energy to send those personal finances into to hyperdrive. That’s how this blog was born.

It’s also why I can tell you first-hand that when you’re in fight mode, the risk of burnout is real. Be cognizant of it, and try real hard to do all that mindfulness stuff to bring yourself back to center. Force yourself to take breaks, even if they initially feel uncomfortable.

If you find yourself in flight mode, be cognizant that the very natural reaction to want to pull out of all financial institutions in a moment like this is real.

But it’s against all traditional financial advice, even and perhaps especially the stuff written for turbulent times like these.

If you find yourself frozen, that’s okay, too. You’re going to have more energy after everyone else has jogged and side hustled their way through this first period of the downturn. Take care of your mental health first and foremost.

If you really just can’t get going again, seek help via a telehealth service like www.betterhelp.com. As much as stalling out is sometimes the only thing you can do, your bills don’t see things the same way I do.

There are programs out there to help right now. The first Pennsylvanian unemployment check with that $600/week boost just went out. Some assistance is coming, even if we’re slow to see the money manifest in our pocketbooks.

No matter what your response, before your money, you want to address your mental health. Just because you’re not frozen doesn’t mean it’s not a problem.