By: Sarah Dieleman Perry, Director of Economic Opportunity at Neighborhood Allies
If you’re looking for it, you can find a lot of data on what’s known as the “racial wealth gap.” According to the Federal Reserve, a typical (median) white family in 2019 owned $184,000 in wealth, compared with $23,000 for a typical Black family – a difference of eight times. Considering gender as well as race, Goldman Sachs reports that the median single Black woman owns 92% less net wealth than the median single white man – a difference of 13 times. Much of this gap is due to wage disparities and is compounded by inequities in housing, education, and health. The traditional ways to gain and build wealth – inheritance, homeownership, and business ownership – are more difficult for Black women to access due to the generational legacy of unjust policies and systems.
One other avenue to building wealth is investing in capital markets. Could a program that encourages Black women to invest be a practical way to address the racial and gender wealth gap? Research from 2021 suggests four reasons that women of color invest in the stock market at much lower rates than other groups:
- Lack of actionable knowledge
- Lack of market access
- Lack of investor identity
- Lack of resources
We decided to address at least three of those with a new program that eventually became known as Money Talks.
First, Neighborhood Allies put together the concept – that creating a supportive environment for local Black women to learn from experts and each other would lead to gains in both confidence and knowledge of financial issues and investing. Then, we recruited a team – Jessica Perrone, owner of Her Financial IQ; Tamika Barrett, director of family development at Open Hands Ministries; Veronique Scullion, financial planner at Northwestern Mutual; and Violet Graham, controller at Neighborhood Allies. Thanks to a grant from the U. S. Conference of Mayors and outreach efforts from City of Pittsburgh Mayor Ed Gainey, we were able to begin recruitment.
We advertised the opportunity for 50 women to join two cohorts, 25 in afternoon sessions and 25 in evening sessions, and 670 Black women in Pittsburgh expressed interest in participating. To understand the overwhelming demand for this program, here’s what a few of them said in response to the question, “What is your motivation to participate?”
These expressions of hope for transformation also became the motivation for the team as we prepared to meet the 50 participants.
After a few months of planning and curriculum development, Money Talks officially launched in March 2022. The first part consisted of seven sessions about basic financial wellness – financial attitudes and beliefs, credit, debt, saving, risk, and making a financial plan. During the summer, we hosted “Money Chats” sessions. These forums focused on guiding attendees through the HerFinIQ Budgeting Workbook – a checklist to determine readiness to invest and move participants through a series of pre-investing actions. They investigated spending habits, learned budgeting skills, cut costs, identified savings, and committed to paying down credit card debt. These sessions created a platform where women could share their goals and struggles with money in a non-judgmental space; topics that are frequently taboo in society became touchpoints for hope and progress.
Halfway through the program, we conducted a survey. Nearly half responded, and of those, 100% increased their knowledge and confidence, and 100% said they planned to establish/increase an emergency fund, pay down debt, and save for a long-term goal.
In September, the second part of the Money Talks program consisted of five sessions about types of investment accounts, various ways to invest, estate planning, and an overview of stocks, market sectors, and ETFs. By the end of these classes, one woman said that while she used to ignore her retirement account statements, she now feels empowered and excited by them.
Throughout the sessions, we encouraged participants to seek free, one-on-one financial counseling from the Pittsburgh Financial Empowerment Center, free consultations with a Black female financial planner, and additional community resources for banking and saving such as Fund My Future PGH.
At the end of the program, we asked participants what Money Talks meant to them. Here are a few of their responses:
Jessica Perrone, who developed the curriculum and created the workbook, observed:
“Many women find talking about money and investing scary. However, with Money Talks, we provided a financial roadmap for women to build generational wealth, diminishing the fear and stigma of financial institutions and investing. I often say, ‘Your financial future will be brighter than your past.’ It was from the first day these ladies signed up for Money Talks, by investing in themselves, that their future started looking up.”
Tamika Barrett, another one of the trainers, commented on the power of community: “People who are very wealthy do not build wealth on their own. They join together to create networks; they share information and lobby for rules to be changed. They know how to play the game. What we’re doing here is amazing – we’re showing up, having conversations in community, learning things that will help each other succeed. What’s so powerful is that we know we’re not in this alone.”
Based on the success of the initial launch of Money Talks, we’re working to raise funding for a program expansion in 2023. We expect that creating a self-paced online instructional model combined with monthly live Q&A sessions will allow us to invite many more to participate.
For more information on Money Talks, please contact Sarah Dieleman Perry at email@example.com.