Historically, women of color have not been a able to amass generational wealth due to numerous factors such as sexism, racism and colonization. Black women are still at the bottom of the economic ladder in almost every part of the world. A recent article was recently written by Brittany Oliver which summarizes the burden of the “black tax” on people of color, particularly women. In this article, Oliver argues that one of the reasons that women of color are not able to build wealth is due to the fact they often have to share their paycheck with their family members instead of investing in their future. This can lead to a wealth gap that can affect many generations. Carmela Hawkins is trying to reduce the wealth gap amongst black millennials by teaching them how to invest.
Carmela Hawkins is from the Metro Detroit area in Michigan. She holds a Bachelor of Arts in Finance from Michigan State University. She has worked with numerous Fortune 500 Companies in a finance capacity. She shared some career and finance tips with LFE:
What sparked your interest in finance? Did you always want a career in the financial industry? No! Actually, I wanted to be a sports broadcaster growing up. I was steered into getting a degree in accounting and that’s what my major was at Michigan State until the business college told me my grades weren’t good enough to be an accounting major. However, the silver lining was they admitted me just as a finance major. I was fine with that….truth be told I hated accounting anyways. From there I took a myriad of finance classes and one of the first ones I took was Intro to Investing. With this class, I had to read a book called “One Up on Wall Street” by Peter Lynch that book changed my life and perspective on finance. Growing up my parents always taught me to save and invest, in fact they paid for my college tuition from money that they invested in mutual funds for 18 years. However, I did not know the intricacies of what investing truly was until after I read that book, took that class and started investing myself. So from there, I graduated and I worked in a finance capacity but it was always in analytics. That was not my cup of tea, majority of the time I was looking at investment opportunities or reading about the stock market. So I made a decision at that point I would transition and work in the investment space.
Melanin Investor is an awesome platform! What was the “aha moment” behind it? Melanin Investor really came about two ways. The moment I knew I needed to create Melanin Investor was when I realized, the people around me were not talking about finance, money and investing. I personally love discussing the market and different investments and I like to brainstorm ideas. I especially like engaging in dialogue with my peers about various things and wanted to talk to them about this specific topic. However, but there were not many people around me that followed the market, especially not ones that looked like me. I could not fault them because people don’t talk about what they don’t know about. So, it was at that moment I decide to make this platform to educate millennials on what investing is and how to do it so we can all sit at a table, have these conversations while increasing our net worth.
The concept came about because I am a lover of sports always have been and always will be. I’m an athlete in my own right, I have played every sport imaginable from track to basketball, golf to volleyball, and even had a short stint with soccer. From childhood until my senior year of high school sports were my activity of choice. My father was my coach in every sport I played, that was the way him and I bonded and became close as parent and child. His favorite sport was golf and he developed me to be able to play at a collegiate level, and I was offered a scholarship to play golf at a local college named U of D Mercy. So growing up being an athlete, I followed sports immensely. I would stay up until the wee hours of the morning watching SportsCenter. I would know every highlight from Top 10 to recite and discuss the next day at school. I would watch Around the Horn and PTI before track practice. At one point I wanted to be on Around the Horn (lol!) My knowledge for the game was always there and my admiration for athletes in their personal lives grew with that.
With finance being an area of interest, I would also always look up how much these athletes salaries were and what they were doing with their money. I would read articles, I would watch documentaries, I would watch the news and learn what these multimillionaires were doing. That was always my interest. So with my peers were not talking about money and investments and they weren’t talking about athletes and entertainers and their investments, I thought let’s combine the two. I wanted to spend more time diving deeper into my own personal investments as well as learn more and provide more insight on athletes finances. There is a lack of education in the minority community and I felt as an African American woman there was a void to be filled to teach about the subject. I felt the way to do this was to not only share financial knowledge but go to the source, converse with professional athletes, and share their stories as they hold great influence to inspire others to follow in their footsteps and invest. That’s how Melanin Investor was created.
In your opinion, why do you think black millennial women are finding it difficult to build wealth? Honestly, I think it comes from lack of knowledge and then my other unpopular opinion will be because of social media’s influence. The lack of knowledge stems from the fact that we are not taught about wealth in grade school or college. Obtaining wealth really comes from seeking it on your own or inheritance. African American’s in general have a wealth gap from our white counterparts and yes it is partially due to the fact we weren’t afforded the same opportunities or education as them. We have the power to change that and I think that’s important to know at all times. It is up to US to build wealth and there are so many ways to do it. Another reason I think it’s difficult is because social media drives people to spend frivolously to emulate the Joneses. Everyone wants to look rich and a lot of people don’t realize looking rich is not going to make you rich in the long run. Even I had to give myself a reality check, like ‘sis I know you like expensive things but you’re 26 and you’re not a millionaire yet. You buying Gucci Louis and Prada isn’t going to make you rich either.’ So I stopped. I really cut down my material consumption A LOT in recent years. I have clients that come in to talk to me at work that are multimillionaires and they ask me; how much did you spend on that bottle of alkaline water? I tell them they’re like no save your money buy regular. One woman literally told me to stop buying books and go to the library. She’s like you have to reduce your expenses as much as possible. I’m not sure a lot of black women have people in their corner or their ears telling them little tidbits like that to encourage them to SAVE which is the catalyst for wealth creation. That is of course part of Melanin Investor’s goal to push that narrative to show keeping up with the Joneses is not going to create wealth and you MUST self educate to do it also. The rest will fall in line through action and faith.
Millennials have a bad reputation for being reckless spenders! What advice do you have for young women who want to save smarter? I think it goes back to my previously mentioned point. We spend money so frivolously because we are only thinking about immediate gratification and current pleasures. All those things we want now, probably won’t matter in a year from now nor will be worth what we paid for them a year for now. Especially if we are talking about material things. If you want to save smarter, you have to break down your finances. There’s a couple things you can do. First, just start saving somewhere and start small. I am certain someone can eliminate something small from their spending and save anywhere from $5 to $10 a week. That’s already $520 a year easily from just $10 a week being saved. Second, Look at how much you earn, create a budget that tracks your spending down to a penny. Then eliminate categories that really aren’t necessary. For me, like I said, that was my clothing line item in my budget. I have so many articles of clothing I don’t look at twice, so I wonder did I really need that piece in my closet? What could I have SAVED had I not bought that. I think for me now I get more satisfaction in seeing my portfolio value and my bank account increase than satisfaction from the accumulation of things and placing a value on the things in my closet. I think you have to grow to get to that mindset, it doesn’t happen overnight and it’s not easy. Everyone wants nice things, everyone wants to look like the next person. However, really think about your long terms goals. Do you want some cute designer bag now or do you want to retire at 50 and travel the world with your family and not have to rely on working someplace for money. That’s what saving and investing can do for you. I’ve seen it first hand. Also, know your current net worth. Know what assets you have whether it’s a home you OWN, a car you OWN, your investment accounts, you retirement accounts and know what debt you have whether its consumer debt or student loan debt. It’s important to know where you are financially so you know what you have to do to get to your long term financial goals.
What advice do you have for millennial women of color who want to start investing? To come see me! LOL. No seriously, my advice would be to educate yourself first. Read a few books. The book that truly got me started was “One Up on Wall Street” by Peter Lynch. Another good one is “The Intelligent Investor”. Just learn as much as you can then dive right in. You learn by acting and through experience. Open a brokerage account, open a roth IRA, if you have a business open a brokerage for your LLC. All of these things accounts allow you to invest within them. After researching different companies that you patronize and understanding if they are profitable and growing, invest in them. Invest in what you know is a methodology that Peter Lynch uses, and I utilize it also. Also, keep three things in mind: 1) know that investing is for the long term if you are looking for short term gains you can learn to trade or you can take another path. It’s not a get rich quick scheme. 2) Earn more. Find other streams of revenue so that you can invest that money also, don’t just rely on one source to invest. The more you earn the more you can invest and the more compound interest you will gain over time 3) have an abundance mindset, know that there is more than enough money in the world for you and don’t make a bad investment because you’re plagued by fear of mission out (FOMO). That is my advice.
Your job as a finance and investment professional has been very fulfilling. What advice do you have for millennials who want to follow a similar career path? You have to try things to know if you like them or not. I worked in corporate finance for 3 years at 3 outstanding companies before I realized I did not like being a financial analyst. I love helping people, I love to teach people and I love to interact with others. I wasn’t doing that sitting behind a desk on a computer running spreadsheets everyday. It was not fulfilling to me at all, and it actually lead me into somewhat of a functioning depressive state. When you’re doing work that does not fulfill your purpose it can get to be toxic. I knew it was an issue when people would ask me about work and I would lie and make it sound exciting, or I was so drained I just wouldn’t want to talk about it. When I switched into financial services, I knew I was in the right spot because it deal with this I talked about and researched daily. There are days I go home and I learn something from working in this industry that I’m like I need to teach other people this or I need to help my family out with that. It’s very rewarding knowing that the things I do everyday have the ability to change lives. You literally don’t know that until you try something.
In addition, if you want to follow a similar career path you have to have thick skin its a customer service industry at the end of the day. You’re servicing clients. Customer service and sales experience will also look great on your resume too, so don’t be afraid to try a job in that space first. Perhaps intern at a bank or maybe a financial services firm if there are opportunities out there, or just apply for a full time position. Also, you need to be okay with being the only woman of color in the room most times and exude confidence to show it doesn’t bother you. Your colleagues will respect that as will potential clients. Being solid and knowing your information cold and being able to portray that in interactions also is crucial. Lastly, have a voice and be assertive. Ask for what you want, usually no one knows that you want something until you are vocal about it. Also, people will respect you if your speak up and voice your opinion versus you conceding with everything. Those are a few pieces of advice I would give someone who wants to pursue a career in the financial services industry.