Home > Black > Top African-American Financial Gurus To Follow

Top African-American Financial Gurus To Follow

Michelle Singletary is a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist, The Washington Post
(Photo: handout)

Talking about money can be hard, but not if you’re a financial guru with thousands of loyal fans who walk your money talk. In honor of Black History Month, we asked some personal finance experts to share their experiences and financial lessons, and to reflect on the significance race has on their financial lives and the advice they give their followers.

Responses have been edited for length and clarity.

Michelle Singletary

Nationally syndicated personal finance columnist, The Washington Post

Michelle Singletary writes “The Color of Money,” a weekly personal finance column that appears in more than 100 newspapers across the country. She is also the author of three books on personal finance. Twitter: @singletarym

NW: When did you realize that you wanted to devote your career to writing about personal finance?

MS: I knew I had found my life’s passion after writing my first column for The Washington Post. The response was like nothing we had seen in the business section. Everyday people were writing that finally someone was speaking to them in a way that was understandable. I think we were all shocked at how many readers wrote in to say that they too had a Big Mama who taught them about money. My grandmother was extremely smart when it came to money, but she also worried a lot about not having enough. So it’s with her in mind that I aim to explain complicated financial things so the folks like her won’t be afraid to make certain money moves.

NW: In your experience, has race mattered in the kind of financial questions you receive or in how your advice is received?

MS: There are some dark days when I do receive some racist mail or emails. But overall the response to me has been very positive. Readers relate to me not just as an African-American, but as an American trying to make sense of her personal finance, just like them. Although my experience may be different than theirs, readers can identify with trying to save for retirement or their own kid’s college fund. In truth, the name of the column, “The Color of Money,” has less to do with my race than the fact that the color of money is green and it’s green we all need to live a good life.

NW:  Do you tailor your message for an African-American audience? Why or why not?

MS: I don’t. I write for anybody struggling to manage their money. I write for people who are good money managers and want to know how to be even better stewards over their money. I write to help people in debt.

But having said that, my writing is definitely influenced by and speaks to African-Americans because that is who I am. I’m black. I’m a black woman. I’m a black mother, wife, churchgoer, etc. I am the legacy of slavery. My grandmother’s grandparents were slaves. My grandmother Big Mama would tell me about the stories she heard as a child growing up in the shadows of a North Carolina plantation. It’s only been in my lifetime that blacks have had the right to vote, live in certain areas or hold certain jobs. It is with this black history that I write about the financial challenges African-Americans still have. So I understand why many are still poor or struggling to make just a middle-income lifestyle. I’m a fiscal conservative, but I also have compassion for people who make financial mistakes.

NW: What’s one financial lesson you’d like to give someone?

MS: Live below your means. Live below your means when you don’t have much money. Live below your means when you get money.

NW: Name some of your financial role models and what you admire about them.

MS: My Big Mama is my No. 1 financial role model. Much of my advice stems from what she taught me. She never made more than $13,000 a year, yet she paid off her home before she retired. She saved money from every paycheck. She taught me to be skeptical. It makes me cry to think that I’m a nationally syndicated personal finance columnist for one of the world’s best newspapers and my core advice comes from my black grandmother who was a nurse’s aide with just a high school education. Yet she managed her money better than some financial professionals I know. I give credit always to her because she is the reason I have my column and national recognition.

I also admire my husband. So many people joke that life with me — a professed lifelong penny pincher — must be tough. But he’s a great money manager. And he helps me let go of my fear of spending while still being frugal. He’s truly my partner in my mission to help people find financial freedom.

I also admire my pastor, John K. Jenkins Sr. (First Baptist Church of Glenarden). My pastor taught me the importance of tithing and giving back, that it has to be at the top of my budget. And he is one of the most generous folks I know. I’ve seen him go to a restaurant and see members of our church and pick up their tab. He encouraged me to start a financial ministry at our church. And there is always someone living with him. He thinks nothing of opening his home to help people get back on their feet. He really does practice what he preaches.

Tiffany Aliche

The Budgetnista

Tiffany Aliche, known as The Budgetnista, is a trained educator who writes about budgeting and money management techniques. She founded a movement called the Live Richer Challenge that features daily tasks to achieve financial goals. Twitter: @thebudgetnista

Tiffany Aliche, known as The Budgetnista, is a trained educator who writes about budgeting and money management techniques. (Photo: handout)

NW: When did you realize that you wanted to devote your career to writing about personal finance?

TA: I was a schoolteacher for 10 years, and my school lost funding at the height of the recession. When I lost my job and so many people I knew were struggling with their finances, that’s when I started my company. I had grown up in a household where money was talked about all the time.

NW: Name some of your financial role models and what you admire about them.

TA: First and foremost is my father. He was an accountant, and he taught us the academic parts of money management. My mom, who was raising us, taught me the application of money, like how to buy groceries. My dad and mom came from Nigeria with not much money at all, and they raised five girls. We are all educated, we have college degrees, and they financed it. To raise five girls and to teach them to manage their money wisely, it just shows you the power of basic money management and the power of your budget. Now [her dad is] retired, and I don’t have to take care of him financially. Not only was he able to provide for us, but also provide for himself in the future.

NW: In your experience, has race mattered in the kind of financial questions you receive or in how your advice is received?

TA: Honestly, when I started, there were very few people of color teaching financial education. I thought “there is no color” when it comes to budgeting. But race plays an issue, as it plays on trust and being relatable to people. The financial industry has taken advantage of people of color, so there’s a lack of trust of financial institutions. I’m teaching from a place where I am a woman of color. I found that women of color thought of me as someone who looks like one of them. They thought, “She wouldn’t do that to us.”

NW:  Do you tailor your message for an African-American audience? Why or why not?

TA: No, I tailor it more so to women in general. I don’t know if there’s something I’m doing other than the fact that I’m my natural self.

NW: What’s one financial lesson you’d like to give someone?

TA: To get started. Whatever your financial goal is, whether it’s buying a house, traveling or investing, what is one simple task you can take today, quickly? So many people look at the task as a whole, but goals are merely a collection of small tasks put together. Just do something every day, simple and soon.

Talaat and Tai McNeely

His & Her Money

Talaat and Tai McNeely run the “His & Her Money” podcast, aimed at helping married couples navigate their financial lives. The couple paid off more than $30,000 in debt together. Twitter: @HisandHerMoney

Talaat and Tai McNeely run the “His & Her Money” podcast, aimed at helping married couples navigate their financial lives. (Photo: handout)

NW: When did you realize that you wanted to devote your career to personal finance education?

T&TM: We realized that we wanted to devote our career to personal finance once we conquered getting out of debt and we started to help others around us. We knew that we wanted to take our passion globally and help so many others achieve the same thing.

NW: What’s one financial lesson you’d like to give someone?

T&TM: You can change! A lot of people don’t believe that they have what it takes to become debt-free or build financial success. We like to tell them that they can. We are living proof that you can turn bad habits into good ones.

NW: In your experience, has race mattered in the kind of financial questions you receive or in how your advice is received?

T&TM: Race has never mattered in the kind of financial questions that we received, because money is universal. Everyone uses and needs money to thrive. We are very conscious of the lack of financial knowledge that our culture receives, and that is what fuels us even the more to share. We have a lot of people that follow us simply because we do look like them. They believe if they can see someone that looks just like them do it, then they can, too … and they can!

NW: Do you tailor your message for an African-American audience in any way? Why or why not?

T&TM: No, we don’t tailor our message per se to our African-American audience, because again money is universal. There is no color when it comes to money. We do feel like we have a voice and ear from the African-American audience because we are authentic and relatable.

NW: Name some of your financial role models and what you admire about them.

T&TM: Our biggest financial role model is God. We learn so many principles about money from the Bible. We also admire so many other financial role models such as Lynnette Khalfani-Cox and Michelle Singletary, just to name a few.

Click here for more.

SOURCE: NerdWallet – Amrita Jayakumar