August 2021

Columbus Urban League event shares wealth-building strategies for Black community

Courtesy of The Columbus Dispatch
By Erica Thompson
September 3, 2021

Columbus native Dominique Jackson paid off $30,000 in student loan debt in three years by working multiple jobs, decreasing her expenses and using debt payment managers like the website

“The most difficult part was starting, as well as overcoming a lot of negative financial beliefs, habits and mindsets,” said Jackson, a 27-year-old journalist who runs a travel website, Girl Around the Globe, and lives in Mexico. “I had a debt-free journal where I would just write out positive affirmations about money and where I was at mentally — just really keeping myself on track.”

Jackson shared her story at the Columbus Urban League’s virtual discussion, “Wealth Building in the Black Community,” on Friday, as part of Black Philanthropy Month. The event also featured senior leaders in the financial services industry, as well as moderator, Mikayla Bivens, director of retention services at the Franklin County Treasurer’s Office.

The panelists shared advice on how individuals can be more fiscally responsible, as well as ways employers can help close the racial wealth gap.

Black borrowers owe almost twice as much in student loans as white borrowers four years after graduation, according to research by the Brookings Institution. And Black and Hispanic/Latino borrowers were more likely to be behind on payments, according to a Federal Reserve report.

President Joe Biden has canceled billions in student loan debt for limited categories of borrowers. In the meantime, financial services professionals have suggestions for how employers can provide assistance.

Dominic Wright, of JPMorgan Chase & Co., said loan forgiveness programs for teachers can serve as a guide.

“It would be great to see major corporations maybe take that approach as well,” said Wright, a community manager vice president. “Maybe not all of (the debt) is taken away, but maybe 50% or 25%.”

Dominic Wright, community manager VP, JPMorgan Chase & Co.
Kristi Martin Rodriguez, of Nationwide, stressed that millennials and generation Z aren’t the only populations impacted. According to the Department of Education, over 9 million adults over the age of 50 have student loan debt.

“Either they’re taking this debt out for their children, or they went back to school (themselves),” said Martin Rodriguez, senior vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute.

“One of the things that I think employers can do is think about how can they enrich education programs, extending them to not only their employees, but to their children. I think there’s a lot of opportunities now to be even more creative when we think about benefit packages of companies to retain employees.”

Martin Rodriguez also spoke about the impact of retirement planning and investing in life insurance. According to a Nationwide survey, Black caregivers spend an average of 32 hours each week providing care for loved ones.

Kristi Martin Rodriguez, senior vice president of the Nationwide Retirement Institute
“We were averaging over eight hours more a week than our white counterparts,” she said. “But the thing that we never do is talk about the expense of it. We need to start that dialogue. It will be a game-changer. Having that generational conversation is going to drive that prosperity that we need in our community.”

Ian Hundley, of Fifth Third Bank, spoke about the importance of investing in the stock market.

“In today’s world, buying a stock or selling a stock has become easier with technology,” said Hundley, a wealth management advisor at Fifth Third Bank’s Private Bank.

Hundley suggested that individuals pay attention to where they spend their own money, and invest in those companies.

Ian Hundley, wealth management advisor, Fifth Third Bank’s Private Bank
The panelists also talked about the importance of financial literacy, beginning in elementary school.

“There are a lot of different tools out there that we don’t know about because we’re not educating ourselves on it,” said Damon Strickland, vice president and senior sales executive of Advanced Life at Huntington Bancshares.

“We’re not putting ourselves in the best position to be successful, but on the flip side, it’s the financial institutions’ responsibility to educate everybody on strategies that can really make a difference.”

Damon Strickland, vice president, senior sales executive, Advanced Life, Huntington Bancshares
Wright also talked about the financial institutions’ role in building trust.

“It’s on the financial institution to be relatable, to put people in communities that look like that community so they can see, ‘Hey, I have an ally,’” he said.

Martin Rodriguez also advocated for more African Americans to consider pursuing a career in financial services.

“I think we can drive change by being part of this industry,” she said. “I encourage you to think about this as a very lucrative industry to not only come in, but to really add value and think about ways that we can drive solutions in our community and build wealth.”

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