18-year head start

For the longest time, I’ve been giving parents and grandparents advice on how to give their child(ren) or grandchild(ren) a great financial head start in life. After May 12, 2022, I’m no longer just giving this advice. Instead, I’m living by it. My wife and I welcomed our daughter Jaslyn into the world and immediately agreed that we would take full advantage of the 18-year head start. We weren’t going to be those parents who waited to begin setting up their child’s financial success program.

During my time in the financial services industry, I’ve heard countless stories from parents and grandparents about what they wish they would’ve done when that child or grandchild was younger. It’s always this feeling of regret that I could see in their faces and hear in their voices that scared me. And I couldn’t understand why these cycles continued to happen generation after generation.

It makes me think about all the people who struggle to save and invest as recent college graduates or adults in their early 30s because they have student loans they’re dealing with. Just think, you leave school and get a job, but you’re already digging yourself out of a hole. For the majority of people, this “hole digging” continues because before you’re really bringing in some serious income, you might have decided to purchase a home (30 more years of debt), get a new car (another 3-5 years of debt), and maybe cash flow isn’t flowing that great because you also decided to start a family. Well, just imagine what life would have been like had you graduated college with zero debt. So yeah, all that money going to your aunt Sallie could’ve been funding your investment account, retirement account, and savings account from the very first day after graduation.

I also thought about Jaslyn’s future and how she might not want to go the traditional college route and instead become an entrepreneur. I think about all the stories about entrepreneurs and their struggles with funding their businesses. Some could never get the money they needed to launch their business. They couldn’t get a loan from the bank or credit union, they didn’t know any angel investors, and nobody in their family had enough in the bank to write them a check. Meanwhile, we hear other stories about entrepreneurs who have a village or community that may house numerous angel investors or an immediate family member who had no issues writing them a $250,000 check.  

So, how were my wife and I going to decide on how to take advantage of Jaslyn’s 18-year head start? First, we sat down and had a conversation. Second, we agreed on what we would do for her. And lastly, we executed the plan. I know I’m making this seem like it was easy because it actually was. It was easy because while my wife and I were dating, we talked about money. After we got married, we talked about money. After Jaslyn was born, we talked about money. See, it’s not a struggle for my wife and me to talk about money because it’s a normal part of our lives.

Now it’s time for me to share the four things we did for Jaslyn and why:

  • Savings account – – this is the easiest thing to do, and it’s safe (from a risk perspective). Plus, if she starts earning money at an early age (like modeling, doing commercials, or movies), they can cut those checks with her name on them.
  • Life Insurance policy – – we agreed that a variable universal life insurance policy would serve her best and allow for long-term slow growth (riskier than the savings account). Such a policy will produce substantial cash value, which is an asset that Jaslyn could use in the future for various purposes when she reaches 18. Also, getting her covered at such a young age locks in her future insurability. This is important because we haven’t the slightest clue what her health status might look like at 18 and beyond. So we can rest easy and know that if our daughter’s health changes and she (as an adult) is declared uninsurable, at least she has some coverage in place. Lastly, if Jaslyn predeceases us, there’s money to handle all of her final expenses. We (like ALL parents) would be crushed if this happens, but by having her covered, the financial planning my wife and I do wouldn’t get disrupted. I know this is why most people look at me strangely when I say people should get life insurance on kids, but we’ve got to get past this and take care of business.
  • Uniform Transfers to Minors Act (UTMA) account  – – we set up a UTMA investment account, which will serve as the riskiest asset Jaslyn will own. We started her off with a growth mutual fund (the initial deposit to own the fund is $250) and are doing a modest $50/month ongoing contribution. As things progress, we plan to add some ETFs and individual stocks to her portfolio. This specific account type has its pros/cons, just like with any other investment solution, but the challenge for my wife and me was deciding to do this account versus a 529 plan. We had an extensive discussion about the merits of both account types, and after doing a simple T-chart, the UTMA won the battle.
  • Added as an authorized user – – this is the thing people rarely consider doing. Why do we wait until 18 years old to build our credit? Well, when you turn 18, that’s when you can legally apply on your own to get a credit card. But nobody ever told you that you could have been building your credit history as soon as you received your social security number. So, that’s what we did for Jaslyn. I have a credit card that offers me cash back, which I use to make a recurring payment (my cell phone bill) each month. I know for sure I will never not pay off the full balance for my cell phone each month. And so, Jaslyn will have years of credit history before ever having to apply for her own card. But, the neat thing that’s going to happen is when she applies to get that first card, she will have way more access to credit (a higher limit) than most 18-year-olds start with. 

I hope this article starts a movement. Like seriously! There’s no good reason why a parent (or grandparent) couldn’t ensure that all four things I previously mentioned are put into place right away. Some people may feel that Jaslyn’s plan might be a bit extreme but tell me one parent that doesn’t want to “go hard in the paint” for their kid to ensure they have options in life. Some may think that it’s too hard to do (from a financial standpoint), but I’d challenge that because I know people spend hundreds of dollars on baby stuff that never gets used. Those funds could be applied elsewhere.

Others may want to offer various other solutions, and I’m okay with that. But, whether somebody follows my plan exactly or something close to it, my daughter will grow up and know for sure that her parents didn’t blow her 18-year head start.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


Are you a HENRY?

When most people start their careers, they aspire to earn a base salary of six figures (or $100,000). That somehow became the barometer for professional success. Once you make that much, you can breathe or give yourself a nice pat on the back because your hard work has started to pay off. So you can only go up from there, right?

You’re climbing the “corporate ladder” or building a great business, but you don’t realize that as you earn more, that comes with more responsibility. The late Notorious B.I.G. sums it up nicely in his hit track, “Mo’ Money, Mo Problems.” You feel like earning more is the mountain top, but it’s only the start of this new journey, and most aren’t prepared for what’s to come. 

At this point, you’re probably still wondering, what is a H.E.N.R.Y.? Well, it’s an acronym coined by writer Shawn Tully back in 2003 that stands for High Earner Not Rich Yet. As a millennial, I’ve noticed that many of my clients and prospective clients tend to be HENRYs. They are highly educated, high-earning professionals whose expertise spans many industries. However, despite their advanced levels of education, many HENRYs struggle financially. It sounds crazy, right? People always talk about how different or awesome their lives would be if they made more money, yet they never or rarely prepare themselves for this new lifestyle. 

Luckily for the HENRY clients that I’ve had the pleasure to serve, they have all received (and continue to receive) incredible lessons on how to play the money game like the wealthy. If it weren’t for me, many of these HENRYs (millennials like myself) would have continued going through life thinking everything was good because they had a nice paycheck. So let me share some HENRY experiences I’ve encountered over the years and how I helped them move forward with their #buildwealth plan.

  • A millennial woman shared that she had $130,000 in debt, a combination of student loans and credit cards. Having such a high amount of debt was causing her a ton of stress. Oh yeah, she had over a half-million dollars of vested stock from her tech job. She told me she was afraid (more like terrified) of paying taxes on the liquidation of her stock. So I asked her two questions. How would it make you feel if all of your debt could be paid off tomorrow? What would you do with the money (the payments she was currently making on her debt) that would now be free to use at your discretion? After our meeting, it took her a week to make the liquation and pay off her debt. The money that became free was applied to beefing up her emergency fund, maxing out her 401k, and opening up a brokerage account so she could buy ETFs each month.
  • A millennial man was becoming obsessed with getting into crypto investing. He was an engineer and had been doing a ton of research about the crypto space. But, he wasn’t doing any investing outside of his 401k. He was an avid saver and shared that he wanted to drop $15,000 into a coin he’d been tracking and hearing a ton of buzz about on the internet. However, he shared his concerns about his tax situation with me, and he didn’t feel like he was on track with his retirement plans. So I asked him one question that I thought would be a layup which was the turning point in our meeting. I said, “You earn well over $150,000/year. Are you maxing out your 401k?” He responded by saying, “Yeah, I’m doing the company match, so I’m maxing that out.” I quickly responded by sharing the difference between the company match and the maximum amount allowable in his 401k by the IRS. Plus, I explained that the more he contributes to his 401k on a pre-tax basis (his employer also offered a Roth contribution option), his taxable income for the year would decrease. So, to move forward, I recommended he max out his 401k, which would assess his top two concerns. Then he should reassess how much to put into crypto. If he doesn’t have a conversation with me, he doesn’t tackle his top two financial priorities. And, because I know the crypto markets are incredibly volatile, there was a chance that the coin he was tracking wasn’t going to “do numbers.” I recommended he find a better place for that $15,000 or maybe only put $5,000 into the coin. He decided on $10,000 and swiftly lost it all in a few weeks. He learned a valuable lesson in investing, and I’m glad to know that no matter what else he decides to invest in during his lifetime, he’ll be maxing out his 401k every single year.
  • After a speaking engagement, a millennial couple came up to me and said they needed to get their #buildwealth plan on point. We set up a meeting the following week, and right off the bat, they said, “Collectively, we make over $400,000/year but feel like we are living check to check.” In my head, I’m thinking, how the **** is this possible? I’ve read stories about these people on the internet, but here they were, in the flesh. So I asked them to tell me about their lifestyle because it was evident that this was a lifestyle inflation issue (you spend more because you’re earning more). This couple was living so far beyond their means it was ridiculous. They had two brand new luxury cars with crazy high payments because their credit wasn’t great. They only needed one car, but the second luxury car was purchased during the pandemic because the husband said, “I was jealous my wife had her dream car, so I needed mine too!” But where exactly was he planning to go? This purchase was made in April 2020, the heart of the COVID pandemic. Both LOVED designer clothes, and even their two kids were always dressed to the nines when they were out in public. They loved going out to eat at fancy restaurants for family dinners or brunch events and posting photos from those restaurants on social media. They both had student loans from undergrad and a substantial amount of credit card debt. I could continue with this laundry list of things, but I simply asked the couple, “Do you want to do better?” They both said yes, and I shared some tools to assist them with getting started transforming their financial lives. Everything was going great for about two weeks, and then the husband texted me a photo of their new puppy with the caption, “We’ve made an addition to our family, but I know this might not have been the best use of our money.” I just laughed and responded, “I don’t expect y’all to become financial rockstars overnight. This is a lifelong journey, and I’ll be there to support and guide you the best I can. It’ll still be up to y’all to do the work.”

HENRYs have a unique opportunity to live an extremely prosperous life. All HENRYs must be willing to take some time out of their busy lives and give real attention to their #buildwealth plans. Financial success doesn’t just happen by chance, and you have to put in the work. If you’re a HENRY and haven’t built your Money team (check out my Money Team article), you should put that at the top of your to-do list. The sooner you build your Money Team (and get clarity on everything you’re doing financially), the quicker you will graduate from high earner, not rich yet status to high earner, finally doing what it takes to live and conduct themselves as rich people do.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


Financial planning is like a puzzle

When was the last time you assembled a puzzle? I recently spent a Saturday afternoon with family, and someone had an idea that we should spend it working on a puzzle. So we turned on some tunes, made a few drinks, ordered some grub, and got to it. 

This experience got me thinking about how putting together a puzzle is very similar to financial planning. This puzzle (a 3000-piece one) had a beautiful image on the box, which we were all excited about replicating by connecting each of the 3000 pieces.

Financial planning is kind of like a puzzle. For example, we can all “see” or visualize what financial success or achieving financial goals looks like (the image on the puzzle box). But then, we need to consider all these different products and services (the puzzle pieces) to put our financial plan together. That’s where things get tricky, and at that point, we’ve got to develop a strategy.

Many would agree that the most basic, fundamental way to start a puzzle is to separate the edge pieces. This way, you have secured the perimeter and can now begin the next phase of filling in the puzzle. The most fundamental step someone should take with financial planning is completing a balance sheet (this captures your assets and liabilities). The balance sheet helps you take inventory of where you currently stand financially. It’s like seeing your financial situation from a 5,000ft view. This is an important step because many people prefer to start purchasing financial products and services but aren’t sure how they “fit” into their overall financial strategy. 

The next phase of the puzzle typically involves segmenting out specific colors. During my puzzle experience (a nature-themed puzzle), there was a substantial portion of the sky, water, and trees. So, the best strategy was to separate all the light blue pieces (the sky), darker shades of blue pieces (the water), and the various shades of green, which would cover the trees. Eventually, we knew this was an efficient way to build our nature scene puzzle.

A similar approach can be utilized to craft a financial plan. For example, we could break it down into three primary sections; money management (cash flow/budgeting), offense (investments, retirement, real estate, running a business), and defense (life, disability, health, or any other type of insurance). By breaking down your planning efforts into those three categories, it’s easier to see where the opportunities might lie. This is a simplified way that more people should think about financial planning, but it’s hard. Why? Because the world (your family and friends, the news, social media influencers) is telling you what you should do with your money instead of being in control of your money and directing it accordingly. 

The one thing I want to highlight is that my puzzle experience included multiple people. It’s not that I’m not capable of strategizing on my own and completing a 3000-piece puzzle, but the overall experience was much more enjoyable. See, I had people assisting me with completing the puzzle, which helped save a ton of time. 

Many feel compelled to go at it alone with financial planning, which wastes time because they’re trying to become the expert in everything. Plus, it’s impossible to be an expert in everything, so why not work with a professional or team of professionals (check out my article called Your Money Team) to assist you with crafting a solid financial game plan. And, because you’re not an expert, you might not be making the financial decisions that are in your best interest, or there could be blind spots within your plan that you’ve overlooked that could be detrimental to your long-term future financial success. 

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


Your Money Team

During speaking engagements, I like to talk about financially successful people and how they are constantly focused on building their respective empires. One of my favorite examples is Beyonce and Jay-Z. This is what most might call a power couple. As a power couple, their time (like most others) is precious, and I’d assume the two of them are really busy. Busy being parents and being moguls. So when do they find the time to become experts in all the various components of financial planning? They don’t! Highly financially successful people (from my research over the years) all do the same thing regarding their financial affairs. They have a group of people they work with to keep their finances on point. This group of people is called the Money Team. 

In my opinion, EVERYONE needs a Money Team! (Yes, that includes me too) This team of professionals is comprised of the following (not in order of importance):

  1. Banking professional
  2. Tax professional
  3. Insurance professional (there are numerous you might need)
  4. Investments professional
  5. Real Estate professional
  6. Attorney (there are numerous you might need)
  7. Financial planner

I’m sure some of you reading this are saying, “I can’t afford to pay all these people.” And that may be the case now, but think about it this way. You are making an investment in these professionals to ensure that your financial house is in proper order. Remember, do you really have the time or want to devote the time to become an expert in all seven of those areas? Some may decide to go the Do-It-Yourself (DIY) route, and that’s perfectly fine. So keep at it as long as you get the results you desire. 

However, experience has taught me that many DIYers tend to lag behind in accomplishing financial goals in the time frames they initially set. Plus, because they don’t work with experts, they sometimes make or have made questionable financial decisions that weren’t in their best interest. Nobody is there to validate the decision(s) in question, so many DIY financial people don’t achieve the financial success they dream about.

When discussing the Money Team with people, one of the first questions most ask is, “Why do I need all these people?” Let me break it down for you, and I’ll tackle each team member’s importance in order.

Banking professional – Banking has changed over the years, and the industry relies heavily on conducting business virtually. However, what hasn’t changed is that people will always need to borrow money. So when you need money, looking good on paper or on the computer is one thing, but having a relationship with a lender could prove highly beneficial for your transaction. If you don’t believe me, ask a business owner who has tried to get a loan from a financial institution with no previous relationship.

Tax professional – Everyone should pay their fair share of taxes and not a cent more. And everyone should make it a point to avoid any issues with the IRS. If you’re a business owner, you should know what you can and can’t do from a tax standpoint based on how your business is structured. If you don’t work with a tax professional, you’re probably paying the government more money than you should. Having a tax professional is critical to your financial success because they pay attention to the tax laws and codes that are constantly changing, be it federal, state, or local. And, you don’t have the time (nor do you plan on making any) to do that kind of research to stay up-to-date with all the taxes changes. 

Insurance professional – There are various types of insurance you might need to consider having during your lifetime: life, disability, health, umbrella, business, and long-term care, just to name a few. This might prompt you to connect with multiple insurance professionals because particular licenses are needed to sell certain types of insurance. Thus, you must make sure the insurance professional is properly licensed. No matter what kind of insurance you’re looking to add, the process should go in this order. With the help of your insurance professional, you (1) determine how much insurance (whatever type it is) you need, then (2) explore the various options based on the need. The process should always follow those steps.

Investments professional – This team member has fallen out of favor (somewhat) because many people feel they can use technology and do their own investing, be it for general purposes or retirement. While I know this to be true, studies have shown that the average person gets better investment returns over the long haul simply because they work with an investment professional. Why? Because this professional will help you not get emotional when it comes to making investment decisions. Just ask yourself, what did you do with your investments back in 2008-2009? Did you run scared and take your money out of the market? Or did you invest more and capitalize on one of the greatest bull market runs, which started in the latter half of 2009? Having someone close to you who can help you make prudent investment decisions is why this person is so important. 

Real Estate professional – Whether you’re looking for your first home, an investment property, or working to build your commercial real estate empire, you will probably need this expert to assist you. The real estate market is like any other market, it will ebb and flow, and at times it’ll be a buyer’s market, and during others, it will be a seller’s market. So it will be easier for you to navigate the market if you have this professional by your side.

Attorney – When it comes to legal matters, you will need assistance from a legal professional. Like the insurance expert, you might find yourself enlisting the services of multiple attorneys depending on your specific need and making sure your attorney is properly licensed. So, for example, if you have an estate planning need and want to make sure your family will be good long after you’re gone, you’ll probably be better served by an estate planning attorney instead of a divorce attorney. 

Financial planner – This member could serve as your team’s quarterback. They aren’t trying to sell you any particular product, but they work with you to give you clarity about your financial situation. Essentially, this team member helps you see your entire financial situation from a 5,000ft view. Plus, as they work through the planning process with you, they will probably ask to coordinate their efforts with your other team members. For example, if your financial planner is having a retirement conversation and trying to figure out if a Pre-tax or a Roth contribution is better within your 401k, they will want to consult with your CPA or accountant. Lastly, you may meet with your financial planner at some agreed-upon frequency, like quarterly, twice a year, or annually. This will ensure that everything is going…as planned. 

The key takeaway here is time. You don’t have enough time in the day to become an expert in everything. Let the experts do their job because their sole purpose is to help you do the heavy lifting. Becoming a financial rockstar isn’t easy when you go at it alone. But, having your Money Team in place will allow you to get back to living life with a lot less stress.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


Financial literacy efforts in the U.S. need some work

Please visit The Nation’s Report Card on Financial Literacy and see what grade your state has earned for its financial literacy efforts when you have a few minutes. I want to spotlight two states near and dear to my heart, North Carolina and California. North Carolina is my home state (born and raised in Durham), and they received an A. I currently reside in Oakland, CA and California received a D. That grade doesn’t sit too well with me.

John F. Kennedy famously said, “One person can make a difference and everyone should try.” After learning of this report card website, I decided I would try to make a difference. So I set out on a data-gathering and outreach adventure that would keep me occupied for a few months. I compiled a list of about 250 School Board Members and high school Administrative leaders, like Principals, Vice Principals, Deans of Students, etc., and various teachers. If you’re curious about why I targeted high schools, here’s why.  

I’ve spent countless hours volunteering at elementary, middle, and high schools (through my work with the Urban Financial Services Coalition), conducting financial literacy sessions. While some have professed that earlier is better, I’ve seen the biggest and most immediate impact happen at the high school level. Thus, I decided to focus my efforts there.

What would I offer these high schools to help improve financial literacy? A free, 6-part high school financial planning curriculum courtesy of the National Endowment of Financial Education (NEFE). This curriculum was legit! It came equipped with the lesson, a teacher’s guide to the lesson, and supporting materials for the lesson. Literally, anyone could pick up this curriculum and teach any one of the six lessons. In my mind, I knew this curriculum would be a huge hit!

I curated a series of emails that I would send to giveaway this free high school financial planning curriculum. To make sure I didn’t seem like a scammer, I was completely transparent about why they were receiving this email and what I expected to gain from it. There were no ulterior motives. Just say you wanted the curriculum, and I will send it over. 

Well, this experiment didn’t go like I thought it would. I sent over 1000 emails (over those few months), and the response rate was abysmal. Of the few who responded to at least one email, here are my favorite responses:

  • “Not interested!”
  • “I’m too busy to include financial literacy into my lesson plan” (this was from a math teacher)
  • “I’m not confident in my personal financial skills to teach such a robust curriculum.” (No experience was required to teach the lesson plan. It was all laid out, so you could “fake it til you make it”)
  • “We don’t have the budget to pay you” (I didn’t ask for any money. I was volunteering to donate a curriculum)

I can’t say that I’m completely shocked by the lack of response because most of the country doesn’t teach financial literacy in school. But I was hoping for a few outliers who might have truly understood that my efforts were pure. Plus, my experience over the years taught me that the faculty/staff at schools are uncomfortable with administering any financial literacy program because of their personal relationship with money.

So what now? If you’re reading this and you are a high school teacher, high school administrator, or school board member and would like to discuss the financial literacy curriculum in more detail, send an email to In the subject line, write FinLit Kids. Or, if you have a good relationship with a high school teacher, high school administrator, or school board member, please share this article and encourage them to reach out so we can have a discussion about we can leverage this 6-part financial literacy curriculum to educate our youth.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


Let’s Disrupt Generational Poverty®

Everyone has been preaching for years that people need to focus on creating generational wealth for their families. During my time as a financial services practitioner, I’ve read hundreds of articles, research papers, and studies, all of which shed light on the fact that the wealth disparities in the United States continue to widen. So, are people focused on creating wealth or just earning enough to get by? The wealth data I continue to review year after year seriously disappoints me, which prompted me to start The #BuildWealth Movement®.

I can see the problem, clear as day. Our society speaks about how this is the land of opportunity, how you can create generational wealth, how you can “live the American dream.” Well, that dream isn’t a reality for millions of people, and it looks more like a nightmare. So, how about this? Let’s focus our attention on how we can disrupt generational poverty®.

Disrupting generational poverty isn’t something that my Movement can do alone. I’m just one person who is working to change the way people THINK and FEEL about money. During any interactions with individuals or groups, I feel that I’m doing my part to help disrupt generational poverty simply because I’m an expert. I’m giving really good advice. What people decide to do with that advice is up to them.

The way people THINK and FEEL about money causes you to do one of two things, make a decision or not make a decision. Notice that I didn’t say good decision or bad decision. Every decision you make has consequences one way or another. But, the thoughts and emotions around money play out in our everyday lives, sometimes to the detriment of future generations. Let me give you a few examples to drive home this point. I’ve had someone (actually, multiple people) say the following to me:

“My parents didn’t leave me anything, and I don’t plan on doing that for my kids. They’ll figure it out.”

“I had to work two jobs and I took out loans for college. I want my kids to learn the value of hard work.”

“I make good money, but I still feel like I’m living check to check.”

“Growing up, talking about money was always considered “grown folks” business.”

“My bank isn’t paying me much in interest, but if I put my money in the stock market, I could lose it all tomorrow.”

Now, how do you think hearing things like this makes me feel? In my earlier years as a financial planner, I used to get upset. Over time, I used such remarks as fuel to my fire, continued to work my plan, and ensured that people never EVER say such a thing like that again. 

I also realized that many people don’t have examples within their families or community of what wealth looks like. It just doesn’t seem to be obtainable. Think about the kids who grow up in the hood. They idolize drug dealers, gang-bangers, professional athletes, or entertainers. Why? Because that’s all they see or hear the people talking about in their hood. If that kid is lucky enough to get some exposure to the outside world, they’ll most certainly aspire to do something different.

The same thing happens to adults. Many of us have been deemed successful by our peers or family because we have a fancy job title, nice car, and a house. You “appear” to be successful, but when you begin to delve into your financial situation, you realize the ugly truth. The job stresses you out, and you always fantasize about your dream job, but you’ve got bills, so those dreams get put on the back burner. You have a massive student loan balance, and you feel like it’s going to take decades to pay it off, if ever. The car is nice, but you have a huge car payment each month, and the car’s maintenance is a cash drain. The house, maybe it’s a decent spot, but you’ve got that mortgage and other expenditures coming out of your bank accounts just to maintain the place. Now, you’re left trying to figure out how to invest for retirement, paying for more life insurance, or saving money for a child or your children’s college education. Then you might be considering making an investment into more real estate, building an emergency fund, making sure your credit stays above a 720, meeting with an attorney to get your wills and trusts done, or maybe even starting a business. 

Whew!! That’s a lot huh?

No wonder people can’t disrupt generational poverty. There just isn’t enough time in the day (so “they” say) or enough money coming into our bank accounts to handle all of this stuff. If you don’t personally know someone taking care of business, you don’t believe it’s possible. And, if nobody in your family or community is living the life you dream about, then YOU MUST BE THE FIRST! 

Here’s my strategy on how we can all disrupt generational poverty. I am going to keep it as simple as possible. Experience has taught me that more people can adopt simple, as opposed to complicated. So, here it goes!

  1. Write down the financial goals you want to accomplish. Be sure to segment them out based on time – – short-term (less than one year), intermediate-term (1 year – 5 years), and long-term (5 years+). 
  2. Take inventory every quarter; the best tool to do this is called a balance sheet. If you need one, send an email to and write “Balance Sheet” in the subject line.
  3. Do a budget; I don’t care if you use pen/paper, an app, or some fancy software. Pick a budgeting strategy you can commit to doing.
  4. Strive to get all your credit scores above 720
  5. Have a FULL understanding and leverage ALL employer-sponsored benefits
  6. Get PLENTY of life insurance; If you’re single, you should get some. And, the coverage you have through your job isn’t enough, or it’s only enough while you still have employment with that company. Life insurance from your job is rarely portable.
  7. Invest for retirement outside of what your job offers. (If your budget allows)
  8. Have a non-retirement based investment account (If your budget allows)
  9. Buy real estate 
  10. Have good tax person
  11. Start saving/investing for your child’s college education right after their birth; (Everyone gets an 18-year head start, so what are you waiting for?)
  12. Have a good estate planning attorney
  13. Review and update your plan WHENEVER you have a life-altering event.
  14. Start an investment club with your family or friends
  15. Read this book called The #BUILDWEALTH Challenge: 8 Challenges to change the way you THINK and FEEL about money

Imagine if everyone followed these 15 steps. Of course, there are probably more things I could’ve listed, but this list is pretty solid. I even feel confident enough to guarantee that we could disrupt generational poverty for sure if everyone followed those 15 steps. But, I know people will make the conscious decision to do something different, even though I’ve given them the “cheat-code.” 

Where do we go from here? Well, I need your help in spreading the word. I will not be able to disrupt generational poverty all by my lonesome. It’s going to take an army. I have many ideas on how to address this issue of generational poverty, and if you’re open to having a conversation and helping me out on this quest, shoot me a note to, and in the subject line, write “Let’s Work.”

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


The Project 100 recap

I had this crazy idea that I acted on as 2019 concluded. I wanted to kick off 2020 with a challenge and not some fitness or dieting challenge. I wanted a challenge that would focus on spreading financial literacy to the masses. I decided that I would attempt to conduct 100 free financial planning workshops. I would focus specifically on non-profit organizations, and I figured some for-profit entities would come along (and perhaps even pay me). Either way, I had a number, and I was going to focus on hitting it.

I determined that non-profit organizations would be a great target because they generally don’t provide (or have the budget) to conduct comprehensive financial literacy training for their staff. Yes, I realize some non-profit organizations have a huge bankroll, but I know that many non-profits don’t. Not only did I want to assist the staff, but I also wanted to extend the effort to any people in the community that the organization served. I had one stipulation, for any session that I was going to conduct, I required (20) people to attend. I assumed that it wouldn’t be hard for twenty people to gather and talk about money. I mean, so many people complain and are upset about the wealth disparities in this country, so people should flock to a free financial planning session. Right?

I knew doing this challenge alone would be silly, so I reached out to my Urban Financial Services Coalition – SF Bay Area Chapter (UFSC) family and explained the challenge. They were onboard and specified that I do something unique just for them. We decided on doing a Project 100 session every 2nd and 4th Wednesday virtually. This way, I could open up this opportunity to anyone across the world who had an internet connection. And, since I had all these Wednesday’s, this would give people ample chances to attend at some point. I would do something different for these virtual sessions since I was in full control. I set a deadline for getting the twenty people. Since the event was happening Wednesday nights, I put a deadline for registrations. The deadline was always at 6:30p PT on the Monday prior. If I got the twenty, the session happened. If I didn’t, the session wouldn’t happen. Since this was a free effort, I wanted people to help promote it because I knew that I alone wouldn’t always be able to muster up the twenty. Plus, if ten people registered and brought one other person, that would get us to twenty. Easy right?

So, here are the final numbers from the Project 100:

Number of sessions conducted – 54

Number of people impacted (attendees) – 892

At first glance, yes, I failed miserably. The goal was to conduct 100 sessions, and I fell short by 46. So, if I were in school, a grade of 54% would be an F. Luckily for me, this isn’t school, and despite this grade, I looked at this project as a huge success. 

Success #1: This Project forced me to create a marketing plan and stick to it. Part of that plan was putting together a short video clip where I laid out “my ask.” I recorded a short video stating (1) the purpose of my effort and (2) encouraged people to register for one of those Wednesday sessions or schedule a time to discuss the details of speaking at their organization. I posted this video EVERY…SINGLE…DAY on Instagram, LinkedIn, and Facebook. I dialed things back in November, but I went “hard in the paint” for ten straight months!

Success #2: Some people couldn’t believe what I was attempting to accomplish and thought it was quite admirable. They repeatedly asked how else could they support me, so I sent them the link to purchase copies of my book The #BUILDWEALH Challenge – 8 Challenges to change the way you THINK and FEEL about money.

Success #3: I kept showing up on people’s social media feed so much throughout the year, that I landed new clients and customers due to my marketing efforts. (They opted to skip my workshop and just wanted to get down to work. I love people like that!)

Success #4: I made connections with leaders of organizations that I probably would have never had the pleasure of meeting. These leaders have taken it upon themselves to do this incredible work within their respective communities, and now I can say I have a personal connection with them. 

Success #5: I helped almost 900 people begin their journey to becoming a financial rockstar or enhance their current financial plans.

Despite the awesomeness this project produced, it also served as a valuable learning experience. The things I took away from this project will definitely shape future efforts for The #BuildWealth Movement™.

Learning #1: People don’t value free financial planning information.

Learning #2: More people commented on my videos about how much my hair grew over 2020. (As a result of the pandemic, I didn’t spend much time in the barbershop during the year) Many of those same people never attended a session.

Learning #3: Even when you’re a credible person who is adequately licensed and has over a decade-plus experience within the industry, people will still think you’re a snake oil salesperson if you’re giving something away for free. 

Learning #4: People will get to work on their financial plan when THEY are good and ready. Many people registered for multiple sessions throughout the year and never attended. I guess they think waiting is the answer to their financial struggles. (Insert slapping yourself in the face emoji)

Learning #5: I have a gift. That gift lies in my ability to break down the complexities of financial planning in a way that is easy to digest. I also sprinkle in a bit of humor, which always goes over well with any audience. And lastly, the activity that I conducted during those 1-hour sessions blew people’s minds! (Multiple people gave me that feedback after the sessions)

I thoroughly enjoyed this Project 100 experience. I haven’t the slightest clue what wild ideas my brain will draw up next, but I know that I will act on it when it happens. Plus, I feel really good inside because I was able to impact so many lives. I may not always get validation from people after a session, but I know that my message was and is being shared with hundreds of people that I’ll probably never have the chance to meet. That’s why I do what I do.

I’ll conclude with this. Suppose your organization (not-for-profit or for-profit) is looking for a dynamic speaker who can assist you with your financial education efforts. In that case, I’d love to connect and take you through the workshop that so many experienced in 2020. Just send your request to

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.

credit explained

Credit Should Have Been Explained This Way

Credit is really, really important. Don’t agree? Take a look at the United States National Debt figures. This country wasn’t built on paying for things with cash. Yes, our government hasn’t done the greatest job of managing debt over the years. The inability to effectively manage it has had a lasting impression on individuals when it comes to managing their credit.

For starters, most people have serious trouble defining credit. If someone were to ask you what credit is, would you be able to rattle off a simple definition? If not, don’t worry. Credit can be summed up with this acronym, O.P.M. (Other People’s Money). Simple right? Depending on what source you reference, you may see a definition similar to this; credit is the customer’s ability to obtain goods or services before payment, based on the trust that payment will be made in the future. But why is something so fundamental to our country’s existence such a misunderstood concept?

The Urban Financial Services Coalition (San Francisco Bay Area chapter) was hosting a workshop on understanding the importance of credit. During the Q&A portion, a young man wanted to comment on how he learned about credit. He stated that his story was simple and one that should be shared with everyone. The young man’s story starts with him being in college, and his mailbox was full of credit card offers. He knew that establishing credit was essential but didn’t know the first thing about it. Up to this point, he only heard something like how credit was bad and that you should avoid at all cost. Note: for those of you who believe that, please consider changing your opinion. The young man decided that he needed to seek counsel as it applied to get this credit card, and he reached out to someone he knew was good with money – – his mother. Note: when seeking financial advice, please consider a professional or, at minimum, someone who is good with money.

During this brief 10-minute conversation with his mother, the young man learned how to ensure that his credit would always remain stellar. His first question to his mother dealt with which card he should select and from which financial institution. He had offers from both banks and credit unions. His mother said pick the card that you think looks the coolest. Why on earth would she say that? The mother knew that any financial institution sending such mail wouldn’t offer a college student any great credit card deals. It would be their basic student card, which probably wouldn’t have an annual fee. And for applying, they would probably get a t-shirt or some other tchotchke.

The young man didn’t think picking a card was that easy and expressed to his mother that he “heard” that he should be concerned about the interest rate before applying for a credit card. The mother gave him a great lesson about interest that all should take heed. The interest rate will never apply to you if you pay off your bill in full each month. In case you missed it, it’s worth repeating. THE INTEREST RATE ON A CREDIT CARD WILL NEVER APPLY TO YOU IF YOU PAY OFF YOUR BALANCE IN FULL EACH MONTH.

Reader Challenge: Go out and survey 10 people. Ask the question: What is the biggest thing for you to consider when shopping for a new credit card? The chances are that 8 or 9 out of the 10 people you ask will say the interest rate is THE most important thing. The sad thing is, if the interest rate is their top concern, then they have already lost. They tell you that they don’t manage money well and are okay with overspending/living above their means and, as a result paying their financial institution more money than they deserve.

Next, the young man asked his mother how he should use his brand new credit card. She said to make a few small purchases each month and pay off the balance in full when receiving your statement. She informed him that his credit limit would probably be pretty low (it was $200) since he was new to credit, plus the fact that he was a college student. And unless it was a real emergency, he should NEVER get close to that $200 limit. She reminded him that spending on a credit card is like getting a 30-day, interest-free loan. If you don’t pay off your balance in full, that dreadful interest will most certainly kick it. She went on further to explain that as a result of him sticking to this simple process, the financial institution would probably raise his limit. She warned him that just because they raise his limit doesn’t mean he should spend more. He should stick to his simple plan of making a few small purchases each month and pay off the balance in full, no matter how high is limit may become.

As a result of that conversation with his mother, the young man never had credit issues. Of course, his mother didn’t share with him all the moving parts when it comes to credit; like there being 3 credit bureaus, the credit score and how all 3 bureaus report it different, how your credit score is calculated, why checking your credit report from all 3 bureaus each year is critical, etc. The biggest thing the mother did for this young man was keeping it super simple. Many of us tend to complicate financial matters, causing a ton of stress in our lives. This young man has always viewed credit positively, primarily because his credit was indeed stellar. He learned how it worked and adopted a great habit early on. It also helped that the person he received the advice from was a great steward of credit.

Not all of us will be fortunate enough to have parents who understand credit and how the game works. 

Imagine what if everyone had someone break down credit before getting their first credit card as this mother did for her son. Debt (credit card debt specifically) probably wouldn’t be much of an issue.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.

taking inventory

Taking Inventory

Getting your financial house in order is a goal that most people set for themselves. Of course, not everyone will get things in order at the same stage in life. Like anything else, most people will do things when they are ready, not when some financial professional tells them to do so. Or they will decide to take action as a response to a life event. Here are a few examples.

Let’s say you have a friend (who has young children and a spouse) that passes away unexpectedly. After witnessing that, you decide to get serious about having adequate life insurance to protect your family. Or you have a co-worker who is getting well into their golden years but still HAS to work because they didn’t save/invest appropriately for retirement. Only then do you decide to start taking retirement planning seriously.

No matter your excuse or fear around financial planning, you must take it step by step. You have to crawl before you can walk, and you must walk before you can run.

Completing a personal balance sheet is the “crawl” step that everyone should take. This document, which you can find pretty much anywhere on the Internet, is easy to complete. It’s going to require you to list everything you own (assets) and everything you owe (liabilities). With some basic math (assets – liabilities), you will be able to determine your net worth.

Taking this “inventory” enables you to focus on where you need to start related to your financial plan. Plus, as you continue to move forward with your financial plan, this can serve as your barometer of financial fitness. The goal is to continue to grow your assets while decreasing your liabilities.

Some experts will recommend that you update your balance sheet once a year. However, if you are the type that needs more frequent feedback, perhaps you should consider updating your balance sheet quarterly or twice a year.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.


How to Settle A Negative Account

Many people struggle with debt. Sometimes, you may not be sure how to attack it, especially if you’re delinquent on multiple accounts. Typically, the creditor will make various attempts to recoup the money that is owed to them; however, at some point they may give up and charge-off what you owe them. A charge-off means that the creditor has given up on trying to get the money from you. After that, two things occur…1) they refer the account to a collection agency (either an in-house firm or third party) who then becomes responsible for recouping the money, and 2) it’s reported as a negative item on your credit report.

Trying to settle that account in some form or fashion with any long-overdue account may be your best bet. Sometimes, if an account has gone to collections, they may even send you a letter stating that if you pay 70%-80% of the outstanding balance, then you’re good to go. For example, if you owed $10,000 and you can settle by paying $7,000, then that’s a win!

But if that’s not the case, here are some things you NEED to know about settling an account:

  1. You have rights under the Fair Credit Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA). Sometimes creditors and collectors can appear to be a nuisance, but keep in mind they are just doing their job. However, they have guidelines that they must adhere to and being abusive and or harassing is a big no-no.
  2. Make them validate the debt. Collection agencies purchase debt from the original creditor or they are working on behalf of the original creditor. If the collection agency contacts you and asks for repayment, ask them to verify that you owe the money. Per the FDCPA, collection agencies assigned a debt are not the creditor; therefore, they cannot prove that you owe the money. Why? Simply because you never signed a contract with them. However, there is one exception; if the agreement you signed with the original creditor has the insertion “…debtor agrees to be responsible for payment of this debt to a creditor or its assigns”.
  3. Build rapport with your creditors/collectors. Dealing with creditors and collectors can be intimidating, but you created the debt and owed the money. Explain to them that you’re unemployed or that an unexpected death or illness has occurred. They need to know something and understand that life happens, but leaving them in the dark about your situation is NOT the thing to do.
  4. If negotiating payment arrangements, make sure you have the money! Having the money to negotiate with is essential. Knowing this dollar amount will allow you to discuss a realistic payment schedule that fits your spending plan. Also, the terms you discuss will, of course, need to be acceptable to your creditor.
  5. While negotiating, keep your emotions in check. Again, your creditor has a job to do, and you owe the money. But they will be more willing to listen to you if you stay cool, calm and collected during the entire process.
  6. DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! You must get everything in writing once you have negotiated a settlement payment or plan. Once that’s complete, ask your creditor to fax, scan/email or mail the plan to you.

The #BuildWealth Movement® works tirelessly to Disrupt Generational Poverty® for everyone so their kids, kids, kids can live a life of privilege.