About 10 years ago, Alice Barnes went to a seminar at her community church called ‘Making Changes in Your Life.’ A representative from Prudential Financial was sharing the company’s plans to recruit people of color so that they could better serve the minority community. The event turned out to be an ‘aha’ moment for Barnes. She had been out of work for about seven months after taking a buyout from JP Morgan Chase when the company moved her wealth management division to another state.
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“I had been doing some soul searching and exploring what I wanted to do,” says Barnes. “Helping my community and becoming my own boss really struck a chord.”
Before long Barnes had her own practice, which has grown to more than 250 clients. As her business grew and she identified clients, she found herself increasingly drawn to black women.
“More than 80% of my clients are black women. Many of them are nurses, some are in finance, and their average annual salary is about $100,000,” she says.
Regardless of income or occupation, Barnes has noticed some similarities between black women when it comes to financial behavior that she feels they need to be aware of. “Black women are the breadwinners in the family, but quite often they’re so busy taking care of others that they don’t take the time to take care of themselves. They don’t get the knowledge and information they need to thrive financially,” says Barnes.
In fact, a Washington Post/Kaiser Family Foundation study found that nearly three-quarters of black women worry about having enough money to pay their bills. Barnes also says many black women have challenges developing confidence and self-esteem when it comes to creating financial wellness.
“Sometimes, it’s unveiling themselves. It’s not so much a reluctance to ask for help; it’s a reluctance to trust. Quite often, black women have been burned by family members or their ideas about money have been deflated by others in the family who want them to do things the same way ‘the family’ has always done it. They have fear and self-doubt when it comes to their ability to make financial decisions.”
Research shows that Barnes’s observations are correct. A study by Prudential Financial, called Financial Experience & Behaviors Among Women, found that African American women are very critical of their debt-management skills, with only 19% giving themselves a grade of ‘A.’
The study also found, however, that 78% of those same women say reducing personal debt is very important, and they have a high degree of confidence they’ll meet their goal. “Black women are like a sponge. They’re very, very open. Once they trust you they’re willing to take action right away. They don’t procrastinate. Once they see a light at the end of the tunnel, they begin to see ways they can build their wealth,” says Barnes.
Barnes is determined to make sure her clients, and the people she engages in workshops and seminars, have the knowledge they need to create a life that represents the unique courage and strength that are the very fabric of black women.
“Many of my clients are millionaires and don’t even realize it. When you look at what they have in retirement, and all of their property and assets, they are millionaires. I always tell them, ‘You are on paper; now you have to feel it.’”
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