My parents divorced when I was 7 years old. Though we were never rich, there was a basic sense of financial security when my parents were together.
After my parents’ divorce, the lean times began.
As my mother worked impossible hours for our survival, I must confess, I didn’t understand her motivation then. It is only when I grew to be an adult that I truly got the whole picture — her reason for working so hard was just to get us through the financial storm raging around us. Hopefully, to a better place.
My mother worked multiple jobs and went to college at the same time because she felt that having an education would improve our circumstances. As I got older, I began understanding that, as a woman of color, I was more likely to be poor than my white counterparts.
Women and Finance: The Sobering Financial Statistics
That’s what I gathered from numerous reports on the subject. The nightly news often highlighted stories of single moms struggling and the real possibility that their children might find it extremely difficult to move beyond their circumstances.
And then the financial statistics only grew more and more bleak. Black Americans represented 23.8 percent of the impoverished population, while representing only 13.2 percent of the overall population, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.
Despite working hard, caring for other people, sacrifice, and struggle, far too many Black Americans live their lives in poverty.
There couldn’t be more demotivating news for someone just entering their adult life. I might as well put my hands up in total surrender, but not me.
Today, the median net worth of Black families is $24,100 according to the Federal Reserve, while the median net worth for white families is $188,200.
I decided then and there that I would prove the naysayers wrong. Ironically, those depressing reports have become my motivators. No, I was not going to be left with just $5 net worth to my credit. So, I began writing about my financial struggles, my debt, and some of the reasons I made the financial mistakes that I did.
I must admit in the initial years, my self-confidence was constantly tested, even shaken, but I kept moving forward. As I wrote more and more about money, debt, and the stress that comes with being indebted, I realized that my story wasn’t a story that resonated just with people of color: My story was — and still is — a universal story.
I learned the value of hard work, focus, and determination from my mother: She also had to deal with naysayers who didn’t believe that she could achieve her financial goals.
I didn’t get it right every time; many things did go wrong with my finances. Besides, I was learning money management from scratch. Every time someone told me that I couldn’t do it, I used their words as motivation to prove them wrong. My naysayers became my biggest money motivators.
Let me tell you, it is not easy to share my financial failings on a weekly basis.
I do it with the hope of empowering others. I share both what I’ve done right, as well as what I have done wrong. Because there are lessons to be learned both in failing and succeeding.
I want everyone who finds themselves in a tight corner to know that they aren’t alone; that it’s possible to change your financial fate in spite of an alarming picture others may have painted of you or your community.
I am not yet where I would like to be financially. But I keep running toward my destination, as I understand that reaching your financial goals is a marathon, not a sprint. I’ll keep you posted on how things go.
Women of Color and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated economic hardship for millions of Americans, but it has disproportionately affected people of color — and Black women are among those hit hardest.
- Black working mothers are more than twice as likely to be responsible for childcare and housework than white working mothers, according to a report by McKinsey and Company. With the transition to remote learning, this has caused a whole new set of challenges that Black working mothers are faced with.
- Working mothers in general were hit hard in 2020. About 17 percent of working mothers have been forced to reduce their hours, according to the same report, and 16 percent had to switch to a less-demanding, lower-paying job as a result of the pandemic.
- Black working mothers, in particular, are disproportionately feeling the effects of balancing their careers and families in 2021. To make matters more difficult, 29 percent of Black working mothers don’t feel comfortable sharing their work-life challenges with their coworkers.
- Additionally, Black working mothers are twice as likely to worry about their performance being judged due to caregiving. About 40 percent of Black women describe themselves as exhausted, while 33 percent are burned-out, and 16 percent experience discomfort sharing the challenges they are facing, according to the survey.
The Bottom Line
These somber financial statistics aren’t going away anytime soon, but they don’t have to ruin our lives. Corporations need to step up and provide assistance in these troubling times. What is needed is understanding, support, and unity.
In the meantime, it’s important to never let financial statistics ruin your life. Embrace them, contest them, and let them make you stronger.