Black first-generation wealth builders need to put on their own financial 'oxygen masks' first


Despite gains in income and wealth for black families in America, white families often have a net worth up to 10 times higher.

Discriminatory financial practices such as redlining or credit discrimination have increased the wealth gap and held black families back from being able to create generational wealth.

Times are changing. Black millennials are one of the first generations to push beyond that wealth gap to find financial success. These first-generation wealth builders tend to be hard workers, and they’re incredibly appreciative of everything that they have. However, as their success grows, the pressure and obligation they feel grows, as well.

As a certified financial planner, it’s my job to help my clients who are first-generation wealth builders.

Many of these wealth builders must learn to embrace their success, build positive financial habits and navigate the many pitfalls and roadblocks that they’ll face throughout their financial lives.

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It’s not a secret that success isn’t always a walk in the park for these first-generation wealth builders. To that point, as their success grows, so do the responsibilities and obligations that come along for them. First-generation wealth builders may put an added level of pressure on themselves as their wealth continues to grow. Many individuals are the first in their family to go to college, earn a high salary or have some disposable income.

Instead of enjoying their success, many feel a sense of guilt. This guilt drives them to step up and find ways to provide for their family (parents and grandparents, for example) and the loving wider black community that helped guide them over the years and get them to where they are today.

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While there isn’t anything wrong with this, of course, it can at times cause financial tension if the person allows the giving back to community to override smart personal financial decisions they need to make for themselves and their own family.

It’s for that reason that I urge these first-generation wealth builders to “put on their own oxygen mask first.”

I’m always reminded of how this well-known instruction for airline passengers also applies to our own financial lives. Before we can help our communities, we have to help ourselves.



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