Make It Black

What this Black mother is teaching her 2 young kids about finance and life: 'Money is power'

Bola Sokunbi, author of "Clever Girl Finance"
Caroline Beffa

My passion for finance comes from my mother, who struggled as an immigrant with tough financial situations. But she took it upon herself to start saving money after I was born. She never wanted to find herself in a place where she felt financially incapable.

Now that I have kids of my own, I try to inspire them by setting good examples and making discussions about career, race, kindness and finance a consistent part of our culture at home.

My twins — a boy and a girl — are only six years old, but they still have their own challenges. I always remind them about the importance of practice, and that they can achieve anything if they put their minds to it.

Some specific life and money lessons I'm teaching them:

1. Don't just achieve things for yourself; make an impact in the world.

As a Black mother of Black kids, it's my job to help them mentally prepare for a world in which they might be treated unfairly because of their race. I tell them that while this might happen, they must remain proud of who they are, stand for what's right, and call out injustices.

Part of that requires a bit of selflessness. Financial success isn't just about what you achieve for yourself — it's also about how you use that success to help others in your community succeed as well, especially people of color.

I tell my kids, "Money is power." Specifically, it's the power to donate to businesses and support causes that are meaningful to them. It's the power to help their communities in the ways that they choose to. It's the power to create lasting change.

2. Sticking to your budget is the most important thing you can do to manage your money.

When you manage your money with a budget, ever penny is accounted for, and you have full control over how much you spend and how much you save.

My kids love going to the grocery store, but things can get out of hand when they want to buy everything. To teach them about budgeting, I always have them help create the grocery list (based on what we already have at home and what we need) that's tied to a fixed spending amount.

It's fun for them to help fill the cart and add up the prices of all the items. It also gives them perspective as to what we can and cannot afford due to our budget.

3. Always negotiate your salary.

The statistics on the pay gap is depressing. Black women are paid 61 cents for every $1 that their white male counterparts earn. Among all women, the wage gap is smaller — about 80 cents for each $1.

As my kids grow old enough to apply for jobs, I'll start stressing the importance of fighting for the salary they deserve. Your salary is a huge factor in building wealth, because it's essentially the baseline of how much you'll earn over the course of your lifetime.

For now, I'm teaching them what negotiation means, and how it can be applied in their everyday lives. For example, they now negotiate how much iPad time they get on the weekends, based on the chores they complete and how well they behave.

4. Invest in companies you are familiar with and understand.

I love helping my kids understand investing and ownership by buying fractional stocks in companies that they're familiar with. Right now, they love Barbie dolls, Hot Wheels toys, and shopping at Costco. Their favorite sneakers are from brands like Nike and Adidas.

I'm showing them that they can be more just buyers and consumers. They can also be part owners of the companies that create or sell the product they love.

Once a month, we use an app to purchase stocks at their favorite companies. Over, time they're able to track the performance of their stocks, while also learning key investing concepts that will be really valuable as they get older and start investing on their own.

5. Surround yourself with the right influence.

I often explain to my twins that the people and things (including what they read, listen to, and watch) they surround themselves with have a strong impact on not just their lives, but also on their finances.

If you're continuously surrounded by people who think they can never save money, for example, or who can never pay off debt and are all about accepting what life gives them, then you're likely to start thinking the same way —  because there's nothing motivating or empowering you to do better. 

I encourage my kids to constantly do assessments of their inner circle of influence: Who are they spending time with? What are they spending their free time doing? What shifts do they need to make to help them meet their goals?

6. Be grateful for what you have.

I'm teaching my kids about delayed gratification and contentment by not allowing them to buy everything they want now.

This shows them what it means to save over time for something they want to buy. Whenever we go shopping, I involve them in the purchases so they understand the cost of the things they own, and why they can't have everything they want all at once.

I also remind them to appreciate and be grateful for what they have, because not everyone has the same opportunity to own those same nice things.

Bola Sokunbi is a Certified Financial Education Instructor (CFEI), author, speaker, and founder of Clever Girl Finance, a financial education platform and community for women. She is also the author of "Clever Girl Finance: Ditch Debt, Save Money and Build Real Wealth." Follow her on Twitter @CleverGirlCGF.

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