Consumers spent a record $68.9 billion over Thanksgiving weekend, according to research firm Consumer Growth Partners. However, a local financial advisor flipped Black Friday on its head by encouraging consumers to invest rather than spend.
George Acheampong created Black Wealth Friday, a new initiative to mobilize and empower people of color to invest 10% of the money they would normally spend on Black Friday through the guidance of his investment advisory firm, Capitalwize. Nearly 250 people invested more than $600,000 during the inaugural campaign.
Why it matters: In the U.S., the racial wealth gap between people of color and white people continues to grow. By 2043 — when it’s projected that people of color will make up a majority of the country’s population — the wealth gap between white families and Black and Latino families will have doubled, on average, from about $500,000 in 2013 to over $1 million.
According to the Institute for Policy Studies, it would take 228 years to eliminate the wealth disparities between Black and white families. That’s just 17 years shorter than the 245 years of slavery in this country.
I recently spoke with Acheampong, who is approaching a decade as a financial literacy expert, about the importance of the Black Wealth Friday movement.
Q. Why did you create Black Wealth Friday?
This was a combination of being in the industry for so long and seeing a lack of representation. While there are more financial literacy thought leaders now, there is still a gap in actual firms.
I asked myself: How can I bridge the gap between information that’s out there, but also give people access to a Black-owned firm that could help people make these investment decisions?
In 2017, I started a movement called Melanin Money with the purpose of bringing awareness to people of color around building wealth. The idea was to encourage people to invest their next $1,000 in the stock market. If 100,000 people do that, we would create $100 million in new wealth over time. So I thought, what else can we do?
What came to mind was the question, “What prevents people from investing?” Either they spend too much or don’t know about investing. When people spend a lot of money, it’s usually on Black Friday, so we can’t say that the money isn’t out there. It’s maybe being used for consumption rather than building assets.
When working as a financial advisor for a major financial services firm, I found myself serving people who were wealthy and who would already be well off. In my circle, I wanted to be able to serve people I care about. I wanted to educate people.
“Makes Cents 2 Me” was born after branching out from the company I was working for and pivoting to serve the people I care about. It was about creating practical content about your spending decisions. This brand grew into the registered investment advisor firm in 2017 and eventually into Capitalwize. Merging with my business partner, we were able to keep the educational literacy alive in a learning library on the website.
Q. How does Capitalwize work?
In the investment advisory space, you have independent IRAs and broker dealers. Typically what you see is a handful of companies where the assets are being held.
Firms like Capitalwize form a partnership with these companies to control, manage and trade the accounts. However, our firm does not maintain custody of the assets (your money). Partnering with larger firms adds another layer of protection for the investors. Capitalwize has an institutional relationship with several broker dealers, but specifically with Black Wealth Friday, we used Betterment Advisors.
People are able to open an account by way of our firm, and our firm is able to pick a globally diversified portfolio of Exchange Traded Funds (ETFs). ETFs are funds with many different investments inside of them. (For example, if Footlocker in SouthPark Mall closes down, SouthPark Mall as a whole does not close down.) Instead of investing in Apple, you might invest in a technology ETF, which has 20 technology companies inside. If one of those companies fail, you’re still investing your money in a viable fund. This way, we are able to offer portfolios that provide both diversity and protection.
Q. How many people invested on Black Wealth Friday? How many were first-time investors?
From Black Friday to Cyber Monday, roughly 250 people invested over $600,000. We know that many of them were first-time investors, but this is not yet quantifiable.
On BWF, nearly 97% of investors were African American. We knew representation was a huge part of this. We knew that if people saw someone they knew they could trust and knew what they were talking about, they would actually make the move to start investing.
Q. What did you learn in this process?
If you educate people properly, and you have some verifiable credibility, then people will take action.
Saying Black people won’t invest in other Black people is just not true. You have to 1) put yourself out there in a way that people can understand what you’re trying to do, and 2) make it easy for people to do. We tried our best to make it simple to invest with us.
We had to think through how this would be scalable. For example, we created a video walkthrough and streamlined how people could create their accounts to mitigate bottlenecks. If you take the time to make it simple, people will show up.
Christine is a local government professional with a love for the community. In her spare time, she volunteers, travels, enjoys good southern food and loves seeing urban policy theory play out in everyday life. Public service is her jam.