Workshop participants at the August 2016 National Association of Black Journalists convention (Photo courtesy Bonnie Newman Davis)
Since 1991, I have attended the National Association of Black Journalists convention. NABJ, the largest journalism organization in the world for people of color, provides education and leadership skills for its approximately 3,000 members.
In my early years of convention attendance, I sought sessions where panelists gave advice about being a better writer, editor, producer or manager. Later, when the journalism industry contracted, I chose workshops focused on digital media, entrepreneurship and personal matters such as health and money.
During NABJ’s recent gathering in Washington, D.C. (Aug. 3-7), I sat in on the session “Getting Your Financial House in Order.” The room was filled, mainly with female journalists and communicators, and among the panelists was J.B. Bryan, president and chief investment officer of the J.B. Bryan Financial Group Inc., with offices in Richmond and Washington.
I was glad to see Bryan, who had helped me make sound investment decisions during the mid-1990s. It’s no surprise that she was greeted warmly by the crowd. A recent article reports that women will control two-thirds of the nation’s wealth by 2030, and most women will at some point in their lives be the sole financial decision makers in their households.
While listening to Bryan “preach” the benefits of making wise financial decisions at any age, I reflected on how she had been perhaps the third woman in my life to advise me about saving and investing.
The first nuggets of financial wisdom came from my mother, Dorothy Chavis Newman. My mother grew up in a rural North Carolina community during the Great Depression. She was the oldest daughter of 10 children. By the time she married and had five children of her own, my mother was as well-schooled in money matters as anyone. Generous in heart and a giver, she was frugal by nature. Dorothy knew how to turn a dollar into another dollar.
“Every time you get a raise, save it,” were Mother’s simple words of advice, which I followed for many years.
The second woman who offered me financial advice was Louise Seals, one of my former newspaper editors. A few weeks after I was hired, Seals, whom I barely knew, asked whether I had enrolled in our company’s employee thrift plan. I had no clue what she was talking about, but I had sense enough to find out.
From that point on, I invested in my employer’s voluntary savings plan and paid attention when my colleagues talked about stocks and earnings reports. I carefully watched what I spent, a habit that paid off in subsequent years during brief bouts of unemployment. I paid off a small student loan on time, soon followed by a final payment on my 1979 yellow Toyota Corolla. I only purchased sale items or shopped at discount clothiers. I mostly did my own hair and cooked my own food. I rarely had to pay for disposable-income items such as movie and concert tickets because I reviewed many as a journalist and my employer picked up the tab. Over time, my savings grew, allowing me to work part time several years later when my daughter was born and I was approaching a divorce.
During the NABJ session on finance, I was surprised when a 40ish woman who works in television admitted that she had not reviewed her company-issued 401(k) retirement savings plan in several years.
Bryan was silent for a few seconds before responding. “You’re afraid of something,” she said to the woman.
I later asked Bryan about her statement. “Less than half of women who work participate in their company’s investment plans at the levels they should,” she says. “Others become blind to where their money is being invested or haven’t developed a relationship with financial advisers.”
She says it’s a good idea to review your financial statements each time they are issued. You should also keep them organized and in a secure location.
The goal, Bryan stressed, is financial independence, not retirement, particularly for women, who tend to outlive men.
Dalal Maria Salomon is CEO and founder of Salomon & Ludwin LLC, a Richmond investment and financial firm. Many of Salomon’s clients are women who are going through a divorce or widows who relied on their spouses to make financial decisions.
Salomon’s firm also has a multigenerational arm for families — grandparents, parents and children. “By the time you’re in your 40s, you should have a good relationship with someone you trust,” she says. “A professional financial planner can help older clients become better stewards of their money.”
For younger women, Salomon notes, it’s important to participate in an employer’s savings or investment plan at work, “which can be a gift if it’s a matching plan.” Young women should also focus on budgeting and keep track of their spending with personal finance programs such as Quicken. That way they can start an emergency fund (at least six months of income) or save for a down payment on a house, she says.
Bryan and Salomon believe that income should never be a barrier to saving.
“I have found that it’s really not about how much you make, but it is what you do with your income,” says Bryan. “That means learning to live within, and hopefully below, your means — comfortably — so that you can begin investing for financial independence.”