Three months ago Prudential Financial released a report saying that about 78 percent of Blacks feel that financial service companies "have not effectively engaged the African-American community." But today, that study is making headlines again as critics are claiming that financial “sales and marketing people haven’t made the effort to cultivate and understand the Black market.”
Entrepreneur and financial coach Charlotte Stallings, however, says that we as African-Americans need to stop pointing the finger about programs.
“To cast blame says that one party, one entity, one group is responsible, and I wouldn’t say that. Everybody is responsible. I’m responsible for my well-being and you’re responsible for yours,” she tells BET.com.
Stallings worked at American Express for over 20 years, and as the company’s former vice president of investment strategies and as their national spokesperson on women and investing issues, she trained investors. Stallings now serves as president and owner of Getting Smart! LLC, where she coaches people on how to be more effective in “keeping their own dollars and growing their money and reaching retirement.”
The one-woman financial advice powerhouse does believe that there has not be a large effort by financial service companies to reach out and help African-Americans, but she also believes that Blacks need to be more proactive with their financial futures themselves too.
“There is a relationship between knowledge of investing and saving for retirement. The more knowledge people have for investing, the more they reach out. We’ve got to reach out,” she says. “Read, go to seminars, grab the magazines, read the Kiplinger’s, read the money [section], listen to what’s happening on TV. Take it all in and reach out to the advisors.”
Though the Prudential study states that mistrust serves as the main reason African-Americans don’t seek the help of financial professionals−whether it be at a bank or private institution−Stallings believes that we need to get past that.
“I’m not a physician. Maybe you are and you can doctor on yourself, but I’m not,” she says. We can take some remedies if we have a headache or something is hurt or bruised and hold that a bit until we go to the doctor, but why would we want to do that with the biggest most important thing? Our financial future.”
There are many advantages of speaking with a financial professional about your monetary future. Stallings explains that:
1) They can help to educate you about the myriad terms and information, products and tools on the market.
2) If working with the right person, they can empathize and can understand your financial hardships in order to offer suggestions.
“We’ve got to decide that we just can’t blanket and whitewash and say that we can’t trust everybody out there,” says Stallings. “We’ve got to decide there are people that we can trust and who are concerned about our futures.”
Stallings suggests seeking out colleagues, friends, neighbors, relatives, congregants, fraternity brothers and sorority sisters. Ask them, “Who do you work with? How is it working? Are they helping you to reach your goals?”
Like the start of every relationship, go in with your best foot forward, ask questions, interview the financial professionals. If it doesn’t work out, pick up your things and seek out the next person.
In reality, Stallings says that you’ll find out, “I’d do better with a couple of people helping me [financially] versus trying to do this on my own.”
(Photo: Courtesy of Charlotte Stallings)