Over the years, I've been asked to address concerns surrounding diversity and inclusion, and the lack thereof, in the financial services industry. As awareness of the financial planning profession continues to spread and we attract more ethnically diverse talent, the challenge continues to be retaining and supporting these thriving professionals.

We'll tackle these issues through 2050 Trailblazers-- my new podcast that directly addresses the lack of diversity in the financial planning profession by engaging industry experts and leaders in conversation to encourage cultural awareness, cultural perspective, and ways to make a measurable impact.
2050 Trailblazers

Ep 006: How To Have Honest Conversations Around Inclusion When Diversity Becomes A Catch All Term

Phuong Luong believes that “diversity” is a catch-all word. She’s not wrong. Diversity movements tend to blanket the advancement of minority genders, ethnicities, and promote all forms of inclusion. If we’re going to move the needle forward and actually make an impact, we have to do several things:
  • Stop using general language to “code” what we actually mean
  • Start communicating clearly and honestly
  • Address code switching in our profession and industry and how we can support one another to empower our authentic selves
  • Understand how redlining and segregation are preventing minorities and people of color from accessing financial planning resources
  • Create space where we can be our authentic selves in this profession
More importantly, it’s time that we all become comfortable with uncomfortable conversations and situations.

In this episode, Phuong and I are discussing how getting comfortable with uncomfortable situations can help us start to have honest conversations about race, look to form authentic connections with our colleagues and clients, and improve both the financial planning profession and the world.

Show Notes:

Music by Chris Morrow 4
Episode Transcript
Rianka: 00:00:00 Hello, Phuong, welcome to 2050 TrailBlazers.
Phuong: 00:00:04 Hi Rianka, happy to be here.
Rianka: 00:00:05 Thank you so much for joining us. I am so excited for the listeners to learn more about you. Just what you've contributed to the profession thus far at such a young age and just being, you know, a career changer into the profession. So I am so excited really to share your story, your knowledge with the listeners.
Phuong: 00:00:28 Thank you so much for having me. Rianka, I have to say, um, you know, you'll, you'll talk about how we know each other, but I have this, I've listened to the podcast and you are a terrific interviewer. I can't believe you only started doing this in March.
Rianka: 00:00:40 Yes, yes, yes, yes. Well, you know, I've had some experience being on the interviewee side, um, a lot and, and I know how it feels, um, to, to be the interviewee. And so it's, it's a huge blessing to be the interviewer to actually, you know, ask those questions. I'm channeling my Oprah, that super soul Sunday. We're sitting in the backyard in those lawn chairs with the big oak tree in the back and you know, the birds chirping in the background.
Phuong: 00:01:15 We're definitely giving you.
Rianka: 00:01:19 Oh yeah. So I already know this interview. Uh, this conversation is going to be powerful. So to catch up the listeners, this is not a Phuong and i's first rodeo together. Um, we've actually known each other for four years. I'm Phuong and I were both FPA diversity scholarship recipients back in 2014 where we won a scholarship to attend the annual conference, registration free, you know, travel, lodging, um, and you know, was presented during one of the sessions, you know, with our contribution to the profession and that was four years ago and Phuong I must say, you know, you've still have continued to just pour into this profession and pour knowledge and just pour your authentic self. So. So thank you for just not stopping four years ago. You are still blazing a trail girlfriend.
Phuong: 00:02:30 Thank you. And I just feel so lucky that I met you then and you're definitely one of those people that encouraged me and motivated me throughout this whole process.
Rianka: 00:02:38 Well, awesome. Well, I'm happy that I could be one of those people for you. So let's, let's jump into your story. We have a ton to talk about. Um, has always with all of my guests. It's just so much. So let's see what we can get through. So let's, let's just start with you like, you know, um, I, I recall when we first met you are just like, you know, you found the world of financial planning like this wasn't your first career, so let's just start there.
Phuong: 00:03:06 Absolutely. So I actually started my working career as a teacher. I was a math and special education teacher. Um, I got my elementary teaching certification in college through a teaching education program. And so I graduated with a sort of certification and I taught math for a year and then I went to Grad School for Special Ed and then I taught in public schools for about five or six years. In different roles, but the role I held the longest was as a special ed teacher, um, and I worked with students with learning disabilities, I taught in Cambridge Public School for several years, and that's where I ended my career. Um, as a teacher there, I might go back some day, but right now I'm very happy as a financial planner and it sounds like a big jump, but for people that know me, I, uh, I'm a personal finance nerd and I've been a personal finance nerd my whole life, even when I was a kid.
Phuong: 00:03:58 And so when I was looking for a career outside of teaching, when I decided to leave it, it made a lot of sense to go into some kind of financial profession. Um, but I was really wrapping my head around what do I do? You know, I, I actually thought about accounting as a kid. Um, and, and when I did some searching, I read a lot of books, a lot of career books. Um, I stumbled on this financial planner thing and I didn't really know what it was. Um, but I, uh, I actually found something called the glove sski scholarship through Boston University or actually got my masters in education, um, and it was a scholarship for um, people from diverse communities or people working in diverse communities and I was like, wait a minute, there's a, there's a scholarship like this for me. Okay. It sounds like there's movement in the profession for more people like me. Um, so that actually that, that sparked my interest in financial planning again, and I started going to a information sessions to learn about the scholarship but to also learn about financial planning programs and I decided to enroll in Boston University's program in 2012 and I graduated 2014, took the CFP exam that year and I'm here I am.
Rianka: 00:05:20 So wow. So you had a fast track into just being immersed into the financial planning world. So you founded in 2012, you went through the classes, graduated 2014, took the exam in 2014 passed, got the diversity scholarship in 2014. And so you are just like blazing a trail of just like, alright, I'm going full in.
Phuong: 00:05:46 Yeah, it definitely sounds like that, but I'll tell you, I there, that those last two years I was working full time as a teacher. I was doing the online financial planning program. Uh, I was studying for the exam and I were working part time as a financial coach with a nonprofit in Boston so that, it sounds like a fast time and those years definitely flew by, but I was working really hard working really, really hard during this time. It's just like many other financial planners are doing as they're studying while they're working, but I don't regret any of it. I remember there were definitely moments during that where I was like, what am I doing? Why am I not outside right now? I was in during evenings, weekends, and I really wanted to finish it. And I think part of it is because, um, you know, digging a little deep into, into why I left teaching too
Rianka: 00:06:43 Phuong, so you were teaching it, it sounds like you, there was a lot of passion around that. You mentioned while you were teaching, you started part time working at a nonprofit as well. Uh, and so what was that transition like for you to transition from full time teaching now into, and if I can recall correctly then you started working full time for the nonprofit.
Phuong: 00:07:06 Yes, that's exactly right. Um, I, I started working part time while I was teaching because I, I still, I wanted to see is this the progression for me and can I actually be a financial professional and I wanted to try it on. Um, and so the reason I started making that shift is because just teaching wasn't the career that I thought it was going to be, you know, I, I have so much respect for teachers, so much respect for educators of all at all levels, but for me, I went into it from a social justice mindset. I wanted to increase the opportunities for the most of our most vulnerable students and that included students of color, um, and I want to be the best teacher possible for them. And that's why I got my masters in special education. Um, and the last two years that I worked, I actually was a co-teacher.
Phuong: 00:07:59 So I actually went in, I taught everyday in the classroom with another math teacher and I, I got, I got my math certification as well, so we were teaching together. So actually some of the students in my class, I was, um, that were on my caseload or that I was in charge of, um, didn't know I was a special educator actually, I was seamlessly in there with them. I'm teaching all students. I really want to increase the opportunities and I'll, you know, without going into too much detail, I, I felt that the way education was being run and, and this is not just in the town where I was teaching, but around the country, there's so much testing. Um, and also my last year, and this is how does it happen in several years, uh, before when I was teaching at another school district, um, April came around and it was time for the sixth graders were who I was teaching to graduate.
Phuong: 00:08:52 So, uh, so is there time to graduate and um, we were told by my co teacher and I were told that we had to track the students into advanced math or regular math and that would, those are the labels that were chosen and, and again, you know, like this, this keeps happening, this keeps happening where we're, we're copying and mirroring the divisions in society based on who has opportunity, who doesn't have opportunity into advanced math classes and regular math classes and this was sprung on us and the students and the families at the very end of the year. And this happens all the time, you know, the idea of tracking. Um, and so, uh, it was really tough and you can imagine who you know was tracked into which place and, and it mirrored the students that I was in charge of as a special educator.
Phuong: 00:09:41 I'll say that every, almost every year that I was working in special Ed, the students that were labeled with having learning disabilities were people who were students of color were typically male. And we're, we're typically coming from low income backgrounds. Those three things. And sometimes, and, and this, this is not just me saying this, but you know, this is actually shown in the research that students of color, especially males and especially students of low income are over identified as having learning disabilities and it stays with you and it's actually especially even harmful, especially harmful when you actually don't have a learning disability. And I found that to be the case sometimes I was in charge of their testing. Um, I would have to give them regular evaluations as a special educator to see if they're making progress. And oftentimes I would find student didn't actually have a reading disability or didn't actually have a math disability or writing disability.
Phuong: 00:10:39 They just learn differently. Or maybe they were behind and content or reading. But it wasn't because they had a disability based on my training. Because I was so new, I was, I stayed to the book and I was doing the tests and I was using everything I learned in Grad school. But what I did not learn in Grad school that I had to learn for myself, which has served me in the financial planning profession as well, are the economic inequalities that exist in this country that manifest themselves in our schools and in our workplaces and everywhere we exist because we don't talk about them as openly as we need to and we don't learn about them and we don't know how to talk about them. So that's what I'm trying to do now. Um, and it's been amazing as a financial planner because now I actually have the financial vocabulary to talk about it too. And I can talk about the details of how wealth has been created and how wealth is maintained amongst certain communities around the tax code, around different retirement planning strategies, estate planning strategies. It's so interesting. Every, you know, I'll, I'll, I'll, I said before how much work it was, but I'll say there were moments during the CFP program where I would just have to pause and say that's how they did it. That's they did it. And I say they
Phuong: 00:11:54 because I don't know. I, I, I grew up personally for low income family, um, my family immigrated here from Vietnam in the eighties and we came with very little savings, um, if any. And we struggled and we had to work and I grew up on public benefits. I went to public schools, great schools. I grew up in Brooklyn, New York, but I felt ashamed to talk about my family, you know, and, and, and what we didn't have. Um,
Phuong: 00:12:26 and I, when I reflect on why I felt ashamed, yeah, it was because I was internalizing all the messages that society was giving us at that time. Yeah. And, and, and I can talk more about that and what those messages are that existed in the eighties when I was growing up, but that are currently existing for low income families today.
Rianka: 00:12:46 Yeah, no, let's talk about it. I mean, you, you, you've said a couple of things that I want to unpack. One of the, one of the things is, you know, when you were going through the CFP or the certified financial planner, uh, you know, just classes and you mentioned that you had to pause a couple of times and reflect and say that's how they did it. And so what did you mean by that?
Phuong: 00:13:15 Can I give you an example?
Rianka: 00:13:16 Yes, please.
Phuong: 00:13:18 And it's still talk. I tell this to people and I'll say that maybe like two out of three people I tell this too don't know, don't know that this exists. So my biggest A-ha moment was I'm reading about the tax exemption that homeowners get on the appreciation of their home that if you've lived in your home, um, consecutively over the last, uh, oh, cumulatively, cumulatively over a two out of the last five years. And this was in 2014 that I was reading this. Um, and we could actually double check this, right?
Rianka: 00:13:59 Yeah, and we know, 2018, there is new tax laws, but based on, based on my knowledge of the 2017 textiles, yeah, it's uh, I, I think I know which, which tax exemption that you're talking about, but we can definitely explain for the listeners
Phuong: 00:14:13 that if I'm a single homeowner and I get $250,000 excluded from my taxes on, on any appreciation in my home. So let's say I bought a house for $100,000. I'm going to explain this for any listeners in the public. I know we're probably listening. I'm sending this podcast to to people aren't financial planners.
Rianka: 00:14:31 No, that's awesome. We need everyone and not just financial planners to listen to this.
Phuong: 00:14:36 So you buy your home. Let's say I bought my home for 100,000 dollars in 1950 and I picked that year for the reason I bought it in 1950, 100,000 dollars and today it's worth $350,000 and I decided to sell it. I don't get taxed on any of that gain and that's a lot of appreciation.
Phuong: 00:14:52 And, and, and it's doubled if you are selling it as a couple.
Rianka: 00:14:56 So as taking a step back really quickly, basically what Phuong is saying is that you buy the home for $100,000 and it has appreciated, meaning the value has increased over the past, call it 68 years. So here we are in 2018, now it's worth 200, excuse me, $350,000. If you are a single, classified in the IRS law, as a single tax payer, meaning you check the box as single, not married, filing jointly, then you will receive a $250,000 tax exemption, which means you can sell this home, you can sell this home for $350,000, make a profit of 250,000 and do not owe taxes on it because of the exemption. And then Phuong you mentioned if you are married filing jointly, the exemption actually is doubled to $500,000.
Phuong: 00:15:59 Exactly, yes. You explained it perfectly and I didn't know about this. Uh, and, and I think back in, you know, how come I didn't learn about this? Well, my parents had never owned a home. We moved here and we've been renters our whole lives that we live in New York City. It was very difficult for us to buy a home. Um, and, and, and I mentioned 1950 because, you know, it was during those years in the forties, fifties, sixties that, um, you know, this idea of home ownership exclusion started really getting huge. And so this is a piece of history that I'll start getting into and I'll try not to get too economic here. Um, but I have
Rianka: 00:15:59 No, bring it, tiny, bring it.
Phuong: 00:16:45 Okay. Yeah. I. So now I'm going to, I'm going to start talking about, um, wealth gap data, right? Like wealth equity data and so in, in the fifties, sixties, forties, fifties and sixties. Um, the federal government, the US federal government did a huge program to try to reach millions of people who could buy homes. And actually, I don't know the exact number there, but, but what I do know is that trillions of dollars were lended out in mortgages and low cost mortgages, um, at the time and only, let's say, like one to two percent of that, of those, the money that was lended to lended was a lending to people of color. Wow. Most of the homeowners were white. And so, and so I'm staring. I'm just sharing the outcome of this because then we think, oh, wait a minute. So why, how did that happen?
Phuong: 00:17:37 Right. Um, and I, and, and I don't know, but I don't know if this comes as a shock to most of your listeners, but it came as a shock to me a few years ago when I learned about this and I, and I felt embarrassed that I didn't know about this until, you know, I was already a graduate from College, Grad School. I was a teacher for several years. I started working with people of color as a financial coach. And I still didn't know this until a person of color in my workplace sent me this, this article. And I thought, so how did I go through this entire education system in America and not know it's such a huge wealth building event for so many Americans. And so, so what, you know, it wasn't by accident that this happened, that so many people of color were excluded from buying homes. This was a explicit government action.
Rianka: 00:18:22 Yeah.
Phuong: 00:18:22 It was written in the deeds that the house could. So in order for developers to be able to build this many homes for purchase, it was written in the contracts and in the deeds that the homes could not be sold to black people.
Rianka: 00:18:22 Wow.
Phuong: 00:18:39 And then they could not be rented to black people either.
Rianka: 00:18:43 You know, Phuong, this brings up a really great point of, um, you know, for the people who just don't understand how this wealth gap, um, started and um, you know, it sounds like also this has falls right in line with red lining, which we'll definitely share. Like what that means, John Taylor, who is the president and founder of the national community reinvestment coalition, um, he mentioned in an article that I will make sure that's in the show notes that talks about red lining. He says, and I quote, I think most people believe the problem is not with the rules, but what the people, most middle class whites in America don't have empirical observations of what happens in underserved neighborhoods or understand the historical treatment of poor and minority communities. And so basically Phuong what you are explaining right now is this is not even the inception of the wealth gap as we know the wealth gap started long ago, but there has been moments in history were there could have been a positive actions to happen to help the disenfranchised, but instead more just rules.
Rianka: 00:20:13 So, so when we say systematic racism, yes, this is what we mean.
Phuong: 00:20:19 Yes,
Phuong: 00:20:21 yes. And it continues on, right? And so we see that thread, we see the homeownership exclusion. And so when I talk, when we share that example about $100,000 home, that's all, that's all much houses were going for back then. And now in these same towns, houses are selling for 350, 400,000 and, and, and, you know, is it, is it as easy as back then to get into them? No, it's not, because of the different down payment assistance programs that were available back then in income inequality is at an all time low of all time high I should say. So incomes are at a low, but in income inequality is at a high between, between different races and genders. Um, it, it, and it perpetuates itself in the tax system. Um, and it's just this thread that I was putting together. I was putting it together from history that I was reading. I was putting it together from the financial planning curriculum that I was learning and putting that together, you know, it was, it was, it lit so much fire in me to, because I just saw it on the paper how concrete and how systematic and how structural. The issues really are. And I think financial planners, once we know, once we, all of us know and agree on the history, we can be really powerful in changing these systems.
Rianka: 00:21:39 So let's talk about history real quick. So, um, so for those who do not know what red lining is as a financial planner and just as an American citizen, I think you just need to know this. Again, all this information will be in the show notes if you don't know where to find the show notes, go to 2050trailblazers.com. So in the 1930s, the government surveyors a graded neighborhoods and 239 cities, they basically color coded them green for the best blue for still desirable yellow for definitely declining and read for hazardous. And the red line area areas where the ones were local lenders discounted as credit risk in large part because of the residents, uh, racial and ethnic demographics and background. So they. And they also took into account local amenities and home prices. And I'll share this in the show notes with this particular article where it says neighborhoods that were predominantly made up of African Americans as well as Catholics, Jews, immigrants from Asia and southern Europe were deemed undesirable. So basically anyone who was not northern European White was considered to be a detraction from the value of the area. And this is from research. This is data, this is facts. This is like, these are facts, this is not our opinion. Opinion, this is not an opinion. These are facts. And if you are listening to this with your mouth, open wide, good because you're learning and you're listening.
Phuong: 00:23:29 Yeah, that's a key piece of wealth, how wealth has been built in this country and so, you know, connecting to this history. And that's just even one piece. That's just one one. So,
Rianka: 00:23:46 so we've already talked about from, from a wealth gap perspective and what we mean by systematic racism. Um, and let's talk about this. Hold on. I'm going to take another step back because another kind of, um, behind the scenes for, for the listeners is that Phuong. And I, as you know, we go way back to 2014, but we've stayed in contact since then and now we're both fortunate to both sit on the diversity advisory group, a board for the center for financial planning. And we were recently having a conversation and Phuong brought up something and Phuong hope you don't mind me sharing this, but you know, you said something that was really just profound and in with something that, you know, someone else from the board kind of, um, Kinda just followed up and mentioned as well, is that, you know, you said seeing the word diversity, it's a catchall word. And so we need to start when we, when we start saying diversity, we need to actually just define it and not be afraid of saying the words, yes. So saying the word diversity, saying the word black, sayin the word Asian, Asian, American, Hispanic or Latina x or Latin x, you know, and saying it because we just have to start being very comfortable in an uncomfortable state because yes, talking about diversity is uncomfortable. And Phuong you, you mentioned someone from the board said the word diversity. Okay. Can she share that with the listeners?
Phuong: 00:25:32 Yes, it was. It was on our committee and someone on our committee who had shared the, something he had read that it was that, um, when a white man hears the word diversity, their stress response actually increases. It starts firing. And so this was research that he had read, um, and it makes, it makes sense to me. I, I, I could see that, you know, and, and if, if that is true, if that research is true, you know, and I'd actually think that it increases the stress response for, for many of us as well, especially people of color when we're in situations with majority white people and we hear diversity or we're sitting in a diversity training and we're. And we're just thinking like, okay, how is this going to go? Um, I think it's because it's, you know, diversity is a catchall word because we were using coded language to talk about issues that are really hard to talk about, you know, and Rianka, you said it.
Phuong: 00:26:27 It's like, let's just use the language that that's clear and that we can all agree on, you know, and it's just instead of saying diverse people are you that, that, that, that language doesn't make sense to me. It's, it's, you know, let's, let's name and it and use the words that people identify themselves as and if we don't know, we can ask them. Um, and, and it's okay to say the word white, you know, white people. I, um, I, I've reflected on this before and, and I've, I've found that it's typically, you know, and it's not just people of Color, uh, I'm sorry, I should say it's not just white people, but sometimes people of color are,
Phuong: 00:27:04 you know, feel uncomfortable or not sure if they can talk about race. Partly let's stay on track with the, um, all the different systems of oppression and we were talking about before part of it. I think it's because race has been used so much to punish people and to hurt people and it still is used today. Um, and so these terms have been weaponized. Alright. But, but I think there is a value. It's, it's, um, you know, I'm using the word as a noun. It's a value in white culture to, in white professional culture, to not talk about race in an open way and that, that, so much so that even though just the word diversity and equity, uh, are being used and, but they're, they're very coded because they hide what we're really talking about.
Rianka: 00:27:54 Let's, let's dig a little deeper with that. What do you mean?
Rianka: 00:27:59 And I want to dig a little deeper, but I do want to share for our listeners. This is the sixth episode, but you'll hear me in like episode one and two hesitate when I say white people because that is, is, that's a stressor for me to say, you know, so I can only imagine what it means for you to say black people or Hispanic people. So I share your discomfort. However, if we're going to move this needle forward, if we're going to make any type of change and not just be talk or ceremonial, if we're going to actually do something, we have to be comfortable with being in a very uncomfortable state for a while. And, and let me express to you what I mean by that. So walking into a room and Phuong, I'm sure you can attest to this, it's almost like code switching and, and we'll, we'll talk about that too because when we walk into a room and we're the only ones or were the only one of five out of 300, which that happened to me a couple of weeks ago.
Rianka: 00:29:17 Um, I'm uncomfortable, I'm uncomfortable, but I've, I've mastered code switching in a sense that you will never know. I'm uncomfortable. Nandita in episode. I think it was three, two or three Nandita Das. She mentioned something where her students who are at Delaware State University, um, majority black students, how they will sit across from a table and majority of the time it's across from a white professional and irrespectful of how uncomfortable they feel. They will always make the person sitting across from them comfortable. And it's like we've been trained as a child to always make other people feel comfortable irrespectful of how we feel. And so coming into this profession, we've mastered that. So w w though we may look comfortable though we may look confident, we are very uncomfortable and so imagine going to a conference for an entire week or three days where you're the only person in the room.
Rianka: 00:30:37 Okay. And person of color, person of color in a room. All right, so that's three to five days of just exhaustion honestly. And, but imagine, you know, as a white professional, you talk about or you say the word diversity or do you say the word black professional or you know, Latin ex professional and you actually stand up and just mentioned and say something to bring awareness and exposure around the need for that. That's only 30 seconds out of your three days. That's only 30 seconds out of your five days that you're actually uncomfortable. I've, I had a conversation with a friend, a colleague, a peer and this person mentioned, cause you know, we were having a really good conversation about this. It was like 10 of us late night around a fireplace, believe it or not. And I asked this person, well why don't you stand up and say something?
Rianka: 00:31:44 Why does it always have to be me? Why does it always have to be another person of color? And this person mentioned because they're uncomfortable and I just left it at that because I didn't want. Again, I'm laughing because I didn't want to make the person feel uncomfortable with my response, you know, because we were in a group and everyone was listening because I didn't want to make this person feel uncomfortable. But what I wanted to say was like, wow, how privileged is that where you will only have to, you know, be uncomfortable for 30 seconds, but little do you know, every time I walk in it's like a state of uncomfortability that I have to mask. So, sorry.
Phuong: 00:32:33 Yeah, completely understand what you're talking about. And I, it took me years and actually the friendships, with other people of color
Phuong: 00:32:40 who have been through this have helped me understand that stress you're talking about, you know, that nervousness. Um, and, and so, you know, you, you, you, you, you probably understand this too, that like when, when we, we had talked about this before, when we talk about code switching, what does that actually mean?
Phuong: 00:33:00 Right? And it's, it's, it's changing your language, your tone, your body language as well. Um, the words you use, your mannerism and your mannerisms when you're speaking to fit the audience that you're talking to. And many times code switching is, it can be a good thing, right? When, as financial professionals, we have to talk to you in many different types of people from many different communities, many different cultures, ethnicities, um, and we're monitoring ourselves and managing our language and our tone and our mannerisms to fit the person across from us because they're our client. But when we have to do that in other professional settings with colleagues or with friends or with a authority authorities, for example, in schools, um, it can get really exhausting like you're talking about, you know, and I think this is something that people who come from dominant cultures are, it's all say a white people, you know, being in a dominantly white communities their whole lives because of red lining, because of segregation, because of many other things.
Phuong: 00:34:06 They don't have the same experience with code switching and the same facility with it. Right. So I, I try very hard to be empathetic here, right. And so like I'm, you know, and, and, but I think at some point I think people resist having to code switch and I think that's, that, that uncomfortableness you're talking about with, with that person you were talking to the fireplace that, that, that's where they came up front with it. But I think I, I want us to continue to expand the conversation so that it's not just on people of color anymore to code switch. It would be so wonderful. Yeah. And I think talking about race and open ways is, is a start is, it's the tip of the iceberg.
Rianka: 00:34:54 I want to recall another moment where I had this A-ha moment and until, I think I spoke with you about code switching, I didn't have a word for it to me. I called myself a chameleon where I just know blend into any environment, but really it's, it's code switching. So another dear friend of mine and she knows who she is. Uh, after she hears this story, um, she, we were at another conference, April was full of conferences for me, um, but we we're at and we're at another conference and um, she came and set a set down with me at a table and she told me she was, she recently listened to the latest episode of 2050 trailblazers and how, um, she was very sad that I couldn't be my full, authentic self in front of her. And I was like, well, what do you mean?
Rianka: 00:35:55 And she's a white professional. And I was like, well, what do you mean? She was like, well, I listened to the podcast and this episode and you were talking about quad a quad a is the Association of African American Financial Advisors and we have a conference coming up in September, so I'll put that in the show notes, a little plug there. But um, she mentioned that she said when you walked into, and this is how she said it, she was like, when you walked into the conference and you saw nothing but black and brown, your shoulders just kind of like, went to. It was kind of like a sigh of relief. Like, oh, I can finally be myself. And I was like, yeah, because I didn't and now I can call it code switching. But I didn't have to be a chameleon. I could just truly, authentically be myself and not have to be judged, worried about being judged because I say y'all instead of you all, um, and, but, and not being judged for the language or the colloquialisms that I used to dictate how smart I am or the knowledge that I have.
Rianka: 00:37:08 And I think with black and Brown people, the reason why we become so technically smart is so that we can counter any thing that you think of us, any type of stereotypes that you think of us, we will always dominate with our technical skills. We will always dominate with our mind because I can. And I love. Oh my gosh, what is her name? I'm Simone Simone Sanders. She's, she, she's a CNN commentator and um, she has uh, a bald cut. Her nails are the most blingish nails I've ever seen. She wears bold lip color and she is unapologetically black. She's unapologetically a black woman and she brings it every week on CNN and you know, she's comfortable in her own skin. Right? And, and it's because, well, I don't want to tell her story. I mean one day maybe she can come on 2050 trailblazers, but you know, but without this, without this podcast, this colleague and I who I do consider my friend. So you are my friend and I will swing my hair if you want me to.
Rianka: 00:38:30 And you know, it, it wasn't until we can have that conversation, it's because of this podcast, we were able to like spark these types of conversations. So I'm very appreciative of, you know, um, you know, guests like you coming on to share their authentic story to give me the opportunity to be comfortable to share these types of stories as well.
Phuong: 00:38:53 Can I say one more point about that too? Yes. That it's not just our perception that we need to code switch. I have been in situations where I have been my authentic self and there has been backlash, or if I talked about race in open ways and had gotten mad with me and upset with me and yelled at me and I'm talking about in the workplace and in public schools, but also at nonprofits that I've worked in, with people that are there to help people of color and to help people with low income.
Phuong: 00:39:23 And we're all there for the same mission. But I have a and I am a fast learner. And so, so are you Rianka and so other people of color because we've had to be for our own safety and for our own careers. Yes. This is not just in our heads,
Rianka: 00:39:39 say say that again,
Phuong: 00:39:40 this is not just in our heads,
Rianka: 00:39:41 we've had to be fast learners for our safety and our career and Phuong you are bringing, bringing so much out of me today. So I, I shared and I think it's going to come out soon, right before or right after this episode airs a little snippet of an extended, uh, audio of Angela and I a conversation.
Phuong: 00:39:41 What a great, it was. Great conversation,
Rianka: 00:40:15 but about failing the CFP exam and what, what that did to my confidence. Like I, I didn't talk too much about it.
Rianka: 00:40:24 I just talked around just being prepared and don't let failing the exam. Be Your Alpha and Omega like that's just, that's just a footnote in your story honestly. But I feared for my career, I, I fear that wow, I won't be seen as smart anymore because now here's this exam that is going to determine if I'm fit for this career or not, which it in hindsight it wasn't, it's just that I wasn't ready. But just like with what you said, like are being fast learn as quick learners, we've had to develop that so that it's for, it's for the safety of our careers and at that moment it was the first time where I failed anything. I've never failed anything in my life like top 10 percent, you know, high school graduate top in my class for, in college, you know, so, but this was the first time I failed Phuong and I was, yeah, it took me awhile to get it together honestly.
Phuong: 00:41:35 And on top of that, a lot of people fail those tests though, you know that. But on top of it you had to contend with all the stereotypes of black women
Phuong: 00:41:48 and that is such a burden on you and that and that and that you compound that with, with, with, you know, not passing the exam with, with your, you know, maybe I'm just guessing here maybe some guilt, maybe some confusion. Maybe, you know, what, what is my identity now as a successful person? Am I just, am I just fitting the stereotype were they were they right. You know, and I've thought all of these too with myself because there are stereotypes of Asian women as well that we're quiet, that we don't have opinions, that we're bad at money, we're bad at driving, you know, all those things that. Yeah. And I've had to contend with the two different ways. Uh, so, so yeah, so it's just, we're having, we're having like two dialogues in our head while we should 100 percent be focusing on this task in front of us, which is the exam and studying for it.
Rianka: 00:42:40 Oh Gosh, yes. Ah, you know, how great would it be if I just had to walk into a room and just be a professional, just be a financial planner professional. Oh my God. How great. How great would that be?
Phuong: 00:42:55 Are we getting into. Are we talking about that? The, the lack of diversity in the profession? Let's talk about it. Yeah. So this committee that, that, that, uh, you know, that your were on it, the diversity advisory committee, this is what we're part of this group to help the CFP. Uh, I'm sorry, the Center for the CFP Board Center for financial planning increase and maintain the diversity of the profession, which is very low right now. Rianka. Do you have the numbers? I think it was 1600 black CFPs.
Rianka: 00:43:26 So yes, the center for financial planning. Actually just released a, um, you know, their research early May they released their research around, um, you know, exploring the lack of racial and ethnic diversity and the financial planning profession and for those who want to see that research, I'll make sure it's in the show notes as well. But basically what they're saying is out of the 80,000 CFP professionals, less than three point five percent are of color and that includes, you know, Asian, black, Latin x, um, and other minority groups. So less than three point five percent, I believe 1200 is African American, 1400 are Hispanic or Latin X. um, and was it 1600 is Asian. Uh, and so yeah, less, less than three point five percent. However, here's the positive, in order to move forward with any type of initiative, if you want to move forward with intention, you have to know where, where you're starting.
Rianka: 00:44:45 And so I'm pretty sure for the CFP board, this was very, very hard to, to look at and, and to also now release to the public because now you're opening yourself to be scrutinized however it they are trying to do something about it. And so what I will ask of my CFP professionals of not just color of my white professionals as well to see this as an opportunity for us to come together and let's do some something about it. Um, you know, have five, 10 year goals, which is something that we're talking about on the board, but there are going to be opportunities for you to raise your hand and say, Hey, I want to do something about it. And when the opportunity comes, I hope you jump at it.
Phuong: 00:45:36 Absolutely. I think. I think that makes that think. That's awesome. Thanks for telling. For sharing that call of action.
Rianka: 00:45:44 Absolutely Phuong. Because one thing I know for sure is that we need more than just people of color doing something about it. And when we say the word diversity, as you mentioned, Phuong earlier, is a catchall word. And I think what we have to do as the, as professionals in this profession is to dig a little deeper. And I've mentioned that in a couple of conferences that I've been at because diversity, uh, typically means gender in the financial planning world because I think we're finally, we're finally comfortable with talking about gender. And so for those who do not know, um, women of the 80,000 CFPs, uh, women are about 23 percent representation of that number. And it has remain. It has remained that percentage for maybe the past 14, 15 years now. Because when the study was first release, I think that was about four years ago when they were saying, you know, it's been the same for a decade.
Rianka: 00:46:48 So yeah, it's been about 14 years. It's been 23 percent. And so we keep honing in on gender diversity. But what I don't want us to forget in this call of action of diversity, let's go a little deeper than just gender diversity. Let's go a little deeper than just masking it as all women because as we are trying to bring more women in the profession, we have to make sure that we're bringing more women of color in the profession as well. And a great example of this and how white women can be, um, champions is this, I want to share a snippet of Octavia Spencer. She was recently on a panel and she was talking about, uh, you know, the, you know, the pay gap that's very apparent across the world, um, but specifically in the entertainment industry in Hollywood. She was talking about how Jessica Chastain said, well, you know what? And Jessica, for those who don't know, as a white woman, she attached her, pay to Octavia Spencer, let's take a listen.
Octavia Spencer: 00:47:59 And then I said, but here's the thing, women of color on that spectrum, we make far less than white women. So we're going to have that conversation about pay equity. We got to bring the women of color to the table and I told her my story and we talk numbers and she was quiet and she had no idea that that's what it was like for women of color and so she probably, I don't know if these are happy tears. I love that woman because she's walking the walk and she's actually talking the talk. She said, Octavia, we're going to get you paid on this film. I said, I would love to do your film, but here's the thing. I'm going to have to get paid, and she said, we're of course, and you and I are going to be tied together. We're going to be favored nations and we're going to make the same thing and you're going to make that amount and fast forward to last week we're making five times what
Octavia Spencer: 00:49:02 Yes, Jesscia Chastain believes
Octavia Spencer: 00:49:04 she is walking the walk. That's great. And we want to. I mean now I want to go to what the men are making. I want to get there, but right now it feels really good just to be in that, right, conversation. So I'm emotional because I haven't had a chance to process it. Um, and it's real. Every woman in here, every man in here, everyone has value and women do have to produce because she's producing this.
Phuong: 00:49:34 No, I, I loved, I loved hearing that story from Octavia and she got really emotional when that went, went when she was sharing it. And it just means so much, um, for that to happen. And, you know, and, and I've, I've read some things about this and what you're talking about, Rianka, you know, it's in economic terms. It's more like a, it's called like intersectional solidarity. Um, when you're not just thinking about one aspect of your identity, you're thinking about multiple because we all have multiple identities were not just a woman, we're women of color. Um, and, and so on, so forth. We're able bodied, we're, you know, we have specific sexual orientation and, and this discussion didn't even go into those different things, on disability or not, but, um, you know, we do need to talk about it. I want to mention it. Um,
Phuong: 00:50:28 yeah, I, it's, it's really hard. It's hard. It's hard to talk about because of how, how many systems and blocks have been put into place based on people's identities, but we're not going to get anywhere if we don't talk openly about it.
Rianka: 00:50:44 And it was on a national platform that, just here recently, and I've been in the profession for about eight, nine years now, but this was the first time that a white woman actually stood on stage and said, um, you know, start talking about diversity, but she called her own self out and she was like, you know, we as white women need to help our sisters. My mouth dropped, my mouth dropped. She's the, uh, the, the CEO of a company, her name is Sallie krawcheck a and um. This white woman is using her platform, have a very powerful platform. And she stood on stage and said, we need to help our sisters out. Yes. I was like, this white woman is woke. Yes. Yes.
Phuong: 00:51:43 Just even just talking about it. Even just talk about like, lifts everybody up. I think.
Rianka: 00:51:49 Do you know, I smiled. I wanted it to tell her thank you. My hand was raised the entire time, like when it was, when it came time for q and a and I didn't get an opportunity to say thank you. So I ran up to her afterwards and I shared that with her, like thank you. Uh, you saw me, you saw the four other women of color who was sitting in this audience of of three, four or 500. You saw us and you said, hey, we need to help our sisters out. And, and I just want to say thank you because you are the first woman. You are the first woman to stand on a national stage and say this out loud,
Phuong: 00:51:49 white woman?
Rianka: 00:52:31 A lot of people, a white woman, first time because it's always on us is always on your Phuong, it's always on my, my colleagues of color to say this, but gosh darn it, can I get a day off when I go to these conferences? Can you just, you know, stand up for me for once
Phuong: 00:52:51 because we're not just. Because we're also getting the possible consequences too. When we talk about this bringing back all the, you know, the potential backlash that you're thinking of that, that we were talking about before, um, there's a, it takes a lot of courage to say it, um, to, to speak openly and, but that's, I think that we're talking about. That's the problem.
Phuong: 00:53:15 We should be able to talk openly and, and it, it makes me think of school, you know, when, when we think about, um, kindergarten through high school and even in college I had no real race education growing up. Most of my teachers were white women and we're talking about how uncomfortable it is for the white community for white communities I should say, to talk about race openly. Well then this, these are the communities that are teaching our children and it's no wonder that we're also wary of using terms that accurately describe what w, who we are, how we identify. It's, it can be very confusing for us, especially those of us people of color, women of color in nondominant cultures. Um, yeah.
Rianka: 00:54:07 I think this is a good segue to go back to what we're chatting about. Really sorry, because that took us on a long tangent.
Phuong: 00:54:14 I love it. I love it.
Rianka: 00:54:15 I'm so sorry, but you, you started pulling things out of me, Phuong. So let's go back to what we were chatting about earlier. So we were talking about, um, just the systemic-ness of building the wealth gap and we were talking about the tax exemption. Then we started talking about red lining, educating the listeners on what that was and still affects communities today.
Phuong: 00:54:47 Yes. I actually went to a talk last night. I, uh, the author of a recent book called the color of law that outlines the entire history of redlining and housing segregation that was designed by the US government in the 20th century. Um, his author is Richard Rothstein, um, and there was a q and a at the end with other community with the community activists in, in Boston. And I spoke to a friend afterwards and this, this, this man has a college education. He has a masters. And I asked him how much of that was new to you. And he said most of it. He's in his thirties. Wow. And he's a, he's a programmer, right? So he's not working directly with, you know, uh, people of color or communities, um, uh, you know, that are most vulnerable. But, but how, how does that inform his work then, you know, and that meant, that makes me think about that when you don't know the history, how does that inform your work?
Phuong: 00:55:48 And so we were talking about the financial planning profession, but I can also think about educators we're mentioning that, right? How, if we don't understand the systems that are holding people back then were putting responsibility on those same individuals to fix it themselves. If that's the thing that we have to learn this history. Um, and that's part of that, that's part of the work I do now. You know, when, when I give any financial education workshop or when I talk about this with the public or in high schools, um, I always talk about histories of economic oppression because it's actually, I should say, historical and current economic oppression. I talk about it all. And usually when it's, um, a whiter audience, you know, they're, they're, they're appreciative and they're listening and they're learning. But usually when I'm talking to communities of color, especially with the high school students I talked to, they feel empowered. They are, they are clapping, they are, you know, a snapping their fingers,
Rianka: 00:56:50 This is bringing me back to a Quad A conference, cause I tell you, I'm laughing because this is so true, Phuong. Like we snap, we says, we say, amen, yes, sorry, go ahead.
Phuong: 00:57:13 We're just saying facts. That's what we're talking about. These are not opinions, right? These are facts and I've just pulled them out and I think it shouldn't have to be revolutionary that I'm just saying it out loud. Um, you know, and, and, and it took me a long time to get to this point where I can talk about it and with you Rianka openly, I, it took me years. Um, and it before, you know, it took me years to prepare myself to, to have the strength and confidence to talk about this because of the dominant narrative that says, you know, it's impolite to talk about this. It's taboo to talk about money. Well, let's really dig into why it's taboo to talk about money. All right, and who, who said it's taboo to about to talk about money? Well, you know, if, if we can really dig into the history of why it's impolite to talk about money, we're going to find a lot of violence and history that, that America is not proud of. And maybe that's why it's taboo, right? Because it, we're going to uncover why people have it and why people don't.
Rianka: 00:58:10 And this is a really great segway to talk about Black Wall Street.
Phuong: 00:58:14 Yes, yes. Yeah. So this is another historical data point around historical economic oppression that, uh, I found when reading about a history of, of why, you know, why certain communities have a lot of wealth and why certain communities don't. And so just to frame Black Wall Street, you know, I uh, there's a, a rapport that you've talked about and mentioned in the podcast before called the road to zero. Yes, yes. By Prosperity Now. Um, and there, there are other reports along those same lines. So it's, it's, I'm so glad more and more people are talking about this and seeing this data and so the median wealth of white households is, is currently 12 times that of black households in the US. Um, and the median wealth of white households is 10 times that of Latin x households and it's getting worse. And if we don't do anything about it, it's, the report is called Roads zero because those, the black household wealth is going to be zero in a few decades. I think the way things are moving. And so, you know, when you hear that, you hear that data, um, if you still have the perception that certain communities are, uh, have lower wealth because,
Rianka: 00:59:36 um, because it's their fault.
Phuong: 00:59:38 Yeah, because they've made bad choices because they didn't know how to build wealth because they lack education or financial literacy. Then that's how you're going to interpret that data point. But like I said before, if we don't understand the history and the systems that have held people back for generations, we're going to blame the people. Um, and so again, this didn't happen by accident, right?
Phuong: 01:00:03 We can think about all the, all the things in history that have caused this to happen, like the red lining we talked about, but this was another piece that really hit home for me. So there is a, there, there was a town, there's a town in Oklahoma called Greenwood. Um, and it was, you know, about about a century ago. This neighborhood was where many black and native people, um, built their own businesses because they weren't allowed to build businesses in other areas. So they built a thriving business district in Greenwood, Oklahoma, and it was called a Black Wall Street. And uh, you, you can think now though, but why, what happened, right? Um,
Rianka: 01:00:46 And so this was in the 1920s, so in the 19 hundreds, you know, over the course of time, you know, black and native Americans started building, right? They got close to where they started building, I think it was,
Phuong: 01:01:04 yeah, oil was discovered near the stadium. And so, um, the black and native people in the area, they started building businesses to support that economy, that oil economy. And, and it takes a lot of business know how and entrepreneurship and financial literacy to build businesses, which it's possible to, to, to have, you know, and, and, and, and they had it,
Rianka: 01:01:26 they had restaurants and jewelry stores and hotels and so this was a true thriving community. So if you can just close your eyes, not if you're driving, but if you can just close your eyes and just think of. In DC, there is a new, um, like it feels like it popped up overnight, but it's called city center where it's nothing but a high end stores. Really Nice restaurants. Um, let's think about a really nice area in Atlanta, Georgia. Let's think about a really nice area anywhere. Um, and picture that being greenwood. Yeah. That, that was greenwood. It was people happy. It was people smiling, going to work. They were, they were entrepreneurs, they were business owners. They were building wealth so that they can pass it on to the next generation. That's what was happening in the next. And then in, in the 19 twenties, 1921 to be exact. Something happened, Phuong. Yes. What happened?
Phuong: 01:02:32 Mobs destroyed Black Wall Street, they burned the businesses, they killed about 300 of the black people that were living there and they were basically terrorizing the business owners and it was economically motivated. It was blamed on the black community members, but really it was economic anxiety. I'm using that term because that's what we hear nowadays. Um, it, it was white mobs that were doing this and the wealth was wiped out
Phuong: 01:03:03 and we're going back a hundred years. Right. But I'm sharing
Phuong: 01:03:06 because it's so violent, so stark and it's, it's been 100 years. So there has been time for this to be in the history books, but I just learned about this last year.
Rianka: 01:03:15 Yeah. But it goes back to who is teaching our children. Right. And especially if you are in a predominantly white neighborhood or if you don't go to an HBCU, um, you just imagine just imagine a white teacher teaching about Black Wall Street. It probably would not. I mean, they don't, it's not even, they wouldn't, they don't. It's not in our history books?
Phuong: 01:03:44 Because you can't teach the history of United States without talking about race openly. It's incomplete without it.
Rianka: 01:03:44 Say it again, Phuong, say it again.
Phuong: 01:03:54 You cannot teach the history of the United States without talking about race openly, it's inseparable.
Rianka: 01:03:57 And I'll share this article that you shared with me Phuong, but, and, and I'll read it here. It says, um, you know, greenwood neighborhoods were attacked for two days. Yes. And the Smithsonian. So the African American Smithsonian now has like a manuscript from one of the residents there. Um, so the family kind of passed it down and now you can actually read this, but basically it says mobs destroyed 35 blocks and killed almost 300 black people and the police and national guard intervened primarily to put out building fires and arrest, black people, and Franklin who the person who is, you know, sharing his this manuscript and you know, the family she has shared this, says that white rioters was aided by the city government and the national guards. They were basically deputized and hand at weapons to carry, to carry out this massacre. And that's exactly what it was.
Rianka: 01:05:02 And I quote, um, this is, um, Franklin's description of private planes being either commissioned by the city or white business owners that was used to bomb greenwood. He says, smoke ascended the skies in thick black volumes and emitted all the planes now a dozen or more in number, still humid and darted here and there with agility and natural birds of air. So he's just describing how it was just coming back and forth, dropping bombs on Greenwood. And it was, it was ignored until 1997 when, until Oklahoma State legislator authorized the Oklahoma Commission to review the destruction and resulting. And uh, and uh, 2001 report, it recommended reparations for the survivors and their descendants plus investment in Greenwood.
Phuong: 01:06:04 Right? And you can imagine, you know, I, I could hear the naysayers, you know, even if even if, uh, you know, once you learn this history, I can imagine people saying, well, that was 100 years ago, right? So shouldn't we be getting over it at this point? And as financial planners we know well imagine how much compounding of the wealth that was lost, how much wealth would there be today in the black communities in that area today, if that, if Black Wall Street wasn't destroyed.
Rianka: 01:06:29 And think about how many families that were broken apart, you know, those were like parents who were at work. And so think about the children. And so now it's children growing up without their parents. Yes,
Phuong: 01:06:42 we do this today in different ways and, and they're structural, they're systematic and it, and I think to punish people of color, um, w, w we don't have to do such violent things anymore because it's so systematic in the way we run our country.
Rianka: 01:06:56 Honestly, I feel like our profession, the financial planning profession is the best profession. Yes. To try. No, I take that back to fix this period. Doctors can't do this. Lawyers can aid us, but we are the best profession because we have the education, we have the tools to weaponize all communities with education.
Phuong: 01:07:26 I like how you flip that, flip that back around. Yeah. I think that's so true. You know, and, and so, you know, so this brings me into, um, you know, when, when I hear people say what, when I, when I talk about being a financial planner, I don't know if you get this too, but people often say to me, you know, I really think that we need financial literacy in schools. Yeah. So important when you teach people from an early age how to budget, how to use credit and how to save. And I, I always think of Black Wall Street, you know, those communities, they had financial knowhow but they still lost it all, uh, due to violence. And so, you know what I say, it depends on the person I'm talking to you, right? We're talking about code switching before, depending on the person I'm talking to, if they're going to be a receptive audience or not.
Phuong: 01:08:14 Um, I wish you didn't have do this, but sometimes I say this, sometimes I don't. Depending on what kind of conversation I want to have that day, I say, well, you know, financial literacy could be important is sometimes important. I say, but it's more important I think that we have financial history taught in schools. Yes, we need financial history. Um, and so that's what I, that's what I try to do. You know, I talk at schools, I'm working with, um, we build to build curriculum around this so that teachers can just, you know, history teachers didn't take this and teach it in their classrooms. Um, and it hinges on the fact that, you know, when we talk about financial literacy, we're really usually just talking about income, right? We're talking about wages, we're talking about salaries, um, and saving from cash flow and lowering expenses and ways to increase income from negotiation and all that.
Phuong: 01:09:07 But we don't really talk about financial wealth. And I'm talking about financial literacy for people with low income or moderate income. And this term is thrown around a lot in nonprofits or in pro bono financial planning. Um, but building wealth isn't really usually part of the conversation and I think it's because of everything else we're talking about with, with all the history and all the pain and all the confusion around how savings, investments and land and real estate has been acquired in this country. We don't really want to talk about that and not a lot of people really know and I'm talking about white white communities, but also people of color, you know, all, all of this education and our, our shared histories has been kept from us because we're using coded language and because we know that actually there's just so many reasons why, so many reasons why, but I think it does have to do with how uncomfortable we are with talking about race.
Phuong: 01:10:02 We can't separate American history with racism. We just cannot. And I've, it's, it's, I'm, I'm embarrassed and maybe that's not the right word, but I am embarrassed at how long it's taken me. Um, and I'm still coming to terms with it myself. That's how long it's taken me to learn all of this. As an educator who's worked with vulnerable low income communities for most of my career, I didn't know the real history of why the people that I was working with and that I was quote unquote, helping why they were so vulnerable in the first place. I try to think about it, you know, and, and, and the excuse that I wasn't an excuse, but the reasons that I came up with in college very because I was just trying to connect the dots on my own because I, again, I had no race history. I was thinking because they were lacking opportunity.
Phuong: 01:10:58 Oh, they didn't, you know, I'm, um, people of color, poor people they're. They're not getting access to education. They're not getting access to good education. Um, you know, uh, maybe financial literacy, which is why I started doing that too. And, and I realized that actually, you know, and, and there's another report that I'll share with you, Rianka to put in the show notes. There's, there's, there's research going out now around, um, the, uh, myths of the racial wealth gap. And so this is important. What can we get wrong about closing the racial wealth gap? And the two main authors are William darity junior and Derrick Hamilton. Um, this was just published in April and one of the, uh, the first myth is actually that greater educational attainment or more work effort on the part of blacks will close the racial wealth gap. Yeah, you're laughing because you know, you already know this, right?
Phuong: 01:11:50 Like people say, Oh yeah, let's go to college, get a degree. And actually the research shows that black households with advanced degrees actually have less wealth than white households that only have high school education. I see. I see. The houses that are passed on, I see a down payment assistance from parents and inheritances. Inheritance are, is a huge way that wealth is passed on this country, but there's still this myth that it's a meritocracy, right? That people are building wealth because of hard work and that, that might, that, that, that is still the case that, you know, that is, might be the case, but the opposite is. But then if you, if you think you know that in America it's a meritocracy and people are building wealth because of hard work, then the opposite of that, you're also going to think it's true that people are don't have wealth because they didn't work as hard.
Phuong: 01:12:37 And so we've mostly been talking within the, it just around the wealth gap data, right? Like within the lens of people who have wealth. But when I talk about this stuff, you know, all of these facts, uh, all the myths of why the wealth gap is the way it is. I want to talk about this stuff with people of color who just learned about the history from my discussion or have learned about it, but I haven't really ever talked about it. You know, I, I, I had to think really hard about how to frame this because I was worried about, um, like discouraging people and, and, and, and the thought of discouraging people never actually went, you know, came to me because actually this, this information freed me personally. It freed me and I was, I was mentioning earlier my story around the shame that I felt for growing up in a low income household and the myths of growing in the eighties.
Phuong: 01:13:27 You growing up in the eighties, well that was during the time when the myth of the Welfare Queen, right? That it's, it's a shame. It's shameful to be poor and to, to live on public benefits and to have public benefits that this was the time that, that myth was a deliberate campaign from our US government and welfare was being slashed. Public benefits, like food stamps were being slashed, that really vulnerable families were, and it's usually single parents and it's usually the children that are being really benefit the beneficiaries of these programs, the same children that then go to school and go to school hungry or you know, they're stressed out because of all the financial stress I'm going to handle myself. But you know, it freed me learning about all this learning this history. Even though family wasn't here. You know, before the eighties we were in Vietnam.
Phuong: 01:14:16 But it still freed me because it taught me that the shame I was being taught that I should be shameful for what my family didn't have in terms of wealth, in terms of financial wealth. I should be clear. And so actually when I started at including this in my presentations are talking about this more, a white colleague of mine had said to me, okay, well, okay, I agree with you on this information, right? Um, which is weird because it does. These are facts. So there's no reason for them to agree with me
Rianka: 01:14:47 It's whether you accept them or you don't know what it is that
Phuong: 01:14:50 they said to me, well, but, but isn't sharing this with people of color. Wouldn't that be demotivating wouldn't that discourage them? And actually several people have told me that and several white people told me that and, and now I actually have something to say, right? When I hear that, and this is what I say, it's when I see this data, I don't see victims. I see strength and resilience.
Phuong: 01:15:17 I see people have been a community. So I've been through so much, but they still come back and they work 100 times harder to get less like a phoenix. Yeah. And, and, and you know, in terms of clients who come to get financial coaching or pro bono financial planning who don't have wealth or income to support, you know, paying for financial planners that, that's even more confident. It's even more strength that they're, that they're showing because you know, so it's, it's, it's really, really important for me to talk about this, I think for all of us to talk about it because if it can free so many people from the shame and blame that they felt their entire lives for being poor, for being people of color, for you know, and, and poverty can affect anybody. It doesn't have to be just people of color. We're talking about people call her because of the systems that had been in place by the government that identify people of color have to block them from building well. But, but those outcomes have hurt everybody in this country around health care, around a social safety net that it hurts everybody. It doesn't just hurt people of color
Rianka: 01:16:27 and so you mentioned that because I know what's going to come of this as well. Conversations have been happening as far as just like, um, especially for like firms or organizations that typically work with high net worth clients, um, maybe creating some, some sort of pro bono program and you mentioned that you worked for a nonprofit for a while working for low income families. So my challenge to these firms that solely work for high net worth clients or only take on clients that have a million dollars plus of investible assets. I challenge you to take on just a couple of clients, um, per quarter who, who may not normally
Rianka: 01:17:18 meet your minimum and work with them, haven't before a period of time if they don't have to be ongoing clients. But I guarantee you that just working with them for three to six months, the knowledge that you have will be a ripple effect. Not only within them but within their families. And I guarantee you to things that they're learning. They'll share with their friends. So you think you're touching one family, but really you're touching 10. So, so I challenge these large organizations to create some sort of a pro bono programs. I know that the financial planning association has a financial planning days, so there are already programs in place that you can mimic or so we don't need to create the wheel. If there are organizations out there that have some sort of a pro bono program where you're a small RIA firm and you do this, please share it with me. If you're willing to share your special sauce for the good of, of our communities, share it with me and I will make it public. I will blast it on 2050 trailblazers because there are firms out there who want to do this, but they may not have the time or capacity to put some sort of program in place.
Phuong: 01:18:39 I still regularly train, um, people who work in social service organizations and government agencies that work with people of low income to provide financial coaching and financial education. And, you know, every one of my presentations when I train them, I'm talking about all of this history. Um, I'm talking about the limits of traditional financial literacy programs that just talk about personal responsibility and needs and wants and cutting the budget because that's not the whole story. And if our clients, you know, and, and by clients, I mean the people of low income and in my city of Boston where I live, it's typically people of color, um, who live in subsidized housing that are receiving these services or are or are on the waiting list for a section 8 public or housing because they can't afford to live here because of housing costs have skyrocketed. Um, so it's typically people of color who are low income and who are staying here in the city and so their, their accessing these services. And if we don't show and demonstrate, and by we again, I mean the people working with them in terms of a nonprofit setting or pro bono setting for financial planners that are doing pro bono work. If we don't show that we understand this history, there's no reason for them to trust us because because whether or not they know it, they're either feeling shame or they're feeling, um, actually I don't want to talk about what they're feeling, but that they feel shame or they feel distrust around financial
Phuong: 01:20:08 services and who can blame anybody for doing that because of how targeted and we haven't, we didn't even get into the current things that are happening around a subprime mortgages and how people of color are targeted and specifically black and Latin x people. Um, and there's research to show that Asian people as well, um, are given mortgages with higher interest rates than their white peers with similar financial, um, that similar financials, it happens.
Rianka: 01:20:35 I feel like that can be one of those extended cuts. Yeah. Yeah. That's kind of like a part two extended cut. But I've made note of that because I think it's important for us to kind of share that. And going back to something that you said as far as just the client on, on the other side of the table, so to say, being able to trust that advisor or financial planner sitting across from them how to be a trusted advisor.
Rianka: 01:21:02 Right. And, and if you are a white professional and, and you can't talk about race or if you feel uncomfortable talking about race, my question is, are you able to fill all those gaps and conversations that a client across from you who may be of color may be going through as far as just like money history. They can be a millionaire but they still have money history or talking about supporting other family members and so is a question but more so of like rhetorical of just like you have to start being comfortable and, and, and becoming that trusted advisor. And um, yeah,
Phuong: 01:21:44 yeah, just uh, start uh, start, could be for white professionals in financial planning to read about their own identity to read about whiteness because there, it's, it's, it's, it's an identity and it's, it's hard to. I think that's part of why sometimes we get uncomfortable just saying white people because white people don't know they're white people.
Rianka: 01:22:12 Okay.
Phuong: 01:22:13 It's okay to say that it's okay to know. And I think part of why too I'll bring my own identity in the business as an Asian American woman, part of the, a myth for Asian Americans is that we have a lot of wealth and that we have really high incomes and that can be that that's true for some parts of our communities for some ethnicities. But for other ethnicities like Vietnamese, Cambodian, Thai, our income numbers and wealth numbers are, are pretty low. Pretty on par with black and Latin x communities. Um, and the reason I say this is not to say that, you know, it's, it's that it's as urgent or, um, as, as other communities of color. But I say this because Asian Americans are often used as an excuse to say, well, Asian Americans can do this. So why can't other people of color, why can't other minorities? I don't like using the word minorities because we're not, we're not minorities really anymore in different settings. Um, and so, you know, there's, that's the myth of the model minority, right? But, uh, that we can do this, like why can't they,
Rianka: 01:23:22 and I appreciate how you broke down just Asian, right? Because there's, because within the Asian community there are various ethnicities, there's various cultures, you know, and it's the same with black, black is just one of those, yes, overarching words. It is the catchall word, but you know, three people can be sitting in front of you and one can, you know, just be a, you know, African American, like true, just African American. One could be a have, have Haitian descent and parents came from Haiti and in another one can actually be from Africa where, uh, you know, the parents came from Ethiopia and, but, but you'll, you'll just say black and that is, you're missing a lot right there because there are different cultures and different conversations that need to happen with those different types of cultures that are sitting in front of you. But you will be so remissed if you just mask them all as black and, and, and treat them the same as far as conversation-wise as clients.
Phuong: 01:23:22 Absolutely, I agree.
Rianka: 01:24:37 Oh, I want to, in my many tangents, go down a different path and talk about hiring. And so as we know right now what, what we, we just started collecting the data around a CFPs of color. And so I think five years from now, 10 years from now, we can actually start talking about the retention rate, but right now we can't because we actually just started collecting the data. So however, I think between now and then we can do a phenomenal job of hiring, bring awareness around the financial planning profession. So people know that this is a profession that you can have a career in. Um, so hiring, uh, I, I even had a firm call me a couple of weeks ago and, and, and this is a big firm and a well known firm and they call me and say, well Rianka, what can we do? Like we want to be on the front lines of this. We want to be bringing in more diverse talent, but how and so Phuong. You have some experience in hiring, uh, going through the interviewing process, but, but even before the interviewing process, I think it starts before. Yeah, there, you know, I'm getting tongue tied here on what I'm trying to express, but help pull it out for me.
Phuong: 01:26:04 Sure. Absolutely. I know exactly what you mean in terms of hiring. It's a multistep process. Um, there is recruiting. Then there's that whole hiring process after the hiring, there's training and then there's evaluation, right? So it's a whole loop of how to hire, how to bring good people in, how to bring the best people in for your team. Right. And for your company and your mission and then how do you train them to develop them for your company, but also just develop them because they're professionals and you want them to stay and how do you evaluate them fairly so you can continue that training loop. So it's a whole management process there, but you're right that it starts even before the hiring. Neiman hotheads firms need to be really clear about who they're hiring and, and why and what kind of candidates that they want.
Phuong: 01:26:45 And I'm not talking about race, I'm not talking about gender right now. I'm talking about skills. What kind of skills do you want in your team and what kind of skills are you lacking? Um, I think a lot of times when we're recruiting people to join firms, um, you know, I've, I've had experience with this too because I joined that nonprofit because I met a colleague and he's still a friend of mine at a panel and I went to talk to him and you know, and I started volunteering and then they hired me and it. And so, you know, that old adage of sometimes the position is not posted. It's just like, it's like who, you know, it's like sometimes like, oh yeah, they just know about you. So like you, you get sent up to that list and that's a problem because it's because I think in certain communities, if we're only networking with other people that look like us, that we're not going to be able to tap into communities, communities of color, right?
Phuong: 01:27:46 That we're not tapping that, that we're not talking to. Sorry ahead. Actually I, I was just using coded language. I was saying in certain communities what I mean is in white communities, there's research to show that white people actually have lower diversity in terms of their networks then people of color do. That's a fact. That's a fact. And so if people, if white people are searching within their own networks for hiring, then it's no surprise that hiring people from hiring people of color is harder. Um, when that happens. And so recruiting needs to really go out there and really be intentional. Um, and there are experts that do this. There, there are people that you could hire to do this. And I think when firms go and hire recruiting agencies, you can ask them what are your practices around ensuring that you are recruiting from people, communities of color, and why not ask that, why not be intentional about that and, and that.
Rianka: 01:28:48 And that was the point I want it to make. So you didn't, you got it. You hit it. Cool. Head on right there.
Phuong: 01:28:54 There's so much mixed up into this, you know, and as a professional of color, I often get that double consciousness we're talking about before, right? That we're moderating our ourselves and the way we talk that at the same time, you know, we did talk about this, but we're also thinking, how is the other person seeing me? How is this white recruiter or manager seeing me now? Who does he see? Does he see, Phuong, does he see Rianka or does he see the image of what a black woman or what an Asian woman should be? And I think you felt that a lot because I wonder about how um, you know about, about the lack of diversity in the profession. And I'm one and I connect the histories that we were talking about before and the identity that has been put on communities of color in the US has been a, has been mostly at, has, has many negative stereotypes,
Rianka: 01:29:48 especially if you're looking at the media today.
Phuong: 01:29:50 Absolutely, absolutely. And, and I think the financial planning, financial literacy, financial education community, I think with, by not talking about financial history and the racism that's inherent within it, we're perpetuating those stereotypes and it, it, it, it, it's not a surprise to me that people of color are either avoiding the profession or leaving it once they see that hostility in ways that may or may not be intentional.
Rianka: 01:29:50 Agreed, agreed.
Rianka: 01:30:27 Phuong, I think we can literally go on forever. And I think this is what happens when you bring two passionate women together. We talk about it, but we get things done. So, um, uh, Gosh. All right.
Phuong: 01:30:45 You won't hurt my feelings if you cut out all the rambling.
Rianka: 01:30:48 No. Oh, absolutely not. We, we keep the rambling. We, we keep it. We just cut out the bathroom breaks. Goodness. Okay. All right. Um, before I let you go, Phuong, I want to ask you one more question for, you know, as you look back, oh, your career on your personal journey, what are some of the ways that have you invested in yourself, either personally or professionally that has supported the growth of you as a person?
Phuong: 01:31:23 So there's a quote by an activist Deray Mckesson that I recently heard and I have been trying to repeat it to myself and the the quote is exhaustion does not equal impact.
Phuong: 01:31:36 Yeah. And so what I think the answer that question, you know, I, I, I've heard you ask that question to others and I was, I was like, what, what would I say? What do I say? The first thing I thought it was education, you know, and other sets of the stew that you're reading about history and people say that research is me search that like when you're reading about history, really just trying to figure your own story. Um, so that of course, helped of course, but at the end of the day, after you're reading all this stuff and what we're talking about is heavy stuff, it's hard to process that you have to take care of yourself emotionally, physically, spiritually, get sleep, eat well, exercise, all of these, talk to your friends, talk to your family, and um, sometimes get therapy too, if that's important to you. And also like mental health is a taboo thing, but therapy, is important, especially as people of color in predominantly white spaces, um, and you're code switching and you're exhausted and you have to maintain a level of composure that is expected from you in society when you're working so hard and you're kind of like a duck and your legs are just like going really, really fast underwater.
Phuong: 01:32:42 But you're putting this like really calm exterior. You're internalizing that stress and it's going to come out in different ways. And so self care is really important. And knowing that, um, that you don't have to do this alone is really important. I think the biggest thing concretely has been a building, a network of really supportive individuals personally and professionally. And so having like people say like a board of Advisors, yeah, as been so important for me. Um, and that includes people of color includes white people, includes men, includes women and I am pushing. I pushed myself over the last few years to be myself around them. It's, you know, it's to varying degrees. It's hard, but it's important because we're code switching everywhere else. We shouldn't have to do that in our immediate, in our personal lives. So take care of yourself.
Rianka: 01:33:35 So thank you so much for just pouring so much knowledge into this episode. You know, this is going to be another long one, but listeners, if you have made it this far, I just want to say thank you for listening. I have a lot of listeners who say they have to go back two or three times to just listen to it. And, and, and I think what, what you mentioned, Phuong is so important as far as just taking care of yourself. So thank you. Thank you for continuing to just be just a wealth of knowledge and, and thank you for everything that you're doing for communities. Uh, thank you for continuing to pull away the layers so we can see Phuong because you're doing all of us a service by bringing your authentic self forward. And I appreciate you so much.


© 2018. Rianka R. Dorsainvil.