Hello! Welcome to this week’s edition of Brown Girl Green Money. We are a social network of women of color working to achieve financial freedom and inspire each other along the way. Thanks for joining us again this week!
This month, we have been exploring the pros and cons of home ownership. Whether it is something you are ready for now or later, it is of vital importance to do what you can now to strengthen the state of your personal finances.
This week, I had the tremendous honor of interviewing Shawana L. Jackson, CPA, and chatting with her about the topics of personal finance, home ownership, and financial freedom. Ms. Jackson is a manager in the accounting profession and also provides business advisory services. In addition to fulfilling client obligations, she also facilitates technical training and co-chairs a personal development group aimed at African American professionals.
Shawana earned a Bachelor of Science in Business Administration from Marquette University and a Master of Accounting at The Ohio State University. She is a member of the Healthcare Financial Management Association and the Women in Public Finance organization. Overall, she is an amazing woman of color passionate about the topic of personal finance and working to help and empower others. Check out a portion of our conversation below:
Jasmine: Thanks for taking the time to chat with me today. Can you tell me a little about yourself?
Shawana: I grew up in a lower middle class family on Chicago’s west side. My parents instilled in me at a young age the principles of financial responsibility – which I’m so grateful for! I got my first job as soon as I was legally able to work and, from that point on, I was responsible for paying “rent” to my parents, paying my own cell phone bill, etc.
My parents would give me loans when I really, really wanted something that was out of my price range but I was expected to pay them back. All as a teenager! This is what sprouted my interest in personal finance – having these early conversations about being responsible and then being held accountable.
Jasmine: Wow, what an interesting start. It seems that your childhood experiences really shaped you. Next, can you explain what a CPA is and how you got interested in that as a career?
Shawana: CPA stands for “Certified Public Accountant,” which is an individual certified by their respective state to provide a large variety of accounting, auditing, tax, and consulting services. With the certification comes a legal responsibility to handle these services both ethically and in compliance with established accounting rules and principles. With that responsibility also comes tremendous reward as it is a symbol of trust and expertise. My interest came from the diversity of application within the field. The professional opportunities available to you as a CPA are nearly limitless because every business regardless of size, location, or industry needs accounting.
Jasmine: Awesome! My next question is… from your personal experience and from the experience you have had over the years working as a CPA, what do you think is the biggest challenge women of color face today in regards to personal finance?
Shawana: Fear of the unknown. I know that has been a challenge for me personally. We may not be familiar with financial lingo or perhaps we have heard others’ horror stories and it paralyzes us. We are reluctant to educate ourselves in fear that we won’t understand; we are hesitant to invest in fear that we’ll lose money; we don’t seek help from professionals because we don’t want to be taken advantage of. And, oftentimes, we don’t have someone we can trust, a family member or friend that has gone before us that we can glean from. It is true that there is a lot of uncertainty in the area of personal finance; but, if you never take that first step, even a small one, it is certain that your financial situation will not improve.
Jasmine: Wow. That is so true. That fear of the unknown can definitely be paralyzing. What is one of the biggest personal challenge finance challenges you have faced and how did you or are you overcome it?
Shawana: For me it was deciding to invest. I took a couple of finance classes in college, so I know enough about investing to know that I don’t know enough! But I also know investing is the key to creating long-term wealth. So I went back-and-forth for over a year, struggling with the decision of whether or not to invest, what to invest in, how much, etc. It was stressful! I felt like I was wasting time when my money could be working for me; but, at the same time I was afraid to take that plunge. Finally, I just decided to go for it. I did research on the different types of brokerage accounts offered by well-known banks and took an amount that I was comfortable with and started a portfolio. Now I’m joining investment/personal finance clubs and doing research to continue to learn more about investing and managing my portfolio.
Jasmine: Speaking of investing, can you share with me your thoughts on buying vs renting?
Shawana: I think it should be an ultimate goal to own; but, each person should get to that point at their own pace. In my opinion getting into the habit of saving and maintaining a healthy credit history should take precedence.
Jasmine: How can women of color best position themselves to be successful homeowners in the future?
Shawana: Do your research! There are several programs available to empower first-time home buyers – including down-payment assistance and reduced interest rates. Oftentimes we are leaving money on the table, so to speak, when we are unaware of these resources.
As I mentioned previously, get into the habit of saving (and not touching your savings!). Even with programs to help, there will be out-of-pocket expenses associated with buying a home. There will also be ongoing expenses associated with owning a home. Nothing can derail your dreams of financial independence like unexpected expenses that you were unprepared for.
Lastly, your credit history is precious – protect it! It will absolutely be a deciding factor in financing decisions. If you are currently in a less-than-perfect position, start taking steps to correct that. This is another area where there is a wealth of information available if you invest the time to research.
Jasmine: Thanks! Those are awesome words of wisdom! In closing, what tips do you have for other women of color striving to reach financial freedom? Anything else you want to add?
Shawana: “PYF” – Pay Yourself First. It was one of the first things I learned from a personal finance standpoint. No matter what your income level, make sure you are saving something up for your future – both long-term (e.g. for retirement) and short-term (e.g. for a “rainy day”). I encourage women to get into the habit of saving some amount on a regular basis. The habit of saving alone will pay off for your future.
I would also say invest the time to learn. There is so much information out there between finance focused TV channels/television shows, the internet and magazines/books you can get from library. With all of the information available there is no excuse for not educating yourself. You will only get comfortable dealing with your finances by learning and doing. And who better to learn from than experts in the field?
Jasmine: Thanks so much Shawana! This information was very helpful!
Well that concludes this week’s edition of Brown Girl Green Money. Have you faced any struggles on your quest to achieving financial freedom? What are your thoughts on home ownership and personal finance? Share them with us at www.facebook.com/browngirlgreenmoney or at firstname.lastname@example.org
Thanks. Have a blessed day!
Jasmine Zapata, MD is a pediatrician, motivational speaker, public/preventive health advocate, mentor, mother, wife, and entrepreneur from the Madison area, whose mission is to heal, uplift, empower and inspire. She’d love to keep the conversation going and can be reached at www.facebook.com/browngirlgreenmoney, www.facebook.com/drjasminezapata or at email@example.com.