Building wealth comes down to a very simple formula. Make more money than you spend. Invest the difference wisely. Set your kids up for success so that future generations may prosper.
The formula may be simple. But the ability to build wealth and pass it along is NOT a level playing field- not by a long shot.
Financial health and wellness revolves around the basic tenets of personal finance, such as understanding your cash flow situation, having a debt payoff plan, and learning how to invest. It’s about attaining basic financial literacy in order to foster wealth building habits. It’s about putting yourself in the driver’s seat so that you feel confident and empowered with your finances.
Achieving financial success and freedom requires plenty of personal grit and responsibility. However, we cannot discount the fact that this is going to be harder for some groups of people compared to others, specifically because of the color of their skin. The racial wealth gap is absolutely real.
THE RACIAL WEALTH GAP
Here are some statistics and takeaways regarding the racial wealth gap per the Brookings Institution:
- The median net worth of a white family: $171,000
- The median net worth of a black family: $17,150 (yup- that’s not a typo)
- The racial wealth gap is still present even if families are making the same income
- Inheritances and intergenerational wealth transfer account for a significant portion of the wealth gap
Of course, your net worth is affected by how much you earn. Just getting hired and the ability to earn an income can be impeded by your race. This study showed that minorities (African-Americans and Asian-Americans in this case) who “whiten” their resumes by making no references to their race had significantly higher job callbacks than those who made their race and ethnicity apparent in their resumes.
And this is just the tip of the iceberg. This subject is deep, messy, and incredibly painful.
Why is it so important to talk about this? Because by not acknowledging that systemic problems exist means that it’s much too easy to look away. You may even be able to convince yourself that it’s not really a problem because this does not affect you if you’re not a person of color.
But refusing to acknowledge these stark differences means that nothing will change. That these patterns will continue and worsen over time due to apathy and negligence.
There is a huge emphasis, especially in an individualistic culture, that our success depends on our own personal actions. Of course, personal responsibility and action are paramount to a certain measure of success.
But this line of thinking always bothered me. Because it dismisses the idea that there are a slew of factors that ARE outside of our control. Factors that play into our finances BEFORE we even get to the point where we can take action. Here are some of those factors:
- Our family of origin
- Where we were born
- The color of our skin
- Our childhood environment (home, school, community)
- How other people decide to treat us based on appearances alone
- Implicit and explicit biases
- Systemic injustices
As much as we’d like to think that society is color-blind and fair, this is so far removed from actual reality. You can’t tell people to just “work harder.” In a system that is flawed, the same amount of work does not necessarily yield the same results. The burden to work harder just because you’re “different” is an immense burden to bear. It’s immeasurably tougher if you’re constantly being harassed, wrongly accused and killed, and discriminated against simply because of your skin color.
DIVERSITY IN VETERINARY MEDICINE
Veterinary medicine has often shown up as one of the whitest professions in America. Currently, demographics show that veterinarians are 90% white. This is in contrast to the general white population in America, which is around 76%.
According to the latest report, 19.6% of the veterinary student population is comprised of historically underrepresented populations in veterinary medicine (URVM), which is based not only on race, but gender, geography, socioeconomic status, and educational background.
Dr. Lisa Greenhill, the senior director for Institutional Research and Diversity at the AAVMC, has been highlighting the importance of diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine for years. Her presentation on the market for veterinary medical education is insightful as she presents research specific to the veterinary applicant pool.
In this report, it’s clear that the URVM population experiences different obstacles, many of which are connected to money. For example:
- Underrepresented populations in vet med (URVM) have higher debt
- First generation students and Pell applicants are more likely to have experiential hours that are paid versus unpaid, which may affect their ability to hold leadership positions
- The cost of a veterinary education ranks lower for low SES (socioeconomic status) and 1st generation students as they typically have fewer choices, which means that they could end up in MORE debt after graduation
This is just a small window as to how factors we cannot control can have a lasting impact on our finances. Remember, our financial wellbeing is inextricably linked to the rest of our wellbeing, so it’s so important to make sure that people continue to do research and shed light on these topics.
The following are some diversity and inclusion resources available for the veterinary community:
AAVMC Diversity and Inclusion on Air: Here’s where you can hear conversations about diversity and inclusion in veterinary medicine
Human-Centered Veterinary Medicine: Purdue University College of Veterinary Medicine offers a number of certification programs for all veterinary team members
This is just a small sampling of actions that organizational veterinary medicine has taken in this space. If you have any further resources you would like to add, please add them in the comments!
WHAT TO DO GOING FORWARD
During times of heightened emotions, it’s easy to take action. But inequality and systemic injustices are deeply ingrained, and action will need to be taken regardless of the latest news story.
Below are steps that you can take in order to be a part of the solution:
1. Build Awareness: Instead of doing the easy thing, which is to shut off the news and hide, lean into the discomfort and build awareness as to the hurt and pain that people are feeling. Tap into your core values and ask yourself whether your actions are reflecting what you truly value. Staying silent speaks volumes.
2. Educate Yourself: There is a plethora of content that is ready and available for you if you seek it out. Of course, I’m assuming that you have internet access (which not everyone has), or else you wouldn’t be able to read this post. So start educating yourself on matters of diversity and inclusion. For example, if you don’t understand the Black Lives Matter movement, go ahead and actually check out their website instead of assuming that you already know what the movement represents.
3. Use Your Money Intentionally: Money is often equated to power. Money is a tool that is used as a vote for what is important and valuable to you. Be intentional about how you use your money: where you spend it, the businesses that you support, the donations that you make. Money talks.
4. Speak Up: Money talks, but remember, you have an actual voice, too. Use your voice to spread awareness and ignite action.
5. Stay Curious and Have Conversations: Be curious about others who are different from you. Don’t be afraid to engage in productive conversations.
The veterinary profession has come a long way, but there is still much work to be done. Veterinarians are natural leaders- people come to us for advice and expertise in the area of veterinary medicine. But being a good leader is more than being an expert in your field. It’s about calling out the inequities that you see, and ensuring that voices are not silenced. We may look different, but in the end, we’re all on the same team. Together, let’s help close the racial wealth gap and ensure that everyone has the chance to live a richer life.
The following are additional resources that you may find helpful as we all navigate these difficult times. This list will be updated as necessary. Again, feel free to post any helpful resources in the comments!
If you’re looking to find more information regarding the racial wealth gap and African-American personal finance resources:
The Coronavirus Pandemic and the Racial Wealth Gap: Money touches everything, and this article discusses the intersection between the current pandemic and its disproportionate effect on Black, Latinx, and other vulnerable communities.
Journey to Launch: Black Lives Matter and the Black Tax: The host Jamila Souffrant interviews her guest, Shawn Rochester, the author of the book “The Black Tax- The Cost of Being Black in America.” This podcast episode is incredibly informative, educational, and eye-opening.
List of African-American personal finance bloggers and influencers: Personal finance is indeed personal, and everyone has valuable perspectives that they can share on their own platform. Click here and here for recent lists of African-American personal finance bloggers and influencers.
How to Make FI More Inclusive by Choose FI: The personal finance community has also been tackling the tough subject of race.
Lauryn Williams, CFP on How To Shrink the Racial Wealth Gap by Student Loan Planner: Olympian turned financial planner Lauryn Williams offers great insight into her own experience in her financial planning journey and background information regarding the racial wealth gap.
31 Children’s Books to Support Conversations on Race, Racism and Resistance: Having conversations about race can be especially challenging with children. Here are some books that can help you get that conversation started.
For veterinary-specific resources:
Why Does Diversity Matter in Veterinary Medicine: The dean of Oklahoma State University’s CVM writes this piece that urges veterinary medicine to continue working towards more diversity.
If you want to take action by signing a petition, here is a Change.org petition: The American Veterinary Medical Association Stands in Solidarity with Black Lives Matter
How White Girls in Vet Med Can Be Anti-Racist Allies by Snout School: What does being anti-racist even mean? Danielle dives in with this blog post.