by Tonita Webb
If you had asked me when I was a little girl if I would become CEO, I probably would have said no. But I knew I was going to achieve something big. This is a belief that was instilled in me by my grandfather. Today, however, I would have liked to have had follow-up conversations about how achieving something big would also mean making money – and how important it was for me to know what to do. To do with this money. Especially since earning money would lead to a different relationship with money than I was used to seeing in my family and community. If we were to have had these conversations, I think my grandfather would have started by saying, “If your goal is to have money, it will never be enough money. And: “You will be able to earn more money, but you must also earn more wisdom around the money and find a goal for this money.
This is where the four main things I wish I had known come into play:
- Understand the tax consequences earn more money and own property. Nobody ever told me that the more money you make, the more taxes you pay. It seems obvious now, but unknowingly it was quite a shock to experience a tax refund that turned out to be a tax payment claim.
You need to know the tax brackets and know how to plan for them. You need to understand what happens when your children can no longer be claimed. Own a vacation property? This also has an impact.
- I would also like to learn How to talk to my kids about money. A common phrase I grew up with is “you don’t owe anyone anything”, which means don’t incur any debt. But the truth is, establishing credit or “owing it to someone” is an important step toward being able to buy a home and establish generational wealth. My own grandfather, a small business owner for decades, only dealt in cash due to a lack of trust and understanding of the financial system.
I want everyone to know how to talk about things with their kids like building credit and investing their money. It goes far beyond creating a savings account.
- How to create generational wealth. As a child, no one helped me understand the “possibilities” associated with saving. They just said, “Save your money.” In my community, saving money was also complicated because our relationship with financial institutions was marked by negativity, exclusivity and lack of belonging – sometimes even shame. I wish someone had taught me a more balanced message, like how to save for something big (a house, for example) while still feeling good spending on experiences like travel and personal items that enhance our lives.
It would also have been telling to have learned earlier that people of color can and do own multiple properties. In the community where I grew up, we often heard that owning a second home was only for white people. It’s time to tear down those beliefs and reinvent how we invest our money inside and outside of our communities.
- Establishing credit and why it matters. Since credit information and education is not readily available in BIPOC communities, the message I received about credit, growing up in a predominantly black community, was that it was negative and created to penalize blacks. As a result, I did not have a positive relationship with credit. I thought it was bad, and it made me nervous. Over time, I learned how much control I had over my own credit and how to slowly build credit while keeping an eye out for common pitfalls, especially for BIPOC communities.
For companies that offer credit to consumers, it’s imperative that they talk about credit in relation to their audience, because it’s not a one-size-fits-all conversation.
Everyone probably has their own list of things they wish they had learned about money from a young age. For me, it’s especially important to express the things that are rooted in systemic and historical biases for people of color. The way for the BIPOC community to gain knowledge and financial knowledge is to be part of the financial community, not to avoid it.
In my personal and professional life, my goal is to ensure that all people, especially our BIPOC communities, see what they know about money and finances and build on it while removing the associated shame. to not knowing. None of us have learned everything about money correctly, so: it’s okay not to know.
And now that I know more about money, it’s up to me and the rest of the financial world to bring real, practical information to those who don’t, with an understanding and recognition of the cultural influences that they may have endured on the subject. The financial health and success of ALL is essential to a healthy and prosperous community as a whole.
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Tonita Webb is the CEO of Verity Credit Union, the financial institution’s first black female CEO and one of the few to hold her position nationally. She continues to drive Verity forward in socially responsible banking to build vibrant communities. As an Air Force veteran, MBA graduate and mother of four, Tonita leads by example and gives herself freely to her community work. She currently sits on the boards of non-profit organizations such as SouthEast Effective Development (SEED) and 21 Progress, as well as social enterprises such as Pioneer Human Services. She is a champion of diversity and inclusion and is a frequent speaker on the subject.
📸 Feature Image: Tonita Webb, CEO of Verity Credit Union, is pictured at her company’s new branch in West Seattle and is pictured March 16, 2021. The branch behind Webb works with branch employees (left to right) consultant Meggie Garcia, branch manager Audrey Hartman, and consultant Maddie Rich. Photo courtesy of Tonita Webb.
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