John Rogers, Chicago's treasurer offer their takes on building generational wealth

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Ever since his late father bought him stocks when he was a little boy, John Rogers Jr., founder, chief investment officer and co-CEO of Chicago-based Ariel Investments, said he favors buying them as a way to build generational wealth. 

Rogers said he was introduced to the stock market at age 12 by his late father John Rogers Sr., who was part of the Tuskegee Airmen and a University of Chicago alumnus.

“My dad decided I was going to get stock certificates instead of toys. And that’s how I fell in love with the markets,” Rogers said during a panel discussion yesterday on building generational wealth as part of Money Smart Week. “That’s why I believe the stock market is a way to create generational wealth.” 

The one-hour virtual discussion included Chicago Treasurer Melissa Conyears-Ervin and was moderated by ABC-7 Chicago investigative reporter Samantha Chatham. Money Smart Week, which began Monday and ends tomorrow, was created in 2002 by the Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago as a public awareness campaign designed to help consumers better manage their personal finances.

Rogers encourages stock seekers to look at industries they favor as a way to seek investments.

“I love sports and in college I played basketball. My favorite stock is Madison Square Garden Entertainment, which owns Madison Square Garden (in New York) and all the land around it,” Rogers said. “Invest in companies that you know and understand and enjoy reading about and studying.” 

Conyears-Ervin, whose husband is Ald. Jason Ervin, 28th, favors homebuying to create generational wealth.

“I was raised by a single mother, who purchased her own home and because I witnessed that I did not move out of my mother’s home until I purchased my own home,” Conyears-Ervin said.

According to her, there’s a difference between generational wealth and simply being wealthy with a lot of money in the bank.

“Generational wealth is when someone accumulates enough wealth that it outweighs them, and they pass it on to their kids and grandkids,” Conyears-Ervin said. “My mother recently passed away, but she left her family with an asset.”

The pair also spoke about the importance of equity, diversity and inclusion in corporate America and how serves as a barrier for Black and Brown people, who Rogers said are often unable to gain financial knowledge through corporate America so they can pass it on to their children like their white counterparts.  

“Historical discrimination, Jim Crow laws and slavery really impacted (Blacks’) ability to have multi-generational wealth,” Rogers said. “At these large institutions there’s no one in their C-suites or on their management committee that looks like us. But when they spend money with professional services and financial services it goes to white men.” 

Last year Conyears-Ervin created the “Chicago City Treasurer Broker Dealer Diversity Scorecard” as a way to measure a brokerage firm’s leadership efforts in diversity, equity and inclusion as well as corporate social responsibility. She said she uses it to help determine which firms would do business with her office.

“While (Black and brown people) can appreciate the awareness of racial injustice we just feel that if you are really serious about it, please don’t just ‘talk the talk, walk the walk.’ We want to see a substitutional and tangible difference,” Conyears-Ervin said. “People want to dictate how they’re going to ‘spoon feed’ us (Black and brown people) and that’s frustrating.”