Wealth Q&A with Deborah Owens ‘America’s Wealth Coach’

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Compiled by Rev. Dorothy Boulware

How did you become a wealth guru? 

Actually it was by accident. It was just based on my first wanting to be of service to my community. First of all I hadn’t been exposed to investing at all until I worked for Merrill Lynch, and was told I was clearly over qualified for the position I was in, and should get my broker’s license. I was just fascinated as I began to study for it and realized all I didn’t know. Once I learned I just literally wanted to tell the whole world about it. 

I really did do everything I could to share what I’d learned, from speaking engagements, to speaking to the community, and having my first radio program with Cathy Hughes at WOLB. 

Then I started writing books, with the mission of wanting to educate about investing and how to build wealth.

What is a healthy foundation that attracts wealth? 

I would submit that wealth is not attracted as much as it is a function of your knowledge, beliefs,  attitudes and behaviors.

By eight years old, we’ve already formed our beliefs and habits around money, a direct reflection of our environment and the way our family handled finances. It’s inherited. People go through several years of formal education, go to college and come out with multiple degrees, even with a PhD and have no knowledge of how the investment market works.

Our lack of wealth can be traced to our exposure to how to manage money. Here’s what I’ve learned. There is this stereotype of Black women being spendthrifts and wanting designer bags and shoes and whatever. It’s just not true. Most Black women are very conservative and thrifty and risk aversion. And it’s directly correlated to the lack of knowledge. Ignorance breeds fear. So we focus on not losing what we have, rather than gaining more.

What are the first steps you suggest to someone who wants to be transformed in their way of thinking about money?

Start with creating the life you want. First things we do in WealthyU is have them create their wealth vision. Ten years from now…what does your life look like? What’s important to you…financial security, health, getting out of debt?

Then look at where you are. Take a financial snapshot..Where are you today? Make an accounting of debt. What is your net worth? And I tell them, it’s not that serious. It’s everything you own compared to everything you owe. And then you return to focus on where you want to be.

Fundamentally, a shift  occurs…all financial decisions are then based on whether or not it increases your net worth. Having a wealth mindset is to focus on how you can increase your net worth. Therefore you make different decisions.

Which is the most difficult step the process?

The most difficult step is taking that accounting. Many times people will have rubber bands of credit cards. People will get a bill consolidation loan and then run the cards back up again. The most difficult thing is the acknowledgement of where they are.

It’s the most essential part. Making the decision to change our behavior.

Some women invest in coaching – two sessions and gone. Shame. Acknowledging that we don’t know as much as we should. 

Wait. Maybe the most difficult aspect is asking for help because it requires us to say we don’t know and we can’t figure it out. And then…there’s the shame of being ignorant.

Until we find out we’re not alone. That’s why community is so important. We experienced significant growth in our FB group during COVID. No matter where you were on the economic strata; everybody at every level had the same fear – fear of death – of our own mortality.

Last March, I could see that people who had been in coaching were having a tough time. We went live for almost a month explaining the financial markets – why they were up and down. We had a 21 day challenge, a 5 day challenge – now you know you should have an emergency fund

Launched WealthyU Society

Learned the importance of community and being around like minded people who have the same aspirations.

Other aspect was that we’ve always been told to save for a rainy day. When COVID hit, we met a tsunami – created a sense of urgency around the need to have a plan to achieve financial stability…a cushion

The silver lining of COVID was the acknowledge that we don’t control everything.

Need to become more intentional about their money…finding money wasting…got real. People began to recognize what’s really important.

How do we train ourselves to be savers/ givers?

Deciding what you want. Money is only a tool to help you achieve certain objectives. What do you want to save for? So much of the focus was on investing. We changed from Money Works, our radio show to WealthyU because wealth is really about well being. The ability to take care of our needs without worry.

Is philanthropy an early step in the transition?

Absolutely. I focus primarily on Black women. My mission to help a million Black women to get to a million dollars net worth. To impact the economic well being of our overall community.

I know that investment literacy is inherited. If I teach a million black women to invest, they will continue to teach through generations. We can leave a legacy but it needs to be intergenerational.

Paying it forward to the next generation.

In addition to that, we’ve always been givers, beginning with tithing. Churches do more than any other charitable organization in the world. We tithe. We are great givers. Black folks give larger percentages of income to their community than anyone else.

What elements would you add to the public school curriculum, and at what levels, to change the way our children think about wealth?

We teach reading, writing and arithmetic. We learn to add and subtract in kindergarten. You know how you have those three jars labeled, spend, save and give.? Add a fourth, invest. Plant a seed and watch it grow in the future.

The truth is that we see bias in everything in the system itself.

It’s not that we don’t seek out this help – to learn how to invest – every day we reach out to receive services at a financial institution. And we are turned away.That still happens today. Every day.

If you’re going to get that knowledge…we’ll invest in our formal education, pay tuition; we  have to begin to invest in our own personal and self development. Investment literacy. Knowledge about how to invest is the best return on investment you’ll ever make, to paraphrase a Ben Franklin quote.

Black folks are wired for investing because we are the influencers and the trendsetters…the same skills needed to be successful investors

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