“¿Dónde está más barato?” I remember the holy grail question my mother asked as we leaned over a kitchen table with a wide array of revistas parading the weekend specials. It was our Saturday morning tradition: pick up a copy of the local paper, Hoy, leaf through the sales, and plan our grocery runs and meals based on where we could find the cheapest poultry and produce. If my mom saw one butcher had a lower-cost cut of meat, but the grocery store two miles away had the better price on limes, we were making two stops to run errands — three if tortillas were on sale elsewhere. We were an immigrant family concerned with matters of the day, not complicated, unfamiliar concepts like generational wealth.
While my thrifty mom taught me to be frugal, my entrepreneurial dad showed me how to take risks. From leaving his union job to open a carpentry business to growing his clientele through word of mouth, he always dreamed of more — even during seasons when gigs were scarce. On Sundays, we’d drive through Chicago neighborhoods and look at houses for sale. Dad told me about his visions of fixing one up and making it a home. He willed it so much that eventually, his dream came true. He became a homeowner.
For many first-gen Latinxs, my family included, we save pennies so that we can have the money to afford the basic needs we require for the day: food, shelter, and clothing. Thinking about the future, including the generations that follow, is, simply, unaffordable for many of us. This is why communities that have historically been disadvantaged in this country have a harder time building generational wealth. Per the Fed’s notes from 2020, the typical non-Latinx white family has eight times the wealth of the typical non-Latinx Black family and five times the wealth of the typical Latinx family. Closing the generational wealth gap will require real, systemic changes as well as a community-wide unlearning of money habits.
As a finance journalist, I see my mother’s savings, or budgeting, and my dad’s big purchases, or investments, through a new lens. For better or worse, these practices were passed on and have become part of my own money behaviors. Some have been helpful: I know that having an understanding of how money and power work can help me incorporate strategies, like investing and leveraging my network, to generate wealth. At the same time, I needed to unlearn other habits, like not talking about finances openly with my family and letting a scarcity mindset hold over my earning potential.
Navigating the personal finance system in the U.S. as a first-gen Latinx person isn’t easy, especially when the elders in our lives are partly responsible for our ineffective money practices and traditional finance experts are so inaccessible. With language barriers, cultural incompetence, and hefty price tags, barriers to personal finance education stop many of us, even those with healthy salaries, from ever learning and practicing money behaviors that will help us build generational wealth.
Knowing this, a growing number of Latinas in finance are democratizing their knowledge by making it available, relatable, and understandable to our communities. We spoke with a few personal finance experts about what generational wealth means to them and their learnings.
Ashley K Stoyanov, Author of Jefa In Training
New York-raised and Portland-based Ashley K. Stoyanov Ojeda is a business development strategist, coach, and socialpreneur. After founding WomxnCrush Music, a national organization that creates opportunities for emerging women and nonbinary songwriters, the French-Mexican business woman dedicated her career to creating opportunities with and for underrepresented entrepreneurs. Known as the “Business Hada Madrina,” in 2022, she authored the first Spanglish business-launching toolkit, Jefa in Training.
How is business tied to building generational wealth?
As a business development coach, I work with clients to help them build sustainable businesses. This is incredibly important because your business can crash and burn without a good foundation, which can cost you a lot financially. If you’re not setting yourself up for long-term success, then how can you set yourself up for generational wealth?
A lot of us who didn’t grow up with a healthy money mindset start businesses and think go, go, go, rather than build that foundation. I think shifting the mindset to slow and steady growth rather than going all in, all the time is definitely a better place to be at.
How does building a business promote generational wealth?
You have the flexibility to make money at your own pace. Of course, it takes work. You won’t create overnight, but you can at least make a plan. The more that we are able to be in touch with what our current financial situation is, then the more we can make space for that. A lot of us are so afraid of looking at that budget, making it every month, and seeing how much we are actually profiting because we don’t want to face uncomfortable numbers. However, this is the only way to plan and get you where you want to be.
Any other learnings on generational wealth that you’d share?
Building generational wealth is an option for us. I think so many people like us, who are first gen, need to know that and believe it.
Giovanna Gonzalez, Financial Educator at The First Gen Mentor
Mexican-American Giovanna Gonzalez is breaking financial barriers for her family and is giving Latinx communities the tools to do it, too. The first-generation Mexican-American was the first in her family to graduate from college and build a career for herself as a white-collar professional. In the last 10 years, she has paid off her $50,000 collegiate and car debt. In fact, she is debt-free and has a net worth of $120,000. Through her TikTok account The First Gen Mentor, Gonzalez shares tactical career advice and teaches thousands of other young adults how to build their own wealth.
What generational wealth topics do you cover on The First Gen Mentor?
On my account, I talk about generational wealth as something that helps us and our families as well as what the absence of generational wealth means for our communities. I also cover the emotions of navigating finances, including both the anxiety and pressures we have around money as well as feeling like the black sheep for thinking differently or wanting more than your relatives.
Can you talk to us about your first encounter with the term “generational wealth?”
I think it had to be on a podcast during my own financial journey. On Jean Chatzky’s podcast, HerMoney, a lot of her listeners always called in asking how to make best use of their windfall, the “beautiful gift,” as they’d call it. They’d say, “I got married, and my parents gifted us $50,000” or “my dear grandma just passed away, and I inherited $80,000.” These things were so foreign to me — like what? People are getting that kind of money? I think listening to the podcast and hearing from people from all walks of life talking about their money, that was a big eye-opener for me. It made me aware that we don’t have that. Our journey is different.
What were your biggest learnings when it comes to generational wealth?
You can do all the learning on how to best manage your money. Even if you weren’t taught it in school or from your parents, you can learn the basics on budgeting, managing debt, and investing for the long term.
When you’re on this journey, though, you might face a lot of resistance from your family. It’s going to be important to unlearn their money habits and break these generational curses. That’s sometimes hard as a young adult because you always want to go with what your family is saying. For instance, for 10 years, I had a Toyota Corolla that I got when I graduated from college, and I drove that thing until I had to sell it because I moved to Chicago. I used to constantly get ridiculed by my family. They’d say: “Why are you driving this car?” “You can do much better.” “You should be driving a Mercedes.” I explained to them that a car is a depreciating asset; I’d rather invest the difference. It still didn’t make sense to them. I think it’s important for first-gen wealth builders to know that those challenges are going to come up and know how to navigate that.
Jully-Alma Taveras, Founder of Investing Latina
Known online as the Investing Latina, Jully-Alma Taveras is a Plutus Award-winning bilingual personal finance expert. The Dominican Republic-born money pro writes for publications like CNBC, TIME’s Next Advisor, HuffPost, and other outlets on money topics like saving to investing. On her YouTube channel, she tells money stories from her context as an immigrant who became a smart spender and diligent investor after years as a shopaholic. Her money philosophies have inspired thousands of women to live minimally and spend intentionally, so that they can invest more.
What role has generational wealth played in your life?
I moved to the U.S. with my parents when I was four years old. Growing up, a challenge my parents faced was not knowing the language. It affected their job opportunities. To make money, they ended up starting their own business. Like many immigrants in New York, they opened up their own bodega. It was cool to grow up in the store and see my parents work for themselves. Watching them, I learned that needing to put everything into your business leaves no room for multiple sources of income, investing in the stock market, or financial education. They just wanted to make sure the business survived.
It was great for me to see this because, when I went on to start my own business, I remembered the lessons their path taught me: Both the importance of building something for yourself and the need to diversify income.
Something I recently recognized was the importance of working as a community. The more that we work together, connect more with our family and relatives, and combine our resources, the further we can get in terms of building wealth. Ultimately, generational wealth has everything to do with passing down new traditions. Having an investment account is a new tradition in my family. It’s good to build new financial traditions with my immigrant family.
What should other first-gen or immigrant Latinas know about building generational wealth?
Take the time to understand the structure of the financial system. We can’t expect to know how to play a game if we don’t know the rules. It’s important to understand the rules and parameters. We are not going to build generational wealth by trying to earn every single dollar that we have. The way we build generational wealth is by earning money and putting that money to work as quickly as possible.
Also, really focus on your needs rather than your wants. We need a roof over our head; we want a huge, 3,000-square foot house. Understanding the difference between the two is important, especially for immigrants.
Finally, talk about money as often as possible with your friends and family. That’s the only way you’re going to come up with more money-making ideas. Latinxs love investing in real estate, but that’s not the only way to invest. We can also invest passively in the stock market.
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