Black Americans face numerous barriers to wealth-building due to systemic inequality and racial bias. One analysis found that the median white family had $184,000 in wealth in 2019, compared to the median Black family, which had only $23,000—a figure representing a gap in wealth that had not changed in two decades.1 The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities even further.
Black Americans’ financial health is affected in obvious and subtle ways by systemic racism. Fortunately, you can take steps to address—and reduce—the effect of the racial wealth gap on your finances. Let’s look at three areas where you can make a difference.
Improving Financial Knowledge and Confidence
A Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center (GFLEC) report showed that Black Americans’ financial literacy lags behind that of white Americans.2 On average, Black study participants answered 37% of the study’s personal finance index questions correctly, compared to white participants, who answered 55% correctly.
The GFLEC study also reports that stronger financial literacy is linked to better retirement planning, debt management, and financial resilience. Fortunately, you can take steps to increase your financial literacy.
What You Can Do
Start by assessing where you stand. The FINRA Financial Literacy Quiz is a quick seven-question tool for determining your understanding of major financial topics, including interest rates and inflation.
Once you’ve taken the quiz, use high-quality resources to close any knowledge gaps you discover and put that new information into practice.
Advocating in the Workplace
Structural racism in America also contributes to workplace barriers. Black people face higher rates of unemployment—often twice as high as unemployment among whites—and greater difficulty securing job interviews and offers.3 The racial wage gap has worsened in the U.S.: in 2019, Black workers earned 24.4% less per hour than white workers, up from 16.4% in the 1970s.4 On average, Black men earn 87 cents for every dollar a white man earns; although women overall earn 80 cents for every dollar men earn, Black women earn 63 cents for every dollar a man earns.5
Within the workplace, implicit and explicit bias create obstacles when Black workers seek raises, promotions, and opportunities for career advancement. However, you can take steps to increase your odds of success.
What You Can Do
Advocate for yourself and others in the workplace. Seek out affinity groups and organizations that support Black workers and hold companies to account for their commitments to diversity, equity, and inclusion in the workplace.
If you are seeking a raise,
- Keep track of your successes and positive feedback
- Research fair compensation in your industry and market
- Work with your manager to establish a timeline and benchmarks for compensation goals
Accessing Professional Financial Guidance
Many people never seek out a financial advisor due to cost. However, a financial advisor can help you navigate financial literacy, debt management, and wealth-building.
Multiple options exist for finding high-quality financial advice, whether you’re getting out of debt or creating generational wealth.
What You Can Do
Planning for retirement is one of the most important financial steps you can take. Your employer may provide you with resources for retirement guidance and support (like us!).
For other areas of your financial life, seek out free and low-cost financial advisor options. The Foundation for Financial Planning provides pro bono services, including free financial planning resources.
If you're looking for a Black financial advisor in your community, consider the Association of African American Financial Advisors. The AAAA focuses specifically on addressing Black financial well-being, financial literacy, and wealth-building.
Prepared by a third-party.
1. Harris, B. & Schreiner Wertz, S. (2022, Sept. 15). "Racial Differences in Economic Security: The Racial Wealth Gap." https://home.treasury.gov/news/featured-stories/racial-differences-economic-security-racial-wealth-gap
2. Yakoboski, P., & Hasler, A. (2020, Sept.). "Financial literacy, wellness and resilience among African Americans." https://gflec.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/10/TIAA_GFLEC_Report_AAPFinIndex_Sept2020_02.pdf?x21285
3. Ajilore, O. (2020, Feb. 24). On the Persistence of the Black-White Unemployment Gap. Center for American Progress. https://www.americanprogress.org/article/persistence-black-white-unemployment-gap/
4. Wilson, V. & Darity, W. (2022, Mar. 25). "Understanding black-white disparities in labor market outcomes requires models that account for persistent discrimination and unequal bargaining power." https://www.epi.org/unequalpower/publications/understanding-black-white-disparities-in-labor-market-outcomes/
5. Miller, S. (2020, June 11). Black Workers Still Earn Less than Their White Counterparts. SHRM. https://www.shrm.org/ResourcesAndTools/hr-topics/compensation/Pages/racial-wage-gaps-persistence-poses-challenge.aspx