Representation matters, especially when it comes to conquering the racial wealth gap.
Only 1.8% of certified financial planners are African American and there’s a long history of mistrust of financial institutions among Black Americans.
Enter Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, founders of the viral podcast-turned-platform Earn Your Leisure, through which they are bridging the world of finance with the hip-hop community, making financial literacy in the Black community a focal point.
Their InvestFest, a two-day financial festival, is a natural outgrowth of that movement by bringing in big-time business headliners, focusing on financial lessons, and frankly making financial education fun.
“InvestFest is a unique experience to be educated, informed, and a premier space for entrepreneurs,” Bilal told Yahoo Finance. “It is a first-of-its-kind, in-person experience to combine investing, entrepreneurship, pop culture, and entertainment in a festival setting.”
‘More than a Black story’
In its third year, over 20,000 attendees packed the Georgia World Conference Center the last weekend of August dressed to impress, be seen, and network. Corporate sponsors included Fidelity Investments, Rap Snacks, Zillow, Pronghorn, AT&T, and BTST Services.
Panelists included financial gurus and Black billionaires, millionaires, and entrepreneurs — like Robert F. Smith, Sean “Diddy” Combs, Ian Dunlap, and Humble Lukanga — who shared their financial knowledge to empower the Black community for financial literacy and economic independence. Even Cathie Wood, founder, CEO, and CIO of investment management firm ARK Invest, was there.
“InvestFest is the largest event for financial investing with multiple billionaires in the space,” Troy Millings, co-founder of Earn Your Leisure, told Yahoo Finance. “It’s more than a Black story due to its impact and scale.”
In between business and investing panel discussions, there are live music performances, a food truck caravan, interactive events, a vendor marketplace, and live podcast stages with interviews. There were also some major announcements.
Combs revealed a partnership with Earn Your Leisure, presenting Bilal and Millings with a $1 million check to make investments based on the methodologies discussed on the Earn Your Leisure platform.
“Earn Your Leisure…[is] one of the most disruptive platforms in the fight for economic empowerment and equality. Rashad and Troy are making financial literacy cool for our community,” said Combs, CEO of Bad Boy Entertainment and chairman of REVOLT, the media platform that integrates hip hop culture. “I’ve given them a challenge to go beyond talking about finances and put that knowledge into action for others to see the process.”
Millings and Bilal’s “Assets Over Liabilities,” a television series that accesses the personal lives and businesses of young entrepreneurs and celebrity guests, is featured on REVOLT.
“Partnering with the legendary Sean ‘Diddy’ Combs to infuse a million dollars into the Earn Your Leisure fund is more than just a collaboration, it’s a seismic shift in generational wealth,” Bilal said. “The revolution of financial empowerment is here, and we’re the architects.”
“This partnership isn’t just about capital, it’s about a shared mission to light up pathways to prosperity, sparking innovation, and dispelling the darkness of financial misinformation,” Millings said. “Our collaboration with Diddy isn’t solely an investment — it’s an affirmation that the world is waking up to the importance of economic education.”
‘Go from being a consumer to an investor’
And that’s what the panels underscored. With panels on investing, business management, credit and estate planning, and athlete ownership, InvestFest addressed topics that impact how the wealth gap grows within the Black community, especially when it comes to investing in the stock market.
Nearly two-thirds of Black wealth is in housing, according to a working paper called Wealth of Two Nations: The U.S. Racial Wealth Gap published by the National Bureau of Economic Research, while white households hold significantly more of their wealth in equities. Since the 1980s, the wealth gap has widened due to booming stock prices that largely benefited those white households versus Black ones, the study found.
“If we’re not investing, that gap is going to get wider,” Ian Dunlap, co-host of Earn Your Leisure’s Market Mondays, told Yahoo Finance. “I want us to go from being a consumer to an investor in stocks and bonds.”
But a big barrier is the longstanding mistrust of the financial industry and the stock market among the Black community. A 2022 Ariel-Schwab study found that 30% of Black Americans are less trusting of the stock market, compared with 23% of white Americans. When it comes to financial institutions, the disparity is 28% versus 18%. In fact, Black investors were more likely to trust volatile crypto assets over stocks, the survey found.
“The greatest return I’ve seen over the last 30 years has been equities,” Robert F. Smith, founder, chairman, and CEO of Vista Equity Partners, said. “[But] we don’t participate in them, [we] don’t put money in the equity markets.”
Many miss out on investing in stocks even in retirement plans.
Among private sector workers, only 40.5% of Black workers participate in a retirement plan, versus 57.7% of white workers, according to research from T. Rowe Price. Part of the reason is availability of plans, but even when plans are accessible, Black workers sign up at a rate of 81.6%, compared with 90.4% for white workers.
“If you work in a company and have a 401(k) plan, you should max that out [and] if you don’t work for a company, think about Roth IRAs and talk to a financial planner,” Smith said.
“You can create wealth if you do it sensibly and diversify — not just sticking to one asset class — starting with passive funds, which mimic indexes like the S&P and Nasdaq, then hitch your wagon to innovation and you probably even want to diversify that,” ARK Invest’s Cathie Wood told Yahoo Finance. “You don’t put all your eggs in that basket because it’s also risky.”
‘Nobody’s focusing on this untapped group’
Understanding the basic principles of capitalism, equity, and using leverage are some of the lessons InvestFest seeks to teach. Smith used the example of home equity. If a person buys a house for $100,000 with $40,000 down and that house is worth $400,000 four years later, you can get $340,000 after paying your mortgage off.
“That’s your return. That’s called a levered return. That’s how capitalism works in effect, so then you can go and do the next thing four or five times,” he said. “That’s how you create leverage on the equity. The knowledge gained enables you to think about how to create more wealth, more capacity, and more impact.”
InvestFest hopes to equip attendees with those tools and knowledge to close the racial wealth gap with information coming from Black billionaires and entrepreneurs who understand the challenges of being a first-generation wealth creator of color.
“When it comes to all these investment platforms, representation matters, and nobody’s focusing on this untapped group — over 20,000 people paid money to get advice here,” Humble Lukanga, founder and CEO of LifeLine Financial Group, told Yahoo Finance. “When you think about building your wealth or business, understand that it’s going to be harder than you think and it’s going to take longer than you think, [but] invest in yourself.”
Ronda is a personal finance senior reporter for Yahoo Finance and attorney with experience in law, insurance, education, and government. Follow her on Twitter @writesronda.
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