Two years ago, when the pandemic first hit, I was one of the many people who found themselves suddenly out of work. I was furloughed from my job and, like many others, I struggled to make ends meet, even with the stimulus checks and unemployment funds. It was (and still is) a tough time for many people and I know I wasn’t alone in feeling the financial and emotional impacts of losing my job.
Unfortunately, Black women were disproportionately affected by layoffs and furloughs during the pandemic. According to a recent study, Black women were the largest group of workers laid off or furloughed during the COVID-19 shutdown. Included in that study were Black women already more likely to be working low-wage jobs that would put them at greater risk for exposure to the virus, as they found that Black women overall are more likely to work in industries hardest hit by the pandemic (such as retail and hospitality).
This study is just one example of how the pandemic has exacerbated existing inequalities in our society. While the shutdown has been brutal for everyone, it has disproportionately impacted Black women. Black women in America face unique challenges regarding financial stability. From systemic racism and misogyny to the lack of generational wealth in most Black families, Black women are often left out of the mainstream economic system in the U.S.
Other studies have shown that Black women are less likely than their white counterparts to receive quality financial education—whether from their parents or school—which can lead to a lack of understanding of critical financial concepts such as investing, saving, and budgeting. As a result, Black women are often disadvantaged when building wealth and aiming to achieve financial stability. Thus, they have borne the brunt of the economic downturn.
I was lucky; I got my job back six weeks later. But the experience made me reflect that not every Black woman was as fortunate as I was.
As Black women, we are often taught to be self-sufficient and strong. We are told that we can overcome any obstacle and that no one can ever take away our power, especially when it comes to our finances. We are expected to be able to take care of ourselves and our families without asking for help. However, the reality is that many Black women do not have a solid foundation when it comes to personal finance. Some of us may have never been taught how to budget or invest in our future, just that we should find a job and survive. As a result, we can end up feeling lost and overwhelmed when it comes to money.
I was raised by a single mother who only obtained her high school diploma, and who always struggled to make ends meet after my father passed. One study has found that parents who are struggling financially or lack financial literacy are more likely to make decisions based on "survival mode." These parents report that they are constantly stressed, which interferes with their ability to make good decisions. The study also found that this is even more true for parents who are living in poverty or at financial risk because they are under constant stress, making it very difficult to plan for the future.
As a result of my upbringing, I grew up thinking that money was something to be worried about—something that would always be tight. Even now as an adult, I worry about money and whether or not I'll have enough. I have never really been able to save or invest in my future; I was always just trying to make it through the month. Before the pandemic, I began to feel like I was never going to get ahead financially. No matter how much money I made, it always seemed to disappear as quickly as it came in. I knew that I needed to make a change, but I didn't know where to start.
The pandemic was a wake-up call. Being furloughed made me realize that holding onto this fear wasn’t a sustainable way to live. I needed to change my relationship with money if I ever wanted to genuinely feel secure. I needed to find a way to become more financially confident.
Financial confidence means learning about personal finance, developing a budget, and investing in your future. While there is no cohesive definition for the term “financial confidence,” many surveys and financial planners can describe it as comprising three concepts:
Self-efficacy: whether people believe they can make effective financial decisions;
Self-assurance: whether people believe they can act and follow through on those decisions;
Self-determination: whether people have the intention and willpower to take control of their finances.
With financial confidence, we, as Black women, can take control of our money and build the bright future we deserve. To begin nourishing my financial confidence, I decided to research financial literacy for Black people. I read books like Financial Starter Kit: Gain Financial Literacy and Avoid the Pitfalls of the American Dream and began to better understand what I needed to do to gain financial freedom. Soon after, I started saving money each paycheck and investing in stocks, cryptocurrency, and a high-yield savings account. It took some time and effort, but my financial situation slowly improved. Afterward, I was able to quit my job and take time to focus on my copywriting and content writing career and entrepreneurship.
While the pandemic has exacerbated many issues, it has created new opportunities for Black women to build financial confidence and security. In recent months, there has been a surge in Black women starting businesses and investing in stocks and other assets. This trend is driven by a growing awareness of the need for financial independence and a desire to create positive change in the world. As Black women continue to assert our power and influence, there is no doubt that we will continue to reshape the financial landscape in America.
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Derek Thompson. Your Brain on Poverty: Why Poor People Seem to Make Bad Decisions.
Marguerite Ward and Tyler Sonnemaker. All The Visceral Ways Black Women In America Have Been Hurt By The Coronavirus Unemployment Crisis.
Paul J. Yakoboski, Annamaria Lusardi, and Andrea Hasler. Financial Literacy, Wellness, And Resilience Among African Americans.
Ted Daniels and Nekia Hackworth Jones. Black Women and Investing.
UK Strategy for Financial Wellbeing. What is financial confidence, and how can we improve it?