The racial wealth gap is real and deep but Clarifi is working to collapse it - Generocity Philly

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Sep. 26, 2017 10:38 am

The racial wealth gap is real and deep but Clarifi is working to collapse it

"It seems we’ve convinced ourselves — and by ‘we’ I mean Americans writ large — that racial discrimination is a thing of the past." Clarifi's director of community engagement makes the case for its upcoming financial training program.
This is a guest post by Soneyet Muhammad, Clarifi's director of community engagement.
Did you know the median white household has up to fifteen times the net worth of Black and Latinx households in the United States?

Census data shows that African Americans are the only racial group still earning less than they did in 2000. The racial wealth gap has only worsened since the 2008 Great Recession because much of the wealth of many Black and Latinx households was retained in now-depressed home values.

Compounding the problem, as Yale psychologist Jennifer Richeson, co-author of a study published last week on perceptions of inequality in the U.S., explains, is this: “It seems we’ve convinced ourselves — and by ‘we’ I mean Americans writ large — that racial discrimination is a thing of the past.”

Unfortunately the data tells a very different story: For every $100 in white family wealth, black families hold just $5.04, according to the Census Bureau’s Current Population Survey.

I am proud to be part of Clarifi, the work of which is about empowering people with the knowledge and tools to change their financial outlook for the better. After the election of 2016, I renewed my commitment to unapologetically focus on how we can improve outcomes for Black and brown communities. As the current administration advances policies that are clearly detrimental to communities of color, I believe we must push forward to support members of these communities, and dig even deeper to bring LGBT and immigrant communities along with us.

That is why I’m thrilled to lead the team presenting our fall installment of Clarifi Boot Camp, where, for the first time, we will specifically address the racial wealth gap.

Our nationally recognized Boot Camp program traditionally consists of financial education, counseling and coaching for clients who seek to learn money management strategies to improve financial wellness. This November, an added layer to our work will explicitly discuss historic racial barriers — from redlining to school segregation — and match our services around the present-day financial challenges that communities of color face.

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Collapsing the racial wealth gap is not just an urgent challenge for our nation and political leaders.

To the extent that communities of color are heavily invested in their own housing, we will not only encourage homeownership for new homeowners of color with respect to pre-purchase counseling services, but we will also offer free retirement coaching services to provide approachable, private investor education in the context of holistic financial wellness.

Clarifi is also partnering with Community Legal Services, which will join us to discuss “tangled title” — a common problem in Philadelphia, particularly in Black and Latinx communities where houses may be passed down through families without legally certified paperwork. Tackling these issues through informed estate planning can help ensure that the assets Black and Latinx families work to build can be preserved as a foundation for intergenerational wealth.

My hope is that Boot Campers will leverage their household resources to acquire property, invest wisely and manage their finances to maximize their net worth.

To cap it off, Boot Campers will be invited to a special lender fair to explore the mortgage shopping process with six different credit unions and banks. Data published by the Pew Research Center in January of this year showed that Black and Hispanic people have a harder time getting approved for mortgages — and those who get mortgages are more likely to pay higher rates. We want to provide a comfortable space for clients to interact face-to-face with lenders, with the added support of their coach and a custom mortgage shopping guide to clearly explain product features, important requirements and financial benefits.

Anyone is welcome to enroll in Clarifi’s Boot Camp and we very much encourage Black, Latinx and Asian individuals to sign up this fall, either as a Boot Camp participant or as a volunteer coach. Our coaches play a critical role as an accountability partner so clients can problem-solve around obstacles in real-time and build resilience and goal-setting skills. Coaches do not need to be financial experts. They just need to be committed to once-a-month check-ins for six months.

Collapsing the racial wealth gap is not just an urgent challenge for our nation and political leaders. Research clearly demonstrates that these racial inequities were intentional and Clarifi is not disillusioned in thinking that our work will completely ameliorate the wealth divide.

However, we do see an opportunity to close the knowledge gap in the effort to redirect household resources into building sustainable wealth and assets. This is how we can help build a vibrant, healthy economy for all. And that’s exactly what we are here for.

Clarifi’s fall 2017 Boot Camp will take place at Temple University’s Center City campus on three consecutive Monday evenings, starting Nov. 6. To learn more about Boot Camp and register as a Clarifi Coach, please visit the website or email bootcamp@clarifi.org

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Soneyet Muhammad

Soneyet Muhammad has almost 15 years of experience as a financial professional and joined Clarifi to lead the education team in August 2013. She graduated from The George Washington University with a BBA with a dual concentration in finance and economics and public policy and is pursuing her graduate degree at Pennsylvania State University in community and economic development.

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