BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD)–Many families are living paycheck to paycheck with nothing to pass to their families, but debt. This problem is disproportionately affecting minorities especially black people in the state. However one woman who lost everything is defying the odds.
“At first, I felt resentful. Because I’m like…how could you not plan for the future?” Conquer Consulting Group CEO Dymonesha Brown expressed.
Dymonesha Brown grew up as a quiet child. Her mom passed away with cancer when she was just 3-years-old. Her father was killed in a construction accident.
“He literally had worked himself to death because he was called to do a two-man job, and there was just one of him'” she said.
Frustrated and confused at just 19-years-old, she was left with no money and a baby on the way.
“When my mom passed, when I was three, he had misused a lot of my Social Security. So, I watched, you know, him poorly managing money,” explained Brown. “Basically, from the time I pay, my mom passed up until I was able to manage. And he gave me the card and it had $0. “
Brown’s life took a turn for the worse. Her father died and the debt became a burden that she couldn’t carry.
“I was taking out student loans and then I necessarily didn’t have a plan for these things. I was just taking out student loans, using it for personal reasons because I felt like this free money,” she stated.
After hitting what seemed like rock bottom, she ended up in jail and then in counseling. She then worked to get her life and her finances together.
Something, she said, which wasn’t an easy task.
“I began to educate myself, I always used to be like, dang, I wish I knew then what I know now like, I would have been in the hole …and then I started to realize that I couldn’t fault him for what he didn’t know,” said Brown.
She got certified as a credit consultant at the start of what she felt like was her purpose.
“I really got certified and became a certified credit consultant to help myself first. I became my first client.'” she stated.
Now the mother of three runs her own financial business, working with nonprofits and business owners to help educate minorities and underserved communities on financial literacy.
“It’s crazy, when people define your target audience…I was my target audience at one point, like I was my ideal customer at one point because that’s who I attract now,” said Brown.
Brown felt it was important to pass on her knowledge and help others like someone else did for her.
“You pay for what you don’t know. And I feel like because I like the financial literacy it was, is a lot of mistakes that I made,” she said.
Primerica Regional Vice President Mary Bellanger said Brown is not alone, a large portion of the Black Americans end up in a similar financial situation.
“We make ignorant decisions, not necessarily stupid decisions, but we make ignorant decisions because we don’t know'” Bellengar explained. “On education, a lack of education. A lot of times it’s based on lack of vision.”
Bellengar said minorities are already starting at a disadvantage making 86 cents to their white counterparts’ dollar.
“What we bring to the table makes a difference in how fast we go. Doesn’t mean we can’t catch up. But we’re starting from behind in a lot of instances. And that’s just a fact,” said Bellengar.
Bellengar said the cycle of debt and financial illiteracy continues until people take control of their lives and learn how money works.
“If we never get our priorities straight, we’ll never get our financial lives straight. And that’s financial literacy…and financial empowerment just doesn’t happen for our communities,” she explained.
There are several factors that play a role in this disparity, much of what leads to perception.
“So, we have minority communities who don’t always see successful people who look like themselves. They might see success, but it’s usually in some other avenue, some other career,” stated Bellengar.
Bellengar said sometimes financial illiteracy is a learned behavior passed on from generation to generation to survive, just like Brown family did. However, having access to resources can change somebody’s life.
“If we were more financially literate, we would know to live a little bit below our means, to pay ourselves first, to be sure that even if you if you can’t accumulate $10,000 at one time, start some kind of little savings aside for that emergency that is going to come'” she explained.
“Just having poor financial management, it affects you like physically, mentally, emotionally,” said Brown.
“But if we can change one life, who can change another…even if it’s just one person in that family…One person in that family makes a change and there is a ripple effect,” added Bellengar.
“Decisions we make can either impact our lives in a negative way or a positive way” said Brown.
To learn more about financial literacy and the resources that are available click here.