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10 mins read

Empowering Minorities in Banking: Nicole A. Elam, President and CEO of the National Bankers Association

The National Bankers Association (NBA) is the leading trade association for the country’s minority depository institutions (MDIs). The Association strives to preserve and promote Black, Hispanic, Asian, Pacific Islander, Native American, and women-owned and operated banks across the country, all working to help communities that are underserved by traditional banks and financial service providers. The NBA works collaboratively with its member banks to eliminate the racial wealth gap.

MDIs are at the center of wealth creation by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low- to moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, there are 21 Black banks. At its peak, there were 134. This decline means that fewer banks are serving Black communities. The National Bankers Association is working to address the decline in the number of Black banks and the growing digital divide that is exacerbating racial inequality in financial services.

The Association’s nonprofit affiliate is leading the way by creating partnerships with technology and fintech companies to provide solutions for minority banks that help bridge the digital divide and support their continued growth and success.

Nicole A. Elam, Esq. is the youngest President and CEO of the National Bankers Association since the Association’s founding in 1927.

In this interview, Nicole A. Elam, Esq. discusses the technical assistance and resources being offered to Black and minority banks in the digital era, the importance of increasing access to Tier 1 capital, encouraging private-sector investment, and more.

Nicole A. Elam

What technical assistance or resources are being offered to Black banks to help them thrive in an era of digital disruption?

Digital innovation is needed now more than ever to scale and remain competitive in the banking industry. But implementing technology is expensive. The largest banks spend $10 to $11+ billion a year on technology. Contrast that with $374 million, the average asset size of a Black bank.

As small banks, MDIs will never be able to outspend competitors. To solve this, the nonprofit arm of the National Bankers Association, in partnership with the Alliance for Innovative Regulation, launched MDI ConnectTech to bridge the digital divide and support the continued growth and success of these critical institutions.

With $10 million in leading grant support from the Citi Foundation’s Community Finance Innovation Fund, MDI ConnectTech works with MDIs to develop and integrate technology solutions that multiply their lending capacity and effectively increase the accessibility and affordability of financial services to underserved customers.

These efforts enable minority banks to remain sustainable financial epicenters for economically vulnerable consumers and small businesses.

How are Black banks best positioned to help our communities recover and overcome many of the systemic issues that have placed them at an economic disadvantage?

Black and minority banks were born out of racism because Black, brown, and immigrant communities could not go to mainstream financial institutions for their banking services. The unfortunate reality is that’s still the case today.

Since the Freedman’s Savings Bank founding in 1865, MDIs have been the cornerstone of efforts to narrow the racial wealth gap by providing financial services, mortgages, and small business loans to minority, low-to-moderate-income, and underserved communities — when other financial institutions would not.

Today, MDIs serve communities that are 77% minority, originate a higher share of small business loans to borrowers in low- and moderate-income census tracts when compared to non-MDIs, and generate 37% of their mortgages to minority borrowers compared to only 13% from non-MDIs. Data continues to show MDIs support the community when they need it the most.

What steps are being taken to give Black banks greater access to Tier 1 capital that would allow them to scale?

Tier 1 capital is essential for banks to grow and scale. For every dollar of capital invested, they can increase their lending and impact on the community by a multiple of ten. The U.S. Department of Treasury’s Emergency Capital Investment Program provided an unprecedented $3 billion in capital investments to MDIs to augment their efforts to support small businesses and consumers in their communities that were impacted by the pandemic.

The private and philanthropic sectors have also stepped up. Over the last three years, MDIs have experienced explosive growth, growing by 35% in assets – which is faster than the national average in the banking industry. And Black banks have experienced the most growth, growing by 56% in assets.

The global pandemic and the racial awakening of 2020 brought increased attention to MDIs. The federal government, private sector, and philanthropic community have all acknowledged that supporting communities and businesses hardest hit by the pandemic, and closing the racial wealth gap, involves investing capital into the financial institutions that sit in and serve those communities.

In what ways is the capitalization of Black banks an environmental issue as well as an economic one?

A 2021 report by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency confirmed that minority and underserved communities are often more vulnerable to the harmful impact of climate change. During financial hardships brought on by events like climate change or a global pandemic, Black and minority banks are on the ground, deeply rooted and active in the community.

The National Bankers Association, and ten other organizations led by the African American Alliance of CDFI CEOs, formed the Community Builders of Color Coalition to urge EPA to ensure that minority communities benefit equally from the Greenhouse Gas Reduction Fund.

The Fund provides $7 billion in competitive grants for clean energy and climate projects that decrease greenhouse gas emissions and enable low-income and disadvantaged communities to access or benefit from zero-emission technologies. The Coalition is seeking a grant through this Fund for community lenders, like MDIs.

By supporting renewable energy, energy efficiency, and other clean energy projects, Black banks and MDIs help to create jobs, stimulate economic growth and promote social equity while positively impacting the environment.

How can private-sector investors be encouraged to make equity investments in Black banks?

The White House-led Equitable Opportunity Coalition is a great example of the private sector stepping up. Several Wall Street banks and Coalition members have made equity investments in Black and minority banks, realizing that if you want to support communities of color then you must invest in the community lenders that support them.

Over a century of data proves the important role Black and minority banks play in closing the racial wealth gap. Add that data to the fact that every dollar of capital invested in a Black bank can be leveraged to increase lending and impact in communities of color by a multiple of ten.

Taken together that makes a compelling argument of why the private sector is making equity investments in Black and minority banks to catalyze impact and advance their racial equity efforts.

How can the minority ownership status of our Black banks be protected?

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation defines MDIs as a depository institution in which minority ownership is at least 51% or the majority of board members are minority, and the community served is predominately minority. Given the role Black banks and MDIs play in communities, it’s essential to protect their ownership status.

One of this year’s legislative priorities for the National Bankers Association is modifying the Bank Holding Company Act to allow for significant infusions of non-dilutive equity investments in MDIs without jeopardizing their minority status.

Under the Act, a MDI’s minority ownership status is jeopardized when an investment exceeds 25% of the institution’s equity, which is easy to do if you’re a small bank. The Association is advocating to exempt community banks under $3 billion from the 25% change-of-control provisions to attract significant equity investments and to help protect the minority ownership status of minority banks.

by Tony O. Lawson

4 mins read

5 Ways to Build Business Credit

Building business credit can help your company in a variety of ways. It can make obtaining specific types of financing, business insurance, or payment terms with suppliers easier or less expensive. It may even assist your company in acquiring lucrative business contracts.

Business Credit

In this article, we’ll go over how to build business credit in order to help your company grow.

1. Open a Business Bank Account

You should open a business bank account as soon as possible in order to establish business credit. A business bank account allows you to keep your personal and business finances separate. You’ll also be able to apply for business loans, merchant cash advances, and alternative lending products.

Your business credit score will increase if you use your business account to pay for business expenses such as utilities, commercial rent, and employee payroll. Strong business credit history will affect your business credit score positively if you use a dedicated bank account for your business finances and make on-time payments.

2. Get a Business Credit Card

Another way to keep your business and personal finances separate is to apply for a business credit card that is only for business-related purchases. This allows you to build your business credit score without dipping into your personal credit balance and negatively impacting your personal credit score. Purchase items for your business location, such as marketing materials or furniture, with a business credit card.

3. Set up Trade Lines with Suppliers

Establish trade lines (i.e. lines of credit) with your suppliers. Even if you start with low credit limits, developing these lines will allow you to build your business credit while also providing documented proof of your payment history.

Create trade lines with suppliers with whom you frequently rent equipment or purchase inventory. These trade lines require regular payments, which will improve your business credit score if you make payments on time. When you are successful with a few initial suppliers, you’ll have positive credit references to build upon with future suppliers.

4. Pay on Time or Early

Creating trade lines is only useful if you can pay on time. Make sure you have the procedures in place to pay your lenders and suppliers on time. Payments that are even just a few days late can damage your business credit report and lower your credit score. If you’re worried about meeting payment deadlines, identify any cash flow gaps that could affect your business.

5. Keep Track of Your Business Credit Score

Monitoring your business credit score is the best way to understand your business credit. You can do this by reviewing your TransUnion or Equifax business credit report. When you review your business credit report, you will be able to identify specific issues causing your score to fall, such as missed payments, outstanding balances, credit utilization, and current lawsuits on your profile. Knowing the exact details of your business credit report gives you specific items you can work on to improve your score.

Now that you know how important business credit is, you can take the necessary steps to improve it.

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1 min read

Creating a Black Investment Syndicate That Invests Nationally and Internationally

As someone who is interested in investing in projects around the world, I’m intrigued by the idea of a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors and investment firms that combine resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken Goodwin shares my interest in this concept. Ken is the Senior Managing Principal & President of Jeanensis, a global advisory firm that has developed its expertise in the areas of FinTech and RegTech, Artificial Intelligence, Blockchain, and more.

In this interview, we explore several ideas, including a Black investment syndicate, a group of Black investors, private equity, and venture capital firms that pool resources to invest on a global scale.

Ken also shares details on what it takes to be a successful investor, his STEM work with HBCU’s, and the investing sectors he considers recession-proof.

Don’t forget to LIKE the video and SUBSCRIBE to the channel!


Tony O. Lawson

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3 mins read

Kiddie Kredit, The App Promoting Financial Responsibility, One Kid at a Time

Kiddie Kredit is a mobile app designed to educate children on the credit system by completing chores.

The free app gives kids points for completing chores around the house. After meeting a goal, they are rewarded with both monetary and non-monetary prizes from their parents.

We caught up with founder and CEO, Evan Leaphart, to learn more about the company.

kiddie kredit
Evan Leaphart, founder and CEO of Kiddie Kredit

What inspired you to start Kiddie Kredit?

I was inspired to start Kiddie Kredit because I realized that the moment I turned 18, I hopped on the opportunity to get a credit card, over-leveraged my situation, and fell into early debt because of poor financial decisions.

I saw how much this decision negatively affected my credit and hindered my ability to gain access to capital over the next few years. I had a moment of clarity where I realized that although my score was low due to bad choices, I was unaware of how credit worked in the first place. I wanted to create something at scale that could change this for the generation after me.

What are some ways that financial literacy at a young age can benefit a child in adulthood?

If a child learns to spend within their means and save, they will be creating solid foundational habits that will make managing a credit card easier as they enter adulthood.

They will be less likely to have high utilization on their credit cards which will, in turn, lead to better credit scores which will ultimately lead to lower interest rates on a mortgage and/or auto loan.

Where do you see Kiddie Kredit 5 years from now?

I see us providing as many children as possible with a responsible path to their first credit card. We also have a couple of (confidential) things in the works that we are excited about.

What advice do you have for aspiring entrepreneurs?

Keep going! It is literally that simple. When people see how long you have been pursuing your passion despite all of the naysayers along the way, it won’t matter as much about where your product/service is at.

They will begin to believe more in YOU and your ability to execute. If an investor knows that you won’t let this dream die they are more inclined to believe you won’t let their investment die either. So I simply say…. KEEP GOING!!!

Tony O. Lawson

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2 mins read

Black Owned Credit Unions You Should Know

Black-owned credit unions have long been a cornerstone of financial stability and empowerment for the Black community.

Founded in response to systemic discrimination in traditional banking, these institutions have provided access to essential financial services, fostered financial literacy, and promoted economic growth within underserved communities.

Today, Black-owned credit unions continue to serve as a beacon of hope, offering a safe and welcoming space for Black individuals to achieve their financial goals.

Black Owned Credit Unions

FAMU Federal Credit Union (Tallahassee, FL)

black owned credit union

Unity of Eatonville Financial Credit Union (Eatonville, FL)

Credit Union of Atlanta (Atlanta, GA)

Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Federal Credit Union  (Toccoa, GA) 

black owned credit unions

South Side Community Federal Credit Union  (Chicago, IL) 

Urban Beginnings Choice Federal Credit Union (Fort Wayne, IN)

Southern Teachers & Parents Federal Credit Union (Baton Rouge/Thibodaux, LA) 


MECU Credit Union (Baltimore, MD)

Hope Credit Union (Jackson, MS)

St. Louis Community Credit Union  (St. Louis, MO)

Greater Kinston Credit Union  (Kinston, NC)

Concord Federal Credit Union (Brooklyn, NY)

Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union  (Long Island City, NY)

Urban Upbound Federal Credit Union  (Queens, NY)

Faith Community United CU  (Cleveland, OH)

Toledo Urban Federal Credit Union  (Toledo, OH)

Hill District Federal CU  (Pittsburgh, PA)

Faith Cooperative Federal Credit Union  (Dallas, TX) 

Mt Olive Baptist Church FCU  (Arlington, TX)

Oak Cliff Christian Federal Credit Union  (Dallas, TX)

Howard University Employees Federal Credit Union  (Washington, DC)

Phi Beta Sigma Federal Credit Union (Washington, DC)


Virginia State University FCU  (Petersburg, VA)

black owned credit unions

The For Members Only (FMO) Federal Credit Union (Digital)

by Tony O. Lawson

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1 min read

Black Banks That Are Still Operating In 2021

The number of Black banks operating in the U.S. fell 54 percent between 2001 and 2016. Many have either been acquired or have simply gone out of business.

We’ve compiled the most recent and up to date list of the banks that are still Black owned and managed and are still operating in 2021.

Black Banks

Alamerica Bank (Birmingham, AL)

Broadway Federal Bank  (Los Angeles, CA)

Carver Federal Savings Bank (New York, NY)

Carver State Bank (Savannah, GA)

Citizens Trust Bank (Atlanta, GA)

black banks
Citizens Trust Bank

Citizen Trust Bank (Birmingham, AL)

Citizens Bank (Nashville, TN)

Columbia Savings and Loan (Milwaukee, WI)

City National Bank (Newark, NJ)

Commonwealth National Bank (Mobile, AL)

First Independence Bank (Detroit, MI)

The Harbor Bank (Baltimore, MD)

GN Bank (Chicago, IL)

Industrial Bank (Washington D.C.)

black banks
Industrial Bank

Liberty Bank (New Orleans, LA)

Liberty Bank (Baton Rouge, LA)

Liberty Bank (Kansas City, MO)

Liberty Bank (Chicago, IL)

Liberty Bank (Jackson, MS)

Mechanics & Farmers Bank (Durham, NC)

OneUnited Bank (Miami, FL)

OneUnited Bank (Boston, MA)

United Bank of Philadelphia (Philadelphia, PA)

Unity National Bank (Houston, TX)


Tony O. Lawson

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11 mins read

Tela Holcomb Retired At 29 After She Taught Herself How To Trade Stocks

From the outside looking in, you’d never know that Tela Holcomb has a net worth closely approaching the millions. She’s a happy mother and wife who lives below her means but made financial freedom a priority.

Not too long ago, Tela had a government job, worked a 9 to 5 and knew nothing about the stock world. But with diligence and practice, she was able to master her craft and earn over $1 million in four years from stocks and trading alone. With an industry like the stock market, it may take some time to get to terms with how it all works. But the more you know, the better it will be for you when you plan on making your first investment. It is definitely worth doing your research before making any moves.

And she’s here to help you do it too. In this interview with BAUCE, Tela shares what motivated her to get in stocks, the initial fears she overcame, and why she decided to build her own platform to help other women of color financially rise to the top as well.

Tela, I want to set the stage here. What was your 9-to-5 job before you got into stocks and trading?

Tela: So before I started trading, I was doing administrative work for the government. I was doing that for about seven years. What really made me want to start learning about stocks was this guy I worked with that was always talking about how he was going to retire early from trading on the stock market. He had this whole plan to RV the country and do all this crazy stuff. It made me curious.

I thought to myself if he can do it, I know I’m smart — I can figure this thing out. So that prompted me to just really start asking him questions because other than knowing the fact that the stock market existed and that there was a channel that talks about it all day, I didn’t really know anything else about it. And I didn’t have anyone growing up or around me at the time that I ever really talked to about trading outside of your 401k or investing. So that’s really what piqued my interest. I started asking him about what books to read, and what courses to take.

What resources helped you learn about the world of stocks when you were first starting out?

Tela: Honestly, it varied. A lot of the information goes completely over your head. So I had to Google a lot of stuff. I also went to Investopedia a lot and then I would also break things down for myself. Once I figured out what a term meant, I would find a way to figure out how it related to something I’m used to in everyday life so that it was easier to explain. Think about how you teach a child to tie a shoe.

You’re not telling them “rotate your strings 45 degrees and loop them around”. Instead, we say things like “the rabbit jumped over the log or make these bunny ears”. That’s how I truly mastered the stock game — by breaking through the lingo.

Did you have children when you started trading?

Tela: Yeah, I was a single mom at the time when I first started.

Having a side hustle while you have a job can be exhausting. How did you automate trading into your schedule? How did you find the time to learn all this information?

Tela Holcomb

Via Tela Holcomb

Tela: In the beginning, you have to allot time to it. I did it only because I was committed to having it replace my job. I was committed to having it generate income for me. But I didn’t want it to take all my time away from my family. What I did was find the time that I was already pretty much wasting — like all the time I was using to watch television — and reallocate it to learning about stocks.

So while I sat outside and watched my daughter play, I would be reading a book about the stock market. I would be looking at stock charts. When I was sitting at doctor’s appointments waiting to be seen, I would be scrolling through information about stocks on my phone. I chose to use the dead times in my day also to do more studying and more learning.

What was the first stock you ever purchased?

Tela: The first stock purchased was Coach [laughs] because I love purses. I was like, you know, what, if I can make the money to purchase the purse I want through the stock then I’ll get it. I will use it as a way to motivate me.

But when you purchased that first stock, did you know how soon you would get a return on it?

Tela: Uh, you know, at first I didn’t know. It was all practicing and that’s something I try to encourage people to do is use a practice account first before you use your real money. I lost money the first time around but I kept kind of trying to practice and figure it all out.

But then I started to learn that there are trends in stocks. Maybe they always go up during a certain time of year or they always go down during a certain time of year. So once I discovered that I started to find the trends and all these different stocks.

What practice accounts do you recommend for people starting out?

Tela: There’s two practice accounts that I would definitely recommend. One is through Investopedia. They actually have a practice simulator on their website that people can use to kind of play around and get a feel of things. There’s also thinkorswim by TD Ameritrade. I love their practice platform. It’s a little techy for most people, but it’s definitely powerful and I highly recommend it.

The biggest mistake is trying to get out there with your real money when you have no idea what’s going on. I get people all the time that put their money out there and then they don’t even know how to sell it. Take the time to practice and learn this. The stock market’s not going anywhere. All this money is still going to be there to be made.

You talk about stocks as a path to financial freedom. Do you think stocks are for everyone?

Tela: Yes. I believe everyone should have stocks as a part of their wealth building or their “legacy building”. Because we can’t pass down financial legacies if all we’re doing is saving and budgeting. So stocks, real estate, something of value — some type of investing needs to be a part of your wealth building plan so that you can start building a financial legacy within your family.

You have your own platform where you share these tips and jewels. What motivated you to start sharing these resources with other people, especially African Americans?

Tela: I decided to create my own platform to educate people and share my story because when I started there weren’t very many people trading stocks that looked like me. And so when I started that was a little discouraging for me. It also felt that no one was explaining it in a way that I needed to understand so all the information clicked. So I had to do that on my own.

I realized that there are more people out there that look just like me who probably are feeling the same way that I did when I started out. They may look around in the space and feel that they don’t think they have a chance to succeed in this. So it’s really for me to be out here and represent so that other black women (and men) can see what’s truly possible. As long as we are motivated and we take the time to put into the things we want — anything is possible.


Source: Bauce Mag

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24 mins read

Growing and Maintaining Black Wealth: Watch your Ass-ets

This is the second installment in our series around the topic of “Growing and Maintaining Black wealth through sound legal strategies and problem solving.” Let’s continue with a discussion about Assets.

Growing and Maintaining Black Wealth: Watch your Ass-ets

“Gator Boots, with the pimped out Gucci suit

Ain’t got no job, but I stay sharp

Can’t pay my rent, cause all my money’s spent

but thats OK, cause I’m still fly

Got a quarter tank gas in my new E-class

but that’s alright cause I’m gon’ ride

got everything in my mama’s name

but I’m hood rich da dada dada da”

Still Fly by Big Tymers

Even though this song came out in 2002, it’s still a club banger that many of us get excited about as soon as the first beat drops. And most of us will shout the lyrics at the top of our lungs because it’s just one of those songs that brings joy to our dancing hearts. Raise your hand if you started bobbing your head a little while reading the lyrics above. Some of us relate to those lyrics a lot. My friend, in a bid to save money, decided to change his car insurance to get the cheapest car insurance quote possible. Money Expert helped him out tremendously. But getting car insurance can be really expensive for people though, there are some deals out there which have been designed to help people when it comes to getting car insurance. For example, you could check out this cheap monthly car insurance with no deposit.

Black Wealth

Big Tymers and many other rap artists brag about their wealth over hypnotic beats, easily impressing listeners with what they have. Chains that cost a condo. Expensive cars with even more expensive add-ons. Couture fashion. And there is some validity to what they’re doing. We all should be able to list out what we have, how much it is worth, and whether it is in line with our life goals and beyond.

Black Wealth

Have you ever stopped to wonder what your list of assets would be if, per chance, you decided to rap about it or brag a little? Have you ever wondered while listening to the rappers bragging about their purported wealth, “how liquid is [insert bragging rapper’s name]” and, more importantly “how liquid am I”?

Knowing what you have and what it is worth could possibly impress others. However, in the context of growing your wealth and estate planning, it is critical that you are actually able to list your assets as fluidly as Lil Wayne, Jay-Z, and the rest. At a minimum, you should:

  • be able to list everything that make up your assets;
  • know the individual and total value of your assets and the type of ownership; and
  • know what will happen to each asset when you pass away.

If you know all of these things about your assets, you are positioned to maximize the power to make your assets do the most for you and for those you plan to give them to when you pass away. If you do not know what you have, what it is worth, and what will happen to it when you pass away, then you just might be wasting a lot of hard work and hard earned money.


The focus of this article is on creating an inventory that identifies the assets that make up your estate, their value, and whether you need to make some adjustments or additions to your assets in order for you to develop an estate that meets your needs during your lifetime and meets your goals for when you pass away. Although there is basic discussion on the different types of assets that can make up your estate, you should make the time to do additional research to get a full understanding of each of these. This includes doing research online but also meeting with professionals who have solid, reliable knowledge about different financial instruments and financial planning. One feature of financial planning that many people do not quite realise the importance of is equity release. Equity release is a financial product for people aged 55 to 95 which allows you to release some of the cash (equity) tied up in the value of your home. To release equity from your home, you need to get expert advice from a qualified equity release adviser. You can actually calculate your equity by using something like this equity release calculator, just to make sure your finances are in the state they should be.

Black Wealth

You first want to list everything you own, how much each item is worth, and the beneficiaries of each item. Again, an estate is everything you own from real property (house) and personal property (cash, accounts, deejay collection, and etc.). To get you started on your inventory, we provide a worksheet you can download. Link

Most people’s estates also include a combination of some or all of the following:

  • Cash
  • Savings Accounts
  • Checking Account
  • Term Deposit Account
  • Life Insurance
  • Retirement Plans
  • Investments
  • Securities
  • Business Interests
  • Notes Receivable

Let’s take a more in-depth look at some of the financial vehicles above, because it is important to be clear on what you have and how it operates.

Term Deposit Account— This is a cash investment with a financial institution such as a bank that gives you an agreed rate of interest over a fixed period of time. A common term deposit account is a CD (certificate of deposit).

Life Insurance— Life insurance can be a significant part of an estate plan. Life insurance policies come in a variety of forms (e.g. term, whole, and universal), but the basic function of a life insurance policy is to provide a cash payment at the death of the life insured. This payment is known as a death benefit.

Black Wealth

The death benefit from a life insurance policy has numerous advantages and it takes careful planning to ensure that your life insurance is doing for you what it is intended to do. A major benefit of life insurance is to provide liquidity for your beneficiaries. In other words, it gives your beneficiaries cash and often it is soon after your death, which can be very useful, if not essential, to a surviving spouse and children. The death benefit is typically not taxable as income to the beneficiaries and it is paid directly to the beneficiaries rather than being paid to the estate of the deceased, so long as beneficiaries are listed.

Black Wealth

Other than a will, life insurance may be the best and only financial tool a person of modest means needs in their estate plan. Regardless of the policy owner’s means, it is critical to have a comprehensive understanding and strategy with your life insurance or the benefit can be lost.

Retirement Plans— As with life insurance, there are various types of retirement plans that you may have or that you will consider getting. Baby boomers and older generations often rely on Social Security, which is a government mandated plan, and pensions (an employer-sponsored plan profit sharing plan). Nowadays there are new, more robust retirement plans. For example, a 401(k) is an employer-sponsored retirement plan and most employers will match a percentage of what you contribute to your plan. Each year you can contribute up to $18,000 of your income before taxes are taken out, per federal law. Nonprofit and government employees usually have a 403(b) or 457 plan, respectively. You can also establish an Individual Retirement Plan (IRA or Roth IRA) on your own and there is a maximum amount that you can contribute each year. And if you leave your employer, you can roll your employer sponsored plan into your IRA.

Black WealthBusiness Interests— Whether you have a side hustle as a deejay or your main gig is your own business, know what your business is worth. More specifically, know what your share of the business is worth. Also, have clear instructions for what happens to your business or share of the business when you pass away. Should it be dissolved? Do you want to leave it to someone? Ideally, any business interest should not be compromised by your death undermining the effort and money invested in it. If you have a business partner(s), you should maintain life insurance policies on each other’s life and have a buy-sell agreement, so your interest in the business is not compromised when your partner passes away.

Black Wealth

Notes Receivable— This is a written promise to receive money from another person on or by a set date. The note formalizes a loan you make to someone and it is an asset. It is important to have any loan you make to someone put in writing and to use an attorney to draft this agreement to ensure your interests should the debtor file for bankruptcy, die, or disagree with the terms at a later date. Notes receivable can also be passed on to your heirs.

Black Wealth

Next Steps

After you have listed and determined the value of your assets, add them up to see the total value. You might find yourself impressed with what you have or you might realize that you need to make some changes to either grow your estate or to make sure what you leave behind is suitable for the loved ones you leave behind. Liquidity comes to mind again. Liquidity is an important and often overlooked characteristic of one’s assets. A basic way to determine your liquidity is to find out how much easily accessible money you have in the form of cash and equivalents, which you can do on your own or you may to speak to financial professionals to get the number.

Also, take a look at your debt and ask similar questions about your debt obligations as you do for your assets. How much is each debt? What happens to the debt when I die? How does it affect my potential heirs and beneficiaries? Keep in mind the assets that will go directly to the beneficiaries you named such as life insurance. Also, certain student loan debt is forgiven when you pass away, i.e. it does not become a debt of your estate.

Black Wealth


Nominate beneficiaries. Many of the assets discussed in this article are set up so that you can nominate beneficiaries and alternate beneficiaries to receive the assets directly when you pass away. It is critical that you nominate beneficiaries, plus alternate beneficiaries, on any account that you allow you to do so. Not nominating beneficiaries plus alternate beneficiaries can and will likely undermine your entire estate plan. In most states, if you fail to or intentionally do not nominate beneficiaries, the asset will go to your estate and be used first to pay the costs of administering your estate and then your debts. Only after those obligations are paid for will the money be received by your loved ones.

Do not rely solely on employer-provided life insurance and retirement plans. These may not be sufficient for your family’s needs and they often do not continue after you leave a place of employment.

Do regular check-ups. Regularly check in on your assets to ensure that you have the coverage you need; that they are growing to meet your goals; and that the beneficiaries are who you need or want them to be. Annual check-ups and life milestones, such as family changes, retirement or changes in health, are good times to do a check-up too.

Develop a plan unique to your needs. It is not uncommon for people to follow the financial advice of their parents or friends. Although they can provide helpful advice, you must pay attention to your unique circumstances. Many baby boomers would advise putting your assets in a trust. Trusts are complicated and expensive. One of the greatest benefits of a trust is avoiding estate taxes and you currently need to have an estate close to $5 million to be concerned about estate taxes. Likewise, if you are single and have no children, your financial goals can be very different. Life insurance may not play a major role and the money you would use for life insurance premiums can be targeted to financial vehicles with greater growth potential than life insurance. You can also consider leaving your assets to your alma mater or a non-profit.

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Don’t let debt undermine the value of your estate. Many people prioritize paying off their debt paid during their lifetime and when they pass away. Having no debt or keeping debt low certainly gives you more financial freedom. However, this is not a reality for most Americans, especially for people with student loan or mortgage debt. It is possible, though, to grow wealth in spite of debt. In order to do this, you need a plan and this plan involves a good estate planning attorney, a good CPA specializing in taxes, and good financial professionals. These professionals will help you build a strategy to grow wealth and sufficiently address debt to meet your individual needs.

A good estate planning attorney will assist you with creating an asset protecting estate plan. The cost for this is minimal compared to what you could lose to paying off your debt. A good CPA can assist you with tax planning strategies that allow you to put more of your income towards growth and reducing your tax obligations based on your debt repayment. Then financial professionals can address your specific circumstances and provide advice on financial vehicles that work for you.

Black WealthDeveloping a team of professionals to aid you will likely require a lot of work on your part in getting referrals, interviewing people, and doing research. This effort is needed and in the long run, benefits are priceless. Just remember: your ultimate goal should be growing enough wealth to take care of yourself while you are living and to take care of you any loved ones you leave behind or building a legacy.

Consider inexpensive life insurance policies to cover some debt. Inexpensive life insurance policies can cover some of your debt at your death or the death of a co-borrower. Your car loan lender may offer a policy that pays off your vehicle loans. If you have student loan debt, find out what happens to your student loan debt when you die. It may make sense to get an inexpensive policy to pay off the debt if you have a co-borrower. For example, it may make sense for you and a co-borrower on student loans to get policies each other’s life to pay off the loans when one of you dies. The same holds true for business loans and home loans. With student loans, though, you and your co-borrower should also seek removal of the non-student co-borrower as soon as possible, which is usually a few years into repayment of the loans. Many lenders will not tell you that you can do that. You have to be proactive.

Balance your funeral wishes with transferring your wealth regardless of its size. Historically and presently, many people have “funeral insurance” which is either a standard life insurance policy for which the policy owner wants the death benefit used to pay for their funeral or it is a policy very similar to a life insurance policy that will direct the death benefit to the funeral service provider to pay for funeral expenses. The difference is that with the standard life insurance policy, the beneficiary is legally under no obligation to use the money to pay the funeral expenses. It is merely a promise. In either case, if you have or plan to have a life insurance policy to pay for your funeral expenses and even your debts, consider whether doing so is really helpful to those you leave behind. Traditional funerals are expensive. The average funeral is in the ballpark of $6,000. Could $6,000 make a difference in the lives of your loved ones if it could be used for something other than your funeral? There are many options less expensive than a traditional funeral. Some options are better for the wallet and the earth. Go green!



Hopefully by now you feel encouraged to take an in-depth look at your assets. The goal is not to be able to brag like the rappers or even to see if you have something to be proud about. Regardless of your asset level, whether it is modest or very high, it is important to know what you have, how it operates, how it will transfer on your death, who it will go to, and the various scenarios of what can happen with all that you have worked hard to earn.
At the very least, you need to have a basic understanding of the financial assets you may have. Then, try to take it one step further and find out if what you have meets your needs and goals. Do you have the right type of assets? Also, find out if your assets are set up to meet your goals (i.e., have you nominated beneficiaries and alternate beneficiaries on accounts that allow it?). And once you have taken a good look at your assets, work with your loved ones to do the same by sharing this article and even sharing what has worked for you.

– Contributed by Mavis Gragg

Mavis Gragg is an attorney at the Gragg Law Firm, PLLC in Durham, North Carolina where she specializes in estate planning and estate administration. She is very passionate about maintaining and growing Black wealth through sound legal strategies and problem solving. When she is not being a justice girl, she can be found at an art gallery, trotting the globe, or on the dance floor.