Published On: April 29, 2022

Increasing Financial Literacy 101 with Financial Wellness Educator William Cooper

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Episode Summary:
We live in a world where some of us have been convinced that looking wealthy is more important than actually building wealth. From what I’ve seen and experienced, many of our people lack financial literacy. It is something that I noticed at a very young age, and since then worked to educate myself on how to better handle my finances. I try to pass on the financial insights I gain to the people around me, but I am by no means an expert on the subject so I brought along someone that is, Finical Wellness Educator William Cooper.

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About the Interviewee:
William Cooper is proud to be born, raised, and educated in Detroit. He holds an M.A in Communication from Wayne State University. He currently serves as Financial Wellness Educator and DE&I Advisor at Sentinel Benefits and Financial Group. William enjoys educating individuals on ways to improve financial wellness. Additionally, in his free time, he enjoys spending time with his partner and loved ones, teaching yoga, and traveling.

Spotlight on Melanin:
I am still looking for new submissions for Spotlight on Melanin. Spotlight on Melanin is the part of the show where I like to spotlight a creator, influencer, artist, business owner, or activist of color. If you or someone you know would like a chance to be featured on Spotlight on Melanin, send us an email at Spotlight@StillTalkingBlack.com. Please include links to their social media and why you feel they should be spotlighted.

Credits:
Host/Producer: Richard Dodds @Doddsism
Show Music: @IAmTheDjBlue

Episode Transcript

Richard Dodds 0:00
Coming up later in the episode.

William Cooper 0:03
So I would suggest in this should be done periodically, take account of what you have coming in monthly after tax, and then take a look at all of your bills and expenses going out. That’s first gonna let you know if you were spending more than you earn. And from there taking a fine tooth comb and doing the mental exercise of determining what’s a discretionary expense, and what is a mandatory expense.

Richard Dodds 0:34
This is still talking black, a show about giving perspective to issues that black people face every day. I’m your host, Richard. I remember going into one of my favorite clothing stores to pick up a few things. As I stood in line, I saw the cashiers trying to persuade customers to sign up for a store card. The exchange was pretty simple. They tell you how much you can save with your order if you got the car, and all the other benefits you will receive. More often than not, you will see customers decline the car and pay their orders as is. This is an exchange I’ve been a part of on several occasions. For me, I have enough credit cards, and store cards rarely offer enough of a benefit to persuade me to take on some extra credit, especially since most store credit cards have higher than average interest rates. Well, that particular day, once I got to the cashier they exchanged one is normal. If you apply for our store card, you will save X amount of dollars today, and we’ll send you coupons in the future. I politely declined. And usually that would have been the end of the story. But that wasn’t the case. This time around. This time around, the cashier leaned forward and whispered, you still get the discount on the order even if you get declined. She said it in a way that insinuated that my credit rating wasn’t high enough to get approved for the car. And that was a reason I wasn’t applying. For me this was incredibly insulting. Especially because the cashier was black, and had been the only black customer in airline. I paid for my order and left shaking my head. That’s something that I had never observed before and couldn’t imagine them saying that to someone that wasn’t a minority. We live in a world where some of us have been convinced that looking wealthy is more important than actually building wealth. From what I’ve seen and what I’ve experienced many of our people like financial literacy. It is something that I noticed that a very young age, and since then, I’ve worked very hard to educate myself on how to better handle my finances. I tried to pass on the financial insights I gained to the people around me as I learned them, but I by no means an expert on the subject. So after the break, I’ll be joined by Financial Wellness Educator, William Cooper. If you like what we’re doing here on still talking black, one of the best ways to support the show is by buying merch from our shop as still talking black for slash shop. We have all types of items including hoodies, T shirts, coffee mugs, and more. Not only will you get a stylish piece of gear, but you’ll also be supporting the show and helping us continue to make great content. Again, you can find a shop at still talking black.com or slash shop. Every purchase helps thank you in advance.

William Cooper 3:20
The views and opinions expressed are those of William Cooper and are subject to change based on market and other conditions. All information has been obtained from sources believed to be reliable, but its accuracy is not guaranteed. The information provided is for informational purposes only and is not intended, nor should be interpreted as an offer or solicitation, or recommendation to purchase or sale. Any security minutes. I’m William Cooper, a senior Financial Wellness Educator and Diversity Equity and Inclusion advisor at sensible benefits and Financial Group.

Richard Dodds 3:54
Now that is a pairing that you do not hear very often D E and I and finance How did you get into that particular position?

William Cooper 4:05
Oh, yeah, no, absolutely. So as with many companies in 2022, given the pandemic and, you know, various situations for black indigenous people of color around the country, you know, many situations like police brutality, the list goes on, many companies started taking more of an intentional approach to diversity, equity and inclusion. And one thing is that my company, I feel since I’ve joined, cared about these things, but we just needed to put our boots on the ground and start working. So in 2020, we actually started a voluntary exploratory committee, just for different individuals to begin the conversation of our strategy for DNI and towards the end of the year, I expressed my interest in going deeper into the world and leadership let me know that they were also considering me for a role so it kind of just worked out

Richard Dodds 5:00
Wow, that’s amazing to be able to do both. And I think both are very important, especially financial literacy and our community is something that from what I’ve experienced, and me personally, it’s something that I focus on growing up just because I feel like in a lot of our community, I don’t always see a whole bunch of financial literacy. There’s just been a lack of financial literacy in general, just in our community. And it’s something that is worrisome to me what has been your experiences, when it comes to that in our communities?

William Cooper 5:31
You know, I can agree I can agree, thinking about the black community and other communities, financial literacy is not talked about as much as it should be. And then I also think about my personal situation. Growing up, we can’t fault our parents and our people for what they didn’t know. But I didn’t know anything about this stuff. All I knew about was going to work, get a paycheck, and you need to be able to pay your bills. But when it comes to, you know, the importance of life insurance, saving and investing all of the pieces of the puzzle to being financially well, just wasn’t talked about,

Richard Dodds 6:06
I think you even sound like life insurance, you know what I mean? And you don’t really even think about that when it comes to finance. But if you are caring for your family, then if something happens to you, that could put your family in dire straits, like right away if you’re underinsured or uninsured. I think that’s definitely something that we don’t talk about. It’s something I don’t even think about when it comes to finances kind of like, like how life insurance for me, it’s kind of like having like car insurance, you know what I mean? But you might not ever have to use that car insurance, but you’re definitely gonna one day use that life insurance?

William Cooper 6:41
Absolutely, absolutely not. I agree. And when I do my education meetings, I say the same thing. We insure our homes, we insure our cars, we need to insure ourselves, of course, we hope and pray that nothing unfortunate happens. But should something happen. Like you said, having inadequate life insurance could put your family in a worse position. And then on the other hand, having adequate life insurance could ensure that your family is going to be better off, and also could potentially generate some additional income for generational wealth.

Richard Dodds 7:15
Yeah, and I think that’s something that our counterparts have done a better job of is making sure that they are insured to where something happens to them, their family is able to not only be stable, but to able to prosper from I mean, it’s not the same as having a loved one, but they definitely make sure that their families are set up and that they can invest and that the house is paid off. And, and just having that burden off of them. Too many times I’ve seen our people struggling trying to figure out how they can bury somebody. Absolutely not talking about all the other debts that come with somebody after they die, but just trying to bury them, period. It’s a discussion in our community a lot of times.

William Cooper 7:55
Absolutely, absolutely. And, and, you know, we see it often, you know, on social media, unfortunately, someone may pass away and you know, folks need to raise donations and things like that. And, you know, one thing that’s important with a financial plan is hedging against the risk and, and being protected.

Richard Dodds 8:13
Yeah, well, 100%. So What initially attracted you to finance? Like, I know, for me, I think it was watching other people stumble. And there was almost like a language that we we needed to understand, but we weren’t trying to learn. So I was like, let me learn this language so that I could at least be adequate at understanding how finances work. What was your story, what pushed you into finance,

William Cooper 8:35
but similar story, but my goal was never for it to be a career. So when I finished my master’s degree, it was hard to find a job. So I took a position with a retirement planning administrator. And after about a year, I went to leadership, and I said, Hey, how about we create this position for me that’s needed? And they said, Well, that’s great. However, how about thinking about, you know, getting your credentials and going over to education and advising? So I said, Okay, let’s go with it. But even then, I still knew that it would only be temporary. And I would be planning to go back to school for PhD. But my goal was even though temporary, let me soak up all of this like a sponge, and be able to, you know, disseminate this information to all people who don’t know, this information may have not been taught by their families, etc. And then what’s the pandemic and of course, getting older and making life changes, I decided to stick it out for a while.

Richard Dodds 9:29
Yeah, I think it’s just something that I’ll never go out of style. It’s one of those those that is recession proof, because I feel like in those times of recession, you tighten up, but you need some advising, because it’s things that a financial adviser can tell you that you might not think about. I think about myself as a designer, even like someone may be able to go on Canva and make something but they’re not going to understand how to really make it seeing the way that I can make this thing just because I understand the laws behind design.

William Cooper 9:57
And absolutely, as you make more Money, things get more complicated. So it’s always good to, you know, have a helping hand. And one thing I do want to mention, there’s a misconception that you need to be a millionaire, or have a certain amount of assets to consider working with a financial planner. And that’s not the case. And, you know, thinking about the history of the industry, you know, years ago, maybe, you know, some advisors, some companies thought of only wanting to work with clients with a certain amount of assets, but the industry is changing. And as we know, financial literacy and financial wellness is something that’s important to all. So I just wanted to interject and say, I don’t want anyone to be discouraged, or think that you need to be a millionaire to consider working with a financial planner, having that additional guidance.

Richard Dodds 10:45
That’s a great point, especially like you think about the less you have, the more you have to really plan and figure out how you can make this stretch and how to make the most out of it. Absolutely, we can have like financial advisors and stuff like that, I think about a lot of times, and I think is, I think, a lot of different communities. But I feel like, especially with like rap culture, and some of the movies and stuff that we’ve seen, I feel like as more it happens more in our communities. And it seems like people would rather look like they’re wealthy, that actually built wealth.

William Cooper 11:21
Absolutely, I, I can agree. And you know, one thing that’s important is, it’s important to pay yourself first. So of course, you know, you want to treat yourself and, you know, spend your hard earned money on the things you want. But it’s important to think about your needs first. And it’s important to think about, you know, saving for emergency savings, saving for retirement and those types of things, it’s really important to pay yourself first and, and like you said, when you when we think about some folks in the entertainment industry, you know, you can see a celebrity, when they’re a list celebrity, they’re a millionaire. And then 510 years later, they’re putting out a documentary, talking about, you know, how they’re broken, how they don’t have any money, because they didn’t say they didn’t invest. They didn’t work with an accountant to make sure their money wasn’t getting stolen. They weren’t working with a lawyer to make sure the contracts were correct. And things like that.

Richard Dodds 12:18
Yeah. And is this too many times we have heard that story. And I think about, like going out and, and I think about sometimes my pride, like, you know, even me, as I learned and I grow like I think about oh, like I went and got I leased a car, like at least a brand new car, etc. Right. And with the Houthi, which was paid off. And it’s like I could have wrote wrote that hoopty for, you know, like another four or five years and been putting in like three to four or $500 a month away. And what would that have done, I would have been able to pay a car off in cash. And I would I would have owned the car and it would have been no interest, just changing the order. Sometimes it just greatly impacts the way that we experience life. And and I don’t know, just to save me your eggs. Sometimes it makes it easier. You think that looking wealthy, so important. But if you just change the order that you do stuff, you’ll be able to floss for real on a real level later on.

William Cooper 13:14
Exactly, exactly. And I appreciate you for you know, sharing that personal example because the road to financial wellness and literacy. It’s not an ending road, you know, there’s always room for improvement, always room to grow, and always room to learn from your mistakes. And I think your example was an example of taking a step back for the short term in not being able or not choosing to spend your money frivolously frivolously. But you’re better impacting your long term, knowing that you’re saving, knowing that you’re investing knowing that your dollar day has the opportunity to turn at 10 If you work strategically with it. So it’s kind of like that balance of taking a loss for the now even though not buying a chain isn’t necessarily a loss for greater benefit for the long term. Yeah, I

Richard Dodds 14:03
think I see Chad Ochocinco. He was a football player. And he talks about I used to wear like fake jewelry and all of this. And he said he had it. But why would he spend it and he says he’s worth a lot more money because people never saw him floss. And he was never doing all this crazy stuff. He had the money in the bank, and he was just investing his money. And I think that’s a smart mindset that we don’t always have. And it’s like, I love to see people with that mindset.

William Cooper 14:29
I feel like it was also cinco, but don’t quote me on it. But maybe two weeks ago, I feel like it was him showing that he drives a smart car and talk to talking about how much he saved on gas and all of that, thinking about inflation. There’s an average rate of inflation each year. And you know, we’ve historically talked about inflation, but this year was the first year I spelled it, you know, going to the grocery store. Oh, wow. I’m spending $50 More than I will usually spend it things like that.

Richard Dodds 14:54
The more you live, the more you learn, right and I hope so, and that’s one of the things I do like to do As I like to look back on my life, and look at the moves that I made, I think one of the most beautiful lessons that my dad ever taught me so far is that he said, learn from the good things that I do, but also learn from my mistakes as well. And I think when you can look at a parent, and he can be transparent, and show me that the mistakes that he made, and then you can look at other people’s mistakes that they’ve made. Sometimes it’s some as some things you have to learn on your own. But sometimes, if you are smart enough, and you are attentive enough, you can learn from other people’s mistakes and avoid some of those pitfalls that they had to go through. Absolutely. for people looking to become more financially literate, what are some basic things that they can do to start to learn more?

William Cooper 15:45
Oh, yeah, that’s a great question. So as you know, if it you know, you’re not taught this stuff from your parents or family, or you don’t major in this stuff. And in school, you know, you might not have access to this knowledge. So the first thing I tell people is, do your own research, we can get on Facebook, we can get on Instagram, we can make tic TOCs. There’s a wealth of good, free information, free resources, free organizations, with so many financial wellness topics that’s available online, that will be the first step. And then now, as we’re talking about the great resignation, and career shifting, meaning employers are putting more emphasis on employee financial wellness, because that’s a top cause of employee stress. So that entails you know, not only just offering the 401 K or 403 B retirement plan to contribute to but offering other resources to help their employees with financial literacy. So I would encourage folks to also see what resources are available through their job benefits.

Richard Dodds 16:57
Yeah, I think that’s a lot of things that probably we have access to, but we don’t even realize that we have access to.

William Cooper 17:04
Absolutely. And another example is, you know, this podcast, this is an example of people, black people showing the importance of these things. And, you know, as you said, we just need to soak things up and pass it on. So this is an example of other resources that are available, you know, different podcasts, different talks, different webinars.

Richard Dodds 17:25
I think one thing that’s always gotten me is that, it seems simplify when you really, if you really study it, and I remember I was studying to become a financial advisor, which I did for just a brief amount of time. And it was, it was a lot, it was really, really brief. But but when I was learning and I was listening, the way that they break it down so easily, like easy like being like self insure, like taking on like term life insurance, and then putting the amount that the difference that you would have spent on whole life insurance into an investment account, and letting that rack up. It’s just, it’s just like basic lessons, like when you finish paying off your car, you finish paying off your car, you used to put in $500, on your car note, do not just put that back in your budget, put that into a separate bank account, let that grow, maybe put it into a CD, keep it for 10 years, because hopefully, if your car lasts for 10 more years after you pay it off, by the time so you can pay a car off in cash. And it’s gonna be you don’t have to worry about the interest. Because there’s so many times that even like the thing that I hear a lot of people get into credit card debt. And it’s like, you might have the money to pay something in cash. It’s like, Oh, I was gonna put on my credit card. What you don’t realize if you’re not diligent and looking at that credit card, what you’re going to end up doing is like you pay for a $50 meal on a credit card when you have $50. And then you took forever to pay it off. So you’ve paid $150 on a $50 meal. Absolutely. So there’s a reason they gave me a credit

William Cooper 18:57
is so funny. I you read what’s going on with me and we didn’t talk about this beforehand, I’m in the exact same position. I just paid off my car. As much as I want to go get a new truck, all of my people are getting new cars. I said no, you know, I want to enjoy some time not paying the Cardinals. So, you know, direct a little deposit a little bit more to my savings account, I increased my 401 K contributions to make that money work for me just like you said, and even though it’s hard, I know that it’ll pay off

Richard Dodds 19:30
in the long run. Yeah, I think for me, it’s just basically going over my pride of wanting to look at a certain status. But as I’ve read more and more the thing that I’ve realized is like kind of like we talked about wanting to be wanting to appear wealthy versus building wealth, the people that are actually wealthy like for the for the most part is people that are millionaires that you will look at and be like man, they got like some Levi’s and they shopping at you know, Walmart and Maybe they were to $3 million, and you don’t even know. And they drive a Toyota Corolla. And it’s 10 years old, it’s still running. And it’s like a decent sized house is paid off. And it’s been paid off for 10 years. And, like, well, just looks so different than and I just, I really want us as a culture to shift our mindset of what wealth looks like, because it’s so hard for us to overcome. Yeah, absolutely. I mean, you said it yourself, like your friends getting new trucks and stuff like that, and you and it’s like, it’s like that FOMO like, I wanna, I want to have a new truck. So I’m doing well.

William Cooper 20:35
And you are correct, you know, we need to shift our mindset. But you know, I also think, you know, it’s important, you know, to give grace. So, you know, thinking about diversity, equity and inclusion, we know, you know, historically, we’re a few years behind than some of our counterparts. So, yes, 100%, we need to, you know, do this work, super important. But at the end of the day, we know of various historical discrepancies and inequities that, you know, has have created has created this type of situation,

Richard Dodds 21:06
how important is it to have a budget and to know where your money has gone.

William Cooper 21:11
100% important when it comes to financial planning, or financial wellness, it’s a puzzle, different components, protection, life insurance, retirement savings, emergency savings, etc. As I said earlier, it’s important to be able to pay yourself first. And budgeting is important, because it’s always important that you spend less than you earn is super, super important. Because that gives you the income to be able to, you know, save more, invest more and things like that. So having a good foundation on budgeting is paramount.

Richard Dodds 21:50
It’s funny, because the most basic thing ever, it seems like the most like the when you think about it, but if you don’t know where your money is going, then you don’t know what how much of it you’re spending. So it’s like, spend more than you make, and it’s like duh, but then you look at that $5 Starbucks coffee you buying every day, and then you’re going out to eat, you know, three times a week and, and then you look up and it’s like you’re making $1,000 a week, maybe, and then you’re spending $1,200, because you’re using a credit card to explain your income. So now you like, if you have a 10,000 or $5,000 credit line of credit, that does not mean that you make whatever you make a year plus $2,000. That’s money you got to pay back.

William Cooper 22:35
Exactly. And on top of that some interest that you actually hit the nail on the head, like the first thing is to know everything that’s coming in, and everything that’s going out. So, you know, we may have our streaming services on auto pay, and, you know, we forget about it. So I would suggest, and this should be done periodically, twice a year to top of every new year, take account of what you have coming in monthly, after tax. And then take a look at all of your bills and expenses going out. That’s first going to let you know if you’re spending more than you earn. And from there taking a fine tooth comb and doing the mental exercise of determining what’s a discretionary expense. And what is a mandatory expense. So like you said, if you can afford if you are in a position to get your $5 Starbucks coffee every morning, do so. But if you’re someone who doesn’t have anything, if you don’t have three to six months of your monthly expenses saved for adequate emergency savings, you can figure out something else to do to get that fix $5 A day adds up. So yeah, that’s that’s paramount, just knowing what’s coming in what’s going out. If you need a little cash free to determining what discretionary expenses you can cut out if you have five streaming services, yes, you may like to watch TV, but maybe you need to stop two of those streaming services to free up 25 $50 per month and read a book and just missed. Again, making the short term sacrifice for a longer term benefit.

Richard Dodds 24:20
I think whenever I talk about even even sometimes myself, and it’s like, Hey, you’re you’re struggling, but you’re still doing this, just don’t do that. Like oh, this doesn’t cost that much. But it doesn’t cost that much in this moment. But if you add up all the times you did it. That’s money that you could be saving. Absolutely, absolutely every little bit counts. And I think the nickel and dime thing it. It’s kind of like what you put if you put a frog in boiling hot water, it hops right out. But if you put a frog in water and you gradually raise the temperature, it’ll boil itself to death. It’s kind of like that. That’s kind of like what we ended up doing a lot of times and when Never I get into that places. That’s when I stopped paying attention to the little things. The little what the little foxes killed a killed a grapevine or to me or something like that, I don’t know, I’ve reached my level of old sayings at this point.

William Cooper 25:16
I like to say I’m still 25 My time.

Richard Dodds 25:24
But yeah, so I think that there’s, I mean, budgeting is so important. And it’s just, I don’t know, it’s something that even I struggle with, even though I know that I need to be better at it. I just know, like, a lot of times, I am pretty frugal, but then you have those moments where you kind of go out there, and you can get off track really, really easily.

William Cooper 25:42
Yeah, and how easy is it to swipe at the gas station daily and just not even think about what you’re spending, it’s so easy to have the wrong concept of what’s actually going out of your pockets until you sit down, you know, take a look, you know what’s going to be an involved process, you need to log into your bank accounts and tally up what’s coming out, you might need to, you know, use an account aggregation tool or a budgeting tool, paper a pen and, you know, do a little bit of work, but it’s so much worth.

Richard Dodds 26:12
So for somebody who is 100% behind on everything, and they’re listening to this, I was like, I need to get it together. What are the sequence of things that you feel like they need to do? I’m guessing that number one would be budget?

William Cooper 26:27
Yep. Number Number one would be budget. And coming back to that, you need to spend more than you earn finding ways if possible to increase income, whether that be if you have availability to work a part time job temporarily. If you you know, start a business, just determining ways to make more income, if possible. And then I also encourage people to, again, check out different resources, do you have access to any free credit counseling or debt counseling services, because sometimes these programs or organizations may charge but you know, many community organizations, your church may have access to different resources. So keep your ear to the ground, see what free resources are available, what financial professionals are offering services, to be able to help you better your situation, either free of charge or at as little cost as possible. And then from there, that will also give folks an idea of if they are truly able to rectify their situation on their own with some diligent work, or if they might need to consider you know, potential bankruptcy or something like that, you know, a lot of times, we hear the word bankruptcy, and it’s frowned upon. Yes, you don’t want to be in such a situation. But the thing is, if you get to that point where you need to file, do so as soon as possible, because the earlier you work on fixing the situation, the quicker you will be in a better place.

Richard Dodds 28:03
When it comes to order of operations, which one would you say is more important starting to work on your savings or starting to get rid of your debt?

William Cooper 28:13
I would say it’s a balance of both but primarily starting to work on your savings. So it’s important to have you know that emergency savings in case something happens. And I think the COVID-19 pandemic was the perfect example. How many folks lost their jobs who did not expect to lose their jobs. And for those folks if they didn’t have any emergency savings? Yeah, you know, they may have been able to get unemployment, but that’s only so much and not having that savings reaching a bad situation that can put you in further trouble. You might need to start swiping credit cards, you might need to start applying for loans and needing to get into even more debt to fix your situation.

Richard Dodds 28:55
Yeah, that’s that’s it’s such a balancing act just as as well as trying to save period even if you are in a better situation because you gotta remember to live and be happy and be happy because like if anything I showed this world that the world is not always kind to melanated people so we never know what can happen. So I think it is an important to find balance and savings and paying off debts but also saving and living a life. So making sure that you have a fun for fun. A fun fun.

William Cooper 29:28
Exactly. And I’m glad you said that because that should be separate from emergency savings.

Richard Dodds 29:35
You definitely got to have a fun fun because sometimes you just need you need a you need a break, you need to get away but instead of maybe instead of maybe swiping for your vacation, maybe you put x amount of dollars away or you like you say you work a part time job to save up maybe a couple of $1,000 just like a temporary period so that you could take a vacation without going into debt.

William Cooper 29:56
Absolutely. Absolutely. And one thing I thought about which was surprising to me when I was doing some credit counseling certifications while we were on the topic. You know, many people think that folks who have bad credit is primarily because they’ve abused credit and, you know, made bad decisions. Wow, that is the case for some people. But the majority of people who have bad credit or you know, are in trouble in that area, is because of the emergency savings. It’s not because they abused their credit, it’s because, unfortunately, something bad happened. They didn’t have emergency savings, they didn’t have life insurance, etc. And they had to run up debt to be able to help their situation.

Richard Dodds 30:43
Yeah, that’s a great point. Because I’ve know individuals who have, it’s not like they wanted to use credit, they had to use credit.

William Cooper 30:50
Exactly. I’ve been there before,

Richard Dodds 30:53
I feel like a lot of us have been there before. It’s nothing, it’s nothing to be ashamed of. But we just got to plan better are trying to plan that as best as we can. But it’s really I feel like it’s harder for us. Because not only do we not always have the financial literacy, but we don’t always have some of the privileges that some of our other counterparts have. And talking to some people, like when it comes to college, if you don’t, I was lucky enough, I was blessed enough to be able to have my parents paid for my degree, my first degree anyway, I was that was a blessing. Yeah, so But you think about like a lot of our counterparts. We don’t have that most times, but some reason.

William Cooper 31:32
I’ve never in my life met another black person who said that to me, right? You know, my parents did what they needed to do to be able to pay for me to go to college. So you know, that’s amazing. And that’s an example of why we need to be working on budgeting and debt and building wealth and investing and things like that. So we can be able to do these things and also show future generations what they need to do, so they can be even better.

Richard Dodds 31:58
Yeah, and I have a friend of mine who’s who’s not black, and I talked to him on a regular basis. And one of the things he’s like, Man, I’m working hard. He’s like, I already got X amount of dollars on my kids college fund. And it’s like, it’s not only is he planning ahead so that he can have his kids help him out as much as he can when they get to that point. But he didn’t wait, his kids are not even teenagers yet. Wait till his kids got like, as soon as they were born college fund. Right away, he just started putting money in. And I wish that was a position that we could be in. But a lot of times, we can’t be in that position. And it’s unfortunate. Speaking of school and college, I had, I had doctors a Kia, aka really, on his show not too long ago, we’re talking about college and different forms of getting higher education. And she’s coming out with a book called dump your degree. And basically she’s saying like, you don’t always necessarily need a degree depending on what you go in. But if you go into college, make sure that you focus on a degree that will actually give you a return on investment. Because we are the example that she gave, she’s like if you do basket weaving versus architecture, when you when you graduate the degree in basket weaving going making a lot less than the architect. So do you feel like that college is still a sound investment? And today’s day and time?

William Cooper 33:24
Good question. Before I answer the question, I do want to let you know that that podcast is actually on my to do list to listen to because like I’d say I prepare most of my 20s to go back for PhD. And when I made the decision not to that was you know, that was a depressing time. You know, I was wondering if I was feeling like a failure if I was denying myself my dreams, because that was something I prepare for for so long. So I can’t wait to listen to that podcast. So I think college can be a very sound investment. However, when I was in high school, the conversation was get a degree The World Is Yours get two or three degrees. The sky is the limit. Yeah. Now, I’m not saying this to Dickert discourage folks from going to school because I feel like I’m an academic at heart. But for folks coming up now, I don’t want folks to think that school, traditional schooling is the only way to be successful. Sometimes I laugh and say, Wow, I wish when I graduated high school, I would have wanted to get my CDL or trade school because then I would have been making a great salary fresh out and I wouldn’t be as in much debt, paying back the student loans as I am you know, I’m, I’m happy now. I’m blessed with the path I’m one but you know, I do think if I made this different decisions, things would be different. So things like trade school. Those are things to consider as well. The idea that traditional education is mandatory to be successful. That’s not the

Richard Dodds 35:01
case. Yeah, not to talk too much about that episode. But that is one of the things that I talked about during that episode is how it was always told to me, go to school, go to school, you’ll be set, get your degree set. And as soon as I got out like that dream, just put in a puff of smoke, it just was gone, like immediately, like I didn’t even get to bask in it, it was just gone. And, you know, I think it’s so important to better prepare, especially our kids to not just go and get a degree because that’s the thought process go and get a degree, all degrees are not created equal.

William Cooper 35:35
law degrees are not created equal. All career paths are not created equal. And there is a discrepancy in many career paths on the work that’s being done versus the salary that’s received. So think about all of these unfortunate conversations were hearing about teachers, teachers are literally responsible for molding the next generation. And they’re telling us that, you know, they’re on government assistance, they’re not able to make ends meet, they need to raise donations, to be able to get supplies for the kids and things like that. And thinking about the great resignation, there’s so many people now who are passionate about teaching, they love the youth. But financially, they have to take a step back. And as much as folks don’t want to make that decision, they have to because they’re not getting paid enough. So that’s an example of how, you know when going through the college trajet trajectory, you really have to be strategic about the degree you’re getting, how you’re going to use that degree and the possibilities of what roadblocks might be in the way.

Richard Dodds 36:44
I think that that is very important. Just be I mean, like you’re you’re all over the episode, and you haven’t listened to it yet. But that’s a lot of what we talked about. And school for school sake is something that’s done and I feel a lot of people have become entrepreneurs now. And a lot of some of some of the leaders of some of the biggest companies in the world never want to never either finish college or some didn’t even go to college, as some careers that you definitely need education for it, you think about a doctor, you think about a lawyer, even somebody like you doing finance, you need to really have that degree behind you. But a certain things that you don’t always need a degree for my example was, I ended up going to trade school for the graphic design part of my schooling. And the thing I appreciated about that was that everything I did was towards graphic design. I wasn’t taking like, you know, like language and art. Like all it was all just graphic design, learning how to do the programs, and, and depending on the path, I think I just want to make sure that our kids that are going to school now just really have the best starting point that they that they can possible. And then absolutely. And I think that once they find that path, like if they say like, alright, college is for me, because I want to be an engineer, I want to, I want to do this and that, you know, you thinking about 1718 year olds, mostly, when they’re graduating from high school, they’re going and they’re signing that piece of paper to take out a loan. And like the example that I gave was that when I bought my first house, I had to take the class, that was a requirement in order to set out that amount of money. Like I had to take a financial class on how mortgages work, what PRP insurance is, and all of that. What advice would you give someone who says yes, school is for me, and they have to take out student loans. What would you tell them about student loans and college life just when it comes to being financially sound as they can because you can only be so so sound in college anyway.

William Cooper 38:43
Okay, I’m gonna answer that. But I do want to backtrack common misconception that that you mentioned. So a degree is beneficial in the financial industry, but it’s not required. So you know, yeah, so there are different programs and bachelor’s degrees, master’s degrees in, you know, different financial fields, that’s going to give you a leg up. But I’m an example. My background is in communication research. So I ended up being in the field by seeing a position open, because I already have my foot in the door, taking my series 65 and getting the necessary credentials. And I’m here. So just wanted to clarify that. So when you said earlier that this is an industry that’s growing and things like that. So

Richard Dodds 39:28
I think that’s a great clarification, because I think a lot of people would think that, Oh, I gotta go get a degree in finance to be. I bought that before I got here. So thank you for that clarification. Really?

William Cooper 39:42
Yeah, no problem, no problem. And then back to your question. Regarding student loans. One, I would say if you need student loans, that’s okay. But take as little as possible. And I think I’m an example of that so I won’t go into too much detail. Oh, but I graduated high school valedictorian. Ideally, I should have had a full ride scholarship to many schools. But you know, there were some things going on in my personal life where that just didn’t happen. So I have a lot of student loans, and even thinking about, you know, my master’s degree, oh, yeah, I know, this doubt, $1,000 scholarship, $5,000 scholarship is available. But whoa, I’m tired. I don’t feel like getting these recommendation letters, I don’t feel like writing this paper after I worked on these papers for classes for this scholarship. So for my personal situation, I missed out on a lot of free money. So I would say utilize as much free money as possible.

Richard Dodds 40:46
That, that is something that I would agree with to like I did, I didn’t ever even try. And I think that having my parents paid for it was that, you know, I didn’t worry about it too much. But in hindsight, I think my parents could have did a lot more with that money, if I had to, at least like, you know, every little bit helps if I had $1,000, that was something that they could use for something else.

William Cooper 41:09
Exactly. And then that’s, that’s a good example of, you know, looking at the situation and seeing the different possibilities. And then the second point that I wanted to make, if there’s also the perception that you need to go to the most expensive school, you need to go to the Ivy League name School, which is going to be more expensive to be successful. Yeah, there may be some situations where those types of things may give you a leg up. But as an example, if you do your prerequisites at Community College, which is much cheaper than doing it at a university, do so there is nothing wrong with that you’re going to save money, and that’s going to give you a leg up in the long run.

Richard Dodds 41:50
One. The One caveat I will say with that is just wherever you’re planning on going next, just make sure that those credits that you get there transfer to wherever you’re trying to go. Next, here we write

William Cooper 42:01
about people getting hurt in that situation.

Richard Dodds 42:04
Yeah, they get a bunch of credit hours, and then they transfer to a school that doesn’t they take, they get 20 credit hours a light, or we’ll take three of these and exactly, it’s not as helpful. Exactly. So what has been the biggest, most important lesson that you have learned about finance and building building? Well, so far,

William Cooper 42:23
every individual journey to financial wellness is different. When you talk to financial professionals, when you talk to advisors and coaches, yeah, we give guidelines, yeah, we give blueprints, of what things could potentially look like. But everyone’s situation is unique. I think that’s one thing. That’s important. And I think another thing that’s important is to give yourself grace, when we think about all of these different financial goals and places we want to get, it’s something that’s not going to happen overnight, we need to work diligently towards that. And then if someone is listening to this podcast, and they may say, Richard and Wheeler, you know, they’re talking about all of these things. And, you know, I’m so far behind, don’t take the approach of beating yourself up. We don’t talk about these things for folks to feel bad. Soak this information up, use this information to improve your situation. So that I think is a long winded way to say, you know, when it comes to, you know, financial planning the road to financial wellness, financial literacy, make small goals and accomplish them incrementally, don’t overwhelm yourself trying to do everything at once, that can be very discouraging.

Richard Dodds 43:46
I think those are great points. I think for me, mine would probably be learn from your mistakes. But also give yourself grace for your mistakes, kind of like you said it but don’t just make mistakes, and then continue to make the same mistakes. And that’s kind of a lesson that I take throughout my life period. It’s like 10 years from now, I don’t want to be getting called on the same stumbling blocks that I was. Now you know what I mean? I want to if I’m trippin and 10 years from now, I want to be tripping on something that’s different. And that’s kind of like the reason why whenever we ask the questions like, What would you do different? You know what I mean? What would you do differently or like, and I really, most of the time, I say, I can’t say I would do anything different. Because the way that I think the way that I am the things that I have my mindset, all of that came from my mistakes. And my dad, he always says that you learn more from your mistakes than you do from your successes. That’s right, because your mistakes make you meditate on what you did wrong because you want to get it right. And just having that mindset that whether you’re in college or not like the school and you’re going to always be learning a lesson to the day that you die.

William Cooper 44:56
Absolutely, absolutely.

Richard Dodds 44:59
We just talked about, we won’t change anything, right? But in regards to finance, what advice would you give your 18 year old so

William Cooper 45:09
because I always say this. So when I was 18, I worked out in Greytown. And I made good tips. Because as you can imagine, so many people coming from the casino, they had a lot of drinks, they’re feeling really frilly. They’re leaving good tips. So 18 years old, I didn’t have much to worry about, but a phone bill, you know, buying clothes and what I wanted to do, I tell myself now, why didn’t you save any of them? Why didn’t you invest any of that money. And another thing is thinking about the school refund check. So, you know, we’re here in Detroit. And we know that after the Oh 809 housing crisis, that was a way for a lot of people to get into investment properties, buy rehab property, fix it up. So that’s another thing like, you know, when I was getting those refund checks, instead of going on shopping sprees, oh, I wish I would have bought a property and fixed it up, and then I would have had a home. So in a nutshell, just wishing that I saved or used the disposable income that I had more smartly.

Richard Dodds 46:11
And I think that is, that is a great thing I can think about when I still live with my parents, I was making a good amount of money. And I was just hitting up. Like Somerset, if you’re not from Michigan, Somerset is one of the our most upscale malls and Michigan, I would just go to Somerset, and spend a good amount of money there and just come home because I didn’t have like all of my bills was more than taken care of. And I was just go buy stuff. And then I just I don’t even need all this stuff. But you just go spend that money and you go have experiences. I mean, experiences were great. But at the same time was like I couldn’t put a little bit more away. I could have had a bigger down payment on that house. You know what I mean? I couldn’t pay it pay this car off in cash. You just saw. Yeah, I definitely would agree with with that. 100%. I think one of my really, really good friends, he’s intelligent. And the fact that I kind of look at what he did. And I was like, man like you. He did it the right way. It’s not a way that I would have did it. But like, I admire him, because he didn’t let his pride or anything in a way. Like when he was ready to go buy a house, he went and bought a house cash, bought a house cash and Detroit duplex. So when he paid for it, it was already paid off, boom, here’s the money for it. He picks it up himself, he fixed up the bottom portion of the house, then he had people move into the bottom portion of the house. And so instead of paying stuff, he’s getting paid to live in his house, and have somebody else live below Hill.

William Cooper 47:35
Exactly. And that speak back to that example of taking a temporary setback for the long term benefit, because I’m pretty sure when he bought that house in cash, you know, he’s he could have went and you know, got some Gucci got some designer and did other things with that money is working out for him.

Richard Dodds 47:51
He could have he could have been anything I mean, even that you think about it could have been a down payment on another house where he would have been in debt. But he chose to maybe go somewhere, that’s not the place that he wants to end up. But now he is getting an income from having a house. And if ever he wants to leave that house to another house, then he can get two incomes from one property that he paid in cash. And just doing it in a way. I think one of the biggest things that I have learned about finances, that the order matters, if you do things in the wrong order, sometimes it’s gonna cost you a lot more. Instead of you making money, you lose money. So that’s why I try to be more aware of the order in which I do things just so that I don’t have to spend more than I need to. Because I like keeping my cash.

William Cooper 48:34
Yeah, no, I like that. You said that. And I think it’s just a matter of so, you know, we talked about actual pen and paper doing actual budgeting exercises, what is what’s important, but the and just in the back of your mind, just trying to be mindful anytime you’re making financial decisions, anytime you’re spending money, think about, you know how that decision might affect in the long run, or you know, what effects might occur because of those decisions. So I think just always being mindful, be watchful, you know, in the back of your head when it comes to your money, how you’re using it, and things like that.

Richard Dodds 49:11
What are some things that you will say to someone could do who has a very, like a very shoestring budget, they can’t do much with what they have right now what kind of things can I do to prepare to become more financially literate, and then make the little shoestring that they have worked for them better?

William Cooper 49:28
One thing I mentioned is, you know, if possible, generating more income, you know, if you have time to work a part time job, or you know, if you don’t, if you have the opportunity to learn a trade or maybe even do a career shift, where you’re able to enter industry where you’re able to make more money. I think another thing that’s important is so many people frown down on government assistance. If you’re in a position where you can qualify for those things, use those things that can help you know potentially free up market as free up more income and help you in the long run, so you don’t need to use those things. So I would tell folks, you know, to not be embarrassed about that type of stuff. And then we also talked about, you know, budget counseling, utilizing any free work resources, they’re talking to whoever you can to help you with your situation and not being embarrassed about your situation. It’s so many people, you know, when I’m working, they’ll say, well, will, you know, this is my situation, but you know, I don’t want to talk about it, I don’t want to go into detail. And, you know, I take the approach of, of course, tell me what you want to tell me what you want to hold. But please do not feel embarrassed, please do not think I’m here to, you know, judge you, you know, my goal is here to help in anybody in the financial industry, their goal is going to be to help. So just not being embarrassed about your situation and seeking out and using whatever resources are available. And, you know, even thinking outside the box, you know, seeing what community organizations and things like that might be able to assist.

Richard Dodds 50:58
Yeah, I think those are great points. I mean, it’s on a completely different level. But it reminds me, it’s a show called how I built this. And I can’t remember exactly who was on the show at that particular time. It might I might have been Vera Wang or Kate Spade, I can’t remember exactly who it was. But she was trying to figure out her budget for this company that she was launching. And she was like, I can’t make this work and my budget. And I think she said she was talking to her father. And they said, like, you’re trying to fit this into the budget, like how do you put more money? How do you increase your budget? And for her, that was a revelation. And I just think about how can we increase our budget? Always start whenever I want to budget really hard for something. The first thing I do is like, what can I take off the table? Exactly what’s not? What’s it What can I say? Well, what don’t I need? What What can I go without? And then I started looking around? I can I can think about some days when I was broke, broke. I mean, like broke broke to like where I wanted to go see my girlfriend, I sold a video game that I had, so I could put gas in my car broke. So Christmas came I saw old stuff that I had just so I could get people Christmas gifts. Yeah, you start to think about those times. It’s almost like what can I do to make more money? So it’s like, how do I how do I get my budget as slim as I can? And then how can I make money? It’s just a process. And

William Cooper 52:21
yeah, for the Detroit posters, I think it’s money. It takes money to make money.

Richard Dodds 52:27
That’s a throwback for sure. What five tips would you give to somebody wanting to become more financially literate? Not not necessarily like in budgeting and stuff? But how do they learn to become more financially literate? What resources do should they seek out? What should they do?

William Cooper 52:44
Oh, man, I feel like I’m on a game show. And I got 30 seconds. All right, seek out free resources, check online, check locally in your community, check with your centers of influence, you might not have some information, but people your network might be able to point you in the right direction, check out resources, if any are offered through your employer. And you know what I think I’m gonna stop at three, I think those would be my, you know, the three reasons I can’t think of you know, two more right now because it all boils down to this, you know, picking up that information. And you know, specifically right now we’re talking about people who need to improve their financial literacy. So just learning just listening, for example, listen to podcasts, specifically on financial wellness, when you’re on the way to work that’s free. That’s something that you could do at your pass of time. That’s time when you’re learning but it’s not a true in the classroom paper and pencil learning. So like you see it we learn every day, just using all Avenue as many avenues as possible.

Richard Dodds 53:50
Are there any books that you recommend, I can think of one book that really changed my perspective on a way that I thought about money, and that was rich dad poor that that book really changed the way that I thought about assets and liabilities. And the biggest one is, how a home is like should be in a liability category, if you’re not making an income from now home. And like for most people, it’s kind of like college, it’s like, get home and you good, but if you can’t pay the payments, like during that, that first that recession was like 2004 It was people who were losing their homes left and right because they couldn’t pay for their home. So any books that you recommend

William Cooper 54:29
off the top of my head, I can’t think of any that means I probably need to write myself. Even though I can’t recommend any Richard, I know there are, you know, so many resources, you know, different folks in the industry are who are writing books passing on this knowledge, different races, different backgrounds, different ethnicities. So even though I don’t have any recommendations, I know there is a lot of good stuff out there because a lot of these folks now who are your Online Social Media financial gurus and things like that. Yes, some of these people are in the industry but a lot of these people who are teaching others are doing so based on what they learned themselves and working on their personal situation.

Richard Dodds 55:14
It’s very, very true. Well, well, thank you. You bought a lot of gyms and you gave a lot of good advice. So I really appreciate you coming on.

William Cooper 55:22
Man. I Richard, I appreciate you for having me. It was a pleasure and I appreciate you doing this. For our people. It’s really important.

Richard Dodds 55:31
So that’s all I have for this episode. I’m still looking for submissions for spotlight on melanin spotlight on melanin is the part of the show where I like to spotlight a creator, influencer artists business owner activist of color. If you or someone you know would like to chance to be featured on spotlight on melanin, send us an email at spotlight at still talking black.com Please include links to their social media and why you feel they should be spotlighted. So thank you everyone for listening. If you like our content, please be sure to share it with a friend and leave us a review on Apple podcasts or Spotify. Still talking Black is a crown culture media LLC production is produced by me. Richard Dodds and the theme music was created by the DJ blue. You can follow us on Instagram at still talking black and you can follow my personal account at dazu. So again, thanks for listening. Until next time, keep talking

Transcribed by https://otter.ai