Money Management Tips Every Millennial Should Know


In 2018, Black spending power was valued at $1.2 trillion, showing just how undeniably powerful the Black dollar is.

That same report also states that "African-American consumers are an important population for smart brands that want to grow market share and brand preference…brands can't afford to lose favor or traction with this segment without potential negative impact." With so many corporations looking to Black people and Black culture as a market opportunity - imagine if it was flipped. Imagine how much more powerful the Black dollar could become if we reinvested some of that buying power back into our individual finances and communities. One way to do this is by #bankingblack.

Meet Teri Williams, President and Chief Operations Officer of OneUnited Bank - the largest Black-owned bank in the United States. Through her work at OneUnited, Teri is committed to combating challenges and embracing the opportunities that come with educating and being relatable to people who look like her about the power of #bankingblack. "People start banking at the large banks because that's what they're exposed to," says Teri. "They don't realize there is a whole network of Black banks, credit banks, and community banks that better reflect their values."

Teri spoke to xoNecole about critical money management tips that can give Black millennials a step up when it comes to their financial literacy and building a strong financial base and future.

Check out her tips below!

1. Set up an automatic savings plan.

Though savings can be a bit of a struggle when you're trying to pay bills and other monthly expenses on time, paying yourself first is a MUST! "If the money goes into your pocket first, it's almost impossible to save," says Teri.

Try setting up your paychecks so that a certain amount is automatically deducted and moved into a savings account through direct deposit. "It doesn't matter the amount, it's the idea of taking money out of your paycheck and putting it into a savings account so you don't touch it," Teri explains.

You'll be able to look up a year (or more) from now and be amazed about how much you can spend. Making this process automatic will leave you little room to forget each pay period.

2. Adjust your student loan payments so you can still save. 

For many of us paying back student loans is a major financial burden. However, Teri warns, "If you're paying student loans and not saving, you're sacrificing your future for your past."

She urges millennials to find ways to speak to lenders to negotiate payment plans that are consistent with one's current income. Many student loanees don't realize they don't have to pay the bill that's been sent. Speak to lending partners directly to see if there is flexibility in payment amount and payment scheduling. This will help make sure that though you're repaying a significant amount, saving towards your financial future monthly is also possible.

Courtesy of Teri Williams

3. Focus on buying (or investing) in real estate.

For many of us, getting out of the urban and low-income neighborhoods we're from can be seen as a rite of passage or a sign that "we've made it", but Teri thinks otherwise. "We look at our communities and say we want to get out of here, but instead we should be investing."

Gentrification isn't only affecting communities from a physical perspective, but it also affects potential wealth creation for Blacks and Hispanics. In order to fix this, it's important to "not turn your back on the community and run." She explains, "I'm someone who has been in banking in low-to-moderate income communities for the last twenty years. What I'm seeing on the ground is that our communities are being gentrified. We have been thinking about our communities from the past as opposed to the future."

Figure out where the real estate investing opportunities are in your community. "That dilapidated home down the street or that small condo you feel like is too small for your needs is going to be worth a whole lot more in the future." Now is the time to buy, while properties are still somewhat affordable.

This is also where banking at Black or community-oriented institutions is valuable. As a certified community development financial institution, the majority of OneUnited's lending is in low to moderate income Black and Hispanic communities. This is in comparison to other large banking institutions, where only 1-2% of the loans go to Black people. The odds of receiving a loan from a Black-owned bank like OneUnited is much higher. That's why depositing in a bank that looks out for the best interests of the community is crucial.

4. Don’t neglect your credit health.

Having bad credit isn't permanent, so it should be something that you're actively trying to fix and restore to good standing. Though this tip is pretty standard in the financial literacy world, Teri wants millennials to remember just how important an asset it is for one's financial future. If you're looking to rent an apartment, buy a car, or even buy a home - bad credit can significantly impact your ability to. Specifically, OneUnited offers a "How To Rebuild Credit" program that teaches customers safe ways to work on rebuilding their credit score.

If you're looking to use a credit card as part of your credit rebuilding, consider a secured credit card that reports to the major credit bureaus. Beware of prepaid cards with monthly fees that don't report to the credit bureau. Overall, working with a banking institution that offers financial education resources is important if you're in need of credit repair help.

Courtesy of Teri Williams

5. Create your retirement strategy early.

No matter how far away it is, planning for one's retirement future should always be prioritized. If you're working in the traditional corporate 9-5 structure, when choosing a place to work, always ask about the employer's 401k plan and contributions. It's always a plus if an employer contributes or matches contributions. According to Teri, it's basically "free money" and "helps you build retirement funds without money going into your pocket."

For those millennials who work in the "gig economy", which is also known as freelancing, short-term employment, self-employment or any other non-traditional job type - one of the things you're losing beyond health insurance and benefits is an automatic contribution to social security. As social security is an important part of one's retirement plan architecture, making sure you're contributing to your social security fund is critical.

Finding a career you're passionate is also another major key to the health of our retirement financial strategy. "The reality is that most people are going to work longer than they expect," says Teri. "Look for a career where you are paid your value, and would enjoy getting up and doing the work. Long-term, that will allow you to want to stay working longer which will help you with retirement."

Teri's excited about the future of Black banking and the impact Black millenials will have on the industry. "We need to start using our money more purposely. Bank Black. Buy Black. Build Black. Trust each other. Come together…" With confidence, she adds, "We're taught that we as a community are a failure. We're not taught the tremendous accomplishments within our community and contributions we have made to this country.

"We are not going to be defined by our liabilities. We are going to be defined by our assets."

Featured image by Getty Images

ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.


We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

Featured image by Shutterstock

This article is in partnership with Staples.

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