#BudgetBae: 4 Tips On Building Your Wealth From A Financial Pro

Our resident Budget Bae Pamela Capalad serves up quite a few gems to make building wealth easier than ever.


We're all about securing the bag, but what do you do with it once you get it? While getting that bag is the goal, building wealth is the ultimate reward. Who wants to look up and wonder where all their money went? …Only to realize that Popeye's chicken sandwich and online shopping got way too many of our hard-earned coins.

From creating a habit of saving, no matter what your salary (or lack thereof) is, to planning for the future, our budget bae Pamela Capalad, founder of Brunch & Budget and more, offered up quite a few gems that will make building wealth easier than ever.

As told to Char J. Patterson.

Saving On A Budget:


"We're all told to have a savings goal of 3-6 months of living expenses, and we need to hit a certain number and have it in the bank. For a lot of people, it's really intimidating to hear that. You hear that and you think, 'Well that's never gonna happen, so I'm just never gonna save.' That's usually where our mind goes whether we know it or not. How are you thinking about saving? If you're thinking about it as this one goal that you're finally going to reach, and it just has to be the perfect time (you get a bonus, you get a tax refund, etc.), you need to adjust your mindset.

Make savings a habit, make it a part of your life.

Pay yourself first. Even though it sounds a little weird, think about your savings as a bill. Just like you pay your rent, just like you pay your credit card bill, pay yourself; integrate an amount in your budget that you won't miss. It's more important to get into the act of saving than to try to reach a certain number.

Have a savings account in a place that's totally different from where you bank for your checking account.

When you have your checking and your savings at the same bank, you tend to transfer one amount from your savings to your checking when you're running a little low. Also, most big banks aren't paying you much interest at all for parking your money there. An easy Google search of high-yielding savings accounts will lead you to banks that will help your money make money.

Have part of your direct deposit go directly into your savings.

This way, you never see it at all. You don't have to miss it, you don't have to wonder if it went into your savings. Whatever ends up in your checking account, that's what you have to spend."

Spend What’s Important To You:


"Budgeting is not this formula. We hear you have to X percentage toward food, X toward your necessities. Before you pull out the spreadsheet, figure out what you actually enjoy spending money on. The categories are your basics like rent, utilities, cell phone, internet, transportation, gas, groceries; all the things you need to physically live and survive. Figure out what this number is and set it aside, then you can see what you have leftover. This is where you get into what your values are. Remember, budgets are not restricting or denying yourself.

Psychologically, what ends up happening is you restrict yourself and then one day you spiral and splurge, and it doesn't end up working out.

After the basics, the other values are 'the details' and 'the nothings'. The details are those things that come to mind when someone asks you to create a budget. You think, 'Do I have to give up my coffee every day? Do I have to give up eating out? Do I have to give up shopping? Do I have to give up on getting my hair and my nails done?' When you have things you don't want to give up, those are your details. They get you through the day and feed you emotionally. It's important to spend money on these things because when we deny ourselves, we end up spending money anyway. You're not taking that $5 and putting it in your savings account. You still spend the money, just on the nothing's value. The nothing is where your money goes but you don't even realize it. The things that don't even come to mind when someone asks you where you spend money, because you don't remember spending money on it.

Before you come up with your budget, see where your money is going. Is it a detail or is it a nothing?

You'll find clear categories and realize that you can give yourself permission to spend money on the details and what's important to you. You'll feel good instead of guilty about it. Then, you can enjoy spending money and you'll be less likely to spend money on the 'nothings'."

Boost That Credit Score:


"The first thing is knowing what it is, knowing how to read a credit report, and knowing what impacts it. There are a lot of factors that go into your credit. But the ones that impact people the most is making sure you make your payments on time.

35% of your score is on-time payments.

One late payment can affect your credit score for seven years, which is ridiculous, but that's how it works. And that's just 30 days late. I would suggest enrolling in autopay for minimum payments on your credit card. No matter what, making your minimum payment on time, counts as making your payment on time. If you keep a very clean on-time payment record, that's 35% of your score your right there.

30% of your score is based on the balance of your card, compared to your credit limit.

A rule of thumb is you don't want to have more than 30% of the limit on your balance. For example, if you have a $1,000 limit, you don't want to put more than $300 on it at a time. So if you want to use your card, and you have a low limit, there are a couple of things you can do. You can call your credit card company and ask them to increase your limit. You can do this as often as every six months. Sometimes you're pre-approved and it doesn't affect your credit at all, but sometimes they do check your credit. It does affect your score negatively when they check your credit, but it will go back after a couple of months. I had a client who diligently called their credit card company every six months, and her limit is now more than her salary.

You can also pay your credit card bill more often than once a month. They only report your balance every 30 days, so as long as you keep your balance low within a certain timeframe, you can keep using it, getting points, and all that good stuff. If your goal is to get your score higher, I would start paying your cards down to 30% of those limits. If you get it below that, you'll see it go up in the next months or two. Either way, your credit usage affects your score pretty quickly, whether it's above or below the 30%."

Get An Estate Plan Together:


"No one wants to think about an estate plan. No one thinks they need one. When you hear the word "estate", you think, 'Oh that's for rich people.' But we all have access and things we want to pass on to people.

The easiest thing to do is to name a beneficiary.

You can do this on your retirement account, your 401k, your pension at work, whatever it is. You just need to know their birthday and social security number, and you're done. You don't have to think about it unless something changes. As long as you have a beneficiary who's still alive, the money automatically passes to that person, and it doesn't go through the court system at all. When it goes through the court system, you have to pay court fees, lawyer fees, etc.; and when that happens, that chips away at the money that actually goes to your beneficiaries.

If you just want to pass on money from your bank account, you can complete a transfer-on-death. The name is really morbid, but you just ask your bank for the form, and you can list beneficiaries for all of your bank accounts – checking, savings, and any investment accounts that isn't an investment account.

If you have tangible things you want to leave to people, you can set up a will and name beneficiaries through the will. Anything mentioned in the will goes through probate court, but it's a pretty cut and dry situation. Your family might not need to hire attorneys through the process, they can just go through it themselves. If you own your home, you 1000% need to set up a will. If you have children, you need to set up a will to name guardians for your children in case something happens to their mother and father.

Another important document is the health care property. It allows someone to speak on your behalf for medical decisions, in case you can't speak on your own. The default is your spouse, then your parents, then your siblings, then your next of kin and things like that. I've seen situations where people don't have their parents speaking for them, and they have a significant other who they're not married to. I advise them to fill out a health care property document that be found right on Google, and just give it to their doctor.

Also, a power of attorney is another document that allows someone to handle financial matters for you, in case you couldn't do it yourself. This would be someone to access your bank account, pay your bills, etc.

In the end, I think what tends to happen is, we think of personal finances as something we'll get to eventually. But in reality, when we don't get into these things, we get taken advantage of. When we can get in control of our finances, that's how you can really empower yourself and others."

Want more stories like this? Sign up for our newsletter here and check out the related reads below:

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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
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