Money Matters: The Real Deal On Forex, Robinhood & Sou-Sou

Because a sis does not play about her money.


When I worked in corporate America, I was serious about my savings and retirement accounts. I needed them to have commas and a minimum number of digits in them. When I left corporate America for a creative career, my commas eventually left me. I've since embarked on a scavenger hunt to find them.

But seriously, though. I'm always interested in ways to generate income and grow my money. And despite my age, I'm not risk-averse. I'm OK with a bit of volatility because I want to maximize my return. I'm also open to investing funds outside of a traditional savings account, 401(k) or IRA as long as I'm not scammed because, like I mentioned, a sis does not play about her money.


That brings me to a few types of financial products we've been hearing a lot about these days, namely Forex, individual investment apps like Robinhood, and most recently, the group economics savings club called sou-sou.

Here's the scoop on all three:

The Tea On Forex


Forex is shorthand for foreign exchange, which is simply the process of buying one currency while simultaneously selling another one, but in this case, the goal is to make a profit. We're all familiar with the foreign exchange market, especially if we travel internationally or make international purchases. It's the world's most traded market with a daily turnover of $5.1 trillion. (The U.S. trades about $257B per day.) That's the easy part, understanding what it is.

The difficult part, at least for 60% of forex traders, is that it's extremely risky and you can lose all of your money quickly. It would take some real research to know what you're doing. For one, you need to be especially skilled in speculating the direction currencies are likely to take in the future. And two, you'll need to be pretty knowledgeable in the spot market.

The good news is that when you're ready, you can start trading with a minimal amount of money, sometimes as little as $5 to $10. However, some forex brokers require a minimum account deposit of $500 to $1,000. Forex.com has a downloadable guide that introduces you to trading currencies and walks you through your first trade.

Buying stocks as an individual may be a bit safer than forex––or at least it should be. And we should see our money add up, with a few dips and rebounds, over time.

The Tea On Robinhood


We've heard of apps like Acorns, Stash, Robinhood, and even Cash App where we can buy stocks or buy into portfolios directly from our phones. It's called micro-investing, which means we're only owning a fraction of a stock to begin with because the amount we're investing is much less than the full share price. Micro-investing also means micro results, as Dave Ramsey personality Chris Hogan says. Since you're putting in so little, say the spare change from your morning frappuccino, the return is small. And let's not forget to account for any monthly maintenance fees (not to be confused with $0 commission fees.)

Micro-investing is great for beginning investors who want to educate themselves but it's not a good way to build a retirement fund.

What's particularly interesting, or scary, about Robinhood and apps like it is that some critics consider it to be riskier than gambling, especially for young users, because it allows users to engage in margin trading. Margin trading is an investment option where you use "borrowed" money to trade. NPR recently reported that a 20-year-old may have lost upwards of $730,000 in margin trades. Mind you, a few of these apps have attracted mainly millennials and novice investors with free stock during this pandemic. They just kept on trading with no money. So again, it's important to know the terminology, how much you're spending and how much is physically in your account.

Another thing worth noting about Robinhood is its leaderboard, or a snapshot of the company stocks most Robinhood investors own, can be somewhat misleading or it provides an incomplete picture. It doesn't mean these are hot stocks investors should buy. For example, Hertz car rental was on the leaderboard but that was because tons of inexperienced investors were buying it. Hertz is actually in bankruptcy and had bet on another company buying them. It didn't happen so now Hertz has to scramble for even more funds in order to cover those stock purchases. Any shares Hertz issued after receiving permission from the bankruptcy courts is now worthless. And those Robinhood investors have simply lost their money.

The Tea On Sou-Sou Savings Clubs


If you're at a point where you say, "To heck with the foreign exchange market and those stocks, I'll stick with cash right now," then let's talk about the sou-sou that everyone's suddenly considering.

The sou-sou originated in West Africa but is widely practiced in African, Caribbean, Latino, and Asian immigrant communities as a way to raise quick money as a group and distribute lump sums to individuals to launch businesses, send kids to college, etc, upfront. I've even heard of an adapted version in the form of a birthday club, where members receive cash on their birthdays, and it's worked well for years.

How it works is that the group appoints one person to collect a set amount of funds from each member (including the collector.) The pool is paid out on a rotating basis to each member on a predetermined schedule. For example, if five individuals contribute $100 every week, then one person receives $500 every week and the cycle starts over after five weeks. It's particularly beneficial to the person who receives the initial payout if they needed it right away; they would've put in $100 and received the first $500 the following week. Granted they would need to put in the second $100 at that point, too, but you get my drift.

In the 2020 version, which surfaced after the rise of the Rona, the rules have changed. This more modern sou-sou requires a $500 contribution plus the introduction of two friends, who will also invest $500 each. In four weeks, the initial investor will receive $4,000.

To many people, this is where it begins to sound a little Ponzi-ish. In fact, The Washington Post posted a story in early August stating that the sou-sou is an illegal pyramid scheme. The article points out that "Eventually, the whole enterprise collapses and the last folks coming in — the wide base of the pyramid — lose their money."

At least in the traditional sou-sou, the math works but in the modern sou-sou, it seems that all of the funds aren't distributed and it raises the questions of who gets that money and what happens when investors leave the group — especially when they get their $4,000 — or no new ones join before current members get their return on their investment? That's both risky and unfair to say the least.

The best and safest way to reap the intended benefits of a sou-sou, in my opinion, is to go in with well-trusted individuals and not a group of iffy or flaky strangers.

Working as a freelance creative forces me to find different ways to earn money. Living in the thick of a pandemic forces us all to find ways to save and grow our money. Trust, I get that the uncertainty of it all does tempt us to want to try clever ways to maintain or reclaim those commas in our bank accounts. But it's also important for us to fully understand the pros and cons of these financial products if we want to keep those commas coming.

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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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