Anna N’Jie-Konte, CFP® Dare to Dream Financial Planning
About Anna N’Jie-Konte, CFP®
Anna is a passionate believer in the empowerment of women and minorities in America. She is the founder of Dare to Dream Financial Planning: a fee-only, virtual financial planning firm that serves the needs of 30/40 something women of color ad business owners who want to live boldly and make a lasting impact on their family tree.
She is also the host of the “First-Gen Realness” podcast. There, she engages in conversations with her fellow first-generation Americans in order to reinforce their value and immense contributions to the fabric of America. By fostering a sense of community, she hopes to remind her peers that they matter, their stories are important and they are not alone in attempting to navigate multiple cultures with grace.
Anna is a native New Yorker; lover of everything related to food, the Gambia, Latino history, West African culture, and literature. When she doesn’t have her head buried in a spreadsheet, you can find her working out, re-reading literary classics, hanging with her husband and three daughters, or dreaming about her next adventure.
I was recently on an introductory consultation call with a prospective client. We were discussing her financial future and how I might be able to best support her right now.
We had reached the portion of the call where I typically ask what their goals and vision for their future life is. In this instance, however, I was met with a lot of responses a la “I don’t know” and “I haven’t really thought about it.”
It seemed that most of my tools for teasing out a client’s individual dreams and goals were not working. I felt a bit stumped as if I was spinning my wheels in deep, deep mud. After I asked the same questions 3-4 different ways, she said ” I need to do some thinking on this. Like so many women of color, I’ve been socialized to practicality. I don’t know what I want.”
When I tell you that my head exploded for several minutes afterward? My brain sounded like Funk Flex’s sound effects on repeat.
It was the most eloquent way to describe something I see every day— women of color who are so often unable to articulate something so simple as “what do I want to achieve?”
I’ve done quite a bit of thinking on this, and I think we as Americans are taught that the American dream is real. We are told stories about the exponential come up of people like Rockefeller, Carnegie, Michael Jordan, and Oprah.
“If they can do it, then you can!”
“America is the land of opportunity! See what they’ve accomplished?”
“Aim for the stars!”
This broader messaging is what inspires so many to come to America to create a “better” life. However, I think the message is different for little black and brown girls regardless of location.
“Don’t dream too big".”
“Keep your head out of the sky!”
I won’t even try to get into the theories about where this comes from., but I will talk about what the result is as I see it day in and day out in my practice.
Women of color who get a “practical” degree and a “steady” job(as if COVID-19 hasn’t blown right through this concept). They come to me saying things like “I’ll be lucky if I can achieve insert basic life goal here.” The reality is often that they have the assets and/or income to achieve exactly what they want with a little modification.
It makes me want to cry and scream every time a woman is living someone else’s blueprint for her life and not actually going after her dream life. It also motivates me to keep pushing my message that financial empowerment, especially for women of color, is exactly the path forward for women of color.
If you are reading this and it resonates, I want to invite you to think through what you would do without keeping society’s, your family’s or cultural messaging in mind. Then figure out a plan and go do it. If you need help figuring out just how to make it happen, then please reach out to see if I can help.
Either way, go live boldly.
There’s a lot of talk out there about earning passive income, generating multiple income streams, and achieving financial independence. The goal seems to be to achieve more income therefore ensuring all our financial woes will disappear.
The problem with this thinking is it misses the mark on what it takes to build wealth and achieve the next level of financial stability. Your income is not the only measure of financial success because earning money does not equate to building wealth (although it is a very crucial component). Setting goals and tracking your progress are what’s really required but often overlooked.
Those who work in corporate finance and avid investors often discuss balance sheets, but they’re rarely discussed in the personal finance realm. I think it’s time for those of us in the personal finance space to emphasize the importance of closely tracking your net worth or personal balance sheet.
Your net worth is essentially the net total of what you own (your assets) minus what you owe (your debts). It is by far the best metric for aggregating the progress you’re making towards your financial goals because it tracks both the growth of your assets (how much your home appreciates every year, how your portfolio or savings balances grew, etc.) and the reduction of your debts (how much your principal balance is reduced with every credit card, student loan, or mortgage payment).
While you might know exactly what your mortgage payment is, or how much you’re transferring to savings every month, seeing the total net effect of those actions can be a very powerful way to obtain clarity on your financial situation. It can also serve as a powerful motivator because it’s often a bigger number than just your individual account balances.
I recommend clients track their net worth at least twice a year, but quarterly is preferable as it keeps it front of mind, providing powerful motivation as your will power fades. You can do so in a simple excel spreadsheet, but I also think tools such as the Mint app are useful to track your progress. Below is a sample net worth tracking spreadsheet so you can get an idea of how it looks, and how motivating it can be to see your progress over time!
I invite each and every one of you to create your own net worth statement and to begin to track your financial progress. For those of you who do this and are met with the unfortunate surprise of having a negative net worth, please don’t despair. I first started tracking my net worth right after college, and it was five figures negative. I felt so discouraged and ashamed, and in retrospect, I wish I had just used it as motivation to push ahead and move it into the green. You’ve already taken the most important first step which is being aware of what you own and owe, and you can take steps towards moving into positive net worth territory. There’s a famous quote by Peter Drucker that goes “what’s measured, gets managed” and I think this is super applicable to personal finances.
I recently watched this amazing IGTV from the Jamaican entrepreneur and life coach, Nicole McLaren Campbell. She was saying that someone sent her a DM on Instagram stating that she had fallen “behind” and hadn’t achieved enough by her age of TWENTY years old. Can you imagine?
Nicole proceeded to tell her the world was her oyster and she had so much time ahead of her (which was obviously true). It reminded me though, that so many people do this to themselves with their finances. Now there are very real effects to waiting longer to begin saving and investing, but I really don’t think that it’s ever “too late” to begin saving for retirement. After all, is it better to just throw your hands up and say that it’s not even worth a try anymore? I doubt it. What IS worth it is to accept your shortcomings, and roll up your sleeves to get to work.
So for all of you who are feeling behind on your retirement savings, I am going to give you six actionable tips you can take which I think can really make the difference for you long-term.
Run an online calculator to see if you actually ARE behind. Here is one that I like.
Revisit current 401(k) contributions. What are you currently contributing? Commit to increasing it at least 1% TODAY and see if you barely miss that extra money your next pay period.
Take advantage of automatic increases. Most employers will allow you to elect for automatic increases to your 401(k) contributions. Sign up to have that increase by 1% every year until you are at least contributing 10-15%.
Open a traditional or Roth IRA. The type will depend on your individual tax situation and might be subject to income limits, but it’s a great way to stash extra money if you need to save more than the max in your 401(k) or you have extra cash flow.
Explore a mega backdoor Roth. If you are contributing the max to your 401(k) ($19,500 in 2020) but are high-income enough to afford to be able to save more, look into whether your 401(k) at work allows for after-tax contributions. These are the best-kept secret for those who want to contribute to a Roth but might be too high income. The IRS allows you to contribute up to $57,000 to an employer plan in 2020. This includes the normal $19,500/year + whatever your employer matches + your after-tax contributions(similar to a Roth). The after-tax contributions don’t reduce your taxable income, but they do allow you to put more money away in tax-advantaged accounts. This article explains it in greater detail.
Set up a taxable brokerage account. This is going to be the least-advantageous solution because any trades, dividends, interest, or gains are going to be taxable in this type of account. However, if you’re really serious about putting away as much money as you can for retirement, or want to have more flexibility in the types of accounts you have, then this might be right for you!
Are you unsure of how to go about this or want more support? Reach out to me to schedule a free introductory call!