By Ryan Young, CNN
(CNN) — The founders of Earn Your Leisure wear T-shirts with the words “Assets over Liabilities” with pride.
It’s a catchphrase they use with a goal to reach as many African Americans as possible — and to increase financial literacy and motivate as many Black people as possible to invest in the stock market and consider entrepreneurship.
Earn Your Leisure is a financial literacy movement with a different look and sound that brought thousands of African Americans to a conference in Atlanta recently. Despite the growth of the Black middle class, African Americans still grapple with the worst effects of rising inflation because they lag behind their White counterparts in income, wealth, financial savings and homeownership, researchers say. The event was meant to empower attendees to take control of their financial futures and invest in themselves — and the founders say their purpose was to educate anyone interested in learning about money.
The popularity and appeal of the event was due in large part to a financial literacy podcast that started in 2019 — and is growing in audience and influence in an underserved space.
So far, EYL as it’s called online, has amassed more than 60 million views and over 900,000 subscribers with its weekly shows focused on educating and empowering minorities.
Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings lead the team of Black content creators who say empowering the next generation of entrepreneurs and helping to create jobs in the Black community is their goal.
“We started this one with teenagers and so we realized early on there’s no age limit to financial literacy and what we’re really now focusing on is this financial fluency, right? We want to be fluent in this language called wealth,” Millings said. “And so that’s what it’s always been as grassroots and people have always said that they relate to us because it’s extremely digestible.”
A financial revolution
During the pandemic and amidst rising inflation, African Americans have been negatively impacted the most.
While national unemployment rates are the lowest in recent history, the unemployment rate for Black Americans is nearly double the national rate.
Many in the Black community feel underrepresented when it comes to their economic portfolios and the ability to obtain capital to start a business.
Black Americans command about 9% of the nation’s total buying power, according to data collected by the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia. And EYL wants to empower them to tap into the community’s $1.6 trillion of spending potential.
“For a long time in our community, we aspired to be entertainers and athletes because those people seem attainable because they look like us, they dressed like us, and we actually knew them,” Bilal told CNN backstage during the event.
“We knew somebody in our neighborhood that made it to the NBA, made it to the NFL,” he added. “Now, they can have that same aspiration because they have the entrepreneur identify they (can identify with) and say , OK ‘I can actually do this. I can do web 3.0, I can do mortgages, I can do stocks because I know the person, if I don’t know, I feel like I know him, and this is something now that I can aspire to be’.”
Last month’s sold-out three-day Invest Fest event in downtown brought more 12,000 African Americans together to learn about investing and entrepreneurship among other topics. The crowd was drawn to well-known speakers such as Tyler Perry, Steve Harvey, Don Peebles and a long list of other successful money makers helping to push the message of financial growth.
“We realized early on there’s no age limit to financial literacy and what we’re really not focusing on this financial fluency, right? We want to be fluent in this language called wealth. And so that’s what it’s always been as grassroots and people have always said that they relate to us because it’s extremely digestible,” Millings said.
Real-estate entrepreneur Matt Garland says the future lies in direct investment in the Black community.
“We need access to capital so this administration and future administrations and even local politicians. We’re tired of being motivated we tired of the clickbait type speeches. We want action, we need action, we demand action, we need it right now,” Garland said.
“We need to figure out how we can actually attack from the highest level and build our own venture capital funds and have our own private equity firms and do international business,” Bilal said. “And then we don’t actually have to demand the politicians do anything. We can force them to do things…”
19 Keys, another member of the EYL network, believes their podcast audience is paying attention because the information is directed in a way that their listeners feel is critical to the changing economy.
“The Black community has a pre-existing pipeline to prison but not wealth,” Keys said. “Poor people vote rich people lobbying at the end of the day. If we want to get something done, we gotta vote with our dollars, but we don’t have dollar unless we get education and then those who had an education have to work in a collective sense where we actually have to want to organize.”
“The wealth disparity between Blacks and Whites was greater in 2018 than 1968,” Don Peeples, one of the country’s richest Black men, told CNN. “Everything we do needs to be focused on advancing opportunity, economically.”
Peeples, whose real-estate company controls $7 billion in investments, said the Biden administration should focus on direct investments.
“We’re entrepreneurs too, we have the same dreams and aspirations as everybody else. And I think that’s important because we can best serve ourselves, we can best solve some of the systemic problems in our communities if we get a fair system and a fair economic system,” Peeples said.
Next up for the Earn Your Leisure team, global expansion. In October they are hosting, Invest Fest Europe in London at the Historic Royal Albert Hall.
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