By Bonnie Newman Davis
We’re well into four months of the COVID-19 virus, which has caused more than 115,000 deaths in the U.S. and considerable angst caused by major dips in the stock market, unemployment, educational gaps for some young people, and housing and food insecurity for thousands of people.
Even though the stock market has, for the most part, corrected itself, much uncertainty remains regarding the U.S. economy. People remain nervous about their future, their jobs, providing for their families, being able to save for retirement and their retirement portfolios.
J.B. Bryan is the owner of JB Bryan Financial Group, Inc., a registered investment advisory firm and founder of AfroEconomics™, a comprehensive financial planning program. In March, Bryan celebrated her company’s 25th year in business and “service to the community.” I asked Bryan to walk us through the COVID-19 virus and its impact on our daily lives and financial future.
UV: What is your overall assessment of the COVID-19’s financial impact for African Americans who may or may not invest and save?
Bryan: The virus will impact more of us financially than physically. It has reinforced my commitment to making sure the members of AfroEconomics have an emergency fund in place. The unemployment numbers for the Black community are growing and I think it’s a great time to review your skills to find opportunities instead of a job. Entrepreneurship is more important today than ever.
UV: Were your clients, colleagues or family members unnerved by the market’s initial decline back in March and April?
JB: Yes, but financial planning pays off the most in weak economies because you have already thought about expecting the unexpected.
UV: What did you say to them—clients, colleagues, family – to reassure them about their financial status?
JB: It is impossible to reassure people who have not planned. I have spent the last 30 years holding free workshops. I empower everyone to become financially independent and take steps to plan for your financial future by making you and your family a financial priority.
UV: For those who continue to be in a state of worry, whether they are unemployed, contemplating a new job, seeking to start their own business, increase their savings or contemplating retirement, what advice can you offer?
JB: Take action. Too often people go through a financial crisis and they freeze. They stop communicating with people, whether it’s the mortgage company or their landlord. This is not the time to freeze. Get on the phone and explain your situation. Do not allow any of your bills to get behind. Don’t worry about next month, pay what you can this month. The $600 in the Pandemic Unemployment Assistance is a bonus that many people who are unemployed are receiving. It will end July 31. Don’t anticipate that it will be renewed. I would rather be wrong than right on the extension, but even if I’m wrong, it’s best to think that it’s going to end based on the reopening of businesses even though COVID has increased in many states. So it’s not COVID that will generate an extension of the $600. You must start preparing yourself in order to create opportunities. Many of the jobs you had will not be available to you. Because of that, you will have to seek out opportunities as a contractor or project worker. Those who are creative and persistent will continue to generate income.
UV: I recently read a Brookings Institute study that showed the net worth of a typical white family was $171,000 in 2016, 10 times greater than that of a black family ($17,150). The study noted that “Gaps in wealth between black and white households reveal the effects of accumulated inequality and discrimination, as well as differences in power and opportunity that can be traced to the nation’s inception.” That’s a sobering reality, along with African Americans being severely impacted by the COVID 19 virus in terms of high infection rates and deaths. Recent racially charged incidents involving police brutality and violence also impede our overall mental and physical health during the worst pandemic in 100 years. How do you correlate these negative, systemic structures with Black America’s overall financial health?
JB: My AfroEconomics financial program is based on 10 key principles starting with legacy and generational wealth. At this time (of great challenges in our nation) we will discover a lot about ourselves. I believe the strong will not just survive – but “thrive”. Thriving includes living with integrity and increasing your knowledge. Personal success is not about materialism, but about a commitment to excellence. Continue to serve others. Make a commitment to solving problems. Create income for yourself and discover the importance of self-reliance. We learn from life through our challenging experiences – especially experiences such as these trying times.
For more information about J.B. Bryan’s free financial workshops, please visit https://www.jbbryan.com/
Bonnie Newman Davis
Journalist, Journalism Educator, Media Consultant
Executive Director, BND Institute of Media and Culture Inc.