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How Your Attitude About Race Affects Your Wallet

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(Image: istock)

I was recently listening to Tiffany Taylor Smith, the founder of Culture Learning Partners, a company that helps organizations and individuals navigate cultural differences, discuss ‘inherit bias’ – attitudes we carry about race and culture that we are not aware of.

[Related: [WATCH] Icon Gloria Steinem Shares Money Lessons with B.E.]

I approached her after the presentation and we discussed how those biases play out in financial behavior. These biases are obvious when we think about the ways in which others treat us.

We’ve all heard or experienced stories of practices like predatory lending, in which equally qualified blacks get higher rates for things like mortgages and cars, from lenders, many of whom are probably not ‘conscious’ about personal prejudices.

The conversation Taylor and I had, however, was more about the ways in which the often unconscious messages that play in our own heads play out in our experiences with money.

Think about what comes to mind when you think about your racial, ethnic, even religious orientation, when it comes to money: ‘People like me always struggle.’  ‘People like me watch every penny.’  ‘Our people don’t invest in the markets.’

As Life Planner and founder of Compass Wealth Management, Martin Siesta once told me, “These expectations we put on ourselves and the outside messages we receive have a really strong influence on behavior,” said Siesta. “I would urge people to look at those influences and ethnic messages.  Ask: Is this how the world really is, or is this just how I see it. To create change, you have to be mindful of that, and follow your own common sense…Don’t let stereotypes weigh on your self-esteem,” he adds.

Ask yourself the following questions:

1. What do I see people like me doing when it comes to money? What do I see them doing when it comes to saving?  Spending?  Investing? Debt?

2. What do I see people like me not doing when it comes to money? What don’t they do when it comes to saving?  Spending?  Investing?  Debt?

3. How messages am I telling myself about money? ‘People like me can’t afford to save.’  ‘People like me always have debt.’  ‘I can’t even think about retiring.’

4. How would those messages change if I were living my ideal relationship with money…if I were channeling my financial resources towards my goals?

5. How would I act differently and how would my choices change if I operate from my new messages?

Create a support system to snap you out of beliefs that don’t bring you closer to your goals and priorities.

Name them, write them down, discuss them with friends, and literally rewrite those messages so that they state the highest vision you have for yourself.