Less than three and a half percent of Certified Financial Planners™ are African American or Latinos. I was shocked, but not surprised, by the data as I read the 2017 Racial Diversity in Financial Planning report from the Center for Financial Planning. At the time of the report, there were 80,000 CFP® professionals, so less than 3,000 of our members were African American or Latinx. Our Financial Planning Association chapter in Austin likely has similar percentages – unfortunately. On a recent Zoom call with chapter leaders from around the country for the Financial Planning Association, I don’t recall seeing one person of color among the forty or fifty participants.
There are many reasons why the percentages of financial planners for African Americans and Latinos are low. The report cited three reasons: a lack of industry awareness, few mentors, and escalating costs. Most minorities aren’t aware of financial planning as a profession until after they graduate from college and start working in a different industry.
The recent racial events have once again raised the awareness of a lack of diversity in the financial planning sector. In an industry dominated by older white males, of which I am one, something needs to change, and soon.
As a white male over fifty, I’ve never experienced oppression or hatred. I’ve been bullied at times but never oppressed, but my grandfather had. He was born Asuncion Jimenez to Braulio and Victoria – Tata and Nana. His parents were born in Jalostotitlan, Jalisco, Mexico, and they migrated to Los Angeles in the early 1900s – a journey of about 1,600 miles.
My grandfather never discussed racism, so I asked my mom and aunts if they heard him talk about being ostracized. As one story goes, when he registered for high school, he was assigned to the trade school classes because of his name, so a few days later, he changed it to James and re-enrolled in school to take college prep courses. After a few weeks passed, the school called his mom to find out what happened to Asuncion because he hadn’t shown up for school. My grandfather told his mom, and the school, he changed his name so he could register in different classes. However, his battle wasn’t over. Because he was a Mexican, he could not take AP courses, but after hearing an argument in the hall, the principal allowed him to enroll. His high school principal was Ethel Percy Andrus, who founded AARP. (Sidebar: Ms. Andrus was the first woman high school principal in California and my wife obtained her Ph.D. from The Ethel Percy Andrus Gerontology Center at USC). My grandfather graduated as the Valedictorian from his high school with a scholarship to Stanford, but he couldn’t attend because of the depression. His parents needed his help in raising his nine siblings.
Because he was Mexican, the kids made fun of him by calling him “Mex.” He was hard of hearing, so he thought they were calling him “Mix” after the famous cowboy actor Tom Mix. The kids eventually left him alone because he was unfazed by their insults, according to my aunt.
My grandfather, ever the optimist, never complained about anything. When he went to the movies as a kid, he was forced to sit in the balcony, which he preferred. At church, he had to sit in the back pews due to his race.
He also faced opposition from his future in-laws. My grandmother’s maiden name was Hamilton, and her family migrated from England. Her parents were not in favor of their marriage, so they eloped.
My grandfather was a financial success after starting two businesses. If you ever ripped open a bag of chips, enjoyed a hot tortilla, or eaten in a restaurant, you benefited from his handy work. He was inducted into the Tortilla Hall of Fame, and several of his inventions are still visible in the restaurant industry.
At his death, most of his estate was donated to U.C. Santa Barbara and Occidental College to provide scholarships to first-generation college students. His lasting gift will provide academic preparation for K-12 students in Fillmore, California, where he owned two ranches. My grandfather was a doer, a man of action.
So, now what? As president of the Austin Financial Planning Association, I have been talking almost daily to last year’s president, and the president-elect about making diversity and inclusion a priority. We contacted two Historically Black Colleges and Universities in the Austin area to provide awareness, mentors, and scholarships to students interested in financial services. Our goal is to offer semester internships, monthly in-person meetings, and weekly check-ins for the students. We will also provide them with a one-year student membership to our financial planning chapter so they can attend our meetings. Our goal is to increase industry awareness and financial literacy for those interested. If we’re successful at the college level, I hope we can deliver our model to high school students.
I’m just one person, so I need your help. If we all did our part, we could make a huge difference. In your market, look for opportunities to hire, mentor, educate, or inform individuals about the need to increase awareness and expand diversity and inclusion in all industries. It’s time.
But let justice roll down like waters and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream. ~ Amos 5:24
June 18, 2020
Bill Parrott, CFP®, is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose. Our firm does not have an asset or fee minimum, and we work with anybody who needs financial help regardless of age, income, or asset level. PWM’s custodian is TD Ameritrade, and our annual fee starts at .5% of your assets and drops depending on the level of your assets.
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