From Pain To Purpose: How The Founder Of The Financial Joy School Is Helping Close The Racial Wealth Gap

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A tragic car accident in 2012 left Ruby Taylor, a school social worker of more than 10 years, with a traumatic brain injury that kept her from being able to return to work. “I loved my students—they were my kids—and their parents came together to really help me out,” says Taylor. “They sent me meals and picked me up for doctors’ appointments.” 

After Taylor shared with one of the parents, Renee Gallagher, that she was in danger of losing her condo because she couldn’t cover her bills after being out of work, she had a conversation that changed her life. “This mother of one of my students was asking, ‘Where are your savings?’ Where are your investments?’ I said I had none of that. I’d always given away whatever I had.”

Gallagher’s husband Dan worked for a retirement fund and was a personal investor. The couple invited Taylor to their home to share an Excel spreadsheet and PowerPoint presentation to show her how to make her money work for her. 

“That’s when I learned about this magic term called ‘compound interest,’ and how it can help you build wealth,” says Taylor. “I wanted to learn more, and fell in love with Warren Buffet, reading everything I could. I realized I didn’t need a luxury car or a big house. Warren Buffet still lives in the same house he bought in the 70s, even though he grew this little company called Berkshire Hathaway. It’s not about having all this stuff, but about having freedom of choice and building generational wealth. I realized I could start right then with what little money I had.”

Taylor said that she learned about the racial wealth gap, where the average white family has nearly 10 times the wealth of the average Black family, and it motivated her to share what she learned about compound interest with her friends and family. “I read that by 2053, Black people’s median net worth will be zero. I was telling my family we have to invest—even if it’s only $10—for the next generation.” 

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One of her cousins took her up on her offer to share what she’d learned, and he was able to grow a $47,000 portfolio in just two years. “That really sparked my fire. I thought if I could help him, how many more people can I help understand that long-term investing is a way to build generational wealth? I didn’t have that education when I was younger, but I felt the key was for families to start having a dialogue about finances early in a way that was fun and didn’t have all the jargon that overly complicated it. Through my job working with kids, I saw how playing games could help teach them and change behavior faster than even therapy sometimes. That’s how I came up with the idea to create a legacy card game that teaches Black and brown families to talk about money, and gives them the tools to build long-term wealth.”

Taylor created Legacy! Card Game in 2020 to inspire Black and brown youth to build generational wealth based on five categories: career, investment, savings, assets and life events (such as divorce, disability, or inheritance). She went on to launch The Financial Joy School in 2021 to make investing joyful for Black and brown families and their allies. This digital education platform offers free resources, including educational seminars, investment calculators, access to financial portfolios and marketplaces, prizes and articles on different financial topics.

“It was very important to me to make financial education free to our community, because so many people are trying to take advantage of others and there have been so many systemic inequities that have created roadblocks—from the wage gap to unequal lending practices,” says Taylor. “Somebody gave me this information for free and it changed my relationship with money, so I feel obligated to also give the information for free. Once we educate ourselves about the basics, then you begin to grow on your own. It’s a beautiful journey if you want to get started.”

Taylor’s offerings are gaining traction: In celebration of Black History Month in February 2022, Nasdaq Entrepreneurial Center and Wells Fargo partnered with the Financial Joy School to donate 10,000 Legacy! Card Games to the Black community to help advance financial education, as well as offer seminars, surveys and investment money awards.

“Just because I am focused on Black and brown people doesn’t mean that other people are not welcome—we can all benefit from financial knowledge. However, my goal is to become the NerdWallet for the Black community to help close the racial wealth gap,” says Taylor. “My hope for the next generation is that we have financial equity, where everyone has their needs met and then some of their wants. My hope for this generation is that we learn to respect each other’s differences and celebrate them. You don’t have to agree with a person to respect them or like a person to celebrate them.”

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