Dasha Kennedy is a self-proclaimed “financial activist” with a clear cause.
“My mission is to bridge the racial and gender wealth gap by raising awareness of the economic disparities that impact Black women,” Kennedy says. And she’s carrying out her mission one social media post at a time.
Kennedy is the mastermind behind the wildly popular Facebook group The Broke Black Girl, which she started in 2017 to give young women of color money management resources and strategies.
The racial and gender wealth gaps are real – especially for Black women, who make just 61 cents for every dollar a man earns, compared to the 82 cents per dollar wage gap for women of all races combined.
READ MORE: By The Numbers: How Black Women Are Really Doing Financially
When wrestling with her own money woes, Kennedy noticed a lack of information about personal finance in her family, in her community, and in other Black or disenfranchised communities.
“I consider myself to be a financial activist because I fight to get those resources into those communities,” the 32-year-old St. Louis resident says.
The Broke Black girl Facebook group, which currently has nearly 70,000 members, was her first way of doing this. She considers the group a “safe space” for Black women to learn more about budgeting, investing, wealth building, and more.
But she didn’t stop there. Kennedy, a mother of two, also shares personal finance information and inspiration on her verified Instagram account, which has over 43,000 followers. She maintains a blog and has written several e-books, she does speaking engagements and events, and she offers coaching.
But Kennedy didn’t always have the money confidence she now strives to pass on to other Black women.
The Broke Black Girl
Kennedy began her career in finance when she was only 19. After high school, she decided not to go to college and landed a job as a mailroom attendant at an insurance company. Over time, and with the help of an accountant at the company who took Kennedy under her wing, Kennedy worked her way up from the mailroom to a senior-level accountant position by age 24. Later she would go on to work as a debt management counselor at a bank.
Then Kennedy faced one hardship after another – divorce, the death of her father, and a broken foot. That’s when she realized that despite her well-paying job, she was still “the broke Black girl.”
“Ten-plus years in personal finance and working for financial institutions were still not enough to prepare me for the financial hardships I would experience as a Black woman growing up in a Black community,” Kennedy says. “Navigating financial literacy and financial hardships while growing up in a disenfranchised community left me feeling nothing more than a broke Black girl.”
Despite having a well-paying job, Kennedy was still living paycheck to paycheck. She knew she needed to get her spending under control, but she also knew there were other forces at work.
“It wasn’t until I acknowledged exactly where I was financially on the account of my own personal choices and the systematic issues that exist in finance that I was truly able to create a plan of action to help combat the financial hardships that I endured,” she says.
The four things she did, and her top four tips for anyone trying to get their financial life together, were simple, but not easy.
First, assess your situation. “Sit down and look over your financial documents,” she says. “Comb through your credit report and your credit history. Open your mail!”
Next, get help. Kennedy was able to lean on knowledge she’d acquired from work, but she knows that’s not the case for most people. You may need to hire someone to help you work through your money problems. “You can read as many books as you want but unless you have someone to actually make it make sense for you, you’re going to still end up going in circles,” she says.
Then, be willing to make changes. “I had to focus on my financial plan,” Kennedy says. “There were certain things I could not spend my money on anymore. There were certain things that I could not do anymore.”
Finally, stay alert. “Pay attention to the money you have coming in and the money that you have going out.”
After Kennedy turned her financial situation around, she wanted to share the wealth.
“I had to find my way on my own and a lot of people I knew where doing the same thing,” Kennedy says. “So, I wanted to share my journey and some of the things I’ve learned over time online to try to help other people.”
The Broke Black Girl Facebook group was born.
The “Personal” in Personal Finance
Joi Hudson-Steele, a 27-year-old yoga instructor based in Maple Grove, Minnesota, was added to The Broke Black Girl Facebook group by a friend.
“I was a huge over spender,” Hudson-Steele says. “Since my husband pays all the bills, I was blowing every dime I made with my business. I had financial goals and investments that I wanted to make, but didn’t have the discipline to follow through.”
But working with Kennedy changed everything. “Dasha showed me the beauty of saving and still spoiling myself,” Hudson-Steele says, describing how Kennedy helped her create a “fun budget.”
“This still included the things I loved but we cut out a lot of unnoticed and unnecessary spending,” she says. “Many people don’t notice how much they spend on subscriptions, on takeout, and at Target.”
In 2018, Kennedy left her job at the bank to focus on personal finance coaching and The Broke Black Girl brand full time. One reason she wanted to strike out on her own was so she could better serve women of color.
“I would speak to African American women on the phone and I would see their financial documents and some of the hardships they were facing and a lot of it was centered around our culture but I had to stick to a script and there were certain things I could not say,” Kennedy explains. “I would leave work feeling very defeated because I felt there was so much more that I could have done if I could have deviated from the script.”
Kennedy believes many financial educators ignore the unique circumstances that Black women may face due to cultural differences and systemic racism. “You will always hear me say that personal finance is personal,” she says. “Financial institutions are overlooking the personal part in personal finance.”
She hopes the resources she’s offering through The Broke Black Girl can fill the gap.
To non-Black allies who want to help fight economic disparities, Kennedy says it’s important for all to do their part.
“Raise awareness. Speak up,” she says. “It’s a real issue, and it’s not going to go away anytime soon.”
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