“Saijal, life will not be fair to you. You’re a female and you’re brown. You’re going to have a lot of doors slam shut on you. You’ll have to pry the doors open and you’ll have to work twice as hard to prove your worth. The only way you’re going to get ahead is to excel in your studies. and be smart with your money. But when you do, you’ll make a lot of people uncomfortable. Be brave.”
Those were the words my dad uttered in broken English to me when I was just 12 years old. Little did I know how much wisdom his words would carry, and how much it would shape my beliefs and my life.
I’d learn about injustice. I’d learn to rely on my work ethic and brains. I’d learn to fight for others who wouldn’t have the opportunities I did. And I learned not to take things for granted.
Despite the pockets of racism I personally was a target of, I consider myself one of the very fortunate ones.
Systemic racism has contributed to many gaps, but the most profound gap has been in household wealth and financial security. Yes, millions upon millions of people have been robbed of their livelihoods solely due to the colour of their skin.
These past few weeks, numerous Black people have courageously come forward with personal and painful accounts of being denied jobs they were more than qualified for, of being denied a seat at a reputable University despite meeting the qualifications, and of being denied the opportunity for promotions despite excelling in their role and working twice as hard as their non-Black counterparts.
They’ve spoken of being treated as outsiders. They’ve spoken of being targetted by disgruntled colleagues and managers who believed they shouldn’t succeed based on their race and out of fear something was being taken away from them.
Reading these stories and having conversations with my Black friends have opened an old wound and reignited my purpose and passion to advocate for people’s financial wellness – especially those who are disenfranchised and marginalized.
I started Saij Elle because I could clearly see that those with money and power and those who understand how to build wealth accounted for 5-10% of this world. And because of this, they controlled 90%-95% of the power. Everyone else was on the side of vulnerability and at the mercy of that top but mighty minority.
I was tired of seeing this. I was tired of the wealth gap ballooning out of control. I was exhausted of seeing talented and driven people not being given the opportunity to live a financially secure life. And I was especially exhausted of financial education being so inaccessible to the masses that they couldn’t learn essential skills to control their own financial destiny.
If someone wants to oppress another person, all they have to do is take away their financial security or their ability to gain financial security.
We’ve seen this time and time again.
When a group of people or a race or even gender are prevented access to a decent education or ability to earn a decent living and thrive, they’re denied options. When they’re denied options, they’re unprotected.
They’re dependent on someone to provide for their livelihood which means that someone now has control over their life. They’re vulnerable to being physically or mentally ill. They’re likely to feel hopeless, angry, and anxious. And sometimes, they’re exposed to a life of crime.
Popular thinking is that these issues are not a societal problem. That a small minority dealing with this doesn’t impact our work, communities or economies
Wrong. It does.
We are dealing with more mental distress than ever before. The top cause of stress? Money. We’re seeing more social unrest than ever before. Why? Because people are tired of the growing inequality they face.
If we want a stronger economy, we must start by creating opportunities for the disenfranchised and marginalized to build financial security. This means giving them the ability to earn a decent living. This means giving them real opportunities in education and careers if they chose. This means giving them the tools through financial education with a diversity lens to manage their money and build wealth. Only then will we thrive in our workplace, our cities, and our country.
This is a message I’ve been preaching since the day I started my financial wellness business.
We will never get ahead as a society if we keep thinking this is their problem because we can’t thrive when a majority of our people are financially vulnerable. Money is essential – that’s a fact.
We have the power to change this. We can speak to the injustices. We can ask our companies to provide unbiased financial education that takes into account gender and cultural differences. We can vote in strong leaders and vote out the “all mouth no trousers”. We can direct our money to companies and organizations that support equality.
You have skin in the game. We all do. So ask yourself what role you want to play in this change for better.