Sometimes it’s tough being an ambitious or financially successful woman. It’s even more difficult when you have grown up in poverty, and have therefore had less opportunity and exposure on how to work systems to your advantage. And then add on the additional difficulty of being a woman of color who has to battle discrimination and stereotypes right along with sexism. It’s a jungle out there, and many of us have to kick, scratch and claw our way to the top.
Ever since I was young, I always felt inclined to be the boss. I didn’t want to play mommy, or teacher, or bake cookies on a fake little oven. Instead, I wanted to be the store owner or the president. I always found creative ways to make money by making, selling or trading things. Whenever one of my sources of money ran dry, it took me no time at all to find another. Needless to say I didn’t really fit in well with most of the girls in the neighborhood who ran around crushing on boys. Little did I know that many of the girls would grow up to hate me for my success or the boys would find me to be a threat to their success.
No one ever taught me what classes I needed to take to graduate from school or college. My high school counselor was worthless, urging and suggesting that I go into retail as opposed to attend college. I was always expected to attend the university, but when I would verbalize my big dreams to my family, they would shoot me down and tell me that I thought I was better than them. I learned quickly that no one was going to propel me forward except myself.
Growing up, I grew accustomed to searching for answers, constantly looking in books and guides to figure out which classes I needed to take or whatever problem I confronted. I never took no, can’t or shouldn’t for an answer. Instead of going out to clubs to get picked up on by losers, I spent my time at happy hours in bars with little old businessmen who bent over backwards to tell me all about their investments and careers. I constantly looked for mentors everywhere that I went.
But then one day it seemed like I outgrew all of my mentors. Many of the older businessmen retired and disappeared, and what was left was cocky business types who were less successful than me and didn’t know a stock certificate from a poker chip. I tripled my income while listening to my friends complain that they couldn’t pay their bills. Even people who made more money than me couldn’t pay their bills.
One day people figured out that I had money. First my family started coming around with their hands out, asking to borrow money. For years I lost money until I started lying that I had too many bills to pay and that I had no money. Then one day one of my greatest mentors, who actually makes double what I make, started asking to borrow money. Every month she borrowed and payed back $100 and then $200 and then $500. For the past three months she has been asking for $5,000. I finally began to lie and say that I had no money, but it still hasn’t stopped her from asking every month.
I’ve never been the type of person who feels that discussion about money or finance is taboo. I am eternally grateful to all of the little old men who talked to me in bars for hours about business and finance. I’d love to spread the knowledge with people, but it seems that far too few people want to really learn. Instead they turn down my offers to help them create a budget or get out of debt, constantly reminding me that we can’t take money to the afterworld with us. My perspective is that when I’m dead my future children sure could benefit from a trust fund for a college education.
I’m a natural mentor who wants to teach and help other people. I’m also often excited about a business proposition or something that I have managed to complete, and I wish I could share it with others. But lately I feel like I can’t tell anything to my broke ass friends or family, including some people who make over 100k and apparently don’t have a dime to show for it. I’ve had it happen far too many times that someone will congratulate me on my success while holding out their hand to borrow money. I never thought that I would turn into one of those people who acts as if they don’t have any money. But apparently I am.