1. April 1st marks the beginning of National Financial Literacy Month to highlight the importance of financial wellness and teach Americans how to establish and maintain healthy financial habits. According to a recent National Financial Capability Study (NFCS), nearly "two-thirds of Americans can’t pass a basic test of financial literacy." As we Black millennials gain more inheritance into the well-being of our future, we must thoroughly be aware of how to budget and save our earnings in the world of personal finance. For better or for worse, money touches all areas of our lives. And without the essential knowledge and skills to manage our money effectively, we fail to capitalize on our successes and achieve a financial freedom well-deserving of our hard work. 

Finance expert and founder of The Finance Bar, Marsha Barnes, is a first-hand witness on the impact financial literacy — or the lack thereof — can have on a person’s life. In the committed effort to meet you where you are on your financial journey, Barnes and The Finance Bar aims to close the financial gaps imposed on the Black community and help women thrive in reaching their personal finance goals for a happier life. 

  1. I had the pleasure to speak with Barnes on what inspired her to create The Finance Bar, what Black women can expect to gain when joining the Members Club, and how we can achieve financial freedom in our journey towards success.  

    Check out our exclusive interview with Marsha Barnes below.

  2. Photo: The Finance Bar
  3. 21Ninety: How did the concept for The Finance Bar come to be? What inspired you to build a personal finance platform dedicated to educating women about financial wellness? 

  4. Marsha Barnes: I have over 17 years of experience in the finance industry in both banking and learning and development. I have heard many stories and helped several individuals and families overcome financial missteps. However, personally, my mom and dad were both laid off from their jobs within 6 months of one another. Observing them treat their situation as an inconvenience, but not an emergency, inspired me. This taught me how important being financially prepared is. The Finance Bar is a nod to my parents. My dedication to educating women on this very important topic is unwavering. In a world where there are tons of distractions, I have accepted my calling to fill in the gaps to help women focus on specific financial milestones that will serve them today and years ahead. I absolutely love this work. Watching my clients make progress, and hearing from my followers, keeps my financial flame lit.

  5. Photo: Marsha Barnes

    21N: Why is it important for Black millennials to be financially literate in today’s economy? 

  1. MB: There’s no longer a choice. For many Black millennials, they are trying to find their own financial footing while also helping their parents or siblings. While it may appear far-fetched to be laid off or lose opportunities in the gig economy, there’s always the “what if…” We have to move beyond spending our money today and concerning ourselves with unexpected moments only when they happen. The best time to begin maximizing your money is when you are aware that you should be doing it. That time is now.

  1. 21N: What can Black, female entrepreneurs and career-savvy women expect to gain when joining The Finance Bar Member’s Club

  2. MB: The Finance Bar Member’s Club serves as a one-stop shop for financial resources and guidance. We explore various finance related topics minus the overwhelm. In many cases, when individuals decide to take action with their finances, their first course of action is to read blogs, listen to podcasts and visualize where they desire to be financially. The challenge with that is, there is no clear strategy. There’s often very limited planning that goes into creating firm goals, detailing out how you’ll get there and then continue on the path to learning more. The Members Club solves this challenge. We are joined each month by nationally recognized financial experts, certified financial planners who are skilled in helping us to grow our money and to think beyond today as it relates to topics such as wills, trusts and having a power of attorney. We also explore some really fun stuff like financially preparing to move to another country, how to start a profitable business, and more. We are constantly keeping our ears to the ground in an effort to better understand what the needs are of our members. 

  1. 21N: The Finance Bar also offers a financial education mobile hub in the effort to close the financial wellness gap in our communities. As Black women — who are the fastest growing group of entrepreneurs — what can we do to join your fight and continue closing that financial gap? 

  2. MB: As Black women, we can continue to have more of these conversations and dialogues beyond financial awareness month. The more we talk about this, the easier the conversation becomes and that’s when more individuals will be eager to take action. Sometimes we have to see our peers ride this train before we are willing to jump on.

  3. Photo: Marsha Barnes

21N: In addition to founding The Finance Bar, you are also the Official Brand Ambassador for FICO and Go Banking Rates Best Money Expert of 2018 in Building Net Worth. What has been the most rewarding aspect of helping women move from financially existing to financially thriving? 

MB: Working with major brands is a huge deal for me, here’s why — it brings this conversation to the forefront, to thousands of individuals in a way that’s relatable, clear and understandable. It also introduces individuals to the world of finance who have never had a relationship with their money beyond earning it. What has been most rewarding is hearing that women want more and have a true desire to be guided. Essentially, that means that we are now in the ring of awareness. This is such a big deal for so many reasons.

21N: Many mainstream media publications, such as Forbes, The Chicago Tribune, and The New York Times, have gone on the record stating that millennials have killed the economy. What are your thoughts surrounding the subject? 

MB: There’s this trend of separating millennials and their perceived behaviors from the rest of the world. I believe that millennials have provided a wake-up call to live and learn at the same time. While there may still be challenges of understanding how to do both (financially), it’s not what many generations were accustomed to. Many things are at our fingertips now. We have the ability to order groceries online, ride-sharing services (which, decades ago, would be viewed as an option only for the wealthy) similar to having your own driver, and co-working spaces that provide opportunities to meet others who are building businesses. There’s just this tug of different offerings based on when you were born. No one generation is to blame for our economy. Our thoughts should be less on that and more on how we are caring for our individual financial platforms. We can’t solve the economic issues of the world until we can settle our own.

Photo: Marsha Barnes

  1. 21N: Beginning April 1st, you will lead a 7-Day Financial Literacy Challenge to provide our subscribers with informative and actionable financial wellness tips to incorporate in their success journeys. One tip, in particular, subscribers can expect to learn involves creating a financial plan that focuses on specific goals each year — what are some goals you have set for yourself to achieve this year? 

  2. MB: I thought you would never ask. *wink* This year, I am really focused on paying my car off (this will be done during the 2nd quarter), and investing into small businesses. I have completed my first round of investing for the first quarter. One of my greatest desires is to help other small business owners to launch and become profitable (fast). So many women of color may never receive funding and that’s hard to watch. During my journey of developing The Finance Bar, I never sought funding but I have a clear understanding of what it feels like to create and build brick by brick with your own money. There were many sacrifices. Part of my own personal journey of being financially savvy was to be able to give back to others. No one eats when the well is dry. If my well is full, the very least that I can do is to help bring a few dreams to fruition. 

  1. 21N: You will also be joining us at our 2019 Summit21 Conference to speak on your incredibly, trailblazing success story to continue inspiring others. Who are some influential, Black entrepreneurs that inspire you? 

  2. MB: Lynnette Khalfani-Cox is my Beyoncé of finance. Beyond being an entrepreneur, she does a great job of balancing family. My desire is to never hustle and lose what’s most important to me. Part of my reasoning behind becoming an entrepreneur was to have more flexibility to love on those that love on me. Renae Bluitt of In Her Shoe Blog and Creator of She Did That Documentary is another one of my favorites. Renae has this super encouraging wand that she waves over other women of color, and I find that to be a super attractive trait. It teaches us to be human beyond just being an entrepreneur. It’s somewhat of a push to ask yourself, “If you are being kind to other women.” 

  3. Photo: 21Ninety

    21N: Do you have any final words of advice or encouragement for Black women struggling to thrive in their financial wellness journey? 

  1. MB: You are 100% responsible for reaching your financial goals. Each of us has our own individual desires. Whatever your heart can dream of, you have the power to make it unfold. Let’s work on gaining a better understanding of how our money can marry our dreams. See you on the inside. -xo

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