This Couple Created A Multilevel Curriculum To Teach All Ages Financial Literacy
Written by: Julian Mitchell
I cover entrepreneurs and startups disrupting industries.
Brunch and Budget is a financial planning program that teaches young people how to develop a healthier relationship with their finances.
Financial literary is an essential topic not often taught to individuals at an early age. More notably, the financial trials that plague misinformed kids eventually grow to haunt adults in a similar way.
For a majority of kids growing up without a safety net or parents who’ve achieved true financial stability, the likelihood of falling into significant debt or damaging a credit score before reaching adulthood is extremely high.
Such a lack of awareness and access to critical information causes many promising teens and young adults alike to become trapped in a vicious cycle of poverty. As a result, instead of pursuing their dreams with confidence and acquiring the luxuries of life, being financially bound prevents their ability to attend college, sustain a career, and ultimately provide for their family.
In an era of entrepreneurship, much emphasis is placed upon chasing checks and generating multiple streams of income. However, today’s generation of talented hustlers are rarely trained how to manage, save and invest their earnings to receive a greater pay off in the long-term. Even for professionals settled into their career path and earning a sizable wage, the dangers of not understanding debt, credit or cash flow can cripple earning potential.
While studying Literature at UC Santa Barbara, Pamela Capalad worked a summer job teaching financial literacy. Witnessing the value and effectiveness of her work, Capalad partnered up with seasoned educator Andrea Ferrero teamed to create Pockets Change — a financial literacy curriculum that uses Hip Hop as a vehicle to educate kids about the important fundamentals of finance. Capalad later teamed up with her husband and experience emcee Dyalekt to expand the teachings. The program is currently licensed by a growing list of schools, youth organizations and parents across the country. The teachings are designed to help kids grasp, plan and prepare for their financial future.
Following a few years of working in wealth management, Capalad became a Certified Financial Planner, leveraging her knowledge and experience to launch a financial planning program for adults called Brunch and Budget. Gathering groups over brunch, the program pushes people to honestly evaluate their relationship with money to develop attainable financial goals and make smarter money decisions. Capalad offers attendees budget coaching, accounting assistance and personal financial advising. Starting with a small group of friends and associates, Brunch and Budget has since evolved into a traveling workshop that hits multiple cities throughout the year.
Recognizing the different financial habits and patterns between clients tied to race and background, Capalad further develop a specialized training program for people of color. Dead Day Job Army is a year-long financial literacy initiative provides clients with affordable, accessible and high-quality financial planning. The program also breaks down systematic issues unique to people of color, while educating enrollees on ways to achieve financial freedom to generate wealth through tackling subjects such as cash flow management, income diversification, credit analysis, tax planning and investments.
I spoke with Pamela and Dyalekt about the vision behind their movement, closing the wealth gap and the importance of educating people about financial literacy.
Where did you passion for finance develop and describe how you arrived at launching Pockets Change?
Pam: I got involved in finance by randomly taking a summer job teaching at a financial literacy camp for kids. It was inspiring, because I never received this type of information growing up and didn’t have access to people who were knowledgeable in the space. That experience made me realize that this was my mission in life, helping generations of kids become financially literate. To do that, I decided to go into the financial services industry to get a real background in finance and understand how it all works. I partnered up with a financial educator in California and we developed a financial literacy curriculum called Pockets Change. So, we developed this financial literacy curriculum while I was doing private wealth management work in New York City. My plan was to just do that for a couple of years, and then get out of it. But, it took a lot longer than two years. I transitioned from running the financial literacy company and doing wealth management into becoming a financial planning associate. So, every time I would put my teacher hat on and present the curriculum to people, they would say it was a great idea, but nobody wanted to get behind it. When I would introduce the curriculum to teachers, the kids in their class would ask a wide range financial questions, which made me also realize that we had to break each element down before being able to properly integrate the program into the schools. With this in mind, my partner and I decided to go back and do it ourselves.
Dyalekt: I’m an emcee, playwright and educator. I say all of these things, because they all work together. I’ve done a lot of educational work taking the cultural components of Hip Hop and using them to provide people with practical knowledge. I also teamed up with other educators to develop a program that helped people with job prep, from perfecting their resume to getting ready for an interview. From there, we thought why not integrate my Hip Hop approach to the financial literacy curriculum and see if it works. What we’ve found is that there are different levels as to why it works so well. From the perspective of an educator, it works well because it’s fun. If you’re not having fun teaching and the information is not delivered in a way where people want to learn it, then it’s not going to register. Additionally, Hip Hop is about building community. When you mix Hip Hop with a mission to help students become better learners and better caretakers of their communities in a financial aspect, you have something powerful. In the communities that I work in, we often have very skewed and unhealthy views about finance. That’s why another focus for us is changing the relationship people have with their money. We take all of the research and stats we gather and build teachings around them to assure we’re addressing the real needs people have. By combining our backgrounds and experience, we bring the best of both worlds, and are able to provide a fun, informative and useful curriculum that breaks down the barriers that keep people from reaching financial freedom.
At what point did you realize your experiences and teachings could not only serve kids but also serve your peers and older adults alike?
Pam: Dyalekt is a rapper, and we’re always around people in the artist community. It quickly became clear to me that I was always the only financial person in the group. The artists would pull me aside at parties to ask me questions about IRA’s, credit card debt and things like that. I thought it would be helpful to create a space for them to learn and get advice in a more appropriate setting. Brunch and Budget came out of me finding a way to put people, particularly my friends, in a comfortable setting where they could freely and openly talk about their finances. I wanted to remove the stress, embarrassment and fear around it. After coming up with the idea, I quit my job at the end of 2014 and starting doing Brunch and Budget full-time in 2015. I built the brand around the idea of breaking bread with someone, finding common ground and helping them make smarter financial decisions.
Most people aren’t comfortable discussing their finances openly with people, for a number of reasons — How do you get people to trust you and have these honest conversations?
Pam: We want to provide guidance people can trust and break down the taboo of having these types of money conversations. We also want to tell people what to look out for. One of the valuable lessons I learned in wealth management was understanding how the financial system works, being able to identify the faults within the system, and being aware of how the system is predatory to people of color, and poor people in general. Through the process of building my client base with Brunch and Budget, one thing that I realized was that more than half of my ongoing clients were people of color, and I would have to plan for them differently than my white clients. I started to notice certain patterns that would shape our approach. My clients of color were often first generation college students, so they often battled with student loan debt and didn’t have a safety net from their parents. Instead, they were usually taking care of their parents and being the primary providers for their families. As a result, moving home was not an option. Or, if they did move home, they were helping out and their parents were moving in with them. They were paying their father’s rent, or paying their brother’s cell phone bill. Seeing these patterns, I wanted to find more data and understand more of the causes for why they are faced with these situations.
From childhood to adulthood — How do your programs address financial literacy across generations?
Dyalekt: Those are the three areas we focus on — kids, college-aged students and older adults. Pam’s financial planning teachings are clear and comprehensive for each segment. It costs a lot to do personal finance work. It’s difficult for a lot of people to afford it, and also very difficult getting people to believe it’s something they need. That’s why we’re addressing and solving these issues. We believe the most important step for a lot of people to understand is simply grasping that this is an area worth addressing. It shocks me to see how many people don’t understand what wealth is. For example, you can be the first in your family to earn a lot of money; you can be making all the money in the world, but everyone else is behind you and needs help. People will make $100,000 a year and also have parents with a home they can fall back on. They don’t understand what it’s like to make six figures, but you’re barely making bills because you have family you’re supporting or siblings who depend on you to survive. That’s one of the big things I try to point out — most kids in college don’t have the same ability to take a risk. There’s a much smaller margin for error. For kids with a safety net, or who have wealthy parents, they can drop out of college and likely be fine. They have the luxury to take time, figure out their next move and bounce back. Or, they can work a job with their parents and cruise by without worrying about their finances. There are millions of people who don’t have that luxury. We want to prepare those people and set them up to win regardless of their circumstance.
Pam: We got the opportunity to cover the Prosperity Now Conference a few years ago, and the theme was closing the generational wealth gap. We were able to form a partnership with them because they needed us to translate the message in a more impactful way to a multi-generational audience. We took all of the research and presented it in a digestible way for everyone, while also sharing real-world stories that came with these statistics to amplify the message. One stat said that it takes 228 years for the average black family to catch up to the wealth of one white family today. If we continue down that road, the average wealth of a black family will be zero by 2053. We not only can offer these hard facts, but also be able to break them down in a way that people can understand both the problems and solutions.
Explain the thinking behind Dead Day Job Army and the specific issues you work to address?
Pam: One of the things we focus on with Dead Day Job Army is actually creating a competent financial plan. It’s important to truly understand your cash flow. This is a problem for everyone, but people of color often have a smaller margin for error, so they have to pay a lot closer attention to the inward and outward flow of money. We have them go through all of their expenses. We have them put together 12-month cashflow projections and help them track their spending. I also work with everyone individually to help develop their financial plan and address things like employee benefits, 401K plan and their IRA. We talk about what kind of insurance they need, and what kind of help their parents might need. Do their parents have an estate plan and why is estate planning so important to generating generational wealth? Having those types of conversations individually and within the group has proven to be extremely valuable. We originally wanted to do it in a group because we could make it more affordable and people could connect with each other. What we found as we were working in groups is that people were getting real about what they’re getting paid, what their rates are and so forth. Being able to share that information with each other is priceless. Subconsciously or consciously, especially as people of color, we’re always going to get low-balled. People are literally going to value us less in dollars. As a result, we’re fighting things from all aspects. On one side, you have expenses, which are going to be different and higher than our white counterparts potentially. On the other side, you face this subtle discrimination that’s hard to address because it’s not as evident on the surface. To be able to have such conversations in a safe space has been a great thing to come out of our program.
Dyalekt: For most people, if you go to a Financial Planner and tell them you have to take care of your family and send money home, they would simply tell you to stop doing it. But, that’s usually not a realistic or effective solution. People being able to separate the fact that yes, there are several things going on that impact my finances and yes, I also need structure and a clearer understanding of how to manage my money — that’s what puts people in position to take control of their financial future. That balance allows people to truly understand why they make certain financial decisions, instead of just believing that they are bad at handling money. It’s about addressing the systemic factors, while also focusing on positive habit-building to keep people from making mistakes with their money. We want to empower people in a way that gives them the mindset necessary to overcome these challenges and acknowledge how to overcome them. It’s important to know how your credit score works, knowing how it’s design to trip you up and understanding what those rules are. It’s important to know how to talk with a collections agency and knowing how to address your debt in a different way than what you were taught. If we can optimize those things as much as possible, have people feel empowered to advocate for themselves, and equip them to take control of their income and expenses — that’s how we push people forward and put them on a path toward true financial progress.
For individuals transitioning from being teenagers into college-aged adults — What are the things you believe they should be thinking about and looking out for?
Pam: There’s a mindset level and a practical level. As educators, a lot of the work is undoing genetic memory and getting people to breakaway from the cycle of generational poverty. Most people think that because they have money now, and it may be gone later, they should just spend it while they have it. Especially when you grew up in poverty and suddenly accumulate a lot of money, or you’ve seen your parents get a windfall of money and have it taken away — that forms a certain instinct within you. Instead of saving, you spend out of fear that your money isn’t safe. Learning how to undo that mentality is a huge part of the work we do. Another practical lesson we teach is going through how to build a good credit score. While it will be a few years before high school kids should realistically think about opening a credit card, it opens their eyes to a system that is faultily designed to trip them up. You will not realize how faulty the credit system is as a high school kid, but you quickly realize it after opening a card in college. What do you mean I have a $2,000 limit, but can only spend 30%? What do you mean I have to have a credit card open to get another one? We want them to learn to question these things and access the information needed to know how this system works. You can never learn enough, there’s always more information to collect. On the adult side, when it comes to advocating for yourself, one thing I noticed is that we often get to a point where we simply don’t check anymore. Our paycheck comes, money goes out, and the cycle continues. We don’t want to see how much money we’re really spending. So, we also want to address the fears around checking and tracking your money to get people to release some of the judgment they place of themselves.
Dyalekt: The area in which most people face the greatest challenges is in their mindset. The reason most people want to pay down their debt is that it reminds them of everything they’ve done wrong financially. You also just feel like your life won’t be stable or truly prosperous until you’re out of debt. That’s why it’s important to unlearn how we’ve been socialized to take debt personal and use all of our money to get out of it. When you’re young, you don’t really develop a clear understand of where money fits into your life. When you’re thinking about what career field you’re entering in the future, you’re not normally thinking about what companies usually pay on different levels and how you actually feel about that. Does that line up with the type of lifestyle you want to live? Does that provide the stability you need based on your family needs and expenses? These are thoughts or questions people are forced to face as they get older, and often times when it’s right in front of their face. By teaching people how the system works and how to operate within it, they feel more confident managing their money and develop a desire to do the research.
How do you see your program evolving and what is the greater takeaway you want people to gain from the work you’re doing?
Pam: The simple and somewhat cliche answer is that we want to close the generational wealth gap. When it comes to Dead Day Job Army, I want to address a couple of things in the financial planning world. There are 80,000 certified financial planners and 93% of them are white. One thing I’d like to do is get more financial planners of color involved to help their communities directly. When we figure out how to scale this and make it something that continues to be affordable and valuable for people, it’s then about figuring out how to evolve other people and other communities. We want this to become a way that people of all backgrounds can get a foundational financial plan and be able to move forward from that. Financial planning is not a luxury, it’s an expensive necessity. Everybody needs it, so we think about how we can make it inexpensive and more accessible. When it comes to generational wealth, there are two sides of it. We’re addressing the practitioner side of it. We’re addressing the human side of it. There are so many organizations putting the information out there, and our job is to stay on the ground and continue servicing the people who need this information.
Dyalekt: A lot of organizations share the goal of ending oppression or eliminating financial inequity. The thing about those goals is that they are so large and have so many layers or variables, that you’re almost sure to never fully accomplish your goal. What we’d like to do is make sure that our goals are tangible and attainable. As a result, we have less of an idea about where we want things to go as a company and are more so focused on what we want people to achieve. What we’d like to do is create more large-scale seasonal programs that people can access while we work directly with smaller groups and provide useful insight for those who continue to work with us to have on-demand for years to come.