Credit: Provided by Veronica Barnes

A conference on building generational wealth brought together dozens to educate community members on financial skills, career development, entrepreneurship, and homeownership.

“The next generation is the wealth of our community,” Mindset2Money founder and conference organizer Veronica Barnes told the Weekly. Mindset2Money, a financial empowerment and community wealth-building organization, hosted its 2nd annual conference on Saturday, May 4 at the South Shore Cultural Center.

The Generation Wealth Conference was presented in partnership with several local and national partners, including Urban Alliance and the Chicago Freedom School. 

“Wealth is overall well-being, and financial stability is a tool that helps people achieve that. For me, generational wealth is helping people learn the financial skills, knowledge and career tips to have financial stability,” Barnes added.

During the pandemic, she saw how Black and Brown families were being impacted by inequities compounded by the lack of financial literacy. A Heartland Alliance report revealed Chicago’s Black and Latinx families had increased unemployment rates, with a rate of fourteen percent for Black families and twelve percent for Latinx families, triple the previous year’s rate. Sixty percent of Latinx households in 2021 said they are still feeling the effects of the pandemic and fifty percent of Black families said the same, while forty percent of white families agreed.

Her desire to make a change led to her starting Mindset2Money in 2021 as a passion project to lead workshops with nonprofit organizations and small businesses. Eventually, her services grew to where she was able to host the first Generation Wealth Conference in 2023 “to have a broader reach in terms of programming and increasing accessibility.”

Around this time last year, Barnes, a Google HR specialist, moved from Madison to Chicago to work at Google’s West Loop Campus. Seeing the dynamics of the city made Barnes want to elevate her impact. “I thought it was very fitting to be able to have an economic empowerment conference in a venue that at one point was a segregated country club,” Barnes said of the South Shore Cultural Center, 7059 S. South Shore Dr. “I wanted the conference to be accessible. I wanted it to be in our community.”

The conference began with an opening from Barnes followed by a welcome from 5th Ward Alderman Desmon Yancy. 

“When you talk about generational wealth, it’s important because Black households make up about thirteen percent of all households, but only hold about 4.7 percent of the wealth,” Yancy said.

Then former City of Chicago inaugural Diversity Officer and current Obama Foundation vice president of diversity, equity, and inclusion, Marquis Miller, made some remarks as well as  keynote speaker therapist Dominique Pritchett. The conference turned to breakout education and networking sessions.

Topics in the hour-long session ranged from demystifying the stigma and fear associated with financial institutions within the Black community, budgeting, and navigating today’s economy and job market.

“Before you start thinking about investing outside of your 401K, you’re gonna have to have your savings up,” said Jared Evans of JPMorgan Chase & Co., who led the financial literacy session. “You have to know what you can afford. And in order to truly know that, you have got to put it on paper. You have got to have that budget, that savings plan.” 

Evans then focused on building and rehabilitating credit towards getting loans and best financing practices.

The homeownership session was led by RE/MAX Premier Hyde Park manager Krystal Corley, focusing on getting approved for a home, the dynamics of properties on the South Side compared to the city overall, and the realities of today’s housing market. Corley also taught the importance of credit, proper financing, and pre-approval in the home buying-process.

Corley, who serves clients across the South Side, focused on South Shore and Woodlawn. South Shore, which is close to ninety-three percent Black, has a housing occupancy of seventy-five percent renters compared to about twenty-five percent property owners. 

Corley emphasized that most of the benefits of homeownership come from the long-term commitment of investing in a property, with many mostly taking out a home loan and then paying on the interest of the property initially before contributing to equity. “At the beginning of your loan, you’re mainly paying interest,” Corley said. As time goes on, you’re starting to pay down your principal.” 

As one pays down the principal of their loan, they begin to gain equity in owning the property.

“Ownership benefits in equity,” Corley said. “As you grow and pay more payments, you get more equity. With that equity, you can decide to take a loan out against the equity, you can sell your home, get that money then upsize into a bigger home…There’s just so many different avenues you can use real estate for financing once you have equity built up.”

Access to this equity in South Side communities, Corley said, is limited when so many residents rent, and those who own properties in these communities do not live there. 

“Woodlawn was a prime example. It’s a majority Black neighborhood, but the number of homeownership in Woodlawn for Black people was significantly lower,” Corley said, who owned property in Woodlawn. “A lot of people owned real estate in Woodlawn that did not live there and then they rented it out to Black people. And that’s similar to how it is in South Shore.”

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Omotar Uthman and Rachel Amure are both seventeen-year-old juniors at Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. College Preparatory High School and attended the conference through their involvement with Urban Alliance.

“[Generational wealth] is more what I have that I can give to my future generations than what parents had that they gave to me,” said Amure, an aspiring pharmaceutical researcher. “Titles don’t equate to wealth, it’s more what you do.”

“Generational Wealth is something that you can build off on,” added Uthman, who moved from Nigeria to Chicago in 2018. “I think the American Dream is that and more. It’s a thing that you have to work for.”

Uthman said her family moved from Nigeria to seek a place with better opportunities and economy. Seeing their hard work to provide her with a better life inspires her to build further success for the future of her family. “If you want a dream, you want to live in your dream, you should work towards it,” she said.

Both young women said attending the conference was impactful in teaching them skills to build wealth. Amure is already thinking about how she is going to finance her graduate education and the conference helped her ease her fears of student debt. 

“When I came to this conference I was more interested in how [the speakers] were able to get to their position,” Amure said. “Money is a real thing. So how were they able to finance it? I learned more in that aspect and it really helped open my eyes. It’s okay to take [student] loans, that’s what I’m understanding.”

For Uthman, an aspiring anesthesiologist, she said seeing how the speakers and successful professionals overcame challenges was motivating to her. 
“Hearing their challenges, because I know I might face those challenges as well, really motivates me in a sense,” Uthman said. “What I learned is to just keep on going. And I jotted down some ways that helped them motivate themselves to be what they are today.”

Uthman said she believed her other peers are missing the bigger picture of building financial wealth. “They want short term. They feel like ‘I’m getting money now, I’m spending money now,’” she said. “They don’t understand that there’s so much more. It’s generational for a reason. It has to be long term…[Short term] doesn’t always last for eternity. I think they just need to learn how to be patient.”

“I feel like young people don’t realize that before you invest in all these other things, you need to invest in yourself,” Amure added. She also emphasized that education is important, though everyone does not have to go to college to be successful.

Both young women say they plan to build additional streams of income beyond their primary occupation and wish for more young people to learn wealth building skills.

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Michael Liptrot is a staff writer for the Weekly and Hyde Park Herald.

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