Recently, I got an inquiry about a possible speaking engagement. If it happens, it’ll be for the firm’s affinity group of first-generation professionals. I swooned! 

Now, you might be saying to yourself, “Jacquette, you really need to get a life if that makes you swoon.” But, hear me out: Most diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives center on the usual groups of gender, race, and sexual orientation. And yes, first-generation professionals are often a part of these groups. However, they are rarely seen as being separate from these groups, too. 

And the fact of the matter is this: Once you add “first-generation” to any of the other affinity group descriptors, you are also adding an additional layer of unique emotions, concerns, fears, and responsibilities. Especially when it comes to managing money and building wealth.

So yeah, I was beyond delighted. Because I LOVE helping people manage the demands and pressure points they will inevitably bump up against due to being:

  • The first in their family to graduate college (and possibly also have an advanced degree); and/or
  • The first to start their careers earning six-figures; and/or
  • The first to create the family’s financial legacy.

What’s so Different

Sure, the mechanics of money are the same for everyone. But the choices, boundaries, and trade-offs regarding the day-to-day realities of money, along with creating and preserving wealth, are different for first-generation professionals.

It’s why I appreciated the firm’s additional angle toward DEI. 

If you’re first-generation, you may be able to relate to one or more of the following examples of what makes you different from your peers who are not:

Pride & Guilt

You’ve achieved your education goal and got an amazing job, and are earning a lot of money by many standards, but especially relative to your family. So, how do you say no to a family member in financial need when they “know” you have money. The quotation is because they don’t know exactly how much you earn (they just know it’s a lot). They also have no idea of your expenses – especially if you’re paying off a six-figure student loan debt. 

Or, what about your friends from back home? These are your “homies” and you’d love to have them join you for vacation. But where you want to and can afford to holiday is way out of financial possibility for them. So, do you invite them and offer to cover some of their expenses? Do you invite them and run the risk of having them feel uncomfortable with having to say no? Or, do you exclude them from such experiences to spare everyone any potential discomfort?

The Juggle

How do you manage and prioritize enjoying your money, paying off debt, saving, and investing for the future. Not just your future, but possibly that of your immediate family members and perhaps your extended family, too? 

If you’re working until 11pm almost every night, how do you avoid mindless spending? How and when do you educate yourself about your investment options? 

New Habits + Patterns?

As a first-generation professional, you are now spending even more time (professionally and socially) with second and third generation wealth builders. Even if you aren’t having direct conversations with them about money, you are observing the habits they practice and the choices they make. What are your takeaways? What are you doing differently as a result of? What’s new to you that you are bringing back and sharing with your family and friends?  

Here’s How I Know 

When the person from the firm shared that they were looking for a knowledgeable speaker who could focus on the questions and issues relevant to first-generation professionals, I was like, “I’m your person!” 🙂 

And I can thank my very first coaching client for this, along with the other first-generation professionals with whom I’ve worked over the last 20 years.

In case you didn’t know, I started my business in 1995 as a registered investment advisory firm. The coaching arm of my business started in 2001, under the most unlikely of circumstances. I say unlikely because:

(a) it wasn’t intentional, and 

(b) it was requested by someone who, by some standards, “should not ” have needed to work with a financial coach. He (let’s call him Client M) worked as an investment banker at one of the most prestigious investment firms, and was a graduate from one of the most coveted MBA programs. 

He called me and said, “I need help. I can sit in the boardroom and negotiate M&A deals, but I can’t manage my own money.” 

I knew admitting this was a BFD for him for a whole host of reasons. 

And I am so thankful that he trusted me and reached out – that he didn’t let the pedigree of his Ivy League education and “white-shoe” work experience prevent him from asking for help. 

Client M was drowning financially because he really wanted to financially take care of his family back home. But the reality of the numbers was proving that he couldn’t continue doing so the way he was. At least not if he also wanted to be able to take care of them in future.

So, we developed a game-plan to get his finances back into the “black.” Plus, we also created a communication plan to facilitate his conversations with his family members in order to help them adjust to his true financial capacity to help them.  

Helping him negotiate this tricky territory is why I started the coaching pillar of my business. And having him as my first client shaped a few key decisions I made about my coaching practice: He’s the reason why I never focused exclusively on coaching women. He’s also the reason why I’ve made it my mission to provide financial coaching to highly-educated high-earners.

In addition, he ended up helping me develop some strategies – that I still use today – to help first-generation professionals navigate the unique emotions, concerns, fears, and responsibilities they have when it comes to managing money and building wealth. 

Hopefully, I’ll get a chance to share some of them with the firm that reached out to me. 

In the meantime, hopefully today’s missive gave you something to think about – either for yourself or someone you know. 

And be sure to come back next week. Because with the holiday season nipping at our heels, it’s the perfect (even if awkward) time to talk about money with the important people in your life. I’ll be sharing some tips on topics to discuss and ideas of how – especially if you have resistant family members.

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