I spent my end of Summer holiday in Merida, Mexico. A beautiful, historic place I’ve been describing as a big city with a sophisticated, small-town feel.
Since returning, I’ve been reflecting on my trip…a lot! And not simply because I had a wonderful time and intend to return.
The food was amazing (a big deal for a foodie like me); some of the architecture was breathtaking; the people were warm, welcoming, and extremely patient with my minimal Spanish. And while I was clearly a tourist, I had the benefit of experiencing Merida as someone who lived there.
I don’t know about you, but I love to travel – to new cities, to new countries. I love experiencing different cultures and customs. I also love noticing what feels familiar and is similar to “home,” and what’s different.
On this trip, two things grabbed a hold of my attention and, as my friends can attest, they haven’t left my mind since coming home. And what a surprise…they have to do with money and building wealth. 🙂
I’ve lived in Brooklyn, NY – Park Slope, specifically – since 1985.
My beloved neighborhood is often considered one of the “most desirable,” likely due to its proximity to Prospect Park and public transportation. And, the historic brownstones certainly add to its appeal.
Park Slope consistently ranks as one of the best neighborhoods and did so even when certain parts of it were more edgy. In the 80s and 90s, I remember when it wasn’t wise to walk down 5th Avenue by yourself as a woman, at night. Today, that same avenue boasts several Michelin star restaurants.
In other words, neighborhoods change.
Even when the architecture doesn’t (probably due to landmark designation like many parts of Park Slope), the demographics, culture, and character change.
In my book, “Financial Intimacy,” I wrote, “To miss the parallel between the gentrification of my neighborhood and realizing financial intimacy is to overlook the relationship between proximity and perspective. When you are “too close to see,” you often notice the clues you should have been paying attention to long after the fact.”
Since Park Slope is my ‘hood, I suffered from the classic “too close to see” phenomenon. However, it’s been much easier to spot gentrification unfolding in other neighborhoods – be it in walking or driving distance from me.
Or, a plane ride away.
“It Depends On…”
Whether coaching, speaking, or writing, my body of work is centered around exploring the intersection of money, business, and life. It’s one of the many reasons I lean into conversations about gentrification and capitalism. These are more than highly charged topics; they reflect the intersection of economics, politics, and culture at any given moment.
This is why I’m in your inbox today, specifically using the complexity and nuance of gentrification to remind you of the power of two words, “It depends.”
A response many people despise because it is often viewed as a deflection, a non-commitment. And if you’re seeking the comfort of a binary yes/no, good/bad answer, they are truly unsatisfying.
The frustration with “it depends” is understandable, but it tends to mask how these two words can really be a great tool for making space for exploring the nuances of gentrification.
What I’ve noticed about the gentrification that has happened (and still is) in Brooklyn is what I sensed in Merida: the reaction depends on how, what, and who.
Let me try to explain:
How are neighborhoods “within” neighborhoods targeted for gentrification; how is the pace of change managed? How are the families and businesses being displaced supported? (Did you know some of the neighborhoods being gentrified today were once thriving communities, or affordable safe havens for artists?)
What choices do current families and (usually small) businesses feel are available to them? Can they afford to stay? What neighborhoods were the gentrifiers priced out of? What resources are currently undervalued and/or utilized?
To what extent is the response to gentrification – championed or vilified – driven by who the gentrifiers are? In Brooklyn, does it matter if the gentrifier is Black vs. White? In Merida, does it matter if the gentrifier is an expat or Mexican National?
Very broadly, “how, what, and who” tap into the nuances of gentrification. Because, they help to provide the context necessary for taking into account factors such as history, culture, economics, and politics.
To be clear, I don’t profess to have any answers on best practices when it comes to gentrification. What I keep in mind is the fact that neighborhoods change and the process of any change is multi-layered.
As you’ve heard me proclaim countless times, owning property is one of the pathways to building wealth.
I am happy for my friends who bought property in gentrifying neighborhoods at price points that were accessible. Because of the properties’ appreciation, they’ve been able to use the equity of those properties to make other types of investments. How the U.S. finances real estate is what enabled this to happen. #makeyourmoneyworkforyou
Per the conversation I had with a realtor in Merida, home mortgages are not common there. If you own your home, imagine having paid the purchase price up front…in cash!!!
More Than Money
My trip to Merida fed my mind, body, soul, and belly…well! 🙂
But, it was also a reminder that while gentrification may feel local, it’s actually a global phenomenon sparked by the intersection of economics, politics, and culture.
It provided more evidence of how cultural influences affect how we approach money – individually and institutionally.
It reinforced the approach I take to my coaching, speaking, and writing, along with why the title of the podcast I host is, “More Than Money,” which is this:
I hope you know I don’t take my time on your screen for granted.
It’s why I don’t spend too much time focused on “how-to’s” when it comes to money. Because that approach frequently doesn’t take into account the situational complexity of the choices you need to weigh when it comes to the business, personal, and financial decisions and trade-offs you must make.
For me, “it depends” takes into account the human side of money. And I am here for that ALL day!
So, may today’s missive be an invitation to embrace “it depends” more often. Especially since that is what will frequently help you make the best choices you can.