Imagine that you are standing in front of a mirror saying “I am a Wealthy Girl.”
How do you feel when you say these words out loud? What is the expression on your face? Do you truly believe in the power of your own words?
I have gone through this exercise myself. But I must keep it real with you -- It’s more than an exercise. It’s who I am.
I feel free. I feel powerful. I feel affirmed. I am smiling, showing lots of teeth. I believe that the person staring back at me is wealthy.
If it is hard for you to imagine yourself saying these words or having the feelings that I have described, then this is the perfect book for you. If you have no issues saying these words out loud, have you checked in on your friends to see if they can do the same? By the end of this book, my deep hope is that you can say these words boldly and authentically in your own voice, and that the women around you can do so too.
Most of us want to be wealthy but, more often than not, don’t really have a handle as to how to achieve this goal, especially in the face of the very real systemic forces that have intentionally helped some people obtain wealth and held others back because of their gender, race, sexuality, class, or a combination of any of these factors. Plenty of well-documented research forcefully concludes that America was set up to prevent certain communities from obtaining wealth. For example:
African-Americans living in rented apartments, prohib ited from moving to the suburbs, gained none of that [housing] appreciation. The result is that today nation wide, African-American incomes on average are about 60 percent of white incomes, but African-American wealth is about 5 to 7 percent of white wealth. That enormous difference is almost entirely attributable to unconstitutional federal housing policy practiced in the mid-20th century.
MacKenzie Scott, (ex-wife of Jeff Bezos, one of the world’s richest men) said it best when she gave over a billion dol lars in 2020 to organizations founded by women, LGBTQ persons, and the people of color who helped her generate her wealth: “There’s no question in my mind that any one’s wealth is the product of a collective effort, and of social structures which present opportunities to some people, and obstacles to countless others.”2
This book is not your ordinary wealth-building book. I will show you that you don’t have to be male, rich, old, or white, to be wealthy.
I am a young Black woman with Filipino roots who has amassed great wealth. But, the kind of wealth that I have amassed will transform your life because it goes beyond the prosperity that comes from a growing bank account; my kind of wealth also brings peace and personal power. I will show you how to get this kind of wealth.
I subscribe to a different, more expansive definition of wealth. I also want you to embrace this broader definition of wealth, and thus take a new wealth journey with me.
Traditionally, wealth is defined in dollars and cents. Pew Research Center defines wealth as net worth or “the value of assets owned by a family, such as a home or a savings account, minus outstanding debt, such as a mortgage or student loan. Accumulated over time, wealth is a source of retirement income, protects against short term economic shocks, and provides security and social status for future generations.” In America, there is a lot of this kind of wealth. In fact, American households held over $98 trillion of wealth in 2018, which is derived from $113 trillion in household assets minus the $15 trillion in household debt. And, seventy-five percent of these household assets come in the form of financial assets— namely stocks and mutual funds, retirement accounts, and privately-held businesses. Real estate makes up the vast majority of nonfinancial assets. On the other hand, two-thirds of America’s aggregate household debt comes in the form of mortgages, followed by consumer credit and student loans.4 If you are a Millennial like me, you know how incredibly frustrating it has been to be hindered by student loan debt.
Think of traditional wealth as your very own balance sheet, measured at a singular point in time. In a tradi tional sense, your wealth can go up or down over time based on changes in income, how much debt you take on or pay down, and what might have been given to you or that you give away. What you earn from your paycheck is not wealth. That’s straight-up income, and I don’t want you to get income confused with traditional definitions of wealth. You can have a very high income and still low wealth if you spend all your money, don’t save or invest, or have a boatload of debt.
When I studied economics at Yale University in under grad and pursued my MBA at the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, I learned that this type of tradi tional wealth often dominates the narrative in defining us as individuals, communities, and countries, wherein we can measure the differences in tangible wealth between different groups.
However, defining your wealth solely in terms of the traditional definition of wealth misses the mark on all of the assets that you possess. Wealth must also include the very important intangible assets that include your faith, family, networks, personal attributes, and skills that make you special in this world.
Society will have you believe that the only wealth that matters is the tangible wealth. While I believe whole heartedly in pursuing this kind of wealth, it’s not the only wealth that matters. I challenge the traditional mone tary-only definition of wealth because it misses the mark on who I am as a woman, as a mother, and all of the other ways in which I value myself. Defining wealth solely on financial terms misses some of my greatest assets, and it surely misses some of yours too.
I offer an expansive definition of wealth: the traditional dollars and cents version plus all of the intangible assets that make a person who they are. You can have all the financial prosperity in the world, and it can still fall short of generating a sense of peace or personal power. To redefine wealth as both tangible and intangible, it allows you to define wealth on your own terms. My expan sive definition of wealth comes from having achieved high levels of both tangible and intangible wealth over my entire lifetime.
On the tangible wealth side, I have a unique set of expe riences as an investor, entrepreneur, and strategy consul tant over the last twenty years. From making investments for JPMorgan’s multi-billion-dollar, mid cap-value fund to helping grow Yale University’s alumni venture fund to starting my own personal finance technology company, I have been on the frontlines of building tangible wealth. In my 20s, I dedicated three years of my life to obtaining my chartered financial analyst (CFA) designation so that I learned the skills necessary to make investment decisions for billion-dollar portfolios. I’ve learned the secrets of how to make money within traditional wealth producing struc tures -- investing in stocks, getting passive income from real estate investments, making venture capital invest ments, and starting a business. I am going to share these tested strategies with you.
Over the last five years as a strategy consultant and now Managing Partner at Next Street, I have advised some of the world’s most dynamic institutions. Through my work at Next Street, which is a mission-oriented for-profit firm, I develop innovative and data-driven strategies to help “close the wealth gap between the ‘haves and the have nots,” using entrepreneurship as the primary lever. Whether developing these strategies for dynamic founda tions such as the Obama Foundation, complex financial institutions such as U.S. Bank, or forward-thinking gov erning bodies such as The City of Columbus, I understand how institutions and systems also play a critical role in an individual’s ability (or lack thereof) to generate wealth. By being entrenched in traditional institutions as both an investor and an advisor, I have also developed a deep understanding of how best to grow traditional wealth in spite of the ways these institutions have historically and systematically prevented people that look like me from creating wealth. I am going to share concrete examples of how these systemic forces have played out, and tested strategies to both build wealth through these systems and also subvert them when necessary.
I have spent years testing and developing my own unique process to attain and sustain traditional wealth, creating a very vibrant financial status for not only myself and my family, but also for my members of the Charisse Says community where I’ve advised thousands of people at www.charissesays.com through my blogs, videos, courses, and tools. I will share all of my hacks and strategies to obtain traditional wealth.
And still I want something more for you. I want you to have more than traditional wealth. Why?
I am tired of being exclusively defined by the same sys tems and structures that have historically tried to prevent me, a young Black female, from fairly participating in the traditional accumulation of wealth. Most Westernized civ ilizations were built on imperialist systems and structures of patriarchy, sexism, racism, and classism that have tried to put me in a box. I want to break that box wide open. Why chase a single standard that never entirely had me or you in mind anyway?
I want you to have the kind of wealth that goes beyond the dollars and cents. Wealth must also encompass your intangible assets such as your spiritual well-being, physical well-being, emotional and mental health, education attainment (formal and informal), relationships, and cultural capital or merely the exposure to different cultural forms (such as art, museums, traveling) that enhance one’s social capital. For example, spiritual well-being means building a faith muscle, which I talk about in Chapter 9.
Your faith can be one of your strongest and most powerful intangible assets, which means that your faith can make you incredibly wealthy. You should know right upfront that I am Christian, and my views on faith are shaped through that lens, and yet, faith is accessible to all. My Christian upbringing, heavily influenced by my two grandmothers and then my parents, has formed a strong sense of purpose. I want you to experience the power of living a faith-filled life. I believe that wealth and faith go hand-in-hand, and thus being wealthy means having faith.
It’s more precious than rubies, gold, or, better yet, the bank’s dollars.
I am a living witness to the fact that your intangible faith will give you all the desires of your heart, not just those defined by monetary gain. Isn’t that why we aspire towards wealth anyway? To be wealthy certainly involves having the things we want and need.
I am also a woman who was born with strabismus (or as they say ‘crossed eyes’), a condition that almost caused me to go blind at a very young age. My ability to thrive aca demically, emotionally, and socially despite my handicap created a high degree of confidence within me at a very young age. I am wealthy because I am confident, and my confidence is one of my most salient intangible assets.
I grew up in Freeport, a small blue-collar village in Long Island, and attended public schools up until college. I didn’t grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth, but I do come from a community that nurtured my talent and taught me to strive for excellence. I amassed great wealth before opening a bank account or getting my first credit card because of the supportive environment that propelled me to dream big from a very young age -- my bold ambition and belief that it takes an entire commu nity to propel an individual forward are some of my most treasured intangible assets.
And now as a wife and mother, I have a whole new mojo that comes from these newer roles in my life. There is no amount of money in the world that can give me the kind of wealth that my daughter Gabrielle, who was born on April 26, 2020, can give me. I struggled to conceive, and as I will share with you later, it was my faith that helped me to get through the dark days when I did not think I would be a parent. Gabrielle represents the epitome of intangible wealth -- she is a priceless asset that provides a lifelong return of joy. If you are a mother, you have intangible assets that go beyond the dollars that sit in your bank account, and thus you should measure your wealth along those intangible dimensions as well.
Say this boldly:
My wealth is made up of more than the dollars and cents that sit in my bank account.
Wealth is about you having financial prosperity plus the peace of mind and personal power that comes as a result of your intangible wealth. Moreover, I guarantee that your intangible wealth will unlock so much tangible wealth in your life. If the historically unprecedented COVID-19 pandemic has taught us anything around the globe, it’s that your holistic wealth matters. So, then, what do I mean by being a Wealthy Girl? I’m going to take you there now.
A Deeper Diver On The Wealthy Girl Journey
Being a Wealthy Girl is all about having a mindset rooted in the expansive definition of wealth that goes beyond what sits in your bank account. This kind of wealth is possible and guaranteed if you start and then consistently follow the steps that I outline in this book. It’s not just my experience, but that of others who have become incredibly wealthy by doing the same things I’m sharing with you. But here’s the thing: If you’re not going to take action using what you learn in this book, it’s not going to help you. This is a real journey with real steps.
Teaching a Wealthy Girl mindset is my rendition of the sassy girl, the one that’s classy, who takes control and leads. And especially the one who doesn’t leave so much on the table. I’ll show you how to become that girl.
But my vision and hope for you is that you won’t only become a Wealthy Girl, but that you’ll pay it forward to friends and family, and your community. Additionally, you will come to understand that the path to becoming a Wealthy Girl is easier than you might currently think.
In this book I’m sharing insights from my years of learning and exposure from my Ivy League education and training within prestigious financial institutions. I am also sharing lessons learned from my own trial-and-error wealth-building practices outside traditional institutions. I’ll share with you how to build your intangible assets, and pass them to the next generation. I will share with you what works and what doesn’t, and save you the drama of making mistakes along the way.
I’ll share with you all I’ve learned so that your journey to growing wealthy will be easier and even fun. Finally note that becoming a Wealthy Girl is not about being greedy. Rather it’s about owning your power, asking for what you want and choose, and then promise yourself and deliver on it. I’ll show you how to take the steps that can make your life better, and how to be a role model for others that way.
Whether you’re twenty-five or sixty-five, I “know” you too can get there. In other words, wealth accumulation is a very beautiful way to live your life no matter how old you are. In other words, I “know” you can become a Wealthy Girl.
Now that you know a bit about my intention and back ground, I want to share the story of the Wealthy Girls who came before me. If you don’t know that story, then you can’t truly know much about me. If you don’t know me, then it’s hard to understand how I have become wealthy in the way I’ve defined it. These women are strong examples of Wealthy Girls, and understanding their full stories is critical to knowing what it takes to be a Wealthy Girl.
I was blessed enough to make it to thirty-eight with two grandmothers still living. Grandma Shine, my mom’s mom, and Grandma Pearl, my dad’s mom. My Grandma Pearl died in 2018 at the age of ninety, and my Grandma Shine turned ninety-two-years old in 2020. Unbeknownst to each other, Naomi ‘Grandma’ Pinnacle Shine emigrated from South Carolina to New York City in 1949, and ‘Grandma’ Pearl Petite Conanan emigrated from New Orleans to New York City in 1950.
Both grandmas were two of the six million Blacks who fled the cruel, segregated South as part of the Great Migration from 1915 to 1970. Like the three Black migra tory stories detailed in Isabel Wilkerson’s The Warmth of Other Suns, both of my grandmothers left the South for a better life than what the Jim Crow South could offer. They wanted freedom. They tried to move away from the injus tices and inequity that pressed down upon their necks by an oppressive, racist Southern America.
Sound familiar? We only have to dive into our recent memory in 2020 to relive the horrors of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and Elijah McClain, and deeper in our history to honor the countless other black bodies destroyed at the hand of oppression.
While my grandmas knew that they could not entirely flee American racism by moving from the South to the North, they had a better chance of staying alive, earning money, and making a good life for their future families. Both grandmas made the train ride solo in their early 20s, saddled with both a single suitcase and limitless dreams for a better life. After settling North, my grand mas returned to the South only for funerals, reunions, and special birthdays.
Going back ‘down South,’ as they would say, often reminded them of a painful past that on the one hand, they left behind. Yet on the other hand, it’s their Black Southern roots that mainly influenced their New York City home through its loving familial bonds, community-driven support, and strong faith. They usurped a storied Southern history to build a wealthy life, defined on their own terms, in the North.
Grandma Shine and Grandma Pearl both settled in Harlem and married within a year of their arrival to New York City. They both had kids, and their eldests—my mother Barbara from Naomi and my dad Frank from Pearl—met each other in 1971, married in 1974, and then had children of their own. My brother Clayton was born in 1977, and I had the good fortune of popping out in 1980.
Though my Grandma Pearl was unable to work due to the onset of mental illness, she married Hermogenous Conanan, a Filipino immigrant whose job as chef in the U.S. Coast Guard provided enough wages for the two of them and their eventual three children to make it through the years. My grandparents eventually settled in the Italian, Filipino, and Puerto Rican immigrant-infused neigh borhood of Cobble Hill Brooklyn in the late 1950s. My grandparents bought a multi-unit Brownstone for $15,000 by borrowing money from one of my grand father’s brothers. My grandparents quickly paid back that loan. Since then, there have been countless family gatherings, overflowing with my Grandma’s love, in that house over my forty years of life. My father and mother lived in the 3rd-floor apartment for the first six years of their marriage, and I spent my first six months living in that house. Although my grandmother and grandpa have passed away, their Brownstone is now owned by my father and his siblings. They rent it out to tenants in what is now one of Brooklyn’s poshest neighborhoods.
The house is worth many multiples above $15,000 today, and yet our memories are priceless. The house is one example of the tangible intergenerational wealth cre ated between two generations. The love that has emanated from the people in that house is one example of the intan gible wealth that I now have.
Now, my Grandma Shine began her working career in the North as a homemaker, at times making $2.50 per hour to help support a family of six. While my grandfather Joseph worked the shipyards moving cargo, his paycheck didn’t suffice in providing enough for their family of eight.
It’s important to know that Grandma Shine gradu ated Valedictorian of her high school before making the trek North. But, she was unable to earn a college degree because her family could not afford to send her to col lege. As such, though she highly valued formal education, working became her way up and out. And to her immense joy, all six of her kids went to college. It was the three girls of her six kids that finished college and went on to profes sional service careers. The boys found jobs with amazing pension benefits by working as policemen, correction offi cers, and unionized trades artisans.
From 1950 to 1990, my Grandma Shine held down homemaker jobs, sometimes working two to three jobs at a time. She would eventually move from ‘working for the man’ at a homemaking company to her own independent contracting jobs -- a sole proprietorship in today’s vernacu lar. Along the way, she cultivated a very strong network of other women including relatives and friends who had also migrated from the South, to give them opportunities to work her jobs when she was oversubscribed. She thus pro vided other women with independent contracting opportu nities to put more money in their pockets as well. She kept a lot of the dollars in her pocket by starting her business as an independent contractor, and although it was informal and she was far from monetarily rich, her income provided the necessary dollars and flexibility for her family to survive.
The money accumulated from my Grandma Shine’s sole proprietorship is one example of tangible wealth that helped her family survive. Grandma Shine’s strong rela tionships with the women who came into her orbit and her value of education (formal and informal) are examples of the intangible wealth that has passed on to my mom and then to me.
I share my grandmas’ stories because they both achieved varying degrees of financial prosperity over their lifetime and amassed a high degree of peace and personal power along the way. Their faithfulness in God is inspirational even to the most ardent of atheists. Their jour neys are the blueprint upon which I have based my life and my own Wealthy Girl journey. My Wealthy Girl story will not end with me, but instead pass on to my daughter Gabrielle, and if she is so fortunate to have a girl, on to her daughter.
I want to take you on a journey through these eleven chapters to help you to bask in being a Wealthy Girl. I was where you are, sometimes doubting my abilities or failing to take action when I knew I should. Trust me, I found the way to pursue wealth, and so can you. I’ll share my ups, downs, and everything around to find your path to wealth.
But being a Wealthy Girl also means to have freedom and opportunity in your life. Both of my Grandmas pos sessed these intangible assets. Wealth is about fulfilling the desires you hold most near and dear to your hearts. Isn’t that the kind of wealth you want to pass down to your children, especially your daughters who are born into a world that tries to box them in?
So I extend to you this invitation: Come, Join me. Become a Wealthy Girl!
How To Use This Book
I will provide you with new ways of thinking about wealth using 7 specific steps that help you achieve both tangible and intangible wealth, and detailed takeaways that sum marize the main points for each chapter. In the takeaways, I will ask you several questions that I want you to ponder, and then leave you with a call to action. Yes, ACTION! My hope is that you employ at least one of my strategies in your own life.
Don’t worry. You are not alone. My deep desire is that through my words, you will feel me journeying with you in order to help you achieve your wildest, wealthy dream.
Think of me as your accountability partner as you are read ing. At the beginning of each chapter, I will openly and authentically share with you some of my own Wealthy Girl stories, as well as those of other women. I do this so that you can learn as many examples as possible from the journeys of others. You will read about the good, the bad, and everything in-between.
So, what are you really going to get out of this book? I’m going to give you insights in a way that’s more friendly, devoid of fluff, practical, and openly recognizes the struc tural forces that can often impede your individual wealth pursuits than you may have found in other books about money or finances. I break down complex concepts in an easy-to-understand manner. I’m opening the doors of wealth, as I’ve defined earlier. I’ll be sharing with you all kinds of unique, action-oriented strategies that you might not have thought of before. For instance, I won’t focus you on solely paying down debt, but rather on how you can execute on tangible investing strategies within traditional financial systems and build intangible Wealth Circles that subvert traditional financial systems. Both strategies will help change your life and build wealth holistically. From there you will learn the power of changing other people’s lives paying your wealth forward.
So let’s get right into it.
The following is a summary of each chapter. This is a cheat-sheet on what to expect. In the beginning chapters, you will shift your mindset of what it means to be wealthy and understand what may be stopping you from achieving the wealth status you deserve. Then for the remaining chapters, I’ll provide you the seven steps to achieve your Wealthy Girl status.
Chapter I: Taking A New Wealth Journey. You’re reading this one right now. Here I have redefined what it means to be wealthy and what I wish to offer you. As you keep reading, I will share relevant stories from my background and why I wrote this book for you, a Wealthy Girl.
Chapter II: Eight Myths Stopping You from Being Wealthy. In this chapter I first debunk eight myths that I believe hold us back from being the wealthy girls we are meant to be. For instance, one of the myths that you might tell yourself is - “I’m not worthy of wealth.” Don’t believe this. I will help you get these myths out of your psyche so that you can get toward action.
Chapter III: Step 1 - Build an Environment for Wealth Creation (Part A). In this first step, I’ll show you how to build a robust environment for wealth creation. It starts with the relationships in your life. I will give you strategies to surround yourself with love, how to practice ambition, and how to develop those long-lasting female bonds. You will learn how to start your Wealthy Girl journey with the right environment.
Chapter IV: Step 1 - Build an Environment for Wealth Cre ation (Part B). Since building an environment for wealth creation is so important, I will show you in Chapter 4 how you can create your personal A-Team. I will get real on how to unleash the power of your A-Team, which includes one or more of the following - a career coach, a financial advisor, a peer mentor circle, a sponsor, and a therapist.
Chapter V: Step 2 - Work Your Craft. In Chapter 5, I will show you what it means to focus on something so intently that you develop a skill set. By drawing on inspiration from someone who excels at their craft, making a commitment to learning (both formally and informally), and perfect
ing your craft, you will develop your Wealthy Girl mojo. Finally, I will share specific personal disciplines, such as journaling and protecting your time, that will help you work your craft. Finally, you will learn how to overcome the setbacks that will surely come when you commit to work your craft.
Chapter VI: Step 3 - Develop an Investor Mindset. I will share the story of the greatest investors I know and the secrets that have made her successful. You will learn how to become the CEO of your wealth, how to invest in your dreams first, and how to utilize my own proprietary tangible wealth-building strategy called SIPPing and Livin’ - Saving, Investing, Protecting, and Paying-Down, plus Living your life. This strategy has generated thousands of dollars for me and many, many women.
Chapter VII: Step 4 - Run Wealthy Experiments. My big gest experiment resulted in my marriage! In Chapter 7, I will give you a blueprint to experiment in your life, and how you can build wealth by doing so not only for your self, but for the generations that come after you. You will learn how to apply the culture of experimentation to your personal and professional life.
Chapter VIII: Step 5 - Start a Business or Support the Entrepreneurs Around You. As a founder of my own company and an investor in small businesses, I know the wealth effect of simply being around small businesses. In Chapter 8, I will share why it is so important to support the entrepreneurs in your life, or start your own business. More importantly, I will share the tips to get started and develop the right mindset for the journey.
Chapter IX: Step 6 - Build a Faith Muscle. In Chapter 9, I will define what I mean by faith, and a faith muscle - one of the most valuable intangible wealth attributes you can develop. I will give you the tools to define faith on your own terms, garner the support you need around, and get the power to move on in life even in disappointment. I end this chapter by sharing one of my favorite faith-building songs to encourage you on your own journey.
Chapter X: Step 7 - Be a Girl. The last step in being a Wealthy Girl is to simply be a girl. I don’t define a girl by the physical gender that you were born into, or the one you may have chosen post birth. Moreover, I will show you how to utilize the very traits that make us powerful women in order to build your wealth. Whether it’s building your own Wealth Circle or getting the men around you to support you, you have the unique opportunity to leverage one of your greatest assets - the girl in you!
Chapter XI: Enjoy Your Wealth: Prosperity Peace and Personal Power Lived Out. Now that you have the seven steps to create wealth, you should enjoy it. There should be LOTS of fun when wealth is at the center of your life. If not, what’s the point? I will provide you with what it looks like to live out a life of wealth, thereby obtaining that prosperity, peace, and personal power you deserve. Trust me, it’s a joyful experience.
Each chapter builds upon the previous one, and thus this book is perfect for you if you want to read it one chap ter after the next. However, if you like jumping around, I’ve designed it so that you can do that too because each chapter is also mutually reinforcing to each other. Some chapters might be more relevant for you at one time than another. Therefore I suggest you keep the book as a trusty guide over time. For instance, you may want to come back to certain chapters that pertain to challenges or opportunities that arise in your life. The lessons in this book will help you even more when you’re going through something that could use a bit of timeless advice.
I encourage you to take notes as you read through the chapters, and feel free to come back to the chapters that resonate with you the most. The best way, however, to use this book is to form a Wealth Circle of two or more people. You might be asking - what’s a Wealth Circle? As I mentioned in my summary of all the chapters, I will share more with you how to create your own in Chapter 10: Be a Girl.
In short, a Wealthy Circle is a community of like minded people, even if it’s only one person - a best friend, spouse, or family member - who is vested in your success, and wealth. Your Wealth Circle will help you stick with the strategies I share here. I’ve witnessed the power of one’s wealthy girl network again and again and I know it will serve you well. .
If my ninety-year old grandmothers taught me any thing, it’s that you’re never too old to take a new journey! So I’m throwing down the gauntlet and challenging you to take your best self, move it forward, and don’t stop. Embrace your Wealthy Girl status and claim your destiny!