Things That Matter

We Earn Less Than Men, We Lose Income As Caregivers And That’s Why This Latina Gives Financial Advice To WOC

For a long time, finance was considered a boys’ club that only allowed old, grey-haired men in. But for women who largely head households and outlive men, monetary savvy is a necessity we can no longer afford to pass over. In Los Angeles, financial planner Brittney Castro, CFP®, is ensuring that women of all walks of life have the money wits they need and deserve.

At Financially Wise, Inc., the boutique financial planning firm Castro founded in 2013, the biracial Mexican-American offers holistic and comprehensive financial and investment planning for individuals, couples and businesses, with a special aim for women to get their money right. 

“A big thing for me, in the beginning, was to make [financial advice] more accessible, not just for high-network clients. Everyone needs a financial plan to pay for life and goals,” Castro, who says she speaks with clients as if they were friends, in a “fun, personal, compassionate, relatable and nonjudgmental way,” told FIERCE.

In addition to her fee-only financial planning, the 35-year-old CEO also provides online money courses, financial wellness workshops, speaking engagements and brand partnerships. 

Unlike many others in her field, Castro wasn’t raised by entrepreneurial parents, so she understands firsthand how intimidating finances can be. In fact, she entered the industry because she wanted to help communities like her own, everyday people with finance fears, all while being her own boss and making a lofty income herself.

Starting in the corporate world, she loved the change she was making in people’s lives: educating them, helping build confidence in themselves and their pursuits as well as co-creating futures where clients weren’t just secure but thriving.

Still, the long workdays and benevolent sexism of the industry took its toll on the young career woman.

“I stuck out like a sore thumb, which used to bother me a lot,” she said. “There have been so many times in my career when I was talked down to or judged.”

After five years working for a large company, Castro decided to quit and enter independent financial planning, where she’d have more control over her hours and less interaction with condescending bros. 

At the time, blogs were in bloom and social media was on the come-up, and Castro, knowing the troubles of being a woman in money, saw a niche that wasn’t being targeted: women. She started writing and speaking publicly about gender and capital, quickly seeing the benefits of the identities she was previously made to feel insecure about.

“I now think it’s an advantage that I’m a woman, Latina, young and in finance,” said Castro, whose insight on the topic can be found in outlets like Entrepreneur, CNN, CNBC, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, Glamour, Elle, Marie Claire and more. “People need me. This is America. I’m the new face, the new generation, so now I see it as a strength.”

Her biggest goal is to demystify finance so that it’s approachable for everyday people who fear all things dinero, and that typically comprises women, especially women of color. This demographic, Castro says, often feels unseen and unheard, and she doesn’t want to perpetuate those feelings and experiences in her office. Knowing the fears, insecurities and emotions that come with money talk, she creates a space where women feel safe to open up.

Courtesy of Brittney Castro

“It’s never just money — it’s our lives, our fears, our wants. So it’s important for me to give women another place to come to where they can feel heard and get the help they want and deserve,” she said.

Once she and her client work through the sentimental blockages, she then breaks down why it’s totally essential for women, especially, to be financially literate and in control of their coins: We live longer than men. Nine of 10 women will be in charge of their finances at some point in their lives. We still earn less than men. We lose income when taking care of children and elders. And the list, she says, goes on.

“There are a lot of challenges, which makes learning about money more necessary,” Castro contends. “While current women’s movements are helping, by making it easier for us or creating more awareness around issues we experience, we, as individuals, still need to decide to dive in and make decisions on our finances.”

For those who are interested but don’t know where to begin or feel like they don’t have the time or cash flow to get started, Castro urges to be abandon self-doubt and just embark on the journey.

To start, Castro offers a few beginner steps.

Know your budget.

This includes all the money coming in and going out of your bank accounts.

Consider how your current budget is working. This will help you spot if you are running short and allow you to identify areas where you might be wasting money that you could actually be saving. “Maybe you need to make more or cut back, but you have to find a way to save money. We all do. But you have to start with your budget,” she said.

Set up automatic systems that will save you money.

There are a few ways to do this. Paychecks that are made via direct deposit, for instance, can automatically go into different accounts, including savings, 401(k)s, investments, employee stock purchase plans and health savings. Automating recurring bills as well as putting credit cards on autopay could also help.

“It’s almost impossible to save money if you have no automatic system that is taking money out of your account. It’s torture to do it any other way. If you see it, you will spend it. Just to be safe, set up an automatic savings plan,” she says.

Learn how to invest.

Learn the language, don’t take risks that will lose you money and expect it to be a lifelong, ever-changing journey.

Whether through a class or a book, educate yourself on investment, in the stock market and in real estate.

“I’ve been doing this for 13 years, and I still learn something new all the time,” she said. “Things change. Technology changes. Products change. There are investments that are right for you and then something comes that’s better, so you have to be willing to make a change.”

Be gentle, yet assertive with your financial goals.

Castro emphasizes that it takes courage, willpower and commitment to follow through on your strategy, which isn’t always easy to maintain.

To help, Castro recommends finding a trusted partner who can help you stay accountable and on track. “Stay motivated and hang in there,” she says. “You’re never alone. We all have the same money goals and challenges, so it’s nice to find somebody you trust that can go through this financial journey with you.”

Once we start paying closer attention to our money and making healthier financial decisions, Castro affirms that we will begin seeing benefits in other aspects of our lives. Think about it: when we aren’t stressing about money, we can think more clearly and spend more of our time enjoying life and those around us. It’s a win all around, and it’s one that is in our hands.

“People fear finances, but it’s actually so empowering when you have it in order,” she says.

Forget Hawking and Einstein — This Little Latina Has Their Genius IQs Beat

Fierce

Forget Hawking and Einstein — This Little Latina Has Their Genius IQs Beat

@PuenteLibre / Twitter

The Latinidad has been blessed with it’s fair share of geniuses. Carlos Juan Finlay, the Cuban physician who first linked yellow fever to mosquitoes, used his brains to save countless lives in the developing world. For American engineer Ellen Ochoa, the first Latina female astronaut, her genius took her all the way to the stars. Frida Kahlo, one of the most recognizable figures of the 20th century, used her genius with a paintbrush to create art that still resonates with viewers today. However, all of these people were definitely already adults when they were recognized for their gifts. The newest member to join their genius ranks is considerablly much younger.

Though she is just 8 years-old, Adhara Pérez already boasts a genius level I.Q. in the triple digits.

Twitter / @adn40

A native of Mexico City, Adhara has a measured I.Q. of 162. To put this into perspective, two of the worlds most famous geniuses, Albert Einstein and Stephan Hawking, each had an estimated I.Q. of 160. According to the “Yucatan Times,” the gifted Latina has already finished school, having passed elementary at 5 years-old and completing middle and high school by the age of 8. Adhara is now in the process of earning two degrees online, in industrial engineering in mathematics and in systems engineering respectively. She’s hoping to one day become an astronaut and colonize Mars.

Besides sailing through grade school in a quarter of the time it usually takes, the child prodigy has been busy with other projects. She has already written her first book, called “Don’t Give Up,” that tells her story of growing up as a girl genius. She has also appeared on several television talk shows and participated in different academic presentations involving space.

While her I.Q. is being celebrated now, it wasn’t recognized by her teachers and fellow students at first.

Twitter / @NMinutosMx

When Adhara was 3 years-old, she was diagnosed with Asperger’s syndrome, a condition that falls on the autism spectrum. One of the defining symptoms of the developmental disorder is difficulties with social interactions and relating to other people. It was around this time that Adhara was experiencing bullying from her classmates. According to the “Yucatan Times” the other students at school called the little genius names like “oddball” and “weirdo.”

Nallely Sanchez, Adhara’s mother, recalled seeing first hand the cruel treatment the other kids inflicted on her daughter.

“I saw that Adhara was playing in a little house and they locked her up. And they started to chant: ‘Oddball, weirdo!’ And then they started hitting the little house,” she told the “Yucatan Times.” “So I said, ‘I don’t want her to suffer.'”

At that tender age, the teasing already proved to have a horrible impact on young Adhara’s mental health.

Twitter / @marisolglzz

According to her interview with the “Yucatan Times,” Sanchez says that her daughter began to experience a “very deep depression” and no longer wanted to go to school. Adhara’s teachers told her mother that the unhappy student began sleeping in class and put no effort or interest into her classwork. This was obviously not for lack of understanding the work.

Sanchez knew that her daughter already had mastery over algebraic knowledge and the periodic table so she was sure that the problem Adhara was having wasn’t an academic one. She decided to seek a therapist for her daughter in hopes of helping her. A psychiatrist they visited recommended that the mother and daughter go to a local education assistance center for further testing. That’s when her genius I.Q. was identified and she began her quick transition through school.

While she was once bullied for being different, her extraordinary genius has gained her notoriety from fans all over the world.

Twitter / @aideefrescas

This year, Adhara was named one of “Forbes” Magazine’s 100 Mujeres Poderosas de México. She shares this honor with some majorly talented and powerful women such as Irene Espinosa (Deputy Governer of the Bank of Mexico), Alejandra Frausto (Secretary of Culture) and Yalitza Aparicio (the breakout star of “Roma.”)

Twitter has been sure to shower the little genius with lots of praise as well. Some Twitter users expressed that Adhara’s parents must be very proud of of their daughter while others pointed out that this is exactly the reason why we shouldn’t bully people who think and act differently than us.

For now, the future appears bright for this little genius. According to “Vogue México,” Adhara is currently developing a smart bracelet for children with developmental conditions that will monitor their emotions to anticipate and prevent issues. She is currently studying English in perpetration for entrance exams in the United States. The Latina hopes to one day attend University of Arizona to study astrophysics.

Could The Cultivation Of Ethnic And Racial Minority Communities Yield Positive Outcomes For People Within Those Communities?

Things That Matter

Could The Cultivation Of Ethnic And Racial Minority Communities Yield Positive Outcomes For People Within Those Communities?

@fairhousing / Twitter

The human race is no stranger to segregation. In the United States, Jim Crow laws and “separate but equal” doctrine kept people racially separated for decades. In Germany, there were the Nuremberg Laws. In South Africa, Apartheid. Today, segregation in our country takes a different form—no longer supported by law, it is pervasive yet subtle, an intersectional issue rooted in gender, race, and socioeconomic status. While legally dividing people based on their differences is indisputably wrong, a complex question emerges: Could the cultivation of ethnic, religious, and racial minority communities actually yield positive outcomes for the people within those communities? Many signs point to yes.

On college campuses, this question underscores the phenomenon of “affinity housing”—spaces where minority students can live alongside peers who share important aspects of their identities.

credit: vassar.edu

The debate around affinity housing has spanned the past 50 years, beginning with active calls for change from students at numerous institutions in 1969 (Williams College, Vassar College, and Wesleyan University, to name a few). At Williams College, the discussion began when members of the Williams Afro-American Society occupied Hopkins Hall until the school president responded to a series of requests, including the development of a residence hall specifically for Black students. While that demand wasn’t met at the time—leading to a reemergence of the issue last year—students at Vassar and Wesleyan were more successful, resulting in Wesleyan’s “Malcolm X House” and Vassar’s “Kendrick House”—dorms specifically designated to Black students, which still exist today.

Now, in 2019, a wide number of colleges and universities offer affinity housing for a highly diverse spectrum of students, including women of color, Asians and Asian-Americans, Latinx populations, and LGBTQ groups. Proponents of affinity housing argue that these communal residences provide minority students with a sense of safety and security, especially at institutions with largely white student bodies. However, many people believe that affinity housing hearkens back to a darker epoch of American history, reviving segregationist tendencies that are fundamentally harmful to our progress as a society. Without a doubt, our country’s fraught past has definitely made the legal aspects of affinity housing a bit sticky.

According to the federal Fair Housing Act, it is illegal to discriminate against tenants based on their race, color, religion, sex, national origin, disability, and family status. 

credit: calstatela.edu

So, if a university offers affinity housing for Black students, it could get in trouble if white or Asian students were explicitly prohibited from living there. To avoid this, colleges provide students with the choice to reside in these spaces, using careful language to define their role on campus—for example, California State University’s website describes its Halisi Scholars Living Learning Community as having been “designed to enhance the residential experience for students who are a part of or interested in issues regarding the Black community.” While it focuses on fostering a sense of community for Black students, the Halisi Scholars LLC is available to any student invested in issues of Black culture. Thus, as long as the option to join an affinity housing residence is inclusive to all, there is nothing illegal about it.

Although it can make affinity housing tricky to navigate, the Fair Housing Act protects folks all over the country. In certain states and cities, the protections expand even further to include factors like age, sexual orientation, marital status, gender, and citizenship status. Given the diversity of the U.S. population, these measures are absolutely essential to maintaining liberty and preserving our rights; yet history reveals that in spite of this legislation, marginalized communities are still most affected by housing discrimination, which perhaps points to affinity housing as a productive response to a long and unsavory trend.

Netflix’s “Dear White People” touches on the topic of affinity housing, illustrating the polemic nature of this issue through its characters’ divergent opinions. 

credit: Jonathan Leibson/Getty Images

While some characters, like Coco Conners—a Black economics student who serves as treasurer for Winchester University’s Coalition of Racial Equality—do not support the new Armstrong-Parker dorm (a residence hall for students of color), several other characters find community there. Yvette Lee Bowser, executive producer of the series, describes this point in the show as a “renaissance” for the predominantly white, fictional Ivy League school.

“Everyone wants to have a sense of community, no matter what their cultural background is,” says Bowser. “That’s really what Armstrong-Parker is about—a built-in sense of community.” As a woman of color, Bowser attended Stanford University, which also offers affinity housing. She reiterates that the housing assignments at Winchester are not meant to segregate, but to do the very opposite: the Amstrong-Parker dorm is designed to maintain connectivity within students’ own, preexistent communities. “You don’t choose to go to a predominantly white institution only to be with black people,” she says. “You want the diverse experience, but you also want to feel those creature comforts and culture comforts.”