Many of us pick up the Wall Street Journal every day without a second thought, but most of the people who attend advisor James Veal’s financial literacy classes in Philadelphia have never even opened the newspaper.
That’s no surprise, though, for Veal, founder and managing member of JRV Wealth Management Group, who has been teaching financial education and wealth building courses for students and adults at Philadelphia’s Temple University and at Mt. Airy Learning Tree for over a decade.
“Most of these people come from a community where they’ve never been exposed to finance and financial planning of any kind,” he says.
The Wall Street Journal is far removed from the world of most African-Americans, he says, “because we have such a long history behind us and it’s going to take us a long time to get out of the status quo.”
Veal, however, considers it his duty to help open up new worlds for African-Americans and to “switch their mindset.”
“I want people to know that they can and they need to achieve certain goals in life and education is a very important part of that. I want to bring along people who have not had any exposure to any kind of financial education before,” he says.
Veal’s courses are so popular that people come back to attend the same class three and even four times, he says. Whether it’s to learn how to properly read the Journal or get the basics of financial planning and wealth building, “I feel that people go away more empowered and more confident about themselves,” he says.
Although Veal believes there’s still a long and tough road ahead for most African-Americans to get up to speed with just basic financial planning concepts, he also knows that there’s a growing and largely untapped pool of African-Americans who have those basics in place and could use a financial planner to help them achieve some of their lifetime financial security goals.
Veal reports that his client base is 85% solidly middle class African-American (mostly government employees in the Philadelphia area), with household incomes of between $85,000 and $100,000 per year.
“There’s really no competition for me in this bracket; I feel like there's a swimming pool full of clients that want financial advice and I’m the only one swimming in it,” he says.
Perhaps that’s a good thing, though, since Veal, like other African-American financial advisors, is also a staunch advocate of community outreach and involvement.
“The community needs a lot of help so the more places we can provide that help, the better,” he says.
Veal is currently approaching government agencies and companies in the Philadelphia area to provide financial coaching services for their employees to better understand retirement planning and the nuts and bolts of 401(k) plans.