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After two years, hundreds of thousands of words, five titles, and countless revisions our first book is finally available for pre-order. In many ways, the book changed while the world was changing and what we learned in the process of writing it, shed new light on how ideas become ideologies and eventually movements.
The wealth disparities Black Americans are dealing with are not new. Many of us understand the history of inequality in America and don’t need another resource that contextualizes the impact of systemic racism. We’ve read reports about the declining wealth of Black America and articles about the broken promises made by companies to make diversity a priority. Yet, there isn’t any one book or major media platform we could point to that says–in spite of these challenges and painfully slow progress, THIS is what we CAN do.
Our deep love for our community and desire to present a set of solutions that professionals and families can use immediately is what motivated us to keep writing over the last few years. And now the body of work that contains these ideas, stories and principles can all be summed up in two powerful words —Cashing Out.
What does it take to be considered a crisis?
When it comes to wealth and income inequality, for the longest time, it felt like raising hell was the best tactic we had. On social media, folks would share headlines with inflammatory stats like Black women lose $1M over a lifetime due to the gender wage gap and we’d collectively retweet and rage on. New research would reveal that closing the wage gap between Black and white employees could have added $2.7 trillion to the US economy, and we’d all throw our hands up in protest. We’d do this under the assumption that our clicks, comments and shares would someday be seen—that our cries for help would eventually be heard. That those in positions of power would do something about it.
Well, despite the noise, the increasingly fragile state of Black wealth hasn’t earned the distinction of being deemed a ‘crisis’ like student loan debt or climate change. It hasn’t risen to the laundry list of urgent speaking points by our elected officials. We don’t have a gang of digitally savvy Gen Z’ers or vigilante redditors leading a charge against the establishment. And since we don’t have a provocative hashtag like #MeToo or #BlackLivesMatter
our hope is that Cashing Out can serve as a rallying cry to give our community’s economic health the attention it deserves
We can’t talk about money without talking about work
With Cashing Out, we wanted to move our community beyond awareness and into a space where they felt empowered to become the heroes of their own financial stories. Given the subtitle [Win The Wealth Game By Walking Away] we wanted to show underrepresented people how to walk away from workplaces that undervalue their contributions without derailing their lives. This seems simple, but even the simplest ideas have hurdles to overcome before they’re widely accepted. Specifically, we’ve run into two.
1. Many employees can’t afford to be honest
First is that Black professionals are still largely fearful of sharing their honest feelings about their experiences at work. Instead, they reserve their expressions of truth for their personal group chats, cocktail hours, dinner tables, hair salons and man caves. By and large, too many of them have accepted that at work, it’s normal to be over-appreciated yet underpaid; over-mentored yet under-sponsored. And that working twice as hard for half as much is a right of passage–a quietly accepted truth.
In many ways, their fears are justified because speaking up about being treated unfairly at work is frowned upon politically and can ruin any opportunities you have for growth. Furthermore, given an increasingly large amount of workers are financially supporting both parents and children with their paychecks, the cost of potential blowback can be devastating. So instead, we grind on. Continuing to play the game and wearing our work ethic as a badge-of-honor.
2. Black leaders don’t trust the institutions that “empower” them
Secondly, even Black leaders in positions of power at work are torn between “towing the company line” and “pushing for change”. Just a few weeks ago, we followed up with one who is a long-standing VP at a tech company. He’s financially independent, a fan of our work and committed early to supporting our book launch with a bulk purchase since he also leads his employer’s Black Employee Resource Group . He asked us to keep him updated on when it was available for purchase and when we did, he reneged on his commitment. According to him, the optics of a senior level executive supporting a book with the words “walking away” in the title were challenging.
As authors, this was disappointing because we believe in our message, it’s supported by research and we want it to spread to as many people as possible. But as leaders in our community and former corporate employees we understand his hesitancy. In fact, our intimate understanding of his hesitancy is precisely why we wrote the book.
While frustrating, this exchange reinforced precisely why Cashing Out is the appropriate message for these times. If Black executives who have the means and resources don’t feel comfortable supporting a message that promotes diversity and financial empowerment, then who can Black employees rely on to protect and advance their interests? And just how hostile are these work environments if Black employees at all levels are afraid to speak honestly— even in safe spaces.
If Black executives who have the means and resources don’t feel comfortable supporting a message that promotes diversity and financial empowerment then who can Black employees rely on to protect and advance their interests?
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Media’s role in elevating the message in Cashing Out
We know what we’re up against and realize that it takes a lot of factors, all working at the same time and in the right moment for this kind of book to break out. Our ambitions for Cashing Out aren’t small, but here’s why we think we have a fighting chance:
- Borrowed authority from our publisher and imprint: Penguin is the world’s largest producer of books and our imprint, Portfolio Books, is a major force in non-fiction publishing of business books. If Portfolio were a record label, they’d be Motown because they’re responsible for the sound of charismatic personalities who have reputations for challenging corporate culture like Simon Sinek, Seth Godin and Cal Newport. Our goal for Cashing Out is to join their ranks and add the experiences of Black professionals to the list of welcomed critiques for business leaders—optics be damned.
- Credibility from major media: Shortly after the press release for Cashing Out went out, we received a coveted spot on one of the largest national morning news television shows. We’ve also recently agreed to be featured in the oldest and largest of the “Big Three” management consultancies’ Author’s Series. It doesn’t get more legit than having their buy-in and we’re hoping this exposure leads to opening even more doors.
- New enthusiasm towards investing: Thanks to FinTech and social media, the last two years have been record-breaking for new investors. To put this in context, 15% of all current US stock market investors say they first started investing in 2020, but 3 times as many Black investors than white investors reported having done so. Furthermore, the median age of these new investors is 35 years old. This means they’re old enough to accept that what they’ve been doing hasn’t been working, young enough to have not hit their peak earning years and mature enough to understand what’s at stake.
- The Big Quit/Great Resignation: American attitudes towards work are changing and employees around the country have developed “main character energy”. They feel increasingly disillusioned by empty commitments, they’re walking away from toxic work environments and actively embracing newer and more flexible ways of earning income. This trend lends itself well to a particular chapter of our book called the 15-year career. Just two years ago, this idea would have been considered radical. But now, it feels right on time given more people are embracing remote work, entrepreneurship and a better return on the investment of their loyalty.
- Last but certainly not least, there’s you. Yes, you. We’ve already passed the sniff test of gatekeepers, connected with powerful amplifiers in media, and secured a Big 5 book publisher who has already submitted our book to be on the shelves of all your favorite stores. We’ve also received endorsements from some of the most influential figures in personal finance and business.
J.L. Collins, author of the classic, A Simple Path to Wealth said,
“this engaging book might be the best nudge toward a better, freer and wealthier life I have ever read. The last chapter alone is worth the price”.
Jewel Burks Solomon, managing Partner of Collab Capital and Head of Google Startups US said,
“if applied, the ideas in this book have the power to change the wealth trajectories of Black folks everywhere.”
But as proud as we are of this book, none of it means anything if YOU don’t actually buy it. So while you may not own a media platform or be a well-known author, you single handedly have the power to dictate what the media pays attention to when you buy this book. That simple act sends a powerful signal to the media that this is what people want to see and hear about.
The importance of pre-ordering Cashing Out
Perhaps you’ve heard an author ask for pre-orders before, but we want to make sure you understand why before we ask you to do the same. When authors can show publishers that people are excited enough to order a book in advance, the publishers print more copies and invest more to promote it. This also tells major retailers like Barnes and Noble, Target, Walmart and Amazon this book is popular, which prompts them to promote it in-store and online.
And that extra boost can lead to even more pre-orders, which ALL counts when the book is released and gives the book a fighting chance of hitting a bestseller list. And when that happens, it tilts the algorithm even further in our favor; putting our message in front of a larger audience.
Bestseller lists are important because everyone from news outlets to bookstores, use them to determine what to talk about, who to listen to and what consumers are looking to read next. All of these activities working together is what gives Cashing Out an opportunity to shape the national conversation.
Think about what The 4-Hour Workweek did for droves of future digital entrepreneurs or what Brene Brown did to make vulnerability a practice both women and men explore. Now imagine if thousands of talented Black professionals around the country were equipped with a framework that enabled them to become rich enough to speak their truth? How might that shift the conversation of generational wealth? What happens to the awareness of the racial wealth gap when world-class companies are held accountable for doing their part to accelerate wage equity and a new class of motivated employees are doing their part to invest it?
Even if you’re not Black, you can learn something from Cashing Out. You’ll learn the same powerful financial concepts as everyone else, and if you’re an astute reader like our friend JD Roth, you may even learn a little bit about hip hop along the way. You’ll gain insight into what it’s like to make emotional calculus every time we’re faced with a financial decision. We’ll ask you to confront the same realizations about consumerism and work culture. And if we’re successful, you may learn that we have more in common than you thought.
Together, we have a chance to unlock the potential of some of the best and brightest people in this country and it starts with an action as simple as ordering the book in advance. The best part is that it costs you nothing (seriously, you’re not charged until the book ships). So in a world where 95% of published books are written by white people, this is our chance to send a signal that this book is important. Just a few thousand pre-orders can be the difference between intent and impact.
Conclusion: How to “think” about Cashing Out
Imagine you were planning a vacation and days before your departure the weather forecast predicted there was a 50% chance of rain every day you were planning to be there. Wouldn’t you consider pack differently? Wouldn’t it be reasonable to consider bringing a different pair of shoes, packing an umbrella or maybe even getting travel insurance depending on the anticipated severity of the weather? This same degree of mindfulness and preparation should be taken when it comes to managing your career and money.
Historical data suggests that our careers will not be steady, smooth, sunny and predictable rises to the top; especially not for people of color. There is plenty of evidence supporting the rationale for placing greater emphasis on saving more, investing more and the preservation of our mental and physical health. That’s the underlying message of Cashing Out and we believe it’s a message everyone should take heed to.
Trust me, we didn’t write this book in an attempt to become famous or make gobs of money. We wrote this book because it needed to be said. It’s the book we wish we could have received as a graduation gift from college or discovered much earlier in our careers. We also didn’t write this book to trash corporate America or jobs as a whole. On the contrary, we’re rooting for companies to get this right. And while they work to do so—and while our elected officials tackle other priorities—we’re equipping everyday working professionals with the tools and perspective they need; in case history repeats itself.
- McKinsey: The economic state of Black America: What is and what could be. https://www.mckinsey.com/featured-insights/diversity-and-inclusion/the-economic-state-of-black-america-what-is-and-what-could-be
- Black in Tech: Can Silicon Valley change. https://www.fastcompany.com/90644593/1-year-3-8-billion-later-how-2020s-race-reckoning-shook-up-big-tech
- Black Women lose nearly $1m over a lifetime due to gender wage gap. https://www.goodmorningamerica.com/living/story/black-women-lose-1m-lifetime-due-gender-wage-79157108
- Racism has cost US economy $16 trillion in 20 years: Citi report. https://www.yahoo.com/video/racism-has-cost-us-economy-16-trillion-in-20-years-citi-report-205706392.html
- Just How White is the Book Industry. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2020/12/11/opinion/culture/diversity-publishing-industry.html
Check out the Cashing Out Mixtape on our YouTube page to get a “feel” of what the book has to offer. If you like it, consider getting the audiobook via Audible, Apple Books or wherever you get your audibooks. To get the official mp3, sign up for your newsletter below.