By Michayla Maxwell,
Special to the AFRO
and Layla Eason,
Generational wealth is a topic that has become more popular in recent years due to conversations about the wealth gap and the economy.
Generational wealth is wealth that is passed on from children and grandchildren within one family. The wealth in question could exist as cash, real estate, businesses or other tangible assets a person can own.
Whether starting a business, having multiple jobs or going to college to earn a degree, members of Generation Z, or people born between 1996 and 2012, are working toward building generational wealth for the future. This month, the AFRO spoke with college students who shared the meaning of generational wealth and why it is important.
Destiny Pridgen, a junior audio production major, feels generational wealth is highly impactful and essential.
“Generational wealth is significant, especially within the Black community, because we aren’t allowed to progress the same as
] counterparts. It is imperative
[that Black people
] have that wealth built up so future generations can find themselves in whatever career they want and do what makes them happy,” Pridgen said.
Pridgen believes that generational wealth is more than just an accumulation of wealth but more so about fighting systems that don’t always uplift African Americans. Growing up while the digital age developed, Gen Z is both aware and exposed to wealth disparity trends in addition to how they disproportionately affect minorities. These trends have pushed several Gen Z minorities to work toward building something to sustain more manageable lifestyles for their families in the future.
“I think generational wealth helps minorities overcome barriers that are set institutionally,” Pridgen shared.
Education has often proved itself a useful tool when working to acquire wealth and success.
“Generational wealth is useful because it allows Black people to have enough money to get an education from anywhere despite the costly tuition, which was previously used to keep Black people out of these institutions,” Pridgen continued.
The university system is just one example of a system with barriers that Gen Z could overcome if more minorities work toward generational wealth within their families.
T’ana Wells, a junior TV and film major at Howard, shared she also feels Gen Z must work toward generational wealth.
Wells thinks generational wealth is essential because “it allows many people to fulfill their desire of providing for people they care about. Growing up, my dad constantly mentioned how his family was dirt poor. He worked hard to ensure my sisters and I could go to college and not worry as much as he did.”
Wells agreed that having generational wealth can take the stress of being financially free off their kids and younger family members.
“I plan on continuing to work toward generational wealth so that I can not only repay my father for what he has done for me, but also to ensure my sisters are taken care of when they become my age,” Well stated.
Other students shifted the conversation to the most practical ways for Gen Z to start the beginning of generational wealth in their families.
Brian Woodley, a junior in college, looks at generational wealth as something that will uplift the Black community rather than just individual Black families.
“Generational wealth isn’t just about money; it’s a way to give the next generation a head start. For the Black community, this is crucial to counter long-standing systemic barriers. The path to it involves more than just saving; it’s about investing wisely and planning long term,” Woodley said.
Gen Z has already experienced several economic problems, including student loan debt, unstable job markets and a cost of living that does not keep up with wages. These experiences have forced them to take steps to ensure they are financially literate and aware of what’s happening in the economy today with things like budgeting, investments and multiple strains of income.
Woodley continued to share that the government needs to do more to help more communities become financially literate, which will give them the tools to cultivate generational wealth.
“Financial literacy is the toolkit you need to build and maintain that wealth. Universities and governments could better provide resources that speak directly to the financial challenges the Black community faces, from workshops to online tools that are easy to access and understand,” Woodley stated.
According to the Financial Brand, Gen Z is the least loyal generation when it comes to allowing one bank to store their money. The distrust of Gen Z in the bank system puts them at a disadvantage in knowing the advantages of a bank and being more financially literate overall.
College student Marrion Parks expanded on why he thinks financial literacy plays a significant role in generational wealth.
“Just from life experiences I’ve had, I’ve been able to be around young people of color that make remarks such as I don’t trust banks or I keep all my money in cash,” Parks stated.
Gen Z is redefining their ideas of success while also working toward sustaining wealth surrounding their communities. Many students part of Gen Z are working hard to build generational wealth through pushing for widespread financial literacy, entrepreneurship, and education.
“I think both universities and governments could simply host sessions where we can get into contact with bank tellers or bank managers, so they can tell us how we can manage our money or how to invest in things,” Parks shared. “We do not have enough access to financial knowledge due to the lack of the knowledge being accessible.”
Devante Grenian, an electrical engineering major at University of Baltimore, said education is key.
“If I had the opportunity to know how to financially plan throughout college I think I’d have more money to put into savings to set me up for after graduation,” said Grenian.“I have a better understanding of how finances operate, but I had to figure it out on my own. There was no program to help me or my peers.”
More and more college students like Grenian have been expressing their frustrations about a lack of financial literacy when they graduate. As college students first come to college and start gaining more independence, many take their new freedom and run with it. Many students say they wish they were given the chance to learn how to properly file taxes or balance a checking account while attending college and before being forced to learn on their own.
In college, students are often distracted from their financial responsibilities and focus on the fun they are having. At times this can lead to dangerous overspending, financial irresponsibility and even debt.
“When I first got to college I didn’t realize that every single thing would cost me and I ended up blowing through the little money I had,” said Trevor Strigler, a multiplatform production major at Morgan State University (MSU). “I eventually applied for a credit card and didn’t really understand how it worked which led to me damaging my credit.”
Students also have different ideas of what wealth is and how they would maintain theirs. While wealth is often defined as an abundance of valuable possessions or money, there are some who believe that wealth goes beyond that.
“To me wealth is having lots of money and having freedom attached to it. In college I don’t think we are given the skills to learn how to gain my version of wealth,” said Femi Epps, a civil engineering major at MSU. “We go to classes, study, work part time jobs and have to constantly spend more money than what we make. Wealth looks different to everyone because it is a subjective topic–there is no right or wrong to it.”
Layla Eason is an AFRO Intern from Morgan State University.