By Demetrius Dillard
Special to the AFRO
Since being inducted into the National Association of Black Journalists (NABJ) Hall of Fame in December 2021, veteran financial journalist and author Rodney A. Brooks has added another achievement to a long list of accomplishments.
The honor comes after a decorated career at USA Today that spanned three decades, where he has authored numerous thought-provoking articles covering finance, wealth and business. Brooks went from a general assignment reporter early in his journalism career to deputy managing editor/personal finance and retirement columnist in his last years at USA Today.
It’s been six years since Brooks retired from USA Today, but he still spends a good deal of time offering valuable insight on the topics he is passionate about as a columnist for AARP and the U.S. News & World Report. Aside from writing insightful columns, Brooks has authored a few books covering similar subject matters.
The abundant knowledge he obtained surrounding personal finance, retirement, and racial wealth disparities over the course of his journalism career, along with a profound endeavor to share that information with Black Americans, prompted Brooks’ latest literary work entitled “Fixing the Racial Wealth Gap.”
The book’s title is self-explanatory, and delves into the historical origin of the racial wealth gap and some of what Black Americans can do to combat the financial obstacles and hardships that left many of them in a downtrodden economic and social condition as opposed to their counterparts.
“This is a book that’s aimed at improving the financial education of Black Americans,” Brooks told the AFRO.
Establishing and sustaining generational wealth, retirement, having an emergency fund and the importance of having a will are some other topics Brooks discusses in “Fixing the Racial Wealth Gap,” also considered a “self-help” guide that thoroughly documents the plight of Black America while offering actionable solutions for Black people to position themselves better financially.
“Racism and discrimination put us here, but this is how we can save future generations,” according to the cover of the 214-page book, which also highlights financial literacy disparities. According to the Brookings Institution, the net worth of the average White family is $171,000, nearly 10 times greater than a Black family’s $17,150.
Also, the Black homeownership rate is around 43% compared to 73% for White Americans, Brooks highlighted.
The aforementioned grim statistics paint a picture of the systematic discrimination that continues to plague Black America and played a crucial role in Brooks’ decision to explore those topics in his journalistic and literary work.
“For years, my friends and colleagues have been saying I should write a book that offers financial planning advice for Black Americans because where we are and what we face is so different from White Americans,” said Brooks, a native of Baltimore by way of Newark, N.J.
“Fixing the Racial Wealth Gap,” released in October 2021, also addresses ongoing issues like the student debt crisis while advising Black Americans to wisely invest in the stock market, set up a life insurance policy and hire financial planners. Contrary to common belief, one doesn’t have to be excessively rich to employ a financial planner.
While less than 2% of certified financial planners in the U.S. are Black, Brooks suggests looking into the Association of African American Financial Planners for viable options.
“I’m big on financial literacy, and this was not something that my family discussed when we sat down at the dinner table. It is something that White families do discuss, so White kids go into college already have one up on us because they know about things we don’t know about,” Brooks said.
“So one of the things I say in the book is ‘we need to discuss finances with our children.’ For some reason, Black families feel like it’s a taboo subject, but the more we discuss it, the more they’ll be prepared as they grow up.”
Brooks, a Silver Spring resident, joined several dozen individuals for two virtual book launches: one a few weeks after it was released and another in early December. He is still an active member of NABJ and was grateful for his hall of fame induction, especially considering the various ways in which contributed to the organization – from serving as treasurer to co-founding a business taskforce.
“I am honored that they took all of that into consideration and voted me into the NABJ Hall of Fame. I’m really humbled by that,” he said.
From the time he was in junior high school, Brooks knew he was going to be a journalist. After years of impacting numerous communities through his work, Brooks now joins a distinguished class of media practitioners by earning one of the most prestigious honors in the world of Black journalism.
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