What you can do to navigate income inequality in America

You can’t talk about money without discussing the financial realities of different demographics. Today, the average white family still has 10 times the wealth of Black families. And though the gender pay gap has improved since the 1980s it’s still a far cry from equal. 

In this episode of In The Know’s Getting Rich, host Carmen Perez tackles income inequality.

“Income inequality has always been a thing but the gap between rich and poor hasn’t always been as wide as it is today,” Perez said. 

In 2019, the top 20 percent of Americans earned 51.9 percent of the country’s total wealth, while the top 5 percent earned 23 percent. Meanwhile, white women in the U.S. still earn only 80 cents for every dollar a man makes, while Black women lag behind at 63 cents and Latinx women at only 53 cents. Lower estimates suggest that the average woman makes only 49 cents for every dollar a man earns. 

To help navigate the wealth gap, Jannese Torres-Rodriguez, a personal finance expert and host of Yo Quiero Dinero podcast joined the discussion. 

“There’s a total lack of representation in our community when it comes to financial experts,” Torres-Rodriguez said of Black and Latinx people. “There’s a woman here and there but the majority of the people that are having conversations that are elevated especially in the media, they do not look like us.” 

Torres-Rodriguez said that if people aren’t represented in those important conversations then it may be difficult to reach them. 

The first step to addressing the gender gap, for her, was destigmatizing women and money.

“Money affects everyone regardless of your socio-economic class, your gender, your race and it is very atypical for women to be talking about money,” she said.

The next step was bringing these very conversations to elected officials.

“We need to start making them aware of why this is so important,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “We’ve seen the impact on the wage gap, we see what that lack of representation is doing. We see what the lack of financial literacy is doing to our communities.” 

She said race, gender and money are all intrinsically linked in America and ignoring it because it might be taboo won’t fix the root issues. 

While individuals rarely can single-handedly transcend the economic conditions that lead to widespread income inequality, they can try to manage their experiences more effectively.

“You always have a choice to start over,” Torres-Rodriguez said. “You can decide today that you want to start learning about these topics. The important thing is to just start. Just start doing something that your future self is going to thank you for.” 

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If you liked this story, check out other episodes of In The Know’s Getting Rich here.

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