The Bowser administration wants to be sure that District residents, particularly African Americans, can take advantage of the city’s economic boom and has started a program of fiscal fitness in order to do that.
Financially Fit DC launched on Oct. 19 at the Woodbridge Library in Northeast. The District’s Department of Insurance, Securities and Banking (DISB) partnered with Industrial Bank and the Mayor’s Office of African American Affairs (MOAAA) to start Financially Fit DC.
“We are super excited about this partnership,” Ashley Emerson, executive director of MOAAA, said to a crowd of about 30. “We decided to start this series on building the personal finances of District residents. This is the first step to helping residents build sound investments and building generational wealth.”
Any District residents can participate in Financially Fit DC but the program has an emphasis on aiding and educating Blacks in the city. Statistics published by the DC Fiscal Policy Institute show that Black median income in the District is $42,000 a year, compared to $134,000 for whites.
Homeownership generates a lot of wealth for District residents but it appears that Blacks are being left behind in that category also. Census data indicates that from 1980 to 2015, the web site Apartment List found that 63.7 percent of Whites in the city owned their homes compared with 43.5 percent of African Americans.
This mirrors national census data that indicates 72 percent of Whites as homeowners in contrast to Blacks with 41 percent in 2018. These racial and economic disparities motivated Industrial Bank to get involved with Financially Fit DC as the District’s longstanding Black financial institution.
“This is part of our community effort,” said Tammie C. Barrett, Industrial’s director of residential lending. “We want to reach out to all D.C. residents. We want to educate the community about our financial services and what we have to offer to help people build wealth.”
Michelle Hammonds, the director of financial engagement and education at DISB, said Financially Fit has a free online platform that will show its users how to create a budget, manage credit, buy a home, plan for retirement and build wealth.
“The program is set up to where everyone will have their own model to build on and follow,” Hammonds said.
During the launch, Barrett and Michelle Naves, senior underwriter of Industrial Bank, conducted a 25-minute workshop on the importance of credit. Barrett said in order to buy a home in the District and even get into homebuyer programs such as HPAP (Home Purchase Assistance Program) a good credit score must be had.
“At Industrial, our credit counselors will work with you on getting a good score,” Barrett said. “We can help you build your credit with secured loans and with authorized users. It should be noted that the homebuying process isn’t the same for everyone so that’s why we do individual counseling.”
In the second workshop, Hammonds told the attendees the three pillars of wealth and the tips for being financially prosperous.
“The three pillars are start and own a successful business, own real estate and invest in the financial markets,” she said. “Tips for financial success are start with a goal in mind, save the easy way through direct deposit and allocate money automatically to the savings account, prepare for unexpected events and enjoy the journey.”
The Financially Fit series will continue at the Anacostia Library in Ward 8 on Nov. 16 and the Benning/Dorothy I. Height Library in Ward 7 on Dec. 7.
Hammonds said the goal of being financially secure in the District can be reached by anyone.
“Everyone can build wealth,” she said. “Building wealth takes time.”