Your Network is Your Net Worth

Paula IlochiUncategorizedLeave a Comment

Born and raised in Nigeria, my father ventured to the US in his late 20s. Being the child of an immigrant father and American born mother gave me a glimpse into two worlds simultaneously growing up. Two worlds that taught importance of generational wealth and education in their own way with overlapping similarities here and there. My dad had many Nigerian friends and family members who were true definitions of hustlers or more commonly named “gig workers”. Most of my “uncles” and “aunties” owned their own businesses be it a hair salon, convenience store or restaurant to name a few. A day didn’t go by that my dad did not harp on the importance of education and it being the great equalizer in the world. My dad’s idea of success was to go to school and invest in your education. Theoretically a college degree resulted in obtaining an amazing job or the luxury of working for yourself which allowed you to save for your children and your children’s children. My mom valued education just as much, but she grew up in Jim Crow’s North and saw cooperative economics at work (think the historical Black Wall Street). My mom emphasized the importance of owning your own home and keeping it in the family because  “you never know when  you need a place to return to”.

Support Systems

Both my parents shared the concept of ownership and a support system to fall back on during times of need akin to the principle “Ujaama” or “Cooperative Economix”. Ujaama is the fourth principle of the Kwanzaa celebration and is essentially a commitment to the practice of shared social wealth and the work necessary to achieve it. The fundamental concept of this principle is that social wealth belongs to the masses. No one person should have an unequal amount of wealth that gives them the power to impose unequal or oppressive relations to others. This principle believes wealth is to be shared and that there is enough to go around if we the community make a conscious effort to invest in each other and do the work to strengthen ourselves in the process.

Caribbean and African families often employ what is called a “sou-sou” or an arrangement made among frien.ds whereby each person makes regular contributions to a fund, the money being drawn out periodically by everyone in turn. This concept circulates money within the family and is often how many families can purchase a home, open a business, or gain access to other bigger ticket items without the assistance of credit cards. Individualism is not a bad thing but often we are taught to utilize our support systems or networks only when in a bind. In other words, our network becomes our last resort as opposed to our first stop.

Currently, we are in a time where people are unsure where their next meal is coming from; unsure if rent or mortgage will be paid, or dipping into their savings and retirement accounts early for day to day expenses for a pandemic that has just begun to rear its ugly head. Imagine the damage this crisis can bring in 3 months, 6 months or even a year! The fallout would be earth shattering and the distrust in the government would be reminiscent to what many of our parents and grandparents once experienced during the Great Depression.

Financial Independence

Now let us switch gears for a second and take this one step further. Another important thing that financial freedom affords individuals is independence and for a person struggling with domestic violence in their household, financial freedom is extremely important. Various news reports around the globe have noticed an increase in incidents of domestic violence during COVID-19. Abuse is about power and control and we are all facing a time where we feel powerless. While a healthy person cope with the loss of power by acknowledging the inconvenience and adjusting accordingly, individuals who do not handle crisis in a healthy manner will look for someone to take their stress out on.

Many people are afraid to leave their abusive situations because the abuser may withhold finances from their partner discouraging them from making the choice to plan a safe exit. Creating a network where victims of abuse can utilize during their time of need  is a huge advantage and can save a life.

So What?

Having a traditional place of employment is amazing. Being an entrepreneur or small business owner is amazing as well. However, we are seeing now more than ever having one or the other is not enough to sustain us in the event of a national crisis. It’s imperative to do your due diligence and discover ways to pull in multiple streams of income. Build up a nest egg of at least six months’ worth of expenses. I’ve heard this advice over and over but honestly never expected that one day I would have to turn around and use said advice.

I do not want discourage anyone from working their traditional “9-5”, but to encourage you to think outside of the box. Research non-traditional ways of saving and investing. Not sure where to start? Start by following financial columns or asking local business owners whose how they got their start. Create your own “sou sou” of family and friends who you can trust to invest in each other and circulate wealth.

I participate in a “sou sou” of sorts with fellow small business owners, entrepreneurs, educators and professionals. I have found the financial support to be extremely helpful when the pandemic began to impact my business. If you do not have a network of 5-10 individuals who can invest in each other and work together to reach a business goal or vision, it may be time to re-evaluate your circle. Remember, network=net worth and generational wealth and knowledge must start somewhere, so why not start with You.


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