Get Your PHD and Bridge the Wealth Gap with Shawn D. Rochester

Audio Description

How can African-Americans increase wealth accumulation and fill the gap of 6 million jobs, 1.4 million businesses missing in the Black community and trillions of dollars of net wealth? Shawn D. Rochester, author of The Black Tax, is back in conversation with James Seth Thompson to offer solutions. Thompson and Rochester address a necessary paradigm shift that seeks to empower Black people to be deliberate in their fiscal choices for the advancement of their families and communities. Get your PHD today.


00:00 - 00:33

How can African Americans increase wealth accumulation and fill the gap of six million jobs, 1.4 million businesses missing in a Black community and trains of dollars of net wealth? Get your PhD and start today. For more about what I mean, stay tuned. Welcome to Changing the Trajectory, where we focus on multicultural markets and communities and intentional actions we can take to change the arc of our wealth, impact, and influence. I'm James Seth Thompson, Bernstein Head of Diverse Market Strategy.

00:34 - 01:07

I'm happy to be joined again today by Shawn Rochester, author of The Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America, CEO of Good Steward LLC, and the founder of PHD Enterprises and the Idea Institute. If you have the opportunity to listen to our first episode of the two-part series, you heard Shawn and I speak about anti-Black bias in the financial costs of discrimination. You now know that over 40 million African Americans, which accounts for 13 or 14 percent of the United States population, owns just 2% of America's wealth.

01:08 - 01:15

Today, we are here to discuss solutions for bridging the gap. So, Shawn, thanks again for joining me. James, thank you very much for having me on the show.

01:16 - 01:51

You know, we're just a few weeks removed from Black History Month where we had an episode that, you know, was really filled with very alarming but critical conversations, yet is just as important that we discuss the paradigms and a thought process and the thought models that should focus on empowering Black Americans to be more deliberate in our fiscal choices, but more importantly, being mindful of the role we play to advance how to better our families and our communities. This conversation is really important because, Part One of our dialogue kind of lay the groundwork. It was a level setting.

01:51 - 01:59

And we recognize that there are things that has happened over the last hundreds and hundreds of years that really contributes to the wealth gap, right?

01:59 - 02:22

But we need to move forward. We need to have a conversation about how we should close that wealth gap. And I know you and I both have some interesting perspectives on this, but I also want to be mindful that not all of our listeners have the opportunity to listen to the first episode. So why don't you just take a few minutes and just overview for us again the Black tax, the cost of discrimination.

02:23 - 02:47

Yes. So the Black tax is the financial cost of discrimination against Black people from individuals or institutions that may have conscious or unconscious anti-Black bias. That tax shows up in a mode that has a financial impact, and that financial impact can affect our ability to accumulate wealth, human capital, political and social capital as well.

02:48 - 03:19

The talk is based on on the book that I wrote, Black Tax: The Cost of Being Black in America, where I talk about, you know, what the levels of anti-Black bias mean for us in markets that are really critical to wealth accumulation, housing, automotive, the financing and insurance that go along with that, job search, online commerce, business, lending and so on and so forth, as well as taking a look back over time and really walking through from the time of slavery till now at enormously discriminatory practices that we all may or may not be familiar with.

03:19 - 03:48

But looking at it from a financial perspective, what was the economic impact of that. So that we can get to a place where we have kind of the information and the context to tackle some of these really massive problems. And what's really important is giving a scope and a scale to these problems, it's important that we have a lot of people at the table, and it's important that we have those people informed with the information and the empathy to be able to work with us. Because it's very difficult to work with folks if they think the problem is, is fundamentally you.

03:48 - 04:23

And if you would fix you, it would be great. So my guess is after laying out that argument and providing some historical context as to what contributes to those numbers. Right, again, you've done a great job of quantifying what that is. What's your thought process around how to actually address that? Yeah, so what I wanted to do on the third part of the book, what I do is advocate for an economic framework that I call PHD. And PHD stands for purchase, hire, and deposit in ways that create jobs, create and expand businesses, and provide capital in the Black community.

04:23 - 04:47

At the end of the day, we're living in a situation where we're missing a, you know, six million jobs across the broader Black community. We're missing about 1.4 million businesses with employees. There are 2.56 million Black businesses, but only about 109,000 of those actually have employees, roughly four percent. That four percent generates about 70 percent of the revenue, about 100 billion dollars and employs about a million people.

04:48 - 05:11

So the things that we do need to be able to affect the jobs gap, the business gap, and a capital gap that's associated with our communities, there's no community that is thriving anywhere that sits on top of a deficit of jobs, businesses, and capital. So PHD is meant to address that. So let's focus on the P part of PHD, right?

05:11 - 05:28

Which is the purchase piece. You know, I believe you often talk about the idea of creating an ecosystem, right? You know, how we should actually go about creating economic development within the Black community?

05:28 - 06:02

I have some thoughts on that that I'll chime in on. But where does that conversation start with you? Yeah, so the P, which stands for purchasing, if you are an individual or a consumer, that's what you choose to spend your money on, right? If you are a corporation, an institution, a government is your supply chain spend, right? The things that you purchase so you can, like, create your products and services to deliver to your ultimate customer set. So as individuals, we can stimulate job creation and business development through what we spend our money on.

06:02 - 06:29

So you probably heard the statistics that if you look at the kind of like the Black community itself, the total spend is roughly about, you know, 1.2 trillion dollars and increasing. The challenge is only about two percent of that is actually spent on Black enterprise. Right. That 1.2 trillion actually creates about 22 million jobs in the US and that's primary, secondary, and tertiary effects. But the vast majority of those jobs are outside of the Black community.

06:30 - 06:56

And then it's not only just for Black people, it's for anyone to do that, to have a stimulative effect, you know, in job creation. The P when it comes to institutions. That's your supply chain spend. And a challenge is if you look at, you know, corporate supply chain spend, less than two percent of that, you know, across the board, goes to, you know, Black enterprise. And if you look at it from a government perspective at all levels, less than two percent of that goes to Black enterprise, you know, specifically.

06:56 - 07:17

So the ability to have a remarkable and outsized change can be had by just who you choose to do business with. And the problem is, is because there's such limited demand expressed in actual commerce that's happening, you're actually having a negative effect on potential job creations and that ripples across and throughout, you know, communities.

07:17 - 07:41

Look, I purposefully use the word ecosystem because I think that's a key in economic development within a community. Right. There's an interesting nugget here. I think a lot of people will assume that the P is really about me and the money I spend, right, where I buy my goods and services.

07:41 - 08:00

But we can actually expedite that process. Why? We can expedite that process through an institutional lens. Meaning for those of us, regardless of what you look like in your background, you know, we institute the mindset of inclusive procurement. Right. Otherwise known as supply diversity.

08:00 - 08:22

You know, imagine the impact and the influence we can have in those communities. And we are very thoughtful and intentional about, you know, earmarking our spend to vendors and contractors of color. And for the sake of this conversation, vendors and contractors who are Black and African American, you know, and there's a lot of efforts around the country.

08:22 - 08:55

And I've heard you and seen you talk to and with many of these individuals under the guise of maybe MWBE, minority women business enterprises. But, you know, part of this conversation should inspire those of us who influence such practices to employ protocol to do so because, yes, the money that I and my family spend on goods and services versus a nonprofit organization or corporation, you can't even compare the impact.

08:56 - 09:07

But you also have to be very intentional to make sure that the underlying recipient of that spend, right, is also kind of reinvesting that in a community.

09:07 - 09:07


09:07 - 09:42

And I think that's the ecosystem that helps to close that wealth gap. Yeah, PHD is all inclusive. Right. If you want to attack jobs, businesses, and provide capital in the community, I think it's best to do that through, you know, the economic enterprise. Right. Because it was the restriction of the economic enterprise that helped create that in the first place. So we can do that by the cars that we choose to buy. We can do that by the realtors we choose to use, we can do that by the insurance providers for the cars and homes, right? We do that by the lawyers, the wealth managers, right, that we work with.

09:42 - 09:55

These are all, you know, just extraordinary folks that we can do business with. And the idea is you want to over-subscribe folks so that they increase employment or hiring. Right.

09:56 - 10:25

And then we also have to make sure that we're providing the capital so that they can afford to do those things. When it comes to, you know, governments, institutions, and corporations, supply chain spend is critical. And I also think what's critical is that you got to have specific applications. Right. Now, what we term things, we kind of talk about these programs as, you know, diverse, inclusive, you know, kind of minority programs, which generally is like a euphemism for not white male.

10:25 - 10:41

Right. The challenge with that is that if you say not white male, you're talking about 90 percent of people on planet Earth. It's an amazingly nondescript, diluted way of approaching solving a problem. Right. So you have to be specific. Right.

10:41 - 10:56

And in terms of advocating for economic development within the Black community, you've got to look for programs that are specific to to advocating it. And people say, well, why is that necessary? We were already doing all this stuff under the guise of, you know, diverse and inclusive and so on and so forth. And so that's all true.

10:56 - 11:30

But if you look underneath it about actually how much of that is going to Black enterprise, when you look at the numbers. Right. If you say, well, we want to do more business with women and I completely agree with that, double, triple, quadruple down on that. Women-owned businesses that have employees generate about one point two trillion dollars worth of spend. But if you ask how many of that is from Black women, it's less than two percent. So not until the 99th dollar that you're investing, are you going to be having an economic impact on Black women? Right. You got to be very specific. And when you say that with like, you know, Latinos are Latino brothers and sisters, I agree.

11:30 - 11:32

Double, triple, quadruple down on all of that.

11:33 - 12:02

But if you look at what's underneath that, it's about 380-390 billion dollars of spend for their businesses that have employees. If you say how many of those are Black businesses out of Latinos within there, it's less than two percent. Right. Asians, by definition, there are not going to be, you know, Black people in that group. So when you start looking at that entire spectrum put together, it's less than four percent of the spend is actually going to Black enterprise. And so only four out of every 100 dollars is going to, like, Black enterprise.

12:03 - 12:30

So you are having effect on non-white businesses and very positive effect on non-white business. That's terrific, but you're having far less effect on Black enterprise. And the reason is, we're not being specific because while all of these groups are, face levels of discrimination, no doubt, the levels of discrimination are highest, right, for Black enterprise. And the rate at which that level is decreasing is the slowest, right? Decreases are of much higher levels for other groups.

12:30 - 12:58

And that's really important in the economic system. Right. Now, tying in the H for hiring and the D for deposit. Talk to us a little bit more about how that contributes to kind of solutioning for the challenges we've outlined in the past. Yeah, the hiring is really about to what extent are Black people represented properly in your payroll. Right. And is different, you know, diversity efforts and initiatives associated with it.

12:58 - 13:31

But when you look, you know, from the ranks of the average worker all the way up into the, you know, corporate, right, and higher suites, to what extent is there proper representation? And you can look at whole industries, like the tech space where you got less than two percent participation. It's mind boggling low in industries that have, you know, the highest ability to earn income, that are growing the fastest, and that are most robust. We tend to have very limited, you know, representation. You know, if you want to facilitate, you know, wealth creation, you have to have more earned income. Right. And then, of course, more retained income.

13:32 - 13:49

And that representation on payrolls is critical. And the same thing actually applies. You have to be specific. People have general solutions to very specific problems. People from different communities and different groups have different histories and different challenges. And programs should be tailored to those.

13:49 - 14:21

That should certainly be the case for Black people in America. And in terms of deposit, that's just about ensuring that we are putting capital in Black financial institutions, depository institutions who are set up and designed to provide liquidity in the Black community. Right? Right. I think the numbers are with the current amount of Black businesses, the amount of capital that they need is close to nine billion dollars. That's just the current level. And that's not the amount of blackness that should actually be here. You know, who's providing the lending there?

14:22 - 14:28

And that goes for Black people and other people, right? The institutions are happy to accept everyone's money. Right.

14:29 - 15:01

When you invest in a bank, you're really investing in businesses and in families. I don't know that banks do a good enough job explaining that to people. But when you put your deposits in there, you are financing a business and you are financing a family to achieve, you know, what we all called American Dream. Yeah, I think a lot of people discount, discredit, or disregard the fact that it's the deposits in the bank that, like you say, creates the capital. And if you're working with all of these regional banks, regional and community banks were designed to kind of meet the needs of those communities.

15:01 - 15:22

So in a like fashion, you know, if you have a Black-owned bank as an example, right, part of their tenet is to be able to deploy capital to allow all of us to do the things that we believe we have to do to kind of close this wealth gap by a lot of lines of PHD. There are some challenges because there aren't a lot of Black-owned banks.

15:23 - 15:33

Well, 19, maybe 20. And you, across many spectrums over the last couple of years, have really inspired me to even think about professional services.

15:33 - 15:59

You know, you've outlined, hey, if you are a little bit more intentional in your efforts to extend your recruiting and, you know, focus on diverse recruiting efforts, what could your organization look like? You know, if you are willing to drive an extra 50 miles to buy a car from a Black-owned dealer versus the one that might be just five miles from you, you know, those small changes can actually mean a lot.

16:00 - 16:13

And just think about what we are creating and supporting these these small businesses. Now, hopefully, the outcome of creating this ecosystem is, again, designed to help close the wealth gap.

16:14 - 16:49

And, you know, I've said on the show a number of times, you know, my vision is this idea of changing the trajectory. Right. Which just really requires us to rethink and retool, you know, how we change the trajectory of our wealth, impact, and influence. And again, that's very subjective. My trajectory is different than your trajectory. My change is different than than your change. But, you know, as it relates to PHD, as it even relates to things like investing in the contributory opportunities that created this ecosystem does,

16:49 - 17:16

our biggest challenge is kind of trusting the process. Right. So say, for instance, we do PHD. We have to now move into the mindset of accumulating to allocating. Right. That process allows us to accumulate assets just like simple processes allow us to accumulate resources. Right. But at the end of the day, the allocation is what you deploy and how you deploy to.

17:17 - 17:41

And, you know, I think a generational challenge we have as Black Americans and investors of some ilk is that we don't trust the process and that in order to trust the process, and I'm laughing in my head because I live outside of Philadelphia and that's a very famous term in the sports world. But what we lack is education and experience. Right.

17:42 - 18:13

And, you know, for me, it's, if we had that experience, right, we will have some expectation of what it would look like if the things on our vision board included the things that we have not been educated on, investing, spending, you know, thinking about capital markets, thinking about capital, venture capital, private equity. Those are the things that tend to be somewhat still absent.

18:13 - 18:47

I don't want to say absent completely, because obviously it's not. But we have a lot of opportunity to kind of dial that up a little bit. You know, how do you think ultimately PHD ties into kind of the wealth accumulation and investing side of things? And I'm kind of preempting because I know you have some other things in mind as other literary works that kind of tie into that. But I think it's important for the audience to get a taste of how you think about that. Yeah. So let's take, like the automotive example, that industry and try to see if we can kind of wrap things together.

18:48 - 19:06

So I think there are about 16,000 auto dealers in America. I believe there's 269 that are Black. A tiny, tiny, tiny fraction, that number should be closer to 2000, or at least, you know, 1500, and on average, they employ about 66 people.

19:06 - 19:18

Now, if you ever took your car in to get it repaired. It's expensive, right? Yeah, these are really good paying jobs, right? Whether you're working kind of in the shop or if you're in the front office, these are great jobs across the board.

19:19 - 19:53

If we did more business, and by the way, you know, just Black people in general buy about, I think, we buy five million cars a year. That's through new cars, leasing cars, old cars, tremendous spent. You would over-subscribe those businesses dramatically. Right. They would have to increase hiring. They would have to buy additional and open up additional dealerships, kind of so on and so forth. The individuals who are the owners of those dealerships would need all kinds of financial planning services and wealth management services. Right. Could it be transitioning rather rapidly?

19:53 - 20:10

You would talk about the creation of well over 100,000 jobs associated with just shifting that that's been there, by the way, not just for Black people. Anybody can do it, right. It's the same car kind of going through the shop. Not now. You're also affecting the the employment aspect of it.

20:11 - 20:32

The other thing is all of those businesses are literally business. They have supply chains. They get to pick and choose who they want to do business with. They can also do business with a black enterprise. I always say when possible, where possible, you know, do your best efforts to do it, right. They can also do that and pull other businesses into the supply chain. They have back office support, payroll, accounting, legal services. They have a whole host, tax services, a whole host of things, right,

20:32 - 20:50

that they can utilize. They're buying new places, you know, realtors, commercial real estate, architects, the whole slew of folks that are there. And then those folks tend to play prominent roles in their communities. So that's rippling through houses of worship to nonprofits that are there. And you're visible and present.

20:50 - 20:56

Right. And that has an impact for young people kind of seeing what you've done and thinking about emulating it yourself.

20:57 - 21:30

And these are very, very high quality jobs. So the ability to affect change is is rather substantial. Now, as you increase employment, which is earned income, you also need to increase retained income. That goes back to the lack of experience that you were talking about. Because of the history, we haven't had a critical mass of information about planning and creating generational wealth. We haven't had the opportunity. So it is the education that goes along with what do you do with the resources now that you have these great paying jobs? How do I consume for today and have something left over for tomorrow?

21:30 - 21:49

There's lots of people who, whose job is to help you to do that. Right. And you can do well and they can do well while they're helping you. So there's a whole loop and a continuum like you probably heard the numbers of, in this community, the dollar circulates this long. In this community, it circulates that long. And then a Black community is like, two seconds, then it's out.

21:49 - 22:08

Yeah, right. And that's because you don't have that kind of circular effect. And by the way, what financial institutions are undergirding them, providing them with the working capital as they expand? Right. These things are really important. Where are they putting their deposits. Right.

22:08 - 22:31

And how those deposits being lent out again into the community, to other businesses. It's the ecosystem that can be created. And it could be created by all of us, and by all of us, I mean, like, all citizens. Look, I think as we grow and accumulate out of one state into an opportunity to be in a position to allocate. Right.

22:32 - 22:59

And I'm specifically talking about investing. The education piece just hits me over the head even more because this is one glaring stat that will always kind of stay in my head. And, you know, the research is about three years old. If it's not 82 percent, it's close. But it's that 82 percent affluent investors of color don't seek wealth management advice.

22:59 - 23:15

Know. Right. And there's a cost to that. You mentioned something that makes me think about this one line, which is it's not what you earn, it's what you keep. Yep. It's that what you keep is what you deploy. And it requires more handholding, right?

23:15 - 23:49

Because we don't have the experiences for the most part, we don't have the education for the most part, and that generational kind of legacy planning requires advice. Yes, it does. I think that's the the endgame here. For some reason, I start using his term vision board, I think is really important. When you get to realize a certain point of success, you tend to become more philanthropic. Yes, absolutely. You tend to think more about the generational legacy you want to keep for, you know, your future generations.

23:50 - 23:57

You can't do that on your own. No, you can. It's really tough. I don't even talk about taxes and spending and all of those other things. Right.

23:57 - 24:29

So, you know, I always thank you, but I'll do it publicly. The dialogue you're creating is so critical. Thank you. And I want to be part of the process to move beyond self-infliction and try to be more self-sustaining, not just for myself, but for the community. You know, I want to give you an opportunity to talk about another idea and maybe, again, I'm preempting something I shouldn't. Talk to me just a little about CPR. Yes, absolutely. If you would indulge me, I just want to go back for a little bit on this 82 percent that you talked about.

24:29 - 25:03

It's a mind boggling number, it's an extraordinary number. And you said something that's really important. Right, because this is an opportunity cost to that, which is, what could their portfolio actually be, if they had world-class, competent advice helping to shepherd them through the process? Yes, and that is a cost that we can't afford to lose. Now, there's a historical aspect, right, to this in the Black community, are people much more weighted towards, you know, non risky investment, real estate and things of those natures, not really high levels into the markets.

25:04 - 25:30

But I think that's a message that needs to be echoed and addressed. There are too many people with significant resources that don't have the competent world-class advice. And it's not just so they can just have more resources for themselves. And that is important, but that allows them to do more in their communities. It allows them to line up their desire to impact change with their ability to do it. And if you have four million,

25:30 - 25:44

but you should really have 8.5. Right. If you have 8.5, but you should really have 20. Right. Because you're so optimizing over extended periods of time and then you're not preparing your children to be able to take advantage of these things.

25:44 - 26:16

Your ability to affect change within your community is a lot less, even though your desire might not be less. So let me talk a little bit about CPR. As you can tell, I love acronyms. Right. And so in in terms of, you know, attacking the wealth gap, you have the perspective of the Black tax, which is designed to stimulate demand for poor Black businesses, to stimulate employment and of course, the capital that's necessary for that growth to happen. And all of that's about increasing earned income. Right. In one way or another.

26:16 - 26:45

But then you also have to be able to retain that income. Because if you don't have it coming to you through inheritance, you have to be able to retain the earnings that you're getting right now. So I wrote a book called CPR for the SOuL, where SOuL means stewardship, ownership and Legacy, which is, you know, how do we manage our limited resources in a way to maximize cash flow so that we can maximize ownership. And by ownership, I mean, like, put ourselves in a position where we're the only one who have claims on our assets.

26:45 - 26:58

Right. Which means that you've got a plan to work to steadily lower the amount of debt that you have and eventually get to a position where you're out of it. And that legacy is three part, one is, you know, what you do, right.

26:58 - 27:23

And your colleagues do, which is help you ensure that you are leaving resources for your children and their children, to make sure that you can retire with dignity. But the other piece of it is to make sure that you can, if you see something in your walk that you feel compelled to make a change, you can actually take action from a financial perspective and do something, versus just hope that things are going to get better. And to do that, you have to be, you know, planful.

27:24 - 27:41

And I wanted to focus on that because, as you've said, the trauma that we've gone through is a critical mass of information that's missing about how to maximize our resources. And most of the solutions are based on what I call allocation, which you mentioned before.

27:41 - 28:09

Right. How do we allocate resources to create legacy? But a lot of people within our community, a lot of us have the issue of accumulation. Right. How do we accumulate the resources in the first place? So that's really designed and focused on helping people solve, and anyone else, that applies to anyone actually, solve the accumulation problem so that we can get to the allocation. Because there's a lot of people with great incomes. But unfortunately, there are economic pass-throughs, ght?

28:09 - 28:26

Money coming in. Money is spent, money is not retained. Even with surprisingly attractive looking incomes, and if we can help bend the trajectory on that, we can have a huge impact on wealth creation. Yeah, and I think those are situations where people should not feel that they have to go it alone.

28:26 - 28:46

Right. I mean, there's, there's a need for advice because I always say more money, more problems, right, and on a very regular and daily basis, you know, myself and my colleagues are engaging with people who benefit from a lot of assets but had the huge burden of complexity.

28:46 - 29:04

And if you are not partnering in the right way and seeking that advice, and even work in a capacity, where you going to pre-experience today or your outcomes could be tomorrow, you're going to discourage yourself right out the process. Right.

29:04 - 29:38

And I was fortunate. I had a couple of grandmothers who lived into the 90s and in the hundreds. And, you know, that was a generation where they kept money in a mattress. Yep. You know, between the mattress and the box spring, that would do a great disservice. All right. And I always think about my maternal grandmother who lived to 101. Wow. If she had five thousand dollars that was in her mattress and she put that in the market when she was 21 years old, you know, I wouldn't be doing this podcast.

29:42 - 30:03

Right. But in all seriousness, that's the lens we have to look through. And it is a focus on trust. I do recognize trust does not exist in many instances, a lot of times because of the person sitting across the table from the potential African American investor. Right. But there are solutions to that. And part of that is in who we hire as well. Right.

30:03 - 30:28

But but ultimately, you know, I hope the audience really gets a good glimpse of the importance of employing a paradigm-shifting topic and thought process like PHD, to really think through in their personal lives. You know, how they can influence the change. And I just want to thank you again for sharing your wisdom there. Thank you very much. I appreciate it.

30:29 - 30:50

Shawn, how can our listeners access you and your book? So they can get the book at www.BlackTaxed, that's with ED at the end. I'm on Twitter @blacktaxed, Instagram @blacktaxed or @Shawn.Rochester, LinkedIn and Facebook as well. Great.

30:50 - 31:19

Thanks and thank you all for listening to this episode. We love to hear from you. So please email your thoughts, questions and any feedback you may have to Be sure to share, subscribe, and rate us on iTunes or anywhere you listen to podcasts, and check us out on Twitter @BernsteinPWM. Bernstein: Making money meaningful for individuals, families, and foundations for over 50 years. Visit us at

James Thompson
Senior National Director—Diverse and Multicultural Wealth Segments

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