The racial wealth gap is just one example of the many inequalities continuing to burden Black Americans. As of 2022, white households had average net worths nearly $1 million higher than Black households, according to the St. Louis Fed.
It’s this disparity that inspired Shareef McDonald, better known as Ross Mac, to become a financial educator. Not only has systemic oppression made it harder for Black Americans to build wealth, but there’s a huge education gap that prevents many from finding financial success, he says.
To bridge that gap, the 33-year-old created the Maconomics digital series where he combines his Wall Street experience and Chicago street smarts to create informative financial content aimed specifically at the Black community.
It started when Mac was an undergraduate at the University of Pennsylvania and realized this Ivy League education was an opportunity that many from his community could never imagine. He refused to take that for granted.
Here’s how he’s using what he’s learned to empower and uplift those without the same opportunities he had.
Learning the tricks of the trade
Mac’s wake-up call to start investing came early in his undergraduate career.
“I was in an econ 101 class sitting next to a kid who was day-trading in the middle of class,” Mac tells CNBC Make It. “That was the one thing that opened my eyes and my curiosity and made me say, ‘OK, I want to start investing.’”
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From there, Mac opened a brokerage account, which at the time wasn’t as straightforward and low-cost as getting started investing is now, he says. But he was determined to get on the same level as his peers.
His interest in investing and wealth management eventually led him to a career on Wall Street. Mac spent his summers during college interning at Morgan Stanley and Barclays. After graduation, he worked for Morgan Stanley full-time as a sales analyst.
“I truly realized I’ve been lucky because I was exposed to so many different things,” Mac says. “Not only did I have a good job, but the type of conversations that I was around — being able to walk down the aisle and see a senior member on my team checking his 401(k) and seeing two or three million dollars — it’s like, ‘Oh, I need to start thinking about retirement now.’”
In 2015, Mac returned to his hometown of Chicago after three years on Wall Street armed with the experience and motivation to bring financial literacy education to his community.
Bringing Wall Street to Main Street
For Mac, exposure to the investing big leagues was his biggest teacher, and he recognized that kids and adults from his own community probably wouldn’t have the same learning opportunity. While working for Morgan Stanley, he began exploring ways to share what he learned.
Making music as the “Wall Street Rapper,” Mac began fusing the worlds he’d come to know so well: Black and urban hip-hop culture with Wall Street financial know-how. He saw a need for someone to speak the language of Black communities like his in Chicago.
“Ever since I was a kid, one of the things we always argued about was who’s better, Iverson or Kobe? or Michael Jordan or this person?” Mac says. “What I really wanted to do is just transform inner city kids all around the world to start having a conversation like, ‘What’s a better company, Microsoft or Apple? Do you like Netflix or Facebook?’”
Having those types of conversations can help “make financial literacy more digestible and accessible,” he says.
Mac thought of the spaces in his community like the barbershop where friends and neighbors debated sports or shared advice on relationships in a comfortable, welcoming environment. He believed getting people to shift some of those conversations to financial topics could help make investing and money management less intimidating.‘Black Wealth Matters’: How a Millennial Is Helping His Community Build Wealth Through Education — Discount Prescription Drug Cards
Categories: Economic History
This is such an inspiring story! I love how Ross Mac is using his Wall Street experience and Chicago street smarts to create informative financial content aimed specifically at the Black community. My question for the author is: have you personally benefited from the Maconomics digital series, and if so, what is the most valuable lesson you’ve learned from it?