Redefining Wealth for the Modern Woman

Patrice Washington and Celia Edwards-Karam sit down for an honest conversation about having confidence with your money

For the second year in a row, Capital One joined forces with Boss Women Media to host a two-day virtual summit that inspired women of color and allies to take control of their finances and careers. This year’s program streamed on Amazon Live and Amazon Fire TV August 21-22, 2021, and celebrated and supported thousands of global attendees, including a network of women who are corporate professionals, entrepreneurs and student changemakers at Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs). 

The summit kicked off with a meaningful conversation around redefining wealth for the modern woman, where Capital One’s Chief Operating Officer Celia Edwards-Karam and financial expert and author Patrice Washington spoke openly about overall well-being, money and generational wealth. Read on to learn more about their conversation or watch the full discussion, here.

Patrice: I've spent the last decade trying to help people redefine how they view wealth. The truth is that, in our culture, we think of wealth as money and material possessions. But after I lost everything in the last recession, and I went from a seven-figure business to scraping up change to pay my bills, I knew “wealth” had to be more than money. I had what I now like to call my defining moment. At the time it was an ugly-cry-bring-you-to-your-knees-bathroom-floor-kind-of-moment. But, it brought me to Proverbs 17:16 which says, “What use is money in the hands of a fool if he has no desire to understand it,” and that scripture changed everything for me. It led me down the path of really trying to understand what wealth is, and I found that the original definition of wealth had nothing to do with money and material possessions–it had to do with well-being and fulfillment. So, from that moment–which was in March of 2009–until this one, I have lived my life with the intention of not just being well in being well in spirit, mind, body and soul. Wealth is much deeper than money. 

Celia: There's so much to that Patrice, and it really resonates with me. At Capital One, we agree that wealth is holistic, beyond money on a surface level. We are motivated by the opportunity and responsibility to help our customers improve their financial health and overall well-being—to save them time and money, and to inspire a sense of optimism about the future. One fun way I've heard it said is that we want to support our customers' wellness of mind, body, and wallet.

I believe a key piece of thinking holistically about ourselves and our finances is establishing healthy financial boundaries. How do you establish healthy financial boundaries, Patrice?

Patrice: Let me first just say that I was not always good about setting boundaries–I’m a recovering people pleaser. I wanted to do things that would ultimately make other people happy and more comfortable, which meant, in my success, lending money to people that I knew could not repay me. At one point, it got so bad that I had to create a script to help guide me through really uncomfortable conversations with people that I love.

I learned that it's not always about helping your loved ones with money. Sometimes it's giving them the right information or access to the right resources. 

So, for the script. My husband and I decided that we would have a line item in our budget of how much we're willing to give, not lend but give. If a close friend or family member needs help, we want to make sure that we can support them, but based on our budget. Their lack of planning is not necessarily our emergency. So we'll say to our friend or family member, ‘We love you and know that this may be a difficult time for you, so we want to give you a one-time gift of $500, because that's what we’ve budgeted for. You don't have to worry about paying it back, and we truly hope that that blesses you and helps your situation.’ Then, we make sure to write ‘one-time gift’ in the memo of the check or in the Cash App description to be clear on our boundaries.

The script has worked really well. It preserves the relationship you have with whomever it is, but it also reminds people to participate in their own rescue. Throwing money at someone isn’t going to solve whatever situation they’re in–the problem is usually deeper than money. 

Celia: That is great advice, and I love that you and your partner are in it together. The other thing you made me think of is my daughters. I think anyone with children knows too well the importance of setting boundaries. It is important to also realize that those boundaries are valuable teaching moments. I’ve set up my kids with Capital One’s MONEY Teen Checking and Kids Savings Accounts

It is a great way to turn an allowance into a money management tool, give kids practice budgeting, and shift purchase conversation from “can I have” to “should I get?” One of my girls is obsessed with legos. Over the summer she asked for some elaborate lego set and I turned it back to her, and asked do you have enough money for that in your account? And are you sure you want to spend it on that? We pulled up the Capital One app, and she realized she had to save more if she was going to get it. There were groans about how long it's going to take to save up enough, but recently she came back to me and said, “I have enough for that lego set now, but I’m going to wait a little longer to be sure that’s what I really want to get. I worked hard to save this money!” 

It was so much better than anything I could have said to her. She learned that boundary lesson on her own. It just, just made me smile.

One of the things you've talked in depth about is the correlation between wealth and well being. As you noticed how those two things work together, what habits did you change? 

Patrice: When I realized the connection between wealth and well-being, I knew I wanted to become the best version of myself. For me, that meant two things: becoming more physically and mentally fit. Let me explain. I truly believe that if we have a vision for our lives, it's our duty and responsibility to protect the one vessel we have to execute that vision. Even at my lowest, moping around, eating unhealthy, and not moving my body because I was in a really low place didn't seem like the best option. I wanted to be at my best physically so that I could take advantage of the opportunities that came my way.

The second aspect–being mentally fit–brought me to therapy. Therapy is where I learned that hurt people hurt people, so I had to forgive some of the folks in my past who hurt me and didn’t know better. Therapy is where I learned a new definition of forgiveness, which was giving up the possibility of a better past. And, therapy is where I learned to truly embrace who I am because I am here on purpose, with purpose, for a purpose. I believe that our careers, our wealth building capabilities, our lives, are only going to grow to the extent that we are willing to heal from our pasts. 

As Black women, we understand the barriers that our communities face when it comes to taking control of our finances–and even our nuanced relationship with banks. How is Capital One taking this into account and helping customers grow financially? What does Capital One do to help customers maintain a healthy financial well being? 

Celia: One of the places I think you're pushing us to think about is how to invest in yourself, not just from a financial perspective but from an overall well-being perspective. 

Investing in yourself from a physical, spiritual and mental perspective grows your confidence, which in turn, grows your resources and allows you to contribute to the world in a more meaningful way. 

I’ve been at Capital One a long time, and there’s so much I could say on this because the well-being of our customers is central to our core mission. But I’ll offer two examples that illustrate our approach. 

The first is simplicity. We believe that money doesn’t have to be complicated, or stressful. But the complexity of banking has disempowered many people from feeling like they have control over their financial lives. We provide tools and training for members of our communities, whether they are students learning to be financially responsible, seniors interested in online banking, or entrepreneurs looking for insights catered to their next steps in successful growth. Access is also a factor that shouldn’t prevent anyone from growing their financial independence.

The second is ingenuity. Capital One is built to capitalize on innovation and tech-enabled solutions to help customers succeed. CreditWise is a free tool designed to help anyone monitor their credit. Cardholders can access and understand their credit score, track their progress, and even see the estimated impact that decisions would have on their score before they take any action

As we think about independence, creating and growing generational wealth comes to mind. What kind of tips might you offer on creating generational wealth?

Patrice: I have spent a lot of time thinking about generational wealth, in particular, because I'm in the ‘sandwich generation’. I am not only caring for my child and thinking about her future success. But, I'm also now responsible for the finances of my 70-year-old mother. By being in the middle, I’m trying to manage finances for myself and planning for these other two generations. It’s quite the task, and I'll say, especially as black women, we have to be more transparent about money. We have to get comfortable having uncomfortable conversations. It’s the only way to pass on generational wealth.

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