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Navigating the Wealth Building Challenges Faced by Interracial Couples

The recent controversy among Prince Harry, Meghan Markle and the royal family showcases the need for advisors to evolve.

Over three decades ago, pop icon Tina Turner’s hit “What’s Love Got to Do with It” took the radio by storm. Highlighting the inner fortitude of a resilient woman, we were immersed in the grittiness of the message, mesmerized by the rawness of her voice. This song was about real life–love, loss and liberation–and America was hooked on the feeling.

Financial planners also find themselves hooked into the stories of clients whose financial journeys reflect complicated relationships with love, money, values and culture. We commit ourselves to guiding our clients in overcoming their struggles and emerging transformed, reinforcing the mythology of the Hero’s Journey.

Today, Tina Turner’s stark question poses a new level of relational insight into a quandary faced by financial advisors–how to navigate family wealth with interracial unions.

Since the landmark Loving v. Virginia case was decided in 1967, there has been an incredible increase in interracial marriages; Pew Research reported in 2015 that one in 10 couples was interracial. It wasn’t always like this.

Prior to that Supreme Court decision, the United States had strict laws in place that forbid Black and white people to wed, or even to engage intimately. Originated in colonial times, this law was created to protect the racial caste system, ensure the expansion of slavery and to negate white women from choosing a Black man as a husband or paramour. As we consider the world today, it’s hard to believe that we’re only a little over 50 years removed from that ruling, especially when we continue to digest highly public controversies, like the case of the royal family.

A Living Case Study: The Royal Family

We tend to glamorize the grandeur of the royal family, steeped in tradition and service, often forgetting they are still ... a family.

As such, they’ve often found family drama inescapable throughout the centuries. Most recently, the breakaway of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex in early 2020 stirred up new controversy sparked by the birth of their biracial child, Archie.

Certainly the Oprah Winfrey special with Prince Harry and Meghan Markle was painful to watch and shocking to hear. The storyline: married for love, making sacrifices to protect the family at all costs and being disavowed financially for it. Now, over a year later, their family has expanded with the birth of their second child, but the rift still remains.

Let’s also be clear: Prince Harry was lucky enough to rely on his late mother’s trust to help support their journey. Others may not be so lucky. I implore us to determine how financial advisors can support their clients going through the same journey.

How Advisors Can Be Agents of Change

Historically, financial advisors were applauded for their investment acumen; now clients want more out-of-the-box financial advice. The client persona is evolving to become younger and more diverse. Advisors must adjust and own the importance of understanding cultural competence, and how familial and other external factors weigh heavily on their ability to build and transfer wealth.

As advisors educate themselves to better serve their clients’ needs, they might consider the following questions:

  • How will they handle a client who makes or allows racist remarks about their child’s partner?

  • How far are they willing to go with a client relationship that exhibits racist behavior?

  • What are their client engagement standards?

  • How do they know who their clients are and what values they represent?

Additionally, they can:

  • Consider culture and global issues through a lens different from their own.

  • Refuse to opt out of tough conversations, and instead ask open-ended questions to help understand how unique circumstances affect their client directly.

  • Be prepared to support their client being left out of generational wealth by parents who exhibit stern opposition.

  • Practice deep listening skills alongside the traditional methodical frameworks of financial planning.

  • Learn empathy: listening to the experiences of others, even when it is quite different from their own. Consider how the pain of being disconnected from parents and close family members may weigh heavily on their client.

Our World Continues to Change: We Must Evolve

Our industry has a choice to make: evolve as our clients do, or risk extinction. Like many, financial advisors find themselves on the precipice of incredible change in the world, and we must evolve to meet new challenges and greater opportunities for ourselves and our clients. Letting your clients know who you are and what you stand for is not just good business strategy, it also serves a greater personal purpose as well.

Lazetta Rainey Braxton is the founder/CEO of Lazetta & Associates and co-CEO at 2050 Wealth Partners.

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