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Dr. Paris Woods - The Black Girl's Guide to Financial Freedom

Build Wealth, Retire Early, and Live the Life of Your Dreams

The HUGE wealth gap between black and white Americans in the United States is no secret. It’s extremely obvious. This wealth inequality will continue to expand if we don’t make major moves in creating a successful financially literate future. Thank GOD I found a big sis that can help US (particularly Black women) with a BIG dose of wisdom that can and will lead us to financial freedom.

Meet Dr. Woods! A proud two time college graduate of HARVARD UNIVERSITY (YASSSS to Harvard sis!!) and a lifelong educator. Dr. Woods is an author, philanthropist, nonprofit founder and an education leader.

After googling “black financial advisors”, I was so happy to come across this book on Amazon. First of all, the title caught my attention because it included who I am. A Black Woman. Freedom.

Are you ready for a super simplistic way to build your own financial freedom? Then read below!

Rach - Introduce yourself! Tell me your name and where you're from.

Paris - My name is Paris Woods, and I recently added the “Dr.” title when I completed my doctorate last fall. I grew up in St. Louis, MO and have recently returned there after twenty years away.

Rach - You are a first-generation two time college graduate of Harvard University!

This is super inspirational. Out of all of the courses you took, what was your favorite class and why?

Paris - There were two classes that I enjoyed a lot and wished every student could be in them. One was on the history of race in the United States and how racial categories are different in other parts of the world. Race is definitely something we take for granted, and I found it really helpful to understand where it came from and the ways that the creation of race was (and continues to be) used to disadvantage people of color in general, and Black people in particular.

The other class I really loved was on Positive Psychology – they study what is “right” in the world and how to live a better life. There are so many lessons I learned in that class that I still use today; including a realization that the path from where we are to where we want to be is often a beautiful and circuitous journey rather than a straight line, and the importance of giving ourselves “permission to be human” – including experiencing our emotions, living through our mistakes, and enjoying the journey all the while.

Rach - In your book titled “Black Girl’s Guide to Financial Freedom”, you quote Audre Lorde - “The master’s tools will never dismantle the master’s house”. Can you explain how you apply that quote to financial freedom?

Paris - I first heard this quote at an education leaders conference and I was blown away. I have since gone and read the speech where Audre Lorde delivered this famous line, and have learned about her work to unify women across lines of difference in a space where the patriarchy benefits from separating us. It has become one of my favorite quotes and a reminder to rethink and unlearn anything that is keeping me bound in any way. So much of what oppresses us in this society is hidden and I want to bring light to those things so we can tackle them head on. In my experience, debt is very much one of those things.

Rach - You mentioned that you wrote this book during the Covid pandemic. How

did you come up with the AMAZING title?

Paris - It took me a while to land on the title that felt right. And even today, people ask me

if the book is meant for “girls” or “women.” I’m the kind of person who refers to myself and my friends as “Black girls” and this book is truly a love letter and practical guide for all of us. I am the original “Black girl” whose stories help ground the text and this is my guide to financial freedom – the lessons I wish someone had taught me, and what I hope every Black woman in America (and beyond!) gets the chance to learn.

Rach - What is the first piece of advice you would give someone that is drowning

in debt?

Paris - A life of financial freedom is awaiting you on the other side of this challenge, and there are tools to help you get out from under the weight of debt. If you’re like me,

you were raised to believe that debt is normal, if not a point of pride (who hasn’t

been encouraged to finance a new car or take out a student loan). Once you realize

that there’s another, freer, way to live, it’s important to get clear on your vision for

your life, and then get busy making that vision a reality.

Rach - One of the things that REALLY made me shift my thinking was your views on credit cards. You wrote: “If history is our teacher, we now know that we can count on ups and downs in the economy over time and that credit is an unreliable partner when the going gets tough.” Can you tell us what your alternative to credit cards are?

Paris - Cash. If you struggle with debt and have amassed credit card debt, cash is your

lifeline. Living on cash makes it impossible to overshoot your budget. And building a

healthy emergency fund (i.e. a growing stack of cash in your savings account) will

help you weather any future financial storm.

Rach - At the end of each chapter you create a mini journal that readers can write in called “Putting This Chapter Into Action”. As a writer myself, I LOVED this section! What’s the key to writing smart financial goals?

Paris - The writing part is key! Definitely write down your goals because putting pen to

paper has a distinct impact on your mind while you’re doing it. Plus, putting those goals someplace where you can see them and revisit them often helps you take continued aligned action to make those goals a reality.

Rach - I feel like when people hear things such as “invest” it can be a bit intimidating. It seems like black women especially need to do their own research behind these things since we have to work ten times as hard! You wrote a whole chapter dedicated to investing. THANK YOU FOR THIS! Based on your expertise, where should one begin to invest and in what? What is your investment philosophy?

Paris - There is a simple path to wealth and Black women definitely deserve to be on it. We have to unlearn struggle, ignore the fear mongering voices of people whose intention is to capitalize off of us, and build a solid foundation for ourselves financially. This means building an emergency fund, pursuing higher wages, and then putting that money toward the things we value – including enjoyment of the present and a smart savings strategy for the future. Invest in your 401k up to the match, open a Roth IRA and max that out, and purchase index funds inside of those accounts to keep fees low and maximize your returns. That’s it.

Rach - You are a reader (just like me!) You mention a lot of books that you have read that have helped you with your expertise. Besides your book what is the BEST book you have read that has to do with financial freedom?

Paris - Reading Your Money or Your Life by Vicky Robin really helped me think about what

freedom looks like in everyday life, and how money can help you get there. It helped me draw the distinction between a goal to “get rich” and a goal to “get free” and challenged me to value my time (and charge a LOT more money for my time!).

Rach - You dedicated your book to your lovely mother (Tracey Lynn Woods) and you discuss how she raised six kids on a $40,000-a-year secretary’s salary. How encouraging! You mention that growing up, your mother always told you to “make new mistakes”. How can one learn from a “new mistake”?

Paris - My mother pushed me to pursue my dreams and think above and beyond our financial circumstances. People don’t often realize the psychological and emotional

toll it takes to be first at something (like being a first-generation college graduate,

or the person to make it out of poverty), and how much it can distance you from

the people you love. My mom wanted me to know what while she couldn’t give me

practical guidance for the road that lay ahead in my life, she could encourage me to

play full out and operate from a space of faith over fear; to forge a new path for

myself, with all of the challenges, surprises, mistakes, and successes that entails.

And to take pride in my willingness to learn and grow through the process.

Where can we find you online and on social media?

Thank you Dr. Woods for representing US in the financial world! It was truly an

honor to interview you!

Love, Rach


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