Financial empowerment of returning citizens to eliminate the wealth gap, and reduce incarceration & recidivism within communities of color.
I am not an employee of BNY Mellon, or an immediate family member of a BNY Mellon employee
I am over 18 years of age
My organization is incorporated as a non-profit, for-profit, or hybrid organization, or I have a partner that is incorporated and could accept funds on my behalf
I have already piloted my initiative and have some initial evidence of impact
My organization is headquartered and creating impact in the United States
Where are you making a difference?
Washington DC (20019), Washington DC (20020), Washington DC (20032), Washington DC (20018)
Focus Areas (required)
Business & Social Enterprise
Development & Prosperity
Human Rights & Equality
Project Stage: Select the description below that best applies to your approach.
Start-Up (first few activities have happened)
Website or social media URL(s) (optional)
1.Founding Story: Share a story about the "Aha!" moment that led the founder(s) to get started or the story of how you saw the potential for this to succeed.
I am a returning citizen. In waiting on my release, I developed anxiety centered on being financially secure in the free world.I decided to focus this anxiety on learning how money moves.I sought to develop the skills to be financially free without heavily relying my family.I decided to seek a formal education in finance,to ensure continuous generational wealth creation in my family. In turn, my kids and grandkids will never have to turn to illegal activities to survive.The "Aha" moment came in question form during this journey into financial accountability.Why were “they” not preparing me to succeed upon release?How are others like me expected to be productive returning citizens with no connection to financial well-being?And their kids?
2. The Problem: What problem are you helping to solve?
Mass incarceration & destructive social policy has created & sustained the racial wealth gap leaving black/brown without access to resources wealth building.Individuals that start life w/o financial security are often trapped at the bottom of wealth distribution, for life.White households inherit 7.5 times more wealth than black households.Financially empowered returning citizens can close this gap, and reduce recidivism/incarceration rates.
3. Your Solution: How are you planning to solve this problem? Share your specific approach.
Genuine Equity (GE) will enter prisons to teach incarcerated Returning Citizens (6-18 mo before release)financial accountability to break the cyclic behaviors increasing the gen.wealth gap.Financial Lit/Budget/Credit/Invest/Save will be the focus of bi-wkly workshop,bi-wkly podcast,&"life"workbooks.Utilizing GE funded accounts,participant is taught to apply investment tools (Stocks/Options/Futures/Bond/ETFs/Real Estate/Insurance) in building wealth using the time value of money&different investment strategies.Returning citizens will learn to create retirement funds&estate planning techniques to allow generational wealth while minimizing estate taxes&maximizing beneficiary inheritance.The return from interest/investing on the GE funded deposit will belong to the participant; while the GE deposit will be recycled for the next to enter the program.Participants will be encouraged to save that return by placing into a matched savings account.Upon release & employment,they will be able to take savings&be coached through live investing/credit/budget counseling;establishing financial lifelines&homeownership prep(an engine of racial wealth inequity).Partner/Child coaching offered as well.
4. Example: Please walk us through a specific example of how your solution is working to solve the problem.
A returning citizen that was released 2 years ago (custody of daughter immediately upon release) attended Genuine Equity financial literacy program while incarcerated. Knowing that he did not want to return to crime, and empowered with the Genuine Equity Financial Foundation, immediately obtained employment upon release.Through continued financial coaching he took advantage of his company’s employee stock option&401k. Knowing that if something happens to him, his daughter would not have money for college; he budgeted and saved in a 529 plan and obtained a $100K life insurance policy with her as the beneficiary. Furthermore, credit/ budget coaching enabled him to purchase the 1st house ever in his family.In 2 years he has established generational wealth and instilled in his daughter the mindset to add to his legacy. This one family minimized the racial wealth, despite unfavorable odds.
5a. Too many people in the U.S. have unmet needs for financial products and services. How is your work reaching a population(s) that is currently underserved? If it is not reaching an underserved population yet, how might it in the near future?
Blacks are 13% of the population but make up 40% of the prison population. Maryland has a prison population that's 72% black. 48.5% of blacks are convicted for a drug offense. 22% of Blacks are in poverty. 57% of incarcerated men were in poverty before being incarcerated, with a stunningly disproportionate share being black. There is a direct correlation between wealth, race, and imprisonment.Financial ed/empowerment/accountability of returning citizens is change agent of over 1/3 black pop.
5b. Please specify if the population you are reaching is underserved due to any of the following characteristics:
6. Marketplace: Who else is addressing the same problem? How does the proposed project differ from these approaches?
LiSA Initiative is an ex. of a financial lit program that teaches budgeting/savings/credit for women/family.Hope Reentry Network Inc provides community transitional&rehabilitative services to promote successful reintegration into society.Hope provides job coaching, addiction prevention,& mentoring; but lack in the financial literacy.Both organizations focus on stability, not recidivism via financial health & wealth building.Neither organization teaches advanced investment strategies that help create passive income, establish retirement plans, & close the wealth gap like Returning Wealth.
7. Impact: How has your project made a difference so far?
Genuine Equity has engaged 1236 returning citizens with financial literacy classes and 708 with credit/ budget coaching as of 7/1/2016. Understanding that the system is failing to prepare a returning citizen by a lack of resources to deal with financial matters and the ways of generating wealth; Genuine equity has helped these returning citizens know and recognize how to actively budget/save, establish credit to help purchase an asset (Car/House), understand & invest in their employee retirement account, and obtain life insurance for those that have dependents that would miss their income if an unfortunate incident should happen. Genuine Equity has help 35% of the participants coached raise their credit score in a 6 month time frame, and successfully disputed more than $30k worth of disputes due to identity theft or wrongful billing while incarcerated.
8a. Spread Strategies: Moving forward, what are the main strategies for scaling your impact?
Genuine Equity is looking for organizational growth and large scale partnerships with DC Department of Corrections and other government agencies such as Department of Employment Services (DOES) (or other workforce development organizations that cater to returning citizens) that can make the Returning Wealth program a staple in the release process.The results will show that recidivism is reduced with financial accountability/investment management.Expansion to the juvenile & federal prisons across the nation, and financial education provided to partner/kids of the incarcerated, will follow.
8b. If applicable, which of the following scaling strategies have you launched?
Large Scale Partnerships
9. Financial Sustainability Plan: What is this solution’s plan to ensure financial sustainability?
To sustain the program Genuine Equity will continue to provide fee based financial services to those without economic despair to generate income to maintain and grow the “Returning Wealth” program until it is self sustaining.Additionally,GE will continue to search for private and public grants that align with the program mission of helping returning citizen population and/or economic development for the low income.GE funded account (minus return)will also be recycled for new participant.
10. Team: What is the current composition of your team (types of roles, qualifications, full-time vs. part-time, board members, etc.), and how do you plan to evolve the team’s composition as the project grows?
Owner(Jason Bridges)- Financial Lit Coach/Counselor/B.S. in Finance - Full Time
2- Financial Advisors/Counselors - Part-time
1- Workforce Development Specialist
The initial cohort: 12mo./10 people.Each counselor will be assigned 3-4 returning citizens to ensure attention to individual dev.needs.A workforce development specialist is to prep for & assist in job attainment upon release.All will be in podcast.With Increased funding,number served will increase& will include families.
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 1 - Which of the following categories do you identify with? (optional)
Black or African American (for example: African American, Jamaican, Haitian, Nigerian, Ethiopian, Somalian, etc)
Help Us Support Diversity! Part 2 - Do you identify as part of any of the following underrepresented communities? (optional)
Communities of color
If you replied "Other" in the question above, please specify. (optional)
How did you hear about this challenge?