TIAA’s Legacy Makers sought to ‘Retire Inequality’ during the Essence Festival

NEW ORLEANS — During the 2023 Essence Festival, TIAA, a Fortune 100 provider of secure retirements and outcome-focused investment solutions, partnered with the Global Black Economic Forum to #RetireInequality. Currently, there is a 30% gender retirement gap between men and women. However, 54% of Black Americans do not have the level of retirement funds to maintain their standard of living. With the negative statistics serving as a backdrop, designer Fe Noel, GRAMMY-award winner Wyclef Jean, choreographer and dancer Sean Bankhead and author Lynnette Khalfani-Cox joined with TIAA to empower and inspire the festival attendees.

Everyone has heard of financial literacy includes the ability to ​​create a budget, plan for retirement, manage debt, and track personal spending. However, this interview begins with one question: What does retirement literacy mean?

“I think the one key thing and the key message we need to get across is save something, save something, invest that something, and allow that income to grow for you,” said Kourtney Gibson, Chief Institutional Client Officer with TIAA. “So that you actually have income in retirement, allow that investment that you’re making in yourself to grow, so that you can have a steady paycheck? Well, after you’re done working. That’s what we mean, when we talk about lifetime income at TIAA. It’s what we’re focused on. When we talk about retiring and equality, the income gap between African Americans and whites versus Hispanics is tremendous. Between women and men, it’s huge. It is time now to really focus on retiring those inequalities, so that we can ensure everyone has the ability to have a successful and secure future.”

On average, Black families have 85% less accumulated wealth than White families. The Great Recession exacerbated the Black-White wealth gap and left Black households more susceptible to the COVID-19 recession. Additionally, White households are also 2.8 times more likely to receive an inheritance than Black households, according to a 2021 study conducted by the Wharton School of Business. In addition, Black Americans are less likely to be homeowners, leaving them exposed to rent increases, have more student debt making it harder to save for retirement and do not have the access to retirement plans. 

“Define what you want your future to look like,” Gibson exclaimed. “Dream. Dream big. Think about what I want to have when I decide to stop having income coming in and how do I want to live and work backwards. Set your own wealth goals. Then work with someone: whether that person is on a computer, an online tool, or whether it’s an actual human from a financial advice perspective to help you define how you reach that goal.”

TIAA was inspired by their talent partners to create the Legacy Makers Studio at this year’s Essence Fest because of their legendary success in their respective fields, and personal connections they have to the #RetireInequality campaign. 

The Legacy Makers Studio is a physical representation of how one’s achievements and career can leave a legacy for your family when coupled with financial preparedness and retirement planning along the way.  One of the major influencers that partnered with TIAA was LSU women’s basketball star Flau’Jae Johnson. 

Gibson believed that the people left inspired to create their own legacies through engaging panel discussions, meet and greets, exploring the legacies of TIAA’s partners, and through the advice of TIAA Financial Professionals that were around their space during the festival.

“Forget the big words, compound interest, asset allocation, all those things are important,” Gibson said regarding getting into the investment world. “But the bottom line is, how much money do I need to save today? At what rate? Do I need it to grow and for how long? And then what will that give me as it relates to income? When I decided to stop working? What does that look like? That’s where it starts.”

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