This Bronx-based e-book membership reveals how the group may help construct wealth

Yamiesha Bell, 27, founded a book club a year ago that focuses on personal financial literacy and mindfulness.

Yamiesha Bell

Last year, Raeshanna Mcanuff, 27, a cosmetics chemist, asked for a raise for her job.

Adam Sherif, 24, who works at a music talent agency, has paid off the first $ 30,000 of his $ 60,000 student loan.

Jami Bish, 37, a social worker, saved $ 3,000 to open her first investment account with Vanguard and increased contributions to her retirement accounts.

Siobhan Barrington, 28, who runs a nonprofit, learned how to better budget and invest her personal expenses, and overcome some of the shame she felt about money.

An integral part of your success? A weekly book club where a group of people community built to gain a better understanding of personal finances and worked together to achieve their goals.

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How it started

A year ago, amid the coronavirus pandemic, Yamiesha Bell decided to start a book club that would combine personal financial literacy and mindfulness.

Bell, 27, is a 10th grade special education teacher at Gotham Collaborative High School in the Bronx in New York City. She also runs The Bold Budgeter Instagram account, where she shares her own experience of paying off $ 27,000 in credit card debt over seven months and building her own personal fortune – this year she has her goal of $ 100,000. Dollar net worth reached.

The beginning of her debt settlement process was a lonely process, she said, and she wanted to share her journey with a community. She also wanted to address and remove barriers that have kept black and brown communities from growing prosperity in the United States

“I wanted our book club to be focused and grounded on financial wellbeing as a whole and wellbeing, not just based on the numbers,” said Bell. “If it were just about the numbers, everyone would be fine financially as long as they had a viable wage.”

Today, around 15 people regularly attend the book club’s weekly Zoom meetings, and more follow along with the reading assignments. The group’s members range in age from their early 20s to their late 60s and vary in gender, race, age, religion, and experience.

Bell moderates most of the meetings, and other members take turns leading the group. Occasionally, guest speakers such as bloggers A Purple Life, The Fioneers, and Tracy Watson come to speak with the group.

The last book the group read was “Get Good with Money” by Tiffany Aliche. Next, read Morgan Housel’s The Psychology of Money: Timeless Lessons on Wealth, Greed, and Happiness.

The power of community

In addition to discussing the books they read, the group blames each other for their progress on spending, saving, and other financial goals.

Members are all encouraged to use an expense tracker – which Bell developed himself using Google Sheets – and discuss how to stay on a budget each week. You also review major personal financial goals once a quarter.

In addition, there is further homework that is geared towards asset accumulation and asset protection. For example, after reading Aliche’s book, each member was tasked with discussing estate planning and emergency documents with their family members.

Having a group of people with similar goals can be of great help to anyone’s personal financial journey. Accountability to a group has helped many members achieve their financial goals.

“While we are all trying to move up to a different level in our lives, everyone has had some level of expertise and knowledge depending on where they are, and I am so grateful for that,” said Shanequa Evans, program coordinator at one University and member of the book club.

With the support of the association, she also opened her first investment account that year. “I’m in the process of building this generational wealth and building a better financial platform for myself,” she added.

It’s also easier to take responsibility to people who you know care about you, said Lauryn Williams, a certified financial planner and founder of Worth Winning.

“Support goes a lot,” she said. “When you feel like you’re doing it on your own it gets pretty overwhelming, and then people get this analytical paralysis where they pause because they’re not sure how to move on.”

Advice on starting a personal finance book club

The club recently celebrated its one-year anniversary and members look forward to starting their next book and welcoming new attendees.

Bell has some advice for anyone who might be interested in starting their own personal finance group.

1. Determine the focus of your club

“Really find out the non-negotiable things you want from your group,” said Bell. For them, it meant prioritizing diversity – most of the books the group read in the first year were by women and all of the guest speakers were women.

“It was important for me to diversify the image of someone who is good with money,” said Bell.

2. Send invitations

Bell personally reached out to people she knew might be interested in joining her club, and also posted the information on her Instagram account. In addition to the 15 members who attend the book club each week, more than 90 people receive Bell’s weekly emails.

It is important to have invitations, especially on a subject that may be a sensitive issue for many.

“People may be looking for this community but they are not comfortable asking,” said Bell.

3. Be consistent with meetings

Bell never cancels a book club meeting unless it has been discussed beforehand and is on a major holiday, she said.

“Just like personal finance, it’s about consistency,” she said.

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