- Sharlea Brookes is the cofounder of Modern Blk Girl, a platform dedicated to wealth-building for women of color.
- She says people often ask where to begin investing, and how much money they should start with.
- The first step is always learning, Brookes says. Understanding more will help tackle your fears.
When Sharlea Brookes was in high school, a friend opened his computer — and displayed a five-figure portfolio. “He had invested money from his bar mitzvah. That was my introduction to investing,” Brookes told Insider.
Now 26, Brookes is the cofounder of Modern Blk Girl, a digital platform dedicated to wealth-building for women of color. Launched last year with her business partner, Tiffany James, Modern Blk Girl’s mission is to close the gender investing and racial wealth gaps and get 500,000 women of color in the stock market.
“Our goal is to encourage youth to invest, to get them in that mindset, so they’re saving for that first car, for college. We want them to be ahead of the curve in those formative years,” Brookes said.
She says they’re working to change the underrepresentation of Black women in the stock market. Modern Blk Girl is an educational community that offers classes on investing. Its free Teen University, a four-week, accelerated financial literacy program for young women ages 14 to 19, teaches how to invest in and navigate the stock market. Each student receives a $500 cash wallet to get started. At the end of the year, two people are selected to receive a $10,000 grant for college. Ten young people are chosen every other month to participate in the program.
Modern Blk Girl has grown its community to more than 150,000 members, and helped women of color earn more than $3.5 million in the stock market.
She shares some of the questions that keep coming up from community members and what she tells them, and what she tells women who are afraid to start investing.
The 2 most common questions she gets about investing
One of the most asked questions from the MBG community is, “Where do I begin?” says Brookes.
Her answer? “Look around you. What cell phone do you use, what car do you drive, what video games do your kids play? Invest in companies you know.”
“We are quick to buy expensive purses or spend money on a vacation,” Brookes continues. “But we have to have an ownership mentality versus a spending mentality. Okay, if you buy the bag, be rewarded with that purchase if you also own stock in the company that made the bag. There is a stock related to everything in your life.”
Another common question: “How much money should I start with?” Brookes says there is no standard answer to that one. It really depends on the person’s financial circumstances. “You can start with a small amount, a few hundred to a few thousand dollars. We encourage people to use simulated trading before they put up money,” she says.
The first step to investing successfully is learning as much as you can
Many MBG members are first-time investors, and investing wasn’t dinner table talk when they were growing up. Brookes gets it. She had some initial fears herself. “It was one thing when I was investing my summer camp money I made in high school, but when I started working, that was another thing,” she said.
She tells those who are fearful that education is the best antidote to fear. “When you do your research, when you put the work in, you’ll feel more confident.” That’s how she got over her own fear: “The internet was my best friend,” she said, as she turned to sources like Yahoo, the Wall Street Journal, and CNBC.
Then too, she brings home the point that investing is not a short-term play. “Patience pays off,” she said. “People incorrectly think if they invest and trade, they’ll be an overnight success. But that’s like thinking you go to school and after one class you’ve mastered the subject.”
She says that learning can help make sense of a complicated world. “Big words can be confusing. Industry insiders need to be able to translate concepts when they’re teaching the stock market so that people understand them. That’s why we took off: We break stuff down,” says Brookes.
And, she adds, discipline is key to investing success. “You can’t be emotional. You need emotional discipline to be in the stock market. If you had a down day, while over the short-term it’s discouraging, in the long term it’s just one down day.”
When she started out, she didn’t have the community MBG provides. “We are family. We joke. We aren’t only about finances, but this community touches on spirituality and wellness. It’s a safe space to learn, to share,” says Brookes.
It’s not easy to change people’s mindsets about money and investing, but Brookes doesn’t get weary in well doing. “We remember the bigger picture,” she says, and calls MBG’s work a blessing. “There is purpose in what we are doing. There is a movement to close the racial and generational wealth gap. Our legacy will be that we educated our community.”