Zach sits down and has a great discussion with Rich Jones, founder and CEO of Paychecks & Balances, about career navigation, financial freedom and more. Check the links in the show notes to learn more about Paychecks & Balances and to connect with Rich!
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Zach: What’s up, y’all? This is Zach with Living Corporate, and yo, it’s about to be Thanksgiving. Really interesting time, a sombering time, a reflective time as it pertains to just thinking about the year, right? I know for me, it’s interesting because while 2020 has been a bear for everybody, myself included, I have a lot to be thankful for. I do. I do have a lot to be thankful for. I am particularly thankful for the growth that Living Corporate has been able to experience this year, not just in our listenership, but in what we’ve been able to offer and provide, right? So, you know, we have a lot going on. We continue to grow and shift and change. You should be hearing a difference even in how we do our show, right? And we’re gonna continue to try different things, and to that end, I know that we said we’re gonna have the TAP In with Tristan, embedded on our shows for Tuesdays and Saturdays, and we will. We’ll continue to do that. We also will have to TAP In with Tristan as a standalone on Thursdays. We want to make sure that for folks who want to hear just, like, that quick nugget of information, which is great. Shout out to Tristan for being a Top Voice on LinkedIn and for being here. Tristan, he’s making moves, like, for real. Like, shout out to Tristan. I know you listen, man. Thank you. God bless you. Thankful for you, one of the many things that I’m thankful for this year, thank you for all of your contributions. But make sure to check it out, the TAP In with Tristan every Thursday, and you can hear him on our largest shows on Tuesdays and Saturdays, right? Because I realize, you know, different people listen to different stuff, so I’m really thankful for all of you who continue to give us feedback, you know, “Where’s the TAP In?” And I was like, “Oh, snap. Let me TAP back in.” With all that being said, though, I’m really excited about the guest that we have this week. First of all, let me shout out–and for context, like, I’m a huge fan of this guy. He and I connected, like, years ago, but then we didn’t really go on to this podcast until, you know, this year. His name is Rich Jones, and he is the host of Paychecks and Balances, you know? Paychecks and Balances is a huge podcast, a great platform focused on wealth management, you know, financial literacy and wellness, financial wellness specifically. I really appreciate his content. And, you know, it’s interesting, because he and I connected, and when I came on his show we talked about it, but not really. We more so talked about, like, just navigating these spaces as Black men in human resources slash change management roles, and that was cool–and I think a bit of a departure or shift from what he typically does–but I’m just really thankful that he was willing to have me as a guest, because I’m not a financial guru at all. Shoot, Rich was putting me on game off-mic. It was a great shout-out to knowledge and knowledge sharing. But we had a really good conversation, and so I’m just really excited ’cause I’m about to share the conversation he and I had on Living Corporate. And, you know, I’m hoping that y’all get something from it. I know I got quite a bit from it, really blessed me. Make sure you check out Paychecks and Balances. I’ve got all the information in the show notes, so just check it out. And before we get to the conversation that I had with Rich, we’re going to TAP In with Tristan, and then we’ll get to y’all. All right, see y’all in a minute.
Tristan: What’s going on, Living Corporate? It’s Tristan, and I want to thank you for tapping back in with me as I provide some tips and advice for professionals. This week let’s talk about 3 ways to say thank you to your colleagues or boss. With the holidays arriving, many of us are trying to find ways to show our coworkers appreciation, which can be a bit more challenging now because most of us are working virtually. You can’t bring holiday treats into the office and coordinating a distanced secret Santa would more than likely result in a headache. And with COVID-19 hitting many of us financially, I wanted to provide some good, free recommendations on how to express your gratitude towards your coworkers. So, here are 3 suggestions on how you can tell your team, coworkers, and boss thank you during this time. The first is give them a LinkedIn Recommendation. These recommendations are social currency and can help someone look good if they are ever on the job search. Take 5 minutes out of your day to write them an excellent recommendation that helps convey their value or impact! The second is to send them an email that they can use in their performance review. We all know what it’s like completing performance review self assessments in hopes that you snag a higher raise. What better way to express your gratitude to your coworker than helping them make a case for more coins by writing up an email detailing how their work impacted you and the results you all were able to create. The last suggestion is to nominate them for a recognition program either internally or externally. Many of our companies and organizations have recognition and reward programs that require people to be nominated. Most of us ignore these throughout the year, but they could be a great way to highlight that teammate or coworker, especially since they are usually announced throughout the company. There are also opportunities to nominate people for honors and awards in spaces outside of the office, which could be a great avenue to showcase your appreciation. Now, I’m not saying these are the only ways to tell your teammate, coworker, or boss thank you but I think they can be some great options that also help boost their professional brand and capital. Thanks for tapping in with me this week. This tip was brought to you by Tristan of Layfield Resume Consulting. Check us out on Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook @LayfieldResume or connect with me, Tristan Layfield, on LinkedIn.
Zach: Man, what’s going on? Welcome to the show.
Rich: Appreciate you having me, man. Excited to kick it, have some fun conversation, and honestly just share insight. You know, I know we talked a bit before we even put this episode together, so I’m excited to bring that to the people.
Zach: You know, yeah, I mean, let’s talk about it. Let’s talk about it. I’m really trying to understand, you know, we talk about financial freedom and, you know, we talk about financial literacy within, like, Black and brown communities and, like, more specifically Black communities, and it’s the lack of financial literacy is why we’re at where we’re at. My pain point with that though, Rich, to keep it a bean with you is, you know, initial capital is a variable that I think folks do undermine or like, sidestep, right? Like, T.I. came out with a statement saying, you know, you should take your 1,200 dollar stimulus money and buy property. I’m like, “What are you talking about?” Like, that’s not how this works at all, right? So, like, I’m trying to understand, you know, when we talk about financial literacy, we talk about pursuing freedom from debt and this entire space, particularly for Black and brown folks and then more specifically for Black folks. Like, where does the concept or the idea of initial capital come into play in your mind?
Rich: Initial capital? Honestly, I’m glad you asked me that question because it’s not something that I’ve directly thought about before. I mean, when I think about financial literacy, I even think about some of the past dumb things that I’ve done, in terms of how I’ve looked at it, and how I viewed it in particular, and even my experience growing up with money, where, you know, my parents weren’t financial whizzes. This wasn’t a topic that we ever really talked about. I sat and saw [them at the] table and pay bills and, you know, carry credit card balances that were in the thousands of dollars, and to me that was normal, you know? And both my parents were also janitors. Like, they were custodians for a living, so it wasn’t even like there was, like, this, like, huge amount of money that came into the house. So even, like, that idea of, like, first capital, I don’t know that that’s something that a lot of people would even think about in terms of what their experience is with money, you know?
Zach: Yeah. Well, I mean, and this is the thing – not having initial capital doesn’t, I don’t think, undermine the topic of financial literacy. I think for me, my pain point is, like, so when you talk about, like, Black capitalism, right? When you talk about, like, making bread, and you look at these succes stories, [they?] don’t talk about these cats had, you know, seed money, they had money there to mess with. Now, I get your point 100% that, like, man, when it comes to, like, credit cards, you know, spending it before– if you don’t have it don’t spend it. Like, very, you know, very straightforward concepts. I think for me, like, in these moments, man like LLC Twitter and Forex Twitter, man… Listen, man, they be on there, bro. They be talking about, “Stop trying to buy these PS5s and get an LLC, ” and I’m like, “I mean, okay… I–alright, I get it. All right.”
Rich: [I saw] that last night, and I was like, “Really? That’s what we’re doing? Video games for stocks isn’t actually happening.”
Zach: That’s another point too, that, like, some [?] can overindex– it overrepresents very silly opinions. Like, you know, I don’t think that Twitter is wholly representative of, like, the actual conversation, but I think it’s a factor, right? But I did see a tweet, it was, like, a woman said, “I got my man the PS5 because I’m built different,” or something like that, and I was like, “I mean, okay.”
Rich: They’re not even close to the same thing. So the LLC then requires work afterwards. So what? Okay, so he just got an LLC in his name now?
Zach: Right, like, okay, and so what–do you know how to, like, use that for your taxes? I don’t understand. Like, what are you saying? You know, what are you talking about? Yeah. So let’s get back to it because I kind of just jumped off the deep end with my initial question, because I’ve been wanting to know–it’s like, Look, I’m always trying to tell folks, man, I do Living Corporate for the people, but I also do Living Corporate for me, man. Like, I want to have these conversations for me, you know what I mean? So like, people talk about Jay-Z, right? Like, “Look, Jay-Z was rich. Jay-Z didn’t have anything and now he’s a billionaire,” you know, and you use these, like, examples of, like, this handful of Black billionaires or, like, extremely wealthy people and say, “See, anybody can do that.” It’s like, “Jay-Z literally had 400k in untaxed capital from the game,” from the block.
Rich: I was gonna say activities.
Zach: From activities, right? He had 400k that [?], because in that time, like, the technology and stuff was different. Like, you can’t even have $4,000 like that and nobody know about it now. Like, they don’t–that’s not possible, right? So it’s like, yeah, 400k he then used as his initial capital. Now he’s at a billion total net worth and everything, all the vehicles and things he has going on, right? And so like, it’s just a pain–you know, it’s probably just a personal soapbox for me. Maybe it’s [not?] a big deal to everybody else. I just think that when you think about wealth building that, man, like, where you have that initial investment, those initial dollars from, come from. So with that being said, as I step away from that, help me understand, you know, kind of, like, your core tenets of, like, financial education and financial wellness. Talk to me a little bit more about that.
Rich: Yeah, man. And for a lot of people, it may not be much different than they’ve heard before. So I think a lot of us have heard, you know, the idea of “Spend less than you earn.” A big proponent for me is also “Pay yourself first.” So I know a lot of times people, they will get paid, the first thing that they think about is paying off their bills and getting out of debt. And those things are important, but you need to make sure that you’re tucking away money for yourself first, setting up that direct deposit, things like that so that you’re always taken care of, I think people are realizing that now more than ever. Another aspect of that is understanding the intersection of kind of your career and your personal finances, and what you do within your career can set you up for financial independence or for financial freedom, given that our careers are the primary source of income for many of us. And that’s probably that first capital that you’re [?], and I happen to be someone that works in tech, in Silicon Valley, but there are also a series of moves that I’ve made to even put me in a position to be here. So I think probably what’s a little bit different about how I look at the personal finance side is that I really want to tie in the career side of that, because good career decisions lead to good financial outcomes. The other thing is, you gotta be investing, and for me, I talk a lot on the show about investing even in your 401k, if that’s something you have access to–this is Living Corporate, so hopefully a lot of your listeners do have access to a 401k. So making sure that you’re taking advantage of that, the company match. I don’t know about you, bro, but when I first got out of school, [?] 401k, whatever, “I want to have this extra 3% in my account,” not realizing I was leaving free money on the table, just straight free money and generate streams of incomes. And there’s probably other things that we could talk about too, a lot of stuff that we can [?], but beyond the day job, even beyond the 401k, I do think people need to find other revenue streams. And that could be through a side hustle or entrepreneurship. I’ve also thought about whether or not everyone should be an entrepreneur, which my immediate answer to that is no, but I do think if people truly want to build wealth, they’ve got to do more than just go to work. They can get more heavily invested into or look at the stock market, but then also they’ve got to have some other streams, whether that’s property, whether that’s something that’s generating income, to really kind of truly build that wealth.
Zach: You know, and so it’s interesting, so I’m on this–this is not an ad, right? So to be clear, this is not an ad. I’m on this app called Fishbowl, and Fishbowl is, for those who don’t know, like, an anonymous or semi-anonymized microblogging site. So think about, like, basically you just post a bunch of little threads. Kind of similar [to ?] I guess, but just more anonymized, and there’s different spaces for different professions and industries, right? And so I like Fishbowl because there’s a lot of white folks on there, and it’s really interesting to see, like, how they think and things that they talk about, because they’re just things I just would not know. And so I joined–there’s, like, little mini-bowls, right? So I joined, and the mini-bowl I joined was, like, a personal finance bowl. [?], talk about it [?] and talk about, you know, like, index funds and different types of, like, vehicles. Because a lot of times, you know, you think about investing, you might think, you know, most of us when–I’m not gonna speak for everybody, but for me in my circle, we’ll talk about Acorn, Robin Hood and some of these other, like, platforms, but I didn’t know anything about index funds. I didn’t know anything about these other vehicles, these other investment vehicles that have ridiculous growth over time, like, when you look at their performance over, like, five years. Like, I was looking at some of this and thinking, like, how do you even know about these things? You know what I mean? And so like, what I’m trying to understand getting–from your perspective, when you talk about, you know, financial literacy and even how, like, career ties into everything, like, one, I guess, maybe this is a bit of an overly simplistic question, but like, I’m trying to think about–give me like your top three, just your opinion–because this is not a financial podcast, but I’m curious to get your perspective – when you talk about vehicles to help you accrue wealth over time, like, what would those top three things be?
Rich: Yeah, so for me, I do take advantage of one of the robo-advisors that are out there. So I do use Wealthfront. That’s the one that I happen to have some money in for taxable investing or having a taxable investing account. The other for me for building wealth is, I mean, I am fortunate enough to work for a large tech company, and so, I mean, for a lot of us, the primary source of income is going to come from our daytime job. So I do have a strong base salary. I do have a performance bonus. I do have equity that I’ve receive specifically from the company then use to to reinvest through taxable investing accounts, and then I also do have access to a 401k with a strong company match. And then beyond that, the third piece of it is through Paychecks and Balances, or I will say side hustle [?]. I think that’s–things that I’m good at, things that I’m passionate about, that I can do to bring in money that don’t cause me a huge mental drain, you know? I’m not out there in the real estate streets. I was not the person to be out there just kind of, like, day trading, and that’s why I take advantage of a robo-advisor. Because, you know, you mentioned Robin Hood and you mentioned some of these platforms, and there are people who are jumping into these things without having any idea what the hell they’re doing. They’re just like, “Oh, I need to be investing. So let me throw money out there.”
Zach: Bro, yes. Keep going.
Rich: Yeah, so for me, just tying it back, there’s the day job itself, and I think there’s value in terms of, you know, looking for promotions and jumping companies. I think we’re going to talk a little bit about that on my show. There’s also taking advantage of the various investing platforms out there and the information that’s out there. I’m a big proponent of accessible content when it comes to financial literacy, and some of these platforms–one thing I actually didn’t like as much about Robin Hood is that it was kind of a blank canvas and it was hard to really kind of understand anything in particular about the market, but there are other platforms like Stash that are out there. And then third, what can you generate on the side given the skills that you have today? And so for me, that’s through podcasting, sponsorship speaking, but it’s also through consulting, you know? So I’ve helped companies launch their podcast, I’ve helped individuals launch their podcasts, and so I’ve been taking that and then investing that into the market. Yeah. And that’s how I’m going about building, and there will be more, there will be more. The other thing is that’s all I have time for right now.
Zach: Right? So listen, you talked a little bit about career and how to kind of, like, maximize the financial vehicles that your job offers. Like, what would you say are some of the bigger mistakes or things that we look at when it comes to leveraging your career and leveraging the benefits your job has that folks, you know, again, is [?], and what advice would you have?
Rich: Yeah, and [?] the company’s benefits. I mean, that’s a whole topic in itself. Maybe we can come back to that, because there are a lot of things that I have access to and that probably many of us have access to that we don’t even think about. But I mean, the first thing honestly, fam, and it’s even before folks get into the door, is a lot of us don’t negotiate, and that’s really the starting point, even before you talk about how can you boost from the role that you have today when you’re at the point that you have a job offer or even if it’s a internal transfer [?]. I know for a lot of folks they get so–especially right now–they get so anxious and worried about the possibility that if they make an ask that they’re going to lose the opportunity, so they end up just accepting that role because they’re scared it’s going to go away instead of asking for more money. And there’s a stat–you might know it. I haven’t cited it in a while, but the difference between asking for an additional $5,000 at the beginning of your career in your first role over the course [?] about to be, like, half a million dollars.
Zach: I’ve never heard of that before. That makes a lot of sense. That’s wild, yeah.
Rich: Yeah, it’s something insane like that. And then when people are within roles, instead of proactively managing one’s [?], sometimes people wait to the point that they absolutely hate their job. And I’ve definitely been there, where you’re just like, “Yo, I just want to be out of here,” and when you put yourself in that position where you wait to make a move and you wait until the point that you can’t stand it and anything is better than where you are, now you’ve essentially giving away your power, because now when that next opportunity comes about–going back to negotiation–once again, you’re so desperate to get out of the situation that you’re in today that you’re going to [?] up whatever, and you just want to leave, and so you’re going to leave money on the table. I’m gonna pause there real quick, and then I’m happy to go on and talk about a couple other things.
Zach: I mean, you’re absolutely right. You already also said something about just how folks are jumping into some of these, like, robo-trainers and tools that are really meant to be used, right, and kind of just without any type of knowledge as to what they were doing. So I kind of [?] first and then get back to career. Like, when you say without any knowledge they’re just jumping into it like, what do you mean by that?
Rich: Yeah, and I really noticed this at the start of the pandemic, and it was pissing me off, where everyone suddenly was an investment professional, you know? These YouTube videos, these Instagram stories, everyone came out the woodworks trying to capitalize on the fear of folks that are out there. So [what lots of] people are doing is just taking advice from random folks online, like, “Yo, now’s the time to get in on toilet paper stocks,” or “Now’s the time to buy Zoom,” in which case Zoom, you know, they’ve obviously benefited tremendously, and Zoom is now just a word that is part of our lexicon going forward, right? Similar to saying Google. But people–a lot of times I find that people don’t kind of take that time to do research and understand exactly what it is that they’re investing in. And I’ve done this myself, and I mentioned, I think I mentioned an app, Stash, which I think is very good about telling you what it is that you’re actually investing in, but I just went–I just put money in there, I threw it into [a few things] and I was like, “Let me see what happens,” and there wasn’t really any actual, like, thought process or a strategy for how I was approaching investing. And for a lot of folks, they can start with a site like Investopedia, which has, you know–
Zach: Yo, Investopedia is fire.
Rich: It is, man. It is. I mean, they’ve got a trading simulator. Pretty much any question you have about investing, you’re going to be able to find an answer there, and so when I talk about people just diving in and they’re kind of taking folks advice and not understanding what it is that they’re actually investing in–and I’ll give you an example, man. I recently facilitated a session with some brothers about investing, and when it comes to the 401k, I asked folks to give me a show of hands if they’ve actually looked at what their 401k investments are. So that portfolio mix [?] actually in there, and a few folks did raise their hand, but there were a number of people who never even looked at what’s being invested in in their 401k. And it could be as simple as, “Let me log in,” you know, “I know I got this thing.” “Okay, I see VTi. I see this. I see these different symbols. What does that mean?” You know, “I got bonds and this other stuff in here. What is that?” So even just some of that fundamental education, I find that a lot of people try to bypass that and get straight to making money without understanding the basics, and there’s just so much content out there nowadays, through podcasts, through books that make this type of knowledge more accessible. So establish that foundation first, instead of just kind of jumping right in and putting your money out there and why you’re putting it out there, but then also not understanding that you can just as easily lose money now.
Zach: And you know, to that point, like, I’m curious, you know, so something my dad would always tell me, he always told me, like, “Look, don’t invest what you’re not willing to lose.” “Do not invest what you’re not willing to lose.” Okay. So let’s continue forward. You know, when you talk about, you know, some folks make a jump when things are, like, really bad as opposed to kind of, you know, navigating before that. Like, expand, give me some more on that. What do you mean by that?
Rich: Yeah. So, I’ve found that–and I’ve done this myself, where, you know, you’re at a job for three years, and actually, I had this happen. This happened to me in 2013, where I got to a point with the role that I was in to where–I was living in New York City, I was working in what was the Old Port Authority building down in Chelsea, where, like, at the end of the day, I would see this long hallway, and it would almost be horror movie-esque, and it would feel like this in the morning too where, like, the lights are flat. It’s just like, “Oh, man, I got to go to this place again,” or leaving at the end of the day and I’m like, “I’ve got to go down this long hallway home and then come back to this place again. How do I get out of here? I will do anything.” And so what ended up happening is, as I started looking at opportunities and interviewing, I wasn’t thinking about how can I put myself in the best financial position possible. I was just thinking about how can I get into the next role. Like, how do I [?]? How do I get out of here? And what I also didn’t consider is that at the time I was working for a nonprofit company, and so nonprofits aren’t known for paying the most money out there in the streets. And so to me, I kind of had this attitude a bit of any increase is an increase over where I am today. And with the next role I ended up accepting, which was the first company that I got an offer from, it felt like a pretty big increase to me at the time. I think my pay went up, you know, about 13 to 15 thousand dollars, but then what I discovered while working there–and I can’t remember how I discovered this–is I found out what the person in the role before me made, and–
Zach: It was obscene, huh?
Rich: Oh, my gosh, bruh. And they had less experience than I did, man. Yeah, and this is where, like, that whole where people will get someone on a bargain if they can type of thing, and for as much as I knew about navigating the career streets and navigating interviews, like, fantastic with that, but [I did not] put enough emphasis on making sure that I get as much money out of it as I can when I’m making this change, even in terms of having a negotiation strategy. I really didn’t have one at the time to be honest with you, because the [?] wasn’t to put myself in a better financial situation, the primary goal was to get the heck out of this job and into a role that’s going to make it easier for me to then move into a larger tech company like Google. So ultimately, I did end up where I wanted to, but that negotiation piece kind of goes out the window when people put themselves in that position where they wait til’ they hate it to get out.
Zach: You know, and it’s interesting too, because it’s like–there’s levels to it, right? So like, when you think about negotiating that bag, right, it’s not just about you want to do some research on the role. You want to do some research on, like, the space, because it’s not just also relative to what you’re making now but also relative to the market. Now, I’m always kind of, like, an advocate of “Have a number and [?],” but it’s important to understand the market, because you may have a number, and without some awareness, you may not realize that number you have is still way too low. You know, I mean, like, “I’m gonna get, you know, 250,000,” and to you that’s a lot of money, but then you look at the market and realize this role pays 400,000, but 250,000 a year is, like, the most money you’ve ever seen. So it’s a dub. It’s a win, right? But in reality, you took a loss, because you’re still not competitive with the market. It’s not about pocket peeping. It’s about, like, just, you know, understanding your worth and really, like, negotiating from that perspective. But you don’t always have that without, you know, the information. So I’m curious, like, how did you even find that out?
Rich: Yeah. I mean, one, the company’s recordkeeping wasn’t the best because–I don’t remember most of it because I wasn’t even looking for it. It was one of those things where I was in, like, a Drive folder or something, and I was like, “Oh, what’s this?” And I saw the number. I did kind of straddle between HR and staffing in that role. But still, the fact that–that’s the only job where that’s ever happened, except for the previous role where I just was an HR generalist solely, and that was my job, to [?] the stuff with compensation and increases in pay structure, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. Yeah, but what I wish I had done is I wish I had talked to more people who worked in the field, and I did not do that. I did not have any conversations with people who were working as recruiters. I didn’t go on LinkedIn and see who was in my network, who had went to a tech startup in an HR or a staffing capacity. I just wanted to get out. And I know that there’s some–and I’m seeing this come up now where they talk about millennials and people of color having more conversations about what they actually make and understanding what others are getting paid out there, and even if someone wasn’t going to tell me what they made, just conversations with a few folks and hear, “Yeah, you know, I’ve seen or we’re seeing or typically folks are getting this,” even talking to somebody who recruits for recruiters, if I look through my network, I was probably connected to somebody who I could talk to to get a better understanding of what that looks like. Because I’ve had people come to me in the staffing capacity that I’ve been in and say “Yo, like, what does this pay? What does this look like? What can I expect?” And so I think the one–but the big things I would have changed if I could go back is I would have had more actual conversations, because I know these Comparably and Salary.com, like, some of these sites, like, they give you a good starting point, but they don’t necessarily give you the real. You don’t get all the detail. When you talk to someone who’s actually doing that work and is out there in the field versus some of these sites, people can fudge the numbers a bit. So I encourage folks, even now, to leverage a network and have actual conversation. And again, you don’t got to ask somebody, “Yo, homie, how much you make?” Because I mean, if you just start off asking me that, and I don’t normally talk to you that way, I’m probably not going to tell you either to keep it all the way real, but there is a way that you can have conversations and get a sense of what people are getting paid out there. And there’s also a way that you can talk to companies so that you’re not just throwing a number out there right away, you’re letting them throw a number at you first. And then you go from there, which I’m not sure how it is in a lot of the other states. But again, your recruiters can’t even ask you for, like, your salary history or anything like that. Right?
Zach: They came out in California and frankly, like, it’s kind of now becoming kind of frowned upon in general–like, those practices are, even though they’re not legally enforced. It’s just, you know, just good practice now, you know? So to your point around, you know, having conversations, you know, I do think that folks are going to realize that some of these systems and structures and, like, rules that we have, they’re really built to maintain informal levels of control, right? So we don’t have conversations about, you know, range, and things of that nature, like, frank ways, again, to your point, not like–you know, you got to build relationship and ask those questions and, you know, in ways that make sense for that relationship, but, you know, it’s important, like, when you don’t know, and you operate in this place of ignorance [?], you know, you’re working next to somebody who’s making 40% more than you or vice versa, right? And so like, I know for me it’s like the more I think about it, like, you know, what is the point of me not telling somebody my salary? Like, if we’re cool, and when I say cool I mean, like, we’re just not enemies. Like, you know, I don’t understand the point, like, how does my life tangibly change by you knowing what I make? And how does your life tangibly change by me knowing what you make? I don’t think it does.
Rich: I’m thinking about it, and I totally get it, but humans are also emotional, and humans also have egos, and I could imagine telling some people–like, there’s some people I could tell, and they’d be like, “Yep,” and not even in, like, a negative way. It was just kind of like a “Yo, that’s what’s up.” But for other people, I think it can actually create some divisiveness in a way, and there’s a certain level of maturity and trust that’s required. So you should be able to have that conversation, because yeah, I mean, there are people now where if I told people, you know, what my total compensation was, I do think that would change the way that they looked at me, that would change the way that we interacted, and they would expect that I would be contributing more to the various ventures and things that they have going on. And that’s a big thing, and then also when you have those conversations and then you realize that you’re the person who is 50% behind all your peers, there’s being able to to handle that. And that’s why I say a level of maturity, where you’re like, “Crap, what am I doing wrong?” And instead of dwelling on it and, you know, it is okay to take a moment and be like, “Yo, I should be making way more money,” and not feel good about it. Like, you’ve got to give yourself space for that. But then once you do receive that information, what are the steps forward to start correcting that? Do you need to go and look at a new role? Are there things–are you spending too much money outside of work, whereas you’re surrounded by people who are making more than you, but they’re also spending significantly less or spending significantly more? There are other adjustments you can make. If you don’t have the skills to be able to jump into that role that really pays you more right now or to jump into that same role in a different industry to increase your salary, what are the things that your current role or things that you need to start doing outside of work so that you can get those skills? And I know, I’m now going off on a tangent a little bit, but yeah, man, those conversations, they’re difficult. And you actually made me wonder. I’m like, “Where did this whole thing even come from where we don’t talk about salary?” I feel like companies created that.
Zach: And everything you said is right, like in terms of, like, yes, it presumes a certain level of maturity and self awareness, you know, self-assessment and things of that nature. I think there needs to be controlled spaces where we talk about salary, and your point around, like, payscale.com and Glassdoor and other platforms, yeah, I mean, those things are okay, but they do fudge the numbers a little bit, and they generalize in ways. We probably been in situations where, by the grace of God, like, I’ll look at that little salary on Glassdoor, and I’m always making more than those numbers, you know what I mean? Or Payscale or whatever the case is. And so it’s like, it’s like [?] with folks who can put you on game and give you the knowledge and the insight that you need. I mean, I also think about the idea of, like, you know, again, it’s not always one on one conversations. It could just be some group discussions. It could be even maybe a more transparent version of Glassdoor or something else. But, you know, awareness is important, because here’s the thing. Like, I just don’t know if we would have the same issues of pay equity if everyone knew what we were making, because then folks would be able to organize and unionize to, like, demand flat wages across the board. They make everything so individualized, so you end up kind of like–you know, we end up battling against each other. We’re trying to, like, hide things from each other. We’re not, you know, galvanizing to really, like, engage the systems that can create these disparities, you know what I mean?
Rich: Yeah, I totally get you on that, and I think some of the best conversations that I’ve actually had around this stuff have actually been in or through conversations with folks in the Black employee resource group, where, you know, we don’t get specifically into what each other is making, but we have talked about compensation and just the differences and even just fully understanding it and understanding, like, some of the variation between the different types of roles, and talking even in ballparks has been helpful. But I realize also in my environment I’ve been able to have those types of conversations. It’s also been normalized. So even though we’re not talking about our individual specific numbers, there’s kind of this element of having that space where it’s like, “Alright, we’re gonna have some real talk about what compensation looks like here,” and people getting stuck and not being able to get promoted. Also, you know, within the company, there are a lot of people who spin up, like, [?], where folks can voluntarily input salary information and things like that. So there is tremendous value in having forums to these conversations, but it’s the effort of normalizing and somebody kind of taking that lead role to say, “Okay, I’m going to be the person to tell that first story,” or I’m going to model the type of experience that I want people to have when they’re discussing these topics.” And so even getting someone to kind of take that first step, I found that to be kind of hard in settings outside of work. And honestly, I feel like for as much as, like, I observed these different things that could be fixed–because someone could be listening and say, “Yo, like, you know, you’re pointing out all these things. What are you doing?” And it’s like, “Well, I’m doing a lot, but I can’t do everything. I can’t also be the person out here setting up meetup groups and setting up, you know, chats and all of this other stuff, I got a lot going on.” So I think we [?] more folks who are, I think, ultimately comfortable and willing to be the first person to share that story, the first person to share that information to then make others comfortable and see that that’s okay and that it’s something normal to talk about.
Zach: You know, you’re 100% right. And I’m trying to figure out for me, it’s like–you know, I think we’re in this moment, man, you know, talking about, like, just these times where, you know, Black and brown voices are continuing to speak up, and I just hope that, you know, we don’t lose that momentum. You know, I’m already kind of feeling [it] dwindle a little bit, but I also know that, you know, protests and things continue to happen, even if they fall out of the mainstream media eyesight doesn’t mean that–and I’m hoping that that same attitude and that courageousness and, frankly, [?] discover courage. It’s about the fact that, like, we’re in a place now where white people are seemingly more open to listening, and so I’m hoping that we continue to practice, like, courageousness in these spaces and boldness in these spaces. I think my pain point for me is, like, the hustle, man, the hustle of, like, Black folks in corporate America and brown folks in corporate America. Like, we get in there, and we kind of–I don’t know, man. Like, some of the things that are kind of intrinsic to Black and brown communities, that communal collective spirit and organizing spirit that has sustained us for so long, goes out the window when we walk in those corporate spaces. Like, we get very individual and–I think that continues to be, like, my pain point when it comes to, you know, collective freedom in this work, because a lot of us don’t really want to be free. Like, we just want to be white, which is, like, a different conversation for another time, but I do believe that, like, you know, what does it look like to stand up and take a couple of stones for the sake of the people coming behind you? Like, what does it look like to raise your voice to speak truth to power? To share your story, share your actual story so they can be encouraged by that and be galvanized to move forward? You may not be the one that touched ten thousand people, but you may reach the one who does.
Rich: Exactly, man. And you made me think of something else about going into work and being so individualized. I mean, I’m sure you’ve had this experience where–I’ve had days at work where I didn’t see like another brother for, like, the whole day. I’ve had multiple days at work where I didn’t see another Black person. And so I think, when you get into corporate America or you get into the gig, and you are the only one or one of the only ones, like, you do feel individualized. It’s not like, you know, you’re catching up for lunch every day [with people who] look like you or you’re regularly in meetings [with people who] look like you, and I have a lot of meetings where I’m 1. the only Black person, but then I’m also the only dude who’s in the meeting. And so it does feel really individualized, and I do feel–and this will probably sound a little cliche, but I do feel like the chocolate delegate sometimes, man, when–yeah, and so when you’re focused on doing a great job, [?] subconsciously you feel like you’ve got the weight of the race, you know, on your shoulders, which I know we shouldn’t, but that’s something that we individually feel. And as achievers, we want to do a great job. Where we spend the time 40 plus hours a week, we’re not constantly seeing people that look like us, we’re just trying to figure out how to deal with the people that we are working with and how to deal with that situation and how to come up. It is easy to forget about other folks and how to lift as we climb. So I’m not excusing it, but it’s very easy for me to see how that happens.
Zach: No, absolutely, and I empathize. You know, I think the reality is we all have to do different things that we need to do to survive. Like, I can’t shame anyone for doing what it is that, you know, they feel like they need to do to survive, but at the same time, not but and, you know, I just get frustrated, you know, like, in these moments, right? Like, we’re not going to get the freedom, the collective liberation we all need–even for those who don’t want it, like, we all need it, but we’re not going to get it without stepping up a bit and continuing to do so and fighting. Like, really fighting. Yeah, and, you know, it sucks, because sometimes the people that we fight look like us. They just happen to sit in these really high positions. And they too are moving from, like, these very individualistic perspectives, but, you know, we have to knock them down too so we can build collectively. Which sucks, but that’s the truth.
Rich: Well, let me say this, though, let me say this, because I think it’s it’s really important. So that enthusiasm and courage that you’re talking about, I see a lot of that around entrepreneurship, specifically right now. Support Black business, definitely. Build your own thing. I’ve talked about it in terms of, you know, saying when we talk about extremes and side hustles, and I see a lot of energy around that – start your own thing, get out the rat race, start your own thing, and I want to see that same level of energy around entrepreneurship. I want to see that same level of energy about folks who are in the workplace. I want to see that same level of energy about, you know, “How do we get this promotion? How do we come up?” I mean, I’m sure that’s part of why your platform even exists. And often what I see online, honestly, and then especially now because I’m not meeting up with people in person, but I want to see that same level of energy, passion, around creating something. I want to see that around the same folks who are enjoying their job. Like, they ultimately enjoy what they do. They’ve decided that working in a corporate position is what they plan to do for the long term. That is completely fine, but I want to see more energy around “How do we come up with a system? And how do we make change within this system, and not just specifically in the context of DEI work?” And I think that’s a critical distinction, because there’s enough brown people who I think are in DEI roles–and that’s almost cliche, where I’ve actually had the experience where I’ve said, “I’m a recruiter,” and they’re like, “Oh, are you on the diversity staffing team?” And it’s like, “No.” Why do I got to be on the diversity staffing team?
Zach: And people don’t realize how wild insulting that is to say, yeah. It’s like, “No, actually, I’m not. I’m Black, and I bring all of myself to this job, which is recruiting, sourcing talent across–like, what are you talking about? Back up, man.” It’s annoying, and you’re right. Like, it’s this idea of, you know–I’ll never forget this one time, I said, “Yo, where’s the diversity? Where’s the diversity on this panel?” This was, like, over a year ago. It was a work panel. I said, “Where’s the diversity on this panel?” And they said, “Well, this isn’t about diversity and inclusion.” So Black and brown people are only valuable on your panel when you’re talking about diversity and inclusion?
Zach: I snapped. No, I snapped. I snapped. I snapped because I was like, “That’s wild racist. You don’t understand you literally only see us as tokens to talk about us. You don’t see us. By the very nature of our experience, lived experience in a space, we offer true diversity, right? Just bring us in these–like, it’s just so wild that you only see us–so the only time you think that the spaces shouldn’t be homogenous is when we’re talking about diversity and inclusion, quote unquote. So you compartmentalize diversity and inclusion over here. You don’t see diversity as intrinsic to just business. Like, that’s wild, bro. Like, it literally pissed me off to the max. I will never ever forget that exchange.
Rich: Yeah, that’s rough. But unfortunately it’s a great example of the type of stuff that I’m talking about and that we’re talking about, and we see this not even just at work forums. I’m sure you’ve been to other conferences, same thing, where–industry trade shows, whatever it is–same thing, where the only place you really get the diversity is on the DEI track, and then when you go to those DEI sessions, what do the people in the audience also look like? You know?
Zach: Right. It’s just segregation, man. That’s the other thing too is like, when I’m really focused on [?]–and I’ve been focused for a while, but I’m continuing to be focus on is I’m bringing my lived experience everywhere I go and to any topic that I talk about, because I’m me anywhere. I’m me everywhere. Like, I want to talk about my lived experience and how my lived experience informs whatever we’re talking about as that’s my lived experience. And, you know what, you should be empowered to do that too, white person. Like, it’s not just me. Like, it just so happens that I look at culture and life differently because of the way that this country, it kind of forces me to if I’m in any way conscious. But it’s wild to me, man. I think just the the general–just how much further we have to go, and, like, I think, you know, sometimes I just question how much of this [?] when you talk about, like–and wealth is tied into this–is just how much of this is us having to build within these systems and how much of this is creating pressure, creating external pressures for these various systems and structures to change? And I think I continue to lean more to the latter, Rich, because I just–I don’t see it, man. I don’t see these institutions changing without, like, wild, wild, wild pressure and shaming and, like–not even bullying them, because you can’t bully them. They’re too big and strong to bully. But you have to push them. You have to push them to change.
Rich: Yeah, you really do. You really do, man. I will say that I am seeing–as a result of stuff that’s been going on, I am seeing a lot more efforts, meaningful efforts I’d even say, but of course, there’s still a lot more to be done, and a lot of that pressure does come from the outside as well as the inside. But I also know that [reality?] in a part of Silicon Valley is different than the reality that people outside of this bubble are facing. So ultimately, I’m totally with you on that, fam.
Zach: Yeah, man, look, this has been a dope conversation. We don’t have a lot of Black men that come on Living Corporate, like, in terms of, like–this is just very rarely the dynamic. We’ve had, like, a handful. Shout-out to those who’ve been on. I just really appreciate this conversation. Before we let you go, any parting words?
Rich: I mean, parting words? Oh, that’s a good one. I’m actually gonna take a little pause here. I think I’m gonna go back to the importance of connecting with people and building relationships. I mean, throughout this whole conversation, we’ve been talking about connecting, we’ve been connecting. Brothers connecting. Even the way I think we first came across each other, what was it, like, a couple of years ago, and I think it started with, like, what, through, like, a Facebook group? And look at what that’s turned into. And the other thing I’d say for me when I went from being a headhunter in 2010 at a staffing agency to getting this role at the nonprofit, at first I thought I wanted to be an HR generalist, and the reason that I got that role is because I got referred in because I had made it clear to my network that I was looking to move into an HR generalist position. And so when somebody heard about one coming up at their company, they thought of me, and a lot of what’s happened throughout the years has been the product of relationships and people that have lifted me up, and I’ve tried to do the same for others as I’ve gone along. So even though we can’t get in to build with people, I do think in some ways it’s even a little bit easier right now to do it virtually, and it’s more normalized to be able to do that virtually. So don’t let your networking hustle stop, because I really think that there’s power in that, sometimes even more than the money itself.
Zach: Man, 100%, 100%. Look, y’all, you know what we’re doing. We do it every single week. We have new conversations, and we’re gonna continue to have these conversations, continuing to center and amplify Black and brown people at work. Make sure you check out Paychecks and–we didn’t even get into Paychecks and Balances, but I’m gonna put all the information in the show notes. Make sure you check out Paychecks and Balances. It’s all about financial literacy, really geared towards millennials. Y’all hear Rich. His voice almost as nice as mine, so y’all know it’s content over there. Alright, so make sure y’all check him out. Look, we’re all over Serena Williams’ internet. Just type in Living Corporate. I’m not going I’m not going to rattle off all the domains. I will say, y’all check out LivingCorporate.tv. Living Corporate TV is our newest addition media offering for free, right? All visual media, a bunch of different web shows. Just check them out. LivingCorporate.tv, man. Just type it in – LivingCorporate.tv, just put it in there. This has been Zach. You’ve been listening to Rich Jones, consultant, professional public speaker, mentor, advocate. What else, man? Podcaster, extraordinare. Alright, peace.
Zach: And we’re back. I just want to shout out Rich again, Rich Jones. His Paychecks and Balances platform was one of the many inspirations for, like, Living Corporate’s layout–and frankly its media approach–so if you ever, like, look at Paychecks and Balance’s website and you compare it to Living Corporate, you’ll see some similarities. Like, I really, really love how clean and to the point his design is, and the fact that, like, if you go to Paychecks and Balances without even reading anything, you already understand what the vibe is. I love that. Shout-out to Rich, shout-out to all the things he’s doing. Really excited about just his work as they continue to grow, and I’m really excited also to have, like, a friend in this space and, like, a peer mentor. That’s really cool. That’s a new experience for me. I think in this podcasting space, like, podcasting is blowing up, and even Black podcasting continues to be an ever growing space, and I’m really thankful to have somebody that, like, I can vibe with. So again, I keep using the word thankful because we’re getting up on Thanksgiving, right? I’m thankful. I want to make sure that I also take this time to thank the team at Living Corporate, man. Like, for those who have been checking us out, y’all know that we just finished up our first season of web shows. So we finished So What Do I Do?, The Group Chat and The Access Point, right? So What Do I Do? is a bi-weekly or every other weekly show really asking the question, “So What Do I Do?” in various situations from the perspective of aspirational allies to Black DEI professionals to white leaders dealing with ever changing teams, and that’s hosted by Pamela Fuller and Daniel Martin. Great folks, really thankful for them, shout-out to them. Shout-out to The Group Chat, which is facilitated and hosted by Nubianna Aben. Really thankful for all the work that she’s been able to do. The Group Chat is, again, an every other week live web show, where we have, like, panels and panel discussions with prominent diversity and inclusion, healthcare executives, psychologists, psychiatrists. I mean, we’ve had all types of folks on The Group Chat, Shout-out to all the guests that we’ve had, thankful for y’all. And then we have The Access Point, which is a weekly show, and that’s focused on preparing Black and brown college students for the workforce. Really thankful for them. Really thankful for Mike Yates and BG, or Brandon Gordon, and Tiffany Tate, and of course -the- Tristan Layfield, who take their time and their precious energy and treasure and host this show that has impacted quite a few folks in a very short period of time. So I’m just really thankful for the team, the new teams that have come together to mobilize to create new media for Living Corporate. I’m thankful for y’all. This has been a really, really interesting and challenging year, a tiring and exhausting year. Y’all have heard it in my voice. Y’all may hear it now, because I’m still tired, right? I’m just like y’all. To be clear, I happen to have this platform, and we come together and we create this content for you all, but, you know, I have a job just like y’all, and I’m Black at work. I’m one of the onlys at work just like y’all, right? So when I speak on here and we talk about our experiences and I talk about my challenges or I talk about why it’s important for us, I’m including myself in that us because I feel it, y’all. Trust me. I really, really feel it. Shout out to Neil Edwards, who continues to create an incredible podcast, The Leadership Range, our first podcast under the Living Corporate umbrella and part of the network that we’re continuing to build and develop. We have more content coming for your head top in January, and I just continue to be thankful for real. Now, before I get up out of here, I want to make sure that I put my request in, right? If you’re listening to this, there are a few ways that you can really support Living Corporate, right? So the first way is tell a friend about us. We’re coming up on Thanksgiving. You know, I’m sure there’s folks that you wish you could talk to, things you want to talk about, but you can’t because you’re not in person. Maybe shoot them a podcast instead, right? Maybe it’s a way to start or spark a meaningful conversation. So that’s a really good way that you could just help bless us on the free, right? Like, you ain’t gotta really spend anything, right? Just take the little share link and share it away. The other way you can help us is to get on Apple Podcasts and give us five stars. Give us five stars. Don’t be a hater, right? Some people I see on there giving us four stars. Now, it don’t really hurt nothing because our overall average is still five stars because we have so many ratings out, but I’m just saying, why do that? Why go on the app and press four? And certainly not three. Some of y’all… come on now, right? Give us the five stars, and then if you want to give us a six star, you could do that by giving us a review. Something real cute. Nothing too long, not too short. Right in the middle. But I appreciate you too. I’m thankful for you for real, and if you’re listening to this, I love you. Appreciate you. Take care of yourself. Stay safe. Until next time, catch y’all soon. Peace.