Panels talk financing, investment

A kiosk flashes messages outside the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock in this May 24, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)
A kiosk flashes messages outside the Statehouse Convention Center in Little Rock in this May 24, 2023 file photo. (Arkansas Democrat-Gazette/Staton Breidenthal)

Debt, generational wealth, investing and home ownership were just a handful of topics discussed Saturday during the financial literacy event at the Little Rock Statehouse Convention Center.

CapitalCon, which was hosted by the city of Little Rock and funded by a grant from the African American Mayors Association's Economic Mobility Leadership Institute, held two educational panels during the daylong event.

During the first panel, "Don't Jeopardize My Future," Brandon Brown, panelist and financial partner at Encompass Realty Group, said the term generational wealth is "really trendy right now."

Brown said generational wealth begins with teaching money management from a young age. That leads to better odds of sustaining it.

"Just because you acquire wealth, that does not mean that the next generation will be equipped to properly manage it ... It's the small fundamental financial habits that you build and you teach in the home that translate to generational wealth," he said.

Another panelist, Myron Jackson, chief operating officer for The Design Group, spoke about the difficulties minorities often face when trying to build wealth and gain economic mobility.

"Not everyone is fortunate enough to pull themselves out of a situation. An analogy that I use is lack of access to capital and lack of access to information is like standing on a beach, Jackson said.

"No matter how bad you may want to get out to sea, until you can get over those waves that are crashing to the shore, you will not be able to. Those waves may be constant debt, those waves may be a child gets sick and you can't get past it," he said.

Nearly 400 people registered to attend the public event, according to the city.

One attendee, Johnnie Matlock, of Little Rock, is hoping to start her own business as an attorney and wanted to learn about her resources.

"Sometimes it can feel a bit overwhelming trying to figure out where to go," she said. "You may know what you want to do but where do I start and what questions should I ask?"

Kendra Pruitt, the city's chief of staff and one of the main organizers of the event, said that financial burdens are at the core of people's problems.

"A lot of the disparities that we see from an economic standpoint affect a lot of the issues that plague our city, like any other city, whether it's education, outcomes, health outcomes, crime, all those things are tied to economics," she said.

Pruitt said their choice of panel topics and resources were chosen to target the key issues residents face "and not just throwing things at the wall and hope they stick, but actually identifying what we thought are the biggest needs."

In addition to the generational wealth discussion, the second panel held during the event, "Family (Don't) Feud," was focused on family dynamics and how it relates to finances.

"We also wanted to lean into estate planning and life insurance policies and a lot of those things that are wealth generating, however, it causes friction and families," Pruitt said.

When the city received the grant to fund an event earlier this year, Pruitt said that they wanted to focus on educating and engaging with communities that "don't always attend our town hall meetings or folks that don't attend our board meetings."

"We can't change their lives in one afternoon, however, we think that we're connecting them to the resources that they can follow up on. We kind of plant the seed and hopefully, eventually, we'll see change," Pruitt said.

Ly is a Report for America Corps member.

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