Award-winning author and Smith English professor Ruth Ozeki ’80 shares insights into her fourth novel, The Book of Form and Emptiness, which recently received the 2022 Women’s Prize for Fiction and is this year's Smith Reads selection.
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Ka’Neda Bullock ’06: Reimagining Wealth
Certified Financial Planner Ka’Neda Bullock ’06 is spreading the word about the benefits of money management, teaching young people and underserved groups the value of investing
Think financial planning is only for those with money? Not so, says Ka’Neda Bullock ’06, founder and president of Master Plan Investment Group based in Pennington, New Jersey, which provides comprehensive wealth management services to families, corporations, and nonprofits.
Bullock uses her expertise and passion for money management and investing to show underserved communities the many benefits of financial planning and investing.
Bullock’s interest in finance began at Smith. Through her involvement in student government (she was class president in her first year and Student Government Association president in her senior year), Bullock had the opportunity to meet with alums and college trustees. A conversation with investor and philanthropist Janet Clarke McKinley ’76 transformed her life. McKinley offered Bullock the chance to learn about the world of finance through an internship at Capital Group, one of the world’s largest investment management organizations. “It opened my eyes to a new world,” says Bullock. “I didn’t come from a family that invested beyond one’s deferred compensation plan or 401(k). It was just a wonderful experience.” Two internships later, Bullock deferred a job offer at Capital Group to study in South Korea on a Fulbright.
Within her community, Bullock volunteers with Cool Kids, an organization that offers a virtual Finance for Kids program for children 8–16 years old, and Womanspace, a New Jersey shelter for victims of domestic violence. “I not only want women who are financially independent and secure to know that they have a resource in me as an investment advisor,” says Bullock, “but I want those who are experiencing domestic abuse to know that they have access to a professional and sound financial information, as they navigate a world that may not have been available before.” In March, Bullock was honored with a 2022 YWCA Princeton Tribute to Women Award for her volunteer work dedicated to increasing access to financial education and freedom for all communities.
Here Bullock talks about making her way in the financial services world and why she is committed to bringing awareness of financial literacy and investing to everyone.
Describe Master Plan Investment Group.
We are a multigenerational wealth management firm, committed to enriching the lives of our clients and their legacy. We focus on more than just investing. It’s about managing our clients through turbulent market times like these and being aware of changing family needs. We often don’t realize how much of our unique family situations we bring to our investment strategy. There’s so much more to wealth management than just the investment account. Also, businesses and nonprofits choose to work with us because they value an advisor committed to addressing financial stress in the workplace through comprehensive financial education for their staff, in addition to providing the knowledge and tools needed for their team to retire successfully.
Talk about your work with Cool Kids.
Young people can listen to entrepreneurs, investment advisors, and business owners talk about investing, making good financial choices, and their own life experiences. I act as a financial professional guest and talk through money management concepts. I also incorporate information about how to be a business owner and investor. I wanted to participate because no one spoke to me about investing at that age, and I think it’s a critical conversation that parents may not know how to have with their children.
What are some of the basic skills you teach in Cool Kids?
We teach about investing, saving, budgeting, and giving, as well as delayed versus instant gratification. And we explain how these principles have helped us achieve our dreams and goals.
How do you explain investing concepts to children?
Everyone’s an investor—that’s where I start. The difference is whether you are only a consumer or an owner. Most children are familiar with companies like Apple and Nike. If you buy Nike Jordan sneakers, don’t wear them and keep them in excellent shape, they might eventually become collectibles and you can sell them for more than you bought them for. Or you can put that money into the company itself, by buying stock, and allow that money to grow. Showing them the actual figures really opens their eyes.
What happens at the end of the program?
Participants get a $20 stock gift card. It demonstrates that if you stay committed to a process of learning—and complete it—you get a reward that pays dividends. Many of these children come from households that have never had investments. What we’ve seen is that when a student has bought a stock, their parents will come back and say, “Now, my family wants to invest. How do we learn more?” So, organizers have started building classes for adults. And that’s what this is about. It’s generational change—there are parents and grandparents and aunts and uncles that are now really interested in investing.
What do you do to raise awareness about careers in finance for young women of color?
When I grew up, I wanted to be a lawyer because I saw Black women lawyers on television and in my community. I didn’t see Black women who were investment advisors. So, I often speak at local high school and college events about careers in finance. I want to be someone they see in the community and know they can reach out to for mentorship.
What’s your opinion of apps that help parents teach children financial literacy or enable adults to become familiar with investing?
I like those apps quite a bit. Part of the challenge is just getting started. Families that are new to investing can start with programs like Acorn, because it makes it very simple: you spend $1.25 and automatically invest 75 cents. For children, it’s not just showing them how to invest, but teaching them why they should invest and relating this to something that interests them. For children who are skaters, what boards do they like? Which boards are best? They can follow those board companies through stock apps. Because they’re young, they can become dynamic investors over their lifetime.
Do you have any investing advice that applies to everyone?
Invest in things that are important to you and that you want to support. Investing isn’t always buying a mutual fund or a stock. Investing is also where you spend your money, daily. Are you buying local today? Are you buying corporate today? I don’t think many of us realize the power that our dollar has. I’m also a proponent of just enjoying life. If the last two years of the pandemic taught us anything, it is that life is short—even if you live to be 100. It’s important to enjoy the journey.