The racial wealth gap in the United States — the lingering result of centuries of social, economic, and financial barriers to wealth-building — is extreme. According to the U.S. Federal Reserve, “Black and Hispanic or Latino households earn about half as much as the average White household and own only about 15 to 20 percent as much net wealth.”
On Wednesday, October 5, the first annual Wealth Conference (WealthCon) at Temple University brings together investment thought leaders and Black and Brown Philadelphians in an effort to close this gap and build enduring financial stability. The event’s organizers, State Senator Sharif Street and NYCE, a minority-owned real estate development platform, have planned a day of education, discussion, and networking around wealth-building tools such as stocks, real estate, and resources for starting and supporting a business.
Who will be there
Ownership, the theme of WealthCon 2022, is supported by what NYCE calls the “three main pillars” that the conference programming is built around: real estate, entrepreneurship, and financial literacy. The conference is expected to draw more than 1,000 attendees (both in-person and virtual), as well as representatives from state, local, and federal governments, real estate and housing professionals, lenders, educators, and community development leaders. Panels, keynote speakers, and workshops will cover real estate investment opportunities, entrepreneurship, financial planning, financial literacy, and investing in both traditional and newer, technology-based instruments like cryptocurrency and NFTs.
Speakers include Rashaad Lambert of Forbes, fintech platform Republic’s Maria Hope, comedian and Twitch host Vince Chang, Matt Shapson and Michael Hallett of PB+DC, NYCE founder and CEO Philip Michael, and FC Barcelona star Martin Braithwaite, co-founder.
New York-based NYCE is a fintech company whose mission is to create 100,000 millionaires by 2030, primarily through access to its real estate portfolio. Through a partnership with Temple, the company invested in one completed student apartment building, with another in development. It was at the groundbreaking event for new housing last year that Senator Street saw the potential of NYCE’s work in helping to close the wealth gap, and the idea of holding a conference to educate the community about wealth building took off from there.
Street sees WealthCon as an opportunity to empower Philadelphians and create a pipeline to entrepreneurship. “Ultimately, our goal is to demystify financial literacy, fiscal independence, and wealth building to empower individuals and families to create any future they can imagine,” says Street, who has made access to generational wealth-building opportunities a core legislative focus.
The wealth gap refers to the difference in generational wealth and access to wealth-building tools between White Americans and Americans of color, particularly Black and Brown Americans. According to U.S. Census data, the homeownership rate, a primary driver of wealth, is about 76 percent among White households, while Black homeownership sits at less than 45 percent.
According to the Philadelphia Federal Reserve, White homeownership in Philadelphia as of 2019 was at 59 percent, while Black homeownership was 47 percent. Even amongst those who own homes in Philadelphia, White homeowners have a median household income of $77,696, while Black homeowners’ median household income is $47,141.
“Generational wealth is inextricably linked to real estate,” explains Street. “Its acquisition, preservation, and retention all have significant impact on preserving and building generational wealth in communities while combating gentrification.”
Philip Michael, financial influencer
CEO Philip Michael, co-founded NYCE in 2020 alongside his nephew, Martin Braithwaite. A “financial influencer,” Michael has crafted a social-media-savvy, community-minded brand that delivers practical financial advice for even the most inexperienced investors. He has 700,000 followers across his social media platforms, including Instagram and Facebook, where he shares his simple finance tools and practical advice with a stylishly ambitious yet approachable persona.
“It’s basically making what seems like high-level concepts really digestible to folks,” Michael says about his message and mission. “That’s what the whole ethos of the conference is about. I don’t even have the background for any of this. So if I can do it, everybody else can too. He’s got to have that belief in himself. That’s all.”
Born in Denmark, Michael was in New York City in 2014 when his student visa expired, rendering him essentially homeless. He had no social security number and less than $100 to his name. While researching his next steps at a hostel in Queens, he saw the potential of real estate investment. “The New Yorkers who seemed to have the most influence were people in the real estate industry,” he says. “I realized, wow, 80 percent of millionaires are self-made. They’re mainly just holding assets over time.”
So as Michael went through the process of getting a Green Card, he also saved money and bought his first piece of property. “I realized if you put down three and a half percent of, let’s say, $100,000 you only have to put down $3,500.”
An investment tribe comes to Philly
Taking advantage of the economics of owning and renting property, Michael has since developed an investment company with $250 million in assets. “Obviously, we give people access to ownership, but the bigger picture and bigger purpose is really just allowing people the access, giving them the tools, the avenues to invest,” he says. “They don’t teach it in school. It’s not something that you talk about amongst your friends — unless you may have one friend who figured it out and shares it with you. So we just try to be that friend.”
NYCE investors join a community the company has dubbed TRIBE, where fellow investors network and access financial literacy education. The NYCE app, launched in early 2021, is now the vehicle for investing and connecting with the TRIBE community, allowing the app’s 175,000 users to purchase shares in property for as little as $100. “You have to find your tribe, like-minded people that want to level up and don’t have time for complaining,” Michael explains. “We can always find something to complain about, but what do we do about it? What’s the solution in our lives and how can we be better in the lives of the people around us?”
What brought Michael to expand NYCE’s holdings in Philadelphia was, first, the affordability of the market. The growth elements and development dynamic are similar to what New York has to offer, but without what he calls “noise and fluff.” “I don’t have to be a macroeconomist or financial analyst to understand that there’s lots of value here,” he says.
Michael wants WealthCon attendees to expect more than just advice and inspiration: He wants them ready to take action. “I want people to walk away from there feeling as though, Yes, I can actually do this, but then actually do it,” he says. “At the end of the day, the more people that have more, that own, that are engaged in productive talks and collaborations, the less time is spent on nonsense. We’re not going to suddenly have 26 hours, 27 hours in the day. We just have the time that we have to focus our energy and redirect that to something productive. I think that will have a net positive impact on society as a whole.”
Wednesday October 5, 10 am-2 pm, free, Temple University South Hall, 1755 N 13th St.
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NYCE Founder Philip Michael at a NYCE event. Photo courtesy NYCE