The following conversation was conducted over email and edited for flow and clarity.
We had to share Jala Eaton’s inspiring story with you. Hope this interview motivates you to start investing and do your estate planning from an earlier age. These small realizations will lead to opportunities for minority communities to truly build generational wealth and thrive.
Jala Eaton is the founder of On My Own Financial. She empowers Black communities across the nation to build and protect their wealth in non-traditional ways. She seeks to create an inclusive and diverse financial ecosystem where Black people understand their money and the fees they pay when allowing others to manage or invest it.
Acquania Escarne from Wealth Noir (WN): Jala, welcome. I am excited to share your story with Wealth Noir readers. Let’s get right into it. How did you get started in the personal finance and estate planning space?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: In law school, I took a Trusts and Wills class because it was a required class, and I fell in love. From there, I ended up passing the bar and working at a bank as a trust administrator for the ultra-wealthy. When I saw $100M in a trust owned by one man who still did his own banking it made me want to figure out the key to building wealth. I came up with three points and this happened to be three major things my community was not doing or did not know they should be doing. I realized we needed to understand money (financial literacy), start investing (so money works for us) and do estate planning (create trusts and have wills).
WN: That is so true. I am glad your experience fueled you to change things for Black communities. Can you explain to our readers what is estate planning and why does it matter?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: Estate planning is the management of your money during times when you are unable to manage it yourself. My approach to estate planning is not a traditional approach. Estate planning is much like financial planning but requires an attorney to draft documents and explain terms because most of the documents involved convey authority allowing others to act on your behalf. Estate planning doesn’t always mean planning for your death; it could mean planning for times you are out of the country and unable to pay a bill or sign a document in person.
WN: That’s a great way to explain it. When should someone start thinking about estate planning? Is it at a certain age or life milestone?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: When you choose to start estate planning is a personal decision. In most states, like California, for example, you are legally allowed to start estate planning at 18 years old. Since we don’t know what life holds for us, I always recommend you start early.
Since over 50% of people in the United States do not have a plan, I often help my clients create a free will and continue to educate them so they know that these documents should be updated at least once a year. Even when you believe you don’t have any assets you should have a plan.
WN: I know firsthand how hard it can be to talk to your parents about their finances and wealth. My mom was so against having the conversation and always said, “Oh, it doesn’t matter. I am leaving everything to you.” However, I had no clue what “everything” was or where it was. Can you give our readers tips on how to talk to their parents or other family members about estate planning?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: Most generations were taught not to speak about money. Millennials are quickly realizing why that is a terrible thing. Most people don’t understand money because they didn’t have anyone to talk to about it when they were growing up. The best thing you can do to get your parents on board is to learn as much about the probate process as possible.
If they won’t talk to you about money, you can inform them of the potential court battle they are setting you up for. When someone dies with or without a will, everything they own enters probate and is inventoried and the family must petition the court. During this process, if there is a will, it is published to the world in order to give creditors, people you owe money to, notice. Even if you are an only child and legally should inherit everything, a creditor can make a claim against the estate for money owed.
If the family decides to bring in an attorney to help with probate, then that attorney will get a percentage of the estate. This is by law. There are also court costs. Does anyone else see money unnecessarily floating away? Estate planning while you are capable of managing your own finances is much cheaper than probate!
Tell your family member, “You worked hard for your money, do you really want to see it go to the state, court and creditors? Or do you want to see it transfered to the people you actually love and care about?”
You can also lead by example and explain to your parents that you have already completed your estate planning and it was a painless process.
WN: Those are some great tips. What kind of services or products do you offer your clients? Who is your target audience?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: On My Own Financial offers education first and foremost. When you know better you do better. I’m on Instagram daily offering financial planning and estate planning information for free.
I have two books on estate planning, which use real life case studies like Nipsey Hussle, Prince and John Singleton, to name a few, to explain the importance of estate planning.
I offer full estate plan drafting for California residents and financial planning to people worldwide. Everything I do is virtual, we meet on Zoom and discuss your goals and create an action plan.
WN: Could more conversations about wealth transfer and money in Black communities help close the wealth gap?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: I truly believe empowering Black communities economically is the way to build wealth and close the gap. When you understand your money and have a trusted fiduciary advisor, it is much harder for you to fall into the systematic traps we are led into.
The worst trap we have been led into is the myth that estate planning is only for the rich. When we don’t do estate planning, our wealth leaves our community and the next generation is left to fend for themselves. They start at a disadvantage. Imagine starting your life knowing that college was paid for, or that you could purchase your first home and not have to worry about making payments. What would that free you up to work on?
Would you be able to build your business or leave your job for something you are actually passionate about?
WN: That’s inspiring. If Black millennials didn’t have to worry about student loan debt or had the capital to start businesses, we could be unstoppable. What made you want to go into business for yourself?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: Business for me was all about investing in myself. I knew I wanted to help people who looked like me and I had never been able to do that with any of my employers because “we” didn’t meet their criteria. They didn’t believe in our potential to become wealthy.
WN: So, tell us, what is the most common question you get asked or you see come across from your community or followers?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: I am constantly asked about how to start investing or at what age to start estate planning.
Investing is all about planning for the long term and doing your research. I tell my community to start with their 401(k) and learn as much as they can about it. It’s a good way to learn what you need to know in a controlled environment. Then you can branch out into starting your own brokerage account.
Estate planning should be done as early as possible, especially because we don’t know how long we are here.
WN: Is there any particular childhood memory you remember that helped influence the person you are today?
Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial: I remember watching my parents as a child. They were money personality opposites. My dad was the spender and my mom was the saver. He was willing to take a risk and she was risk-averse. It was interesting that I ended up being a little like each of them. I’m fine with saving and investing for the long term, but, every now and then, I like to take a risk. My biggest risk to date was creating On My Own Financial LLC and while it’s a risk I have never regretted, I never in a million years saw myself doing this.
WN: Yeah. So many entrepreneurs don’t see themselves becoming entrepreneurs in the beginning. Before we part, are there any exciting products or offerings you have coming up? Anything you are currently working on now?
Soon, I will be launching more financial planning options:
- The On My Own Financial 12-Month Financial Planning Program (“Wealth Bestfriend™”) includes a complete financial plan and ongoing support to implement your plan. With a total of 12 calls (usually 4 strategy calls and the rest are check-in calls), unlimited email support, advocate calls (if needed), a list of action steps, and monthly financial webinars. We shoot to work on 100% of your financial life and answer the questions you didn’t know you had.
- The On My Own Financial 3-Month Program (“Let’s Get It Done”) is three strategy calls and one onboarding call. This is for people that just need the financial plan and are able to navigate it on their own after a few months. It doesn’t have the financial webinars because it is strictly and intensely focused on providing actionable steps to achieve your stated goals. No distractions.
Last but not least is the no-commitment option Ask Me Anything / Pick My Brain Session, which is usually for those seeking financial planning advice by the hour. You can ask anything and everything. Some people use this time to go over mortgage options, investing account reviews, and/or to make sure they have accountability when goal setting and making action plans.
WN: Jala thank you for sharing your expertise about estate planning with Wealth Noir readers. We are so glad to hear from you. I hope everyone takes your advice to start investing and doing estate planning now!
Acquania Escarne is the creator of The Purpose of Money, a community of women building generational wealth for their families one dollar at a time. As an entrepreneur, real estate investor, and licensed insurance agent, Acquania has always been passionate about financial literacy. On her website, Acquania blogs about ways to help you improve your money habits, create wealth, and invest in real estate. Follow Acquania on social media for daily tips.