Inclusive Finance and the Financial Feminist Summit: With Bravely Go’s Kara Perez

Bitch Nation, it’s time we talk about inclusive finance. It’s a nebulous concept! What constitutes inclusive access to financial products and education? How can we make our economic processes more inclusive of diverse populations? And if inclusivity is the goal, exactly who is currently being excluded?

As you know, I am too pretty to work hard lazy and averse to doing my own research on such an important yet complex topic. So naturally, I invited an expert to do my homework for me.

Enter the indomitable Kara Perez! Owner and founder of Bravely Go, activist for inclusivity and representation in financial education and economic opportunities, and all-around bad-ass. You guys… we are so lucky she lets us hang out with her.

Kara joined me to explain how we can embrace inclusivity in financial media and education and to tell me all about her upcoming event, the Financial Feminist Summit. Our conversation inspired me. It motivated me to do better for my community and my world. And it increased my hair’s natural luster by 32%.

Read on for wisdom and realness from Kara Perez.

Fries. Feminism. All fucks given.

Piggy: Let’s get the important shit out of the way first. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?

Kara: So glad you started with this very important question. I think about it a lot as it’s one of the most pressing issues of our time. French fries. I enjoy a good french fry!

Piggy: You have one of the best missions in financial media. Tell me about what drove you to start Bravely Go.

Kara: There was nothing else out there! When I was in my early twenties I was in debt and making $16,000-$18,000 a year. Very low. Some blogs focus on debt pay-off, but it was either way more debt than I had, like law school debt, or it was credit card debt for families. I wasn’t seeing myself reflected. And I was living with three roommates, I had just started dating someone, I was super low-income… I just wasn’t finding that.

So I thought, “I know there’s more people like me. I’m going to put together a website that interviews other women specifically about this and about money to just reflect this experience back onto the internet.” From there the mission has changed a little bit into being more about inclusive financial education in general. Not just about debt, but about investing and how political policy impacts our personal decisions and how we can be aware of bigger picture issues while also working on small, personal financial problems.

Piggy: You mentioned the intersection of the personal and the political. We both know there’s a debate about whether we should “keep politics out of personal finance.” Clearly that phrase triggers you, so tell me your reaction.

Kara: #sotriggeredrightnow. I’ve always thought that it’s ridiculous to even say that. It’s the most privileged, tone-deaf, wildly head-up-the-ass thing you could say!

Absolutely everything about politics impacts your personal finance. People like to say “Just focus on what you can control.” But if I own a home, property taxes impact my budget. If I don’t own a home, rising and falling rent prices impact my budget. Everything from how and where they grow food to how they deliver it impacts my budget! So it doesn’t make any sense whatsoever.

I think if you’re anything but a straight white man, we know that the space we occupy in the world impacts how much we’re being paid, how much we’re being charged. To not talk about that is dishonest at best, and outright harmful, racist, and sexist at worst.

Kara Perez says inclusive finance is important.
Kara Perez says representation in money matters.

Why representation matters

Piggy: That really goes to the meat and potatoes (here we are circling back to fries) of your philosophy. You’ve just been this tireless advocate for the voices of women and particularly women of color in personal finance. So why do you think inclusivity and representation of marginalized voices matters so much in the personal finance space?

Kara: First and foremost… the people are there. There are a ton of bloggers of color, or queer bloggers, and they’re sharing their stories and not getting the same access as more privileged groups. So I feel more privileged groups—and that includes me—have a responsibility to just pass the mic. That’s always been at the core of what we do.

I used to do a blog series interviewing different people. Now I lend my Instagram stories function to someone [from a marginalized demographic] and they’ll take it over. We’ve done one on indigenous people’s money and two on queer people’s money. You’ve got to pass the mic. We know the United States is really segregated. But when we look at the larger demographics of the country, the country’s just gettin’ browner! The country’s just gettin’ gayer!

Piggy: Gayer and browner. We love to see it!

Kara: To act as if that’s not happening and that we only need to share white people’s money stories, or only tips that work for white people or straight people or married people… it’s ludicrous. Because that’s not the audience! If I’m a queer black woman reading article after article featuring straight white couples, I’m gonna be like “this doesn’t apply to me.” And now either this outlet or the whole world of money has turned me off.

Just from the point of view of someone running a business, turning people off is a bad thing. From a capitalist viewpoint, you should be inclusive! And from a socialist viewpoint, you should be inclusive!

Passing the mic

Piggy: You mentioned the big P-word: privilege. You’re a white-passing Latina, and that gives you a certain amount of privilege as far as who you can speak to and the interests you can represent. What advice would you give to other white-passing POC, white women, or others with privilege that gives them access that others don’t have? How can they use their privilege for good?

Kara: More butts at the table and more voices on the mic is always a good thing. A lot of privileged women, especially in the business world, can feel a level of competition. “Oh, if I share with her, that’ll be less for me.” And the patriarchy totally teaches us that. Because historically, men pick the one “cool girl” and then all other girls are trash.

Piggy: They divide and conquer!

Kara: Yes! So it’s really important to say “If I win, you win. If you win, I win.” It’s going to take the most privileged voices to say that and follow through with that in order to make it a reality.

Next: it’s really hard—as we’ve seen especially in the last year—for white people to show up in non-white spaces or even in white spaces and not make everything about themselves. You have to decouple your intent from your impact and you have to decouple your desires from what the actual needs are. If you just want to be seen as the woke white lady, that’s not the same as being an anti-racist. If you want to be seen as a friend, that’s not the same as being actively pro-queer-folks.

You have to step back and say “Is my voice needed here? If so, in what way is it needed? And how am I able to amplify the message that’s already here?” rather than stepping in and saying “This is my white lady message!”

For example, Latino publications contact me about coverage all the time. So I’ll be like “Yes, I’m happy to be on your list of whatever. Who else is on your list? Is it all Latinas who look like me? Because I can point you to four or five Afro-Latinas who are doing the same thing.”

Piggy: Lifting as you climb!

Kara: Lifting as you climb.

For more on how to lift as you climb, pass the mic, and and use your privilege for good, peep these classic BGR articles:

The Financial Feminist Summit

Piggy: That leads me directly into this conference you’re organizing and hosting: The Financial Feminist Summit. What should our readers know about it?

Kara: I had planned to do it last year, pre-pandemic. What I like best about my work is connecting with other people. Working for yourself, online, can be incredibly isolating. So I wanted to get together with some cool friends and do this thing where no one has to worry about pushback if they use the P-word.

Piggy: The F-word too—feminist.

Kara: Sometimes conferences that ask me to speak say flat-out “You can’t talk about politics here.” And at this summit I want speakers to talk about all of that because that’s what’s missing from this conversation and I want to talk about it. So I want everyone to share what they think is missing from financial media and financial education in general. It’s something I’m really passionate about, something that I wanna see changed, and I wanna be a force for that change But this is not the Kara Perez show! It’s about what moves to the collective. In order to move the collective you have to be part of the collective. So the summit is a chance for you to see and be seen.

Piggy: Who should go to the Financial Feminist Summit?

Kara: I always say that everyone can be a feminist, so everyone is welcome. You don’t have to identify as a woman. You don’t have to identify as a feminist. But really, if I had to niche down to a particular audience, I’d say this is Money 101.5. We have a few basic sessions, and then we have some more advanced sessions.

Piggy: I’m gonna call that Money 102.

Kara: It’s for people who are just beginning or are already a few steps in but need a little bit more help. So if you already have your budget down but you’re confused about how to invest while also paying off your student loans… we have a session on that. If you’re single and you want to know how to manage money as a single pringle, we have a session for that. If you’ve been investing and you’re interested in starting a side hustle or entrepreneurial goals, we have a session on that so come on down!

Piggy: I looked through the program and you’ve got an impressive lineup. What session are you most excited for? What do you think our readers will get the most out of?

Kara: The single women and money session because that’s just something I see very little content around. There are some single people who blog and stuff, but it doesn’t always seem to be a centerpiece of their content. So I’m excited about that one. And I’m so honored that so many great speakers agreed to do the summit.

Conference details

The Financial Feminist Summit is an entirely digital event, which should certainly be more inclusive and increase access. Kara’s putting her money where her mouth is!

Tickets are technically free, with a $10 suggested donation. The conference will use donations to pay the presenters honoraria. We know our bitchlings are not afraid of donor-funded financial education, so we strongly encourage you to attend the conference and donate what you can to show your appreciation.

Join us for “a free summit by and for people who give a sh*t about financial equity” on June 5th and 6th! Get yer details right here!

Inclusive finance post-COVID

Piggy: You mentioned you wanted to do this event last year, but… it sounds like maybe something got in the way??? Maybe some global event occurred to throw off your plans??? Our world has changed significantly and we’re now living in a very different place. And a lot of people who have really suffered during this pandemic are women, low-income women in particular, and people of color in particular. Really, as with most traumatic events, minorities have really come out last, unfortunately. So if you were pitching this summit to a woman who has had a hard time getting through the pandemic and is looking for a plan to recover and get her shit together, what do you think she’s going to get out of the Financial Feminist Summit?

Kara: First, she’s going to get recognition. She’s going to know that she’s seen and that her challenges and her life are acknowledged, haven’t been swept under the rug. I feel like a lot of people think that happened with the government—they didn’t get stimulus checks, the PPP program left them out, and… the government hung them out to dry. So at the summit we will see you and welcome you. Your story matters.

Second, they’re going to get tangible tips. They are going to walk away with an action plan around at least one if not more areas of their financial life. I’m very action-oriented. And that is the most valuable thing the summit has to offer. It’s not just forty minutes of fluff and look-at-how-great-all-the-speakers-are-now-buy-our-courses. There will be tangible takeaways.

Building an inclusive finance community

Piggy: Not only are you an action-oriented person, but you are community-driven. Bravely Go is your company, your initiative, but you’re always talking about it as the Bravely Go community. I think that sense of community and being inclusive is really the best way we can move forward together in a way that will benefit individuals and also the broader community. A rising tide lifts all boats!

Kara: I really appreciate that. I don’t want to get to the top of the mountain alone. Because then I’m alone at the top of a mountain! And it’s scary and cold!

Piggy: Plus, who’s going to take a pic of you up there? Who’s gonna do it for the gram?

Kara: Exactly! I want to get to the top of the mountain and be welcomed by people who have already made it and then I want to turn around and give others a hand up. Community is so important to me and it’s so important to my political ethos of the collective. We don’t win as individuals. We win as a community.

Something that we also do on our Instagram every couple months is a debt drop. I just say my partner T-Bone and I are giving away $100-$200. Just comment, you don’t have to follow, and I will Venmo you the money. If you feel so moved, while you’re reading through the comments… find someone else to support! And I cry every time I do this because people will be like “Hey I’m a teacher, it’s been a shit year, I would love a little support,” and then for someone to Venmo them $100… [facial expression of ineffable wonder and gratitude]. The community lifts itself and I just… that’s what I want. I don’t need to be the next Oprah. I need to be part of the group that’s making change.

If you want to help Kara erase the debt of those in need with her monthly debt drops, follow her on Instagram. And join her Bravely Go community on Facebook.

We look forward to seeing each and every one of you at the Financial Feminist Summit next month! Truly, it shall be a grand affair. For more information and tickets, click the button below.

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