Naima next to the logo of her knitted item business, Knits by Naima.
Cover Image © Naima Barnes

Black Perspectives #11: Naima Barnes (Financial Planner & Business Owner)

Knits & Bits…

SSD: Ok, let’s level-set for the remainder of the interview…

As a Financial Planner and business owner — how do YOU personally define wealth, and where are you trying to head for yourself in terms of your own financial goals?

NB: For me, having wealth means that I am able to use my time as I please. My money is working for me and creating opportunities, and I don’t have to wonder, “How am I going to pay for this?” My money is giving me time to do what I want – travel the world, spend time with those I love, and do things for myself comfortably.

Naima Barnes somewhere amazing.

My goals are to own a few more properties in the coming years by leveraging my current property. Continuing to save and invest for the future so “Future Naima” can live the life she wants – and the shortest term goal: Pay for my wedding.

SSD: What do you hope to accomplish as you continue with what you’re doing?

NB: As a Financial Planner, I hope to be able to reach as many people as possible to help them understand their finances, [and get them to] where they are making sound decisions. I want there to be more Black people who have accumulated wealth for themselves and their families. The current statistic for Black Financial Planners is less than 5% (CFP Board – 2021). My goal is to help increase this number by partnering with local HBCUs (Historically Black Colleges and Universities) for access and awareness of the Financial Planning industry.

SSD: Was Knits by Nama a result of your knowledge as a financial planner (e.g. have multiple streams of revenue, own a business for tax purposes, etc.), and if so – what specifically in your financial planning background pushed you to be a business owner? Or are the two completely separate?

NB: Knits by Naima was a completely separately fueled passion. I believe that satisfying both the right and left sides of your brain can bring you some career peace — not yearning for more in your career or trying to change paths. Knits by Naima was a way for me to be able to do that. Financial Planning is very much a right-brained field – lots of numbers, analysis, etc. Whereas Knits by Naima is my creative outlet.

SSD: Why start a business geared toward knitting (which I imagine is time-consuming) vs. a business in being a financial planner independently (or do you do that, too)? Can you comment on the value of pursuing creative passions WHILE making money, too?

NB: I became an accidental business owner with Knits by Naima. One of my best friends said I should sell my things and that was what sparked me starting a business. I will say it is difficult to have a business but especially a business where you have to make every single item.

Knits by Naima is not for me to become wealthy, but more for me to feel a sense of pride when I see someone with my items or loving my items.

So much yarn, so little time.

SSD: Fair – fair…

How do you balance having a day job AND your passion as a small business owner? What tips do you have around knowing what to prioritize and when?

NB: For me, I make use of my out-of-work time. I use evenings after work and the weekends to work on my business. When you just start out with a small business, you wear many hats. You are the marketing, tech support, sales, the CEO, the design team, HR, legal, etc. So you have to learn all those things for your business.

As for tips, time blocking helps a lot – and structuring your weekends so you can have fun AND build your business, so [that] you don’t become burnt out.

SSD: As a Financial Planner who I imagine has heard a lot of stories, what would you say are the top 2-3 mistakes people are making with their money (not in too much detail — I’m not asking you to give away your sauce for free)? And what would you recommend to them to begin to remedy those issues?

NB: The biggest mistakes people make are spending more than they make and not paying themselves first. Before the money even hits your account, direct a portion of it elsewhere to save for your future self.

Additionally, figure out ways to cut unnecessary expenses if you are living beyond your means. Do you really need all of those TV subscriptions? Are you eating out AND buying groceries weekly? These little changes can add up over time without sacrificing too much.

SSD: Have you had a moment that made you extremely proud as a financial planner (e.g. helping a client realize a big goal) or as the owner of Knits by Naima (e.g. making a HUGE sale or hitting a personal goal you had there)? If so, tell us about it.

NB: Yes! Recently, actually. I had been helping a client to sort out the Public Student Loan Forgiveness waiver — speaking with the representatives at the Department of Education, sorting through the documents she received, filling out the documents — and she was able to get over $200k in student loans forgiven well before she was supposed to! When she called to tell me about it, I almost cried tears of joy because I know how big of a burden was just lifted off of her shoulders.

With Knits by Naima, I have a friend who bought a baby blanket for her first child, and every time I see pictures of him doing normal baby things, he has his blanket with him. He loves it so much and that makes me extremely proud that he has something I made for him to cherish forever.

As Black People, we do need to become financially literate…

Naima Barnes

SSD: I’m going to use the baby as my segue…

What are your thoughts on “generational wealth” as a financial planner and a business owner?

I know from many articles that I’ve read, and just “living life”, that there is a gap between different racial groups when it comes to the presence of financial wealth and prosperity – so, I’m curious where you take this one.

NB: There is a HUGE racial wealth gap and there are tons of articles about it. However, I do believe that “generational wealth” has become somewhat of a buzzword. A major part of the reason for the wealth gap is because of systemic racism — redlining, Jim Crow laws and those that were put in place afterward, the disparities in education, food deserts (I could go on and on about how this affects generational wealth).

I do also think that providing your children with a sound financial literacy background will help them to create generational wealth because it only takes one generation to destroy the wealth that previous generations have created.

As Black People, we do need to become financially literate, save for the future, spend less than we make, have the proper life insurance and create an estate plan for what we want our family to inherit (even if it isn’t much).

SSD: Last question…

Earlier in this interview you said, “[I]t took me a while to realize that my Blackness doesn’t look like what you see on TV.” Can you elaborate on that?

I think it’s valuable to probe what people see on TV vs. the realities that are out there when it comes to Black folk.

NB: Growing up, I would get teased because I didn’t talk “Black”. I didn’t come from the stereotypical single-parent household, or from a broken home. It was the very opposite. A stable loving home where I had not only my parents, but my grandma who lived with us, and great-aunt, great-grandma, and my grandparents who lived close by.

A lot of what people perceive of Blackness comes from the tropes that we internalized from TV: welfare queen, hoodrat, ghetto fabulous, etc. and I wasn’t that. I grew up loving *NYSNC, Brittany Spears, AND The Spice Girls ALONG WITH Destiny’s Child, Usher, and Aaliyah.

I’ve always been proud to be Black, but once I realized that there is no “one-size fits all” for Blackness, I felt even more comfortable in my skin.

Naima standing outside in the snow blowing a kiss to the camera as she wears one of her own handmade hats.

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