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Meet Jala Eaton of On My Own Financial in South LA

Today we’d like to introduce you to Jala Eaton.

Jala, please share your story with us. How did you get to where you are today?
I’m from South LA, I’ve lived off of Vernon and Crenshaw practically my whole life. College is where my life began to change. I got married sophomore year to a Navy sailor and decided to graduate a year early because he was leaving the state. I was 20 years old at the time and didn’t have a real relationship with money.

Growing up, my mom always saved and my dad lived a more lavish life. My mom was a teacher so her focus was that I get an education, so I had never had a real job while I was in school and now I had a degree and I was someone’s wife in a different state.

I thought my degree would open all the doors and it didn’t. I worked for $7 an hour in one of the most expensive places in the country. This fueled my desire to go to law school because I loved the law and I definitely thought I would make more money. It was a struggle to get into law school but I managed to finish my first year in the top of my class. Still, I graduated with $200k in student loan debt and made about $65K a year after passing the CA bar. While much better than $7 an hour, this was not enough to pay the $2000 a month for my student loans AND survive in Los Angeles. But I paid what I could and still continue to pay.

Fell in love with Trust and Wills in law school and I was told, “If you really want to understand trusts and wills you should go to work for a bank as a trustee.” I took his advice and I ended up at Wells Fargo (two months before the scandal broke) as a trust administrator. It was there my eyes were opened to a whole new world. As a trust administrator, I like to say “I gave the wealthy allowances” as I was responsible for the investment, distribution, and safekeeping of millions of dollars.

One day while staring at a $100,000,000 account balance owned by one man I wondered how someone could amass that much money and it hit me that I had never seen a trust that didn’t start with an estate plan and contain stocks and bonds, a business, and/or real estate. I also realized that none of my clients looked like me yet this was all attainable for my community if we were given the knowledge and access. I escaped Wells Fargo and went to a smaller firm where I really learned to invest and earned my Certified Trust and Financial Advisor designation and from there all I wanted to do was share my knowledge with people of color who might have no idea that they could create generational wealth.

I left my six-figure job and created On My Own Financial with a mission to empower people of color to build and protect their wealth through financial literacy and estate planning.

We’re always bombarded by how great it is to pursue your passion, etc – but we’ve spoken with enough people to know that it’s not always easy. Overall, would you say things have been easy for you?
Being a full-time entrepreneur has been unbelievably hard for me. My business is tough because it is focused on taboo topics: death and money. It’s a blessing to have full control of a business but its culture shock when you have never had so much control and always worked in a corporate setting. I’ve had to realize that my business does not have to do things the traditional way, I can have a virtual business and tailor my estate planning audience to Millenials instead of the older generations.

Millennials need the most help now to handle inheritances (if any) and only have a limited time to accumulate wealth. Without the knowledge of what we need to do the racial wealth gap will continue to widen every year. Currently, White households have nine times more net worth than households of color. (Source: CFED’s “Treading Water in the Deep End,” (2014).) According to the Economic Policy Institute, One-fifth of African American families have a net worth of $0 or below; 75 percent have less than $10,000 for retirement.

I’ve also had to turn down a lot of money because of my ethics. I hated that the corporations I worked for were never shy about being unethical but part of why I do what I do is to save people from being taken advantage of. That’s why the core of my business is education, “if you teach a person to fish they will eat for a lifetime.”

We’d love to hear more about your work.
I founded On My Own Financial with a mission to empower people of color to build and protect their wealth through financial literacy and estate planning. What that truly means is I educate people about options they may not know existed. For example: using a self-directed retirement account to purchase real estate, obtaining passive income from the stock market, raising their credit score, qualifying for a mortgage, paying off debt, or something as simple as obtaining a high yield savings account to make more than a penny a month in interest.

I wanted people to know they could handle their finances on their own. I am a fiduciary which means I have a legal duty to act in the best interest of my client and I help my clients remain accountable when building new healthy habits. Therefore I am a flat fee-based business (no hourly charges), and there are no hidden commissions. I value honesty and integrity and my clients come to me because they know they can trust me.

As a licensed attorney, I draft estate plans and make sure you have a plan for your life and possessions (whether those are shoe collections, social media accounts, pets, homes, family heirlooms or a classic/exotic car.) Estate Plans include a financial power of attorney, advanced healthcare directive, a Will and/or a Trust. I draft from scratch so the plans are flexible and the client makes all the decisions on how the plans work. Services include a thorough explanation of how the documents work and the client has two years to make changes their plan for free. This ensures the client that they have a say in what happens to the items they worked hard for while they were here on earth instead of letting the state decide which can result in unfair decisions.

There are three broad financial literacy topics I teach as a financial advisor. Debt management, Investing, and Estate Planning. First, I help people create a plan to get out of debt while helping them to understand interest rates, credit/fico scores, money mindsets and buying assets. Then, I teach them the principles of investing (stocks, bonds, index funds, return on investment) so that they can start a brokerage account and begin to invest themselves rather than relying on someone else and paying high fees. Income helps families get by, but savings and investments help them get ahead. After they have built their nest egg and hit their goals we make sure they have an estate plan in place and understand the benefits of a trust/will.

For those who don’t believe they are ready for an attorney/financial advisor, my Instagram is where I provide daily insightful information about debt, investing, and estate planning for free. Most attorneys have never administered a trust so they don’t have the background knowledge that I have and most financial advisors can not legally draft an estate plan. I’m proud that my credentials are being used for a wonderful purpose.

What were you like growing up?
I was a shy, quiet child. I have always listened more than I spoke. I had a phase where I loved dressing like Aaliyah (I loved that she was a tomboy like me). I was good at sports but usually too shy to join the team, I sang but never joined the choir. Yet I always had a large social circle because I could fit in with everyone.

I never liked to follow the crowd, and getting dressed up for me included a large FUBU jersey and sweats (I love causal wear and my socks intentionally never matched and still don’t). Just growing up in Los Angeles was amazing. I remember seeing my first concert at the Greek theater (N’sync). I’m a music lover so I love going to concerts especially when Beyonce comes to town.

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