A car accident in 2012 left Ruby Taylor with a brain injury that pushed her into retirement as a school social worker. She then faced eviction from her condo. The parent of a former student, who was helping Taylor with some financial and legal advice, asked her if she had any investments to fall back on. She didn’t. However, that moment gave her an idea for a business: closing the racial wealth gap through financial literacy and education. Here’s how she navigated those early days, and how she hopes her efforts will pay off for Black and Brown kids. –As told to Gabrielle Bienasz
I was going home one day and I came to a red light. When the light turned green, I went. A car came out of nowhere and turned right in front of me. It was a T-bone.
I went to the neurologist, and they said I had a traumatic brain injury. The doctors have you do tests to see where you are cognitively, and they give you names, like Michael, John, Peter, Ralph. Later, they ask, “What were those names that I gave you?” I couldn’t give back the names. I broke down. I was so emotional and very angry at that time at myself that I could not do those basic tasks.
After the accident, my students’ parents came to check on me, give me food, take me out. I had formed bonds with them because, as a social worker, I was there 24/7 for the kids, and they saw that. One of my students’ parents said, “Ruby, so, what about your savings? Do you have investments?” I said, “Investments, what?” Then they educated me about stocks, mutual funds, IRAs. It made me realize I had not built up wealth even though I was working.
I was a social worker, and I lived that life. Money didn’t matter to me. If I had it, and somebody needed it, that’s where it went. I paid for a private nurse for my mother and private school for my nephew. And I covered whatever my students needed. The district that I worked for in Lancaster, Pennsylvania, ran the gamut with socioeconomic status. But the majority of my students came from impoverished backgrounds. I would create book clubs, take them out, buy them clothes and sneakers. It was stupid. I didn’t know you weren’t supposed to give your last dollar.
And I know there are so many people like me. When I had that conversation with my student’s parent, it hit me then that generational wealth is a major problem within the Black community, and it’s not because of working–we work hard. Some of us don’t have the financial literacy to make the decisions needed to close the wealth gap. Systemic racism contributes to this lack of knowledge. I read that by 2053, African Americans’ median net worth will be zero.
I was tenured within the school system. So, after the accident, I did get retirement and disability. I spoke to the condo association, made them aware of my circumstances, and then began to do payments. With a medication, Aricept, which helps your short-term memory, the doctors, and a whole lot of prayer, I was able to begin to feel like myself maybe two years later.
Still, I wasn’t able to do full social work because of my injury. I felt I had to find another way to empower, inspire, and make a difference in our world. I decided to figure out what I could do to help Black and Brown kids close the wealth gap.
I thought about some of the tools I used to use as a social worker. My kids at school used to love games. There is a socialization that occurs when kids play card or board games that helps information stick. I used to use games to teach my students social skills. I figured, if I can do that with a game, I can also teach them financial literacy. If they can learn about careers, investments, and assets in a fun way, that is a way for me to make a difference.
I began to ask the young people in my life, “What types of card games do you like?” Everybody said, “I love Uno.” So, I’m like, I’m going to do a “pick a card” type of game, but with wealth. I began to reach out to people who have card games to give me tips and educate me on what to do, and from there began to create the structure of the game, called Legacy!
There are five rounds in Legacy! In the first round, you pick a career. I wanted to expose kids to different careers beyond social worker, teacher, policeman–people they see regularly. I also wanted to show them how much money they can make in different careers, teach them to pick careers that will pay them a salary commensurate with their student-debt level.
The next round is investments. Once you have your career, you need to invest your money. Let’s make that money work for you. You can’t just give it away. After that, it’s assets. Even with my jacked-up finances, I did own my condo. If I had been renting, they would have kicked me out.
When I finalized the structure, I hired a graphic designer who was also an artist to create a concept deck. For the deck’s colors, I chose purple and gold to represent royalty–the kind of legacy building that lasts for centuries.
My friend suggested I do a Kickstarter after creating the concept deck to see if people wanted the product. My goal was $500 minimum, but we raised $6,298, which is twice my monthly income. I used that money to build an amazing site and hire a company to make the cards. And that’s where people can preorder the game, which will begin shipping in December 2020.
My 2021 plan is to focus on direct to consumer. Now I’m going to steadily create awareness about the game by contacting banks, organizations, churches, friends, and family, and trying to build relationships with corporations that are also trying to close the wealth gap. Then, eventually, I can hire somebody to handle retail.
Because of my injury, I have to pace myself and my brain. And I am a Black disabled lesbian stutterer–I just check every damn box. But I don’t have somebody saying, you should listen to her, even if she stumbles. If you just wait, she has something good to say. But that doesn’t stop me. I’m going to still say what I have to say. I’m still going to keep on pushing. I give myself the grace to know I’m limited–but I am not unable.