If the COVID-19 pandemic has made you more anxious about money, you’re not alone. Over 75% of individuals are significantly more nervous about their personal finances and financial future, according to a Thrive Global original survey of 5,000 Americans. In these uncertain times, protecting ourselves from the harmful physical and emotional effects of money stress is more critical than ever — and hearing the financial stories of others can help. In this series, Thrive is asking personal finance experts, business owners, and other savvy professionals to reveal the hard-earned money wisdom they wish they could go back and give to their younger selves. 

As CEO of Jopwell, a career advancement platform for Black, Latinx, and Native American students and professionals, Porter Braswell believes in empowering his employees — especially when it comes to them earning their worth. “I’m very transparent about how I think people should ask for raises,” he told Thrive Global. 

His advice? It’s all about coming to the table with leverage, when you’ve proved to be an indispensable asset to your workplace — and then being frank about your contributions. “Come to me and say, ‘This is what I’ve done, here are my results. Now let’s have a conversation about how we’re going to increase my comp to reflect what I’ve been able to produce for you,’” Braswell says. “Put me in a position where I better pay to keep you. That’s part of business, and it’s the way business should be done.”

In his recent book, Let Them See You, a “guide to getting hired, being promoted, and thriving professionally for the 40 million people of color in the workplace,” Braswell provides tons of guidance for navigating your career. As for the financial wisdom he wished he’d learned earlier? Read on for his never-too-late-to-learn lessons.

On giving yourself bonuses: 

When I was working in finance earlier in my career, there was this saying that you should live off of your salary and you save your bonuses. (In finance you get a bonus every year, and if you save your bonuses throughout your career, you’d be fine for retirement.)

But now that I am growing my own business and I’m working on a start-up, there’s no such thing as a bonus. That’s not a thing. So I’ve decided to put a certain percentage of my paycheck away. The exact percentage varies: I like to save anywhere from 10% to 20% of each paycheck. It gets moved directly into my savings. What’s great is that when I look back on the year, it still feels like I got a bonus, because I never saw that capital that I put away. 

On the importance of preparing for a financial crisis: 

I’ll admit, I should’ve been more aware of how important it is to budget and prepare for something like what’s happening now with the pandemic. As a person who graduated from college in 2011, I missed the last financial crisis. I never lived through something like that as a professional, where the good times can come to a very abrupt end. 

Now as I’ve watched what can happen to the economy practically overnight, I have a new perspective. I’ve learned how important it is to budget for the future and to save for unexpected life events. Budgeting needs to be a long-term strategy — it’s not just about what you need right now.

On knowing where every dollar goes:

I’ve learned that if you’re incredibly focused on how you’re spending money, it’s easier for budgeting to just become a lifestyle. I always know where my money is; I review my daily spending like somebody would scroll through Instagram. When my wife and I look at where our money goes, we ask ourselves: Did it bring us some form of utility? Did it bring us some form of excitement? Did we spend money when we didn’t need to spend money? We also look at how our spending habits have changed over time. It’s very similar to how I approach business finances — just always know where the cash is. Cash is king. 

On values-based spending:

I thought I was going to be a way stiffer parent, but I am so soft with my child. You see this person and you’re just like, “I’ll do anything for you!” It’s tough because every day there’s a new gadget, or a new important thing to buy — but you really have to say no to things and stick to your budget. You have to restrain yourself from buying things just because they’re available. You also have to prevent yourself from running other people’s races — including their financial ones. With Instagram, you see all the things that parents are buying for their kids, and you want to buy the same stuff. But a lot of times the purchase winds up being more for you than it was for your kids, which you realize when they grow out of the outfit or lose interest in the toy in three months.

So before we make a purchase, my wife and I try to go back to our values and ask, Why am I buying this? Does it bring joy to my life? There’s such a volume of stuff out there that our values can get lost at times. I think we’ve done a good job, but it’s something we need to constantly be mindful of.

On giving — no matter how small the amount:

The great thing about giving is that there’s no set number that you need to give away. It’s whatever you feel in your heart, and it’s whatever you can afford, and it’s whatever you feel that can make an impact. It could be a dollar, it could be $100, it could be in the thousands. But I do feel as a human being, especially in the world in which we live now, if you’re fortunate enough to have something, you should give freely and with your full heart. And I do think that there is this motion with the world where if you can do good, then the world does well by you, too.


  • Alexandra Hayes

    Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive

    Alexandra Hayes is a Content Director, Product & Brand, at Thrive. Prior to joining Thrive, she was a middle school reading teacher in Canarsie, Brooklyn.