‘Exposure is Everything’ for Financial Success

Entrepreneurial family says financial literacy set them on the right path.

August 29, 2012

The McNeill family of Miami is a living example of financial literacy leading to financial empowerment.

Members from three generations of this entrepreneurial family visited the CUNA campus in Madison, Wis., last week to discuss how financial literacy changed their lives.

“The McNeills are the prototypical family that we would like to showcase and have families replicate, especially in communities of color,” says Bob Wynn, board member at Asset Builders of America, a nonprofit that promotes financial literacy.

The McNeills addressed the 12th Annual Madison Money Conference presented by Asset Builders. CUNA is among the sponsors.

The contingent of family members included Ann McNeill, CEO of MCO Construction Management; her daughter, Ionnie McNeill, CEO of The Baby Billionaire Inc.; and her grandson, Malachi Munroe, CEO of The Lil' Technology Professor.

The family extolled the importance of financial literacy as a path to success.

“Exposure is everything,” says Ionnie McNeill. “An early start with this information almost guarantees success. When you’re young, you don’t have the preconceived notion or concept that you can’t get it.”

At age 14, Ionnie got a part-time job for the sole purpose of funding a retirement account. Each year she contributes the maximum amount allowed by law. Now, if she didn’t put any more money in the account she says she’d have more than $2 million by age 65.

Inspired by the book “Think and Grow Rich,” which examines the success of American industrialist Andrew Carnegie, Ann McNeill realized in 1979 she had to take control of her personal finances.

“Seldom do we stop and put in place a plan,” she says. “I realized that I’m responsible for my financial situation. I realized that without a plan of action about how I’m going to save and how I’m going to invest, there’s no way I’m going to reach my goals.”

Eventually, McNeill found success in the construction business as the first black female contractor in Florida.

The Lil’ Tech Professor

Like his grandmother, Malachi Munroe came up with a plan.

The 13-year-old grew up in an environment where everybody around him had businesses, including a father with a computer business in the Bahamas.

“Everybody in my family owns a business, and I thought I want to join in on this and be my own boss,” Munroe says.

His business, The Lil’ Technology Professor, teaches people around the world how to use technology effectively.

“I’ve been working with technology ever since I was born,” Munroe says. “I was talking with the doctor to see what kind of technology he was going to use on my mom to help me get out.”

The way Munroe and many young people grow up today—fluent with technology—is exactly how people need to grow up with financial literacy, Ionnie says.

The key is getting information to sink in through action. Teaching young people about financial literacy is not enough; they have to develop action plans and follow up.

“It’s always about the implementation,” she says. “The reason that I built the net worth that I have is that I acted on information at a very young age. There’s a difference between knowing that I need to eat vegetables and drink water and actually doing it. You can only recognize the benefits when you do it.”

After education, encourage kids to buy a share of stock of a product they enjoy. This takes the mystery out of investing, Ionnie says.

“Once you begin as a child to receive your statements and see how your money is growing, there’s really no more that your parents have to tell you, because you see the results,” she says.