Lawrence is thoughtful, articulate, and on a mission to deliver financial literacy to the world!
Over the past 7 years, Lawrence Gonzalez has served as an Auditor for the US government. His primary role encompasses auditing over $4.2 billion dollars of government funds dispersed throughout 48 unique jurisdictions as well as Financial Assistance and International Programs Compliance. However, his true passion is Financial literacy. Lawrence disseminates poignant financial literacy education with some brevity through articles, resources, worksheets, and speaking engagements aimed at providing solutions to socio-economic disparities affecting Black and Brown communities. It's all about tackling money even if you have -$125,000 in debt.
Meet Lawrence at the Millennial Money Matters Summit 12/12/2020 @ Noon EST.
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This interview was transcribed from video with some gentle editing for clarity.
Lawrence, you shared with me that you were raised by five aunties, who reminded you of the Spice Girls. How do you feel that your upbringing and transitioning from Haiti to the United States impact your higher education? How did you then become empowered to teach others financial literacy?
If I had to go back, one, I grew up in Haiti, I was actually born in the US, my mom was a single mom, so she couldn't take care of me and my older sister, I guess, two years older than me at the time, she was two. So she sent both of us, me first, to Haiti, and then eventually, my sister showed up. So we're living there with all the other extra aunts, and I do have two uncles that would come in and out every once in a blue, but they did remind me of the Spice Girl's completely. Each one of them had their own specific thing that they did that was just innate to them. I had one who was sporty, who was also more of a tomboy. She was the one that's more disciplinarian, and she taught us everything about math or anything to that extreme. Then you have one of my aunts who was like a dancer, but more a free spirit. So if you think about girlfriends, it's probably like that. There's a serious one that does the small business. Then there's another one that kind of does more to child-rearing, making sure that everybody getting to school, makes sure everybody's getting fed. So she's holding down the households, and there is always this like dichotomy of different people there.
By 5am in the morning, we're all up. Haiti is a different place because we have rolling blackouts. At nighttime, pretty much around seven to eight, nine, the lights get cut off. The only thing you have to do is sleep. You wake up in the morning. So the idea of being a morning person, or an evening person, it didn't exist, you just wake up in the morning, everybody was up by five, that and everybody had a job to do. So it was kind of like, we got to go with it when you have a household of eight people and maybe even four or five kids at the time, everybody has got to get dressed. There's a sequence and you seen it in parents, they always have this sequence of like, who's taking the shower, who's not taking a shower, who's eating, who's getting out the door, who's getting dressed, all of that happening as one because we all have a job to do.
I remember my aunt, the first two times I went to kindergarten, she walked me to kindergarten, she told me to remember the location, remember where it is. Then, probably three or four days after, it was my job to just walk myself. It might have been maybe, four or five blocks or something, but you just kind of go do it yourself.
Additionally, when I went to the next level, I think, elementary school, if I had to gauge it, I had to get in the car. She's like, "hey, remember this route." Even as a kid, you're four years old, you're like, what's going on? Remember this route. It was, every time, remember this location. So I remember where I was based off of every turn of the car, whatever it is, because after a certain time, she was just gonna leave me in that truck. And she's like because he has to go to work.
So everybody had a purpose. For kids, we had a job, and our job was education. We noticed that people that actually got more and more education had a better life, right? So they improve their standards of life. It was never a question about why should I go to school? It was never a question of what I need to learn. It was the fact that I need to learn as much as possible because that's just our job. If their job is to go to work, our job is to actually do better in school.
My aunts were fierce, disciplinarians. We also had a tutor that came in on Saturdays to teach us more in math, especially in the summertime when schools were out. And hey, if I didn't get it, right, he would tell her, and she would make me right. This is the way it is. So for me, the math was already ingrained. We had to learn all our math, especially the multiplication tables; it was always there. I loved it all the way through, and eventually, I did see one time when the door swung closed, my aunt flipped out this notepad, and it had a whole bunch of numbers. It turned out to be in the ledger. At the time, I didn't know what it was; I just knew that was important to her. She was always writing down everything because they had a little small business when they were selling Coca Cola or a little cafe type of scenario. She had all the ledger information, and I thought that was so important so that I needed to learn that.
I started noticing, okay, she saved some money out here, she saved some money out there, I started, instead of actually getting on the car on the buses, I literally started walking so I could save my own money. For me, financial literacy was just part of what we did. It was never something I had to question, as much as I had to embrace. From that point, because my family was a very much community focused family, we always gave back. Therefore, it was never a question for me to give back to somebody else.
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