The power of financial education has made a huge difference in Martinez White’s life. It has helped him to escape poverty and to pursue his dreams. White’s mission, he says, is to get people talking about the principles of financial empowerment and to inspire intergenerational wealth in emerging communities.
“I want people to be able to see what is possible and what they are capable of achieving,” White tells Madison365. “I want them to see that it’s possible to come from domestic poverty and ascend to financial freedom through the power of desire. That’s where it all starts.”
Since June, White has been helping put people on the path to financial freedom working as a financial representative for Northwestern Mutual. He had spent the last two years as a financial specialist at UW Credit Union.
“I was able to consolidate and lend out close to $3 million which is pretty competitive in a person in that role for two years,” he says. “I just wanted to graduate from a deposit role in a retail banking environment into a more holistic financial advisor role so I can be more impactful. My skill set and my desire leads me outside of the building and away from the desk touching people.”
One of the things that White really likes is speaking at high schools to students about intergenerational income and financial and economic justice. “I think that’s where we need to put more pressure – on economics – because that really moves the needle,” White says. “That’s one of the reasons I got involved with Northwestern Mutual. I wanted to be more effective and more impactful.
“I want to be a resource,” he adds. “I want to stand in the gap.”
White is able to advise people with all kinds of financial help from general budgeting to retirement planning to estate planning and more. You don’t need to be rich to come and talk to White about your financial future. In fact, that’s a common misunderstanding.
“It’s a common misconception in our country, in general,” White says. “And just based upon how our education system is built, we don’t learn personal finance. We don’t learn retirement planning. It’s more of a familial conversation,” he says. “And if you don’t have that conversation at home, 9 times out of 10 you won’t have it in another environment.
“People are often under-educated and under-informed. My job is to let them know that you don’t have to be extremely wealthy to create wealth,” White adds. “We can generate wealth through efficient tax planning, through wealth accumulation, and risk management … making sure that we work in a way and build our wealth in a way that is smart.”
White knew what it was like not having much wealth growing up poor in inner-city Milwaukee.
“My mom is a single mom with six kids,” he remembers. “I went to Milwaukee Public Schools my whole childhood. We moved every nine-18 months … all over the north side.
“I never knew I was growing up in a poverty environment because my mom expressed so much love. I didn’t know I was poor. Didn’t know I was broke,” he continues. “I just knew by looking at others what money could bring to us – more peace, more freedom, more flexibility, more family trips.
“I always thought of the A’s and the B’s as dollar signs,” he adds. “If I could get as many of those as I could. I saw how money could be a source for freedom and piece of mind for my family.”
White got great grades in high school and continued that in college where attended the University of Wisconsin-Madison on a PEOPLE program scholarship and earned a bachelor of arts in Communication Arts & Afro-American Studies graduating with a 3.4 GPA. During the fall semester of his senior year he spent a semester abroad living, studying, and volunteering in Kenya, Nairobi and Mombasa and working on an anti-AIDS project.During his time in college, he was also honing his deejaying skills following in the footsteps of his dad, O.C. White, a pioneer of black radio in Milwaukee in the 1960’s-80’s who died when White was just three years old.
“Deejaying and music give me a chance to express my inner God. It gave me a platform to be in flow with life,” White says. “I think of life as a turntable – keep it flowing; keep the next song coming. Don’t get boring. If your beats not matchin’, find a way to catch the beat. Switch the track if you look around and it’s not doing much for you.”
He’s writing a book, too, on deejaying. The working title is “Think Like a Dee Jay.”
“Seven steps to spin poverty into prosperity,” White says. “I want to give back some of the knowledge I’ve learned over the years back into emerging communities.”
“I’ve been deejaying for 10 years – since 2008. I’ve been making films since that time, too,” White adds, who is also is the founder and CEO of Intuition Productions LLC.“Intuition Productions is a multimedia brand and millennial event planning business. We just take multimedia and create events for millennial using visuals, music, and sometimes fashion and culture.”
His company fits in well with his background rooted in “edutainment.”
“That’s what my firm is all about – meshing education and entertainment together,” he says. “For me, it’s two juxtaposed aesthetics. Entertainment seems to be frivolous and pointless and education seems to be stoic and stale and inflexible. What I’m trying to do is mesh the two because millennial demand it, digital natives demand it. They want experiences.
“When you are educated and entertained at the same time, it’s a great way to retain information,” he adds. “The concept behind Intuition Productions LLC is what I want to do with everything that I do. I’m really trying to find a way to be the center of a wheelhouse and magnetically attract like-minded individuals who are interested in mobilizing and pushing forward.”
This Friday, Intuition Productions will be hosting a Summer Money “Hip Hop Dance Party” at Robinia Courtyard in Madison. White will be performing under his moniker “DJ M.White.” If you’ve been around town, you’ve seen him perform at all kinds of events whether it is for the Madison Network of Black Professionals or Intellectual Ratchet.
White was the creative director for Intellectual Ratchet for two years working with IR CEO Ja’Mel Ware to provide creative experiences for Madison millenials.
Millennials, like White himself, have a unique set of financial planning challenges – crushing student debt, high health care costs, less and less employers offering the multiple benefits that used to always be mandatory, the troubling future of Social Security and Medicare, increased lifespans, and more.“Millennials do have a unique set of challenges, but what I like to focus on opportunity over obstacles,” White says. “The opportunity we have is that we live in a globalized economy – anybody in the world can buy a product. What I’m trying to do is show that in the millennials generation it will be to their advantage to create multiple streams of income using your artistic gifts. So I’m a big promoter or entrepreneurship. What’s a small thing you can do that you can take to market?”
“What’s your budget? What’s your debt-to-income? How much are you bringing out? Here’s a bunch of things we can do to fix things,” he adds. “The distraction is the despair. You have to realize that you have the power within to detach.”
People of color – likewise – have unique financial challenges. The racial wealth gap in the United States is as large as ever and inheritance plays a huge factor in that gap. For centuries, white households enjoyed wealth-building opportunities that were systematically denied to people of color.
“We’ve been locked out of the education. We’ve been pushed into the entertainment space not even knowing what those contracts really mean,” White says. “So, I think now what’s coming around is more education and more awareness and with that, we need to just focus on the opportunity with the information that we have.
“We have to reach for the future with both hands and go for it. Entrepreneurship will be key. We’re naturally entrepreneurs,” he continues. “I don’t know how many times my mom came up with something outta nothing or created an idea in her head that she was able to bring from the abstract realm to reality. That’s who we are.
“My fear and my anxiety is that poor communities, emerging communities, and black and brown communities will be leap-frogged economically and they will be stuck in the underclass and they will have to be consumers, not the producers of society … or generators of ideas,” he adds.
People get caught up in life. Many people are in survival mode. Some people are working two or three jobs taking care of three or four kids …. with no safety net. It can be hard to take time to focus on financial planning.
“For the majority of people, what’s important to them is family … freedom … piece of mind. Those are all significant financial motivators,” White says. “Peace of mind and protection of the family and the freedom to do things … the reality is that inflation is here to stay and if we don’t do something to fight it; do something to plan … we’re going to be worse off than we are now.”
Financial planner, entrepreneur, CEO, deejay, father (of two-year-old son Harlem). How does White manage to keep it all together?
“You have to be strategic and intentional about your own mental health just like you do for your own financial planning,” he says.
“I pray a lot. Just this morning I prayed really deep,” he adds. “I read this book [Napoleon Hill’s] “Think and Grow Rich” when I was dead broke in Milwaukee. That’s when I started to come around to this philosophy and psychology of success reading that book. That’s where I really honed in on my purpose.”
White says that his broader goal is to increase the market footprint for risk management and wealth accumulation for emerging communities.“I want to reach people in this community – Madison – and southern eastern Wisconsin communities like Milwaukee, Racine, Kenosha,” he says. “I want to impact those communities so we can create intergenerational wealth between this generation and the next.
“I want to provide the education and let people know many of the things that I’ve learned. I want to be standing in the gap,” he adds. “I want to be out there and be the guy that people say, ‘I trust him. He’s solid. He’s connected to me because he knows my story and has been through many of the same things.’ Authenticity is a brand in itself.
“What could that do to the whole society if a million black and brown kids became financially empowered?” White asks. “If we start believing in ourselves and not the despair, not the destructive images we see of ourselves. If we see through that, there’s no telling what we can do.”