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Finding Financial Motivation Through Hip Hop With Ash Cash – Investopedia

It'll be a shortened trading week here in the US due to President's Day on Monday. But the earnings parade keeps marching on, and the streets are getting slippery. Even strong earnings reports like Nvidia's last week are being swatted away by investors looking to have their minds blown, with 82% of companies having reported S&P 500 earnings are on pace to hit a record high for the fourth consecutive year. Gap EPS, that's gap earnings per share, are up 68% year over year, and operating earnings per share are up 41%.
The oil market is the main event this week as the prospect of Russia invading Ukraine looms larger. Crude oil prices topped $96 a barrel last week before fading by Friday, but analysts predict we could see $120 per barrel if Russia follows through with an invasion. Oil stocks and financials are thriving, while just about every other sector has a deep winter cold.
Ash “Cash” Exantus is one of the top financial educators in the U.S. Also known as the Financial Motivator, Ash uses a culturally responsive approach in teaching financial literacy, wealth building, & entrepreneurship. He is also a speaker, bestselling author, and the founder & CEO of MindRight Money Management, a financial education company that blends psychology, music, and personal finance. Ash began his career as a teller at the age of 19 and later became a vice president at Chase, one of the largest banks in the country.
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Everyone needs a little motivation now and then, especially when it comes to our money. It's our number one source of stress in good times and in bad. And when markets are rocky or the economy looks uncertain, that's when we need it the most. There are plenty of financial coaches, gurus, and wizards out there on the Internet that want you to follow their recipe for success and prosperity, but most of them are selling a dream, not a process. And the road to financial health is a process, a journey that never really ends. That's what Ash "Cash" Exantus has been preaching and teaching for years. They call him the Financial Motivator for a reason. He brings a culturally responsive approach to teaching financial literacy, building wealth, and entrepreneurship, and he makes it fun and approachable. You think I like hip hop and finance? Well, you haven't met Ash Cash yet, but you're about to, as he is our very special guest on the Investopedia Express this week. Welcome to the Expressed, Ash.
Ash:
"Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate you. Love the energy. Love the intro. We gonna have some fun today, man. Thank you so much. I appreciate you."
Caleb:
"Absolutely. Talk about energy: You've got enough energy to light up Harlem, which I know you're from just up the road here, even though you're down in Atlanta. But I've gotten so lost in all the content you're producing, your post, your courses. You have created so much useful information for people over the years. What brought you to this place of wanting to be a financial motivator, Ash?" 
Ash:
“Yeah. So, I started out my career at 19. So, like you mentioned, I’m from Harlem, on 29th Street, 8th Avenue St. Nicholas Projects. Grew up low-income, single-parent home. My dad wasn’t around, so the youngest of three. And so, I’ve always been an entrepreneur. So, from eight years old, packing bags at the local supermarket to selling mixtapes or t-shirts at Mart 125th Street. And then just… when I became 19, I got an opportunity to work at the bank, and I did everything in banking, from teller to personal banker to branch manager. I was the CEO of a credit union. One of the youngest CEOs of a federally chartered bank at 31 years old.”
“And then, in the words of the honorable Shawn Carter, Jay-Z, ‘There’s much bigger issues in the world I know, but I first had to take care of the world I know.’ And I felt like growing up the way I grew up and then ascending in the banking world and having conversations with CEOs of billion dollar companies, I said that there was still a lack of financial education in the communities that I grew up in. And being that I had… I knew both languages. I could speak both languages, right? And I said, ‘There’s much bigger issues, but let me let me take you to a world I know, the world that I understand.’ And that’s where the passion comes from.”
"And so I started out teaching in urban schools with Operation Hope. I used to go to jails, Rikers Island. I used to go to Rikers Island every Monday, teaching the inmates at C74. Went to churches, and then I just realized, this is well needed. And so, it was really about figuring out how can I mix that my passion and then make this something that could actually sustain my life? And it's a win-win where I'm doing what I love, but I'm also sustaining my livelihood and building wealth for myself and my family."
Caleb:
"If you're going to quote Jay-Z, Shawn Carter, I'm going to do it too, because you're not a businessman', Ash, 'you're a business man.'"
Ash:
"You're a business man!"
Caleb:
"You got books, you got courses, right? You have your academy, you have your social media platforms. You're now running this business of being a financial motivator and coach and helping people get a hold of their finances. But at the same time, you're also running your own small business. Very hard to do, both at the same time and do it well. How challenging is that for you and how have you sort of risen to that challenge? What have you had to build around you to make that work?"
Ash:
"Great question. There's a process that I use called Do, Document, Delegate. And what's important about the Do, Document, Delegate is that once you are first starting out in small business, whatever it is, whatever you're doing, you have to do it first, right? You have to be in growth. So, you don't start off as the CEO. You actually are on the ground and you're doing everything. And then once you're on the ground doing everything, you have to start to document that process. Because once you document the process, you can now promote yourself to middle manager and then hire people or systems that can actually do the things on the bottom, right?"
"And so, when I first started, let's say I was sending out emails every day to people, Well, maybe I'll document that process and I'll delegate that to a system that does it for me. And then eventually, as you continue to grow and the businesses start to grow, you now are just the face, right? And so now, for me, I have a whole team around me that helps get this message out to a larger audience. So, it's really about building a team. Well, as Jim Collins said, 'It has to be the right team.' You got to make sure the right people on the bus. That's how you get from good to great. And so for me, it was really about having the right team."
"But first I had to know what to do, right? I had to do it first. I had to make a lot of mistakes, a lot of trials and errors and figure things out. And then I documented that process, and then now I sort of delegate… not everything, though, right? There's still things that only Ash Cash can do. And so, I can't delegate some of the things that only I can do, but all of the other things that can be done by other people, I delegate those things."
Caleb:
"You know, when you get to be CEO or you get to be a senior executive, there's a very big difference between working in the business and on the business. And as you get higher you got to work on that business and have the people that can help you do it, the work in the business. Because otherwise there's not enough time in the day, and I know you, you're using every second out there. If you follow Ash on the social media channels… and folks, do it if you want inspiration or just a field goal or learn something because there's so much content out there. You're putting a ton out there."
"So, I know you got a lot of books and courses on everything from managing your personal finances to entrepreneurship and social marketing and really growing your own business. But let's talk about investing, since it's closer to our hearts here at Investopedia. How do you invest for yourself and how do you counsel your students and your followers who want to, Ash, but are afraid to start?"

Ash:
"Yeah. I think first and foremost, investing is about understanding that there are four people in the world, right? So, you've got the consumers, you've got the producers, you have the investors, you have the philanthropists. And in order for you to build a solid foundation… most people are just consumers, right? And so you have to be able to produce some things. And as you're producing those things, now you graduate to this investor mindset. And the investor mindset says, 'I'ma changed my relationship with money. Instead of working hard for money, money is going to work hard for me.'"
“I’m a big fan of investing in things that give me a big return and cash flow, right? So, you know, I invest in real estate. Landlords saved my life when I left the banking world and jumped into entrepreneurship and was working with my physical money. I almost went through foreclosure and all these different things because I didn’t have that investment to save me. And so, I invest in real estate. I do invest in stocks, bonds, cryptocurrency a little bit, right? So, I don’t go crazy in cryptocurrency, but I also don’t want to miss out. And so, I do have a small amount of money in cryptocurrency.
The average single family home price spiked 15.4% in 2021, and the average price topped $350,000. The National Association of Realtors says inventory for homes priced under $500,000 is super thin, and low-income buyers have found themselves priced out of the market.
“But one of the things I like to do, and for those who who are fans of the site might know this term, but I like to do dollar-cost averaging, right? And so, instead of just saving up a whole lot of money and saying, ‘Alright, I got $10,000, $20,000, I’m going to invest all at once.’ I do dollar-cost averaging. And so, I take a percentage of my income at the end of the month, and that percentage stays the same regardless of what the market is doing. If the market’s up, if the market’s down, I invest first.”
“I love index funds. I love ETFs. I think that, just from a long-term perspective, it allows my money to stay balanced and grow. And so, I love index funds, I love ETFs. Dollar-cost averaging, certain percentage that goes into investing each month. But then I get to decide whether that money is going to be allocated into it an index fund or ETF, or if I’m going to buy an individual stock.”
Caleb:
"We love dollar-cost averaging here. We always say, 'It's time in the market, not timing the market.' So, you're right. High, low, doesn't matter what's going on in there. Little bit every month, a little bit every month and make it automatic. Right, Ash? So, you're not thinking about it, you're not worried about it. That money goes there, and I'll look at it every quarter, maybe the end of the year. I'm not trying to time the market here. I just want to be in it."
Ash:
"Absolutely. Absolutely."
Caleb:
"So, in the community you grew up in, right here in Harlem, 10 blocks from where I'm sitting right now, and in African-American communities around the country that you're reaching, Ash…. You are reaching these communities. What are the greatest mental obstacles that people have to getting their money right and investing and getting started? What's blocking them?"
Ash:

"I think the biggest thing is just the skepticism of what wealth looks like, right? And so, because traditionally in our communities, the conversations around money isn't something that happens around the kitchen table. When I used to go to the bank with my mom, I couldn't go to the teller with her. It was like, 'Sit on the side, don't look at my account or ask me what's in it.' None of that stuff. And so, the money conversations weren't really being had. And because there's a lack of trust or banks and financial institutions, any time when we talk about wealth, there's this 'It's too good to be true,' right? And especially now when we think about… sort of the barriers for entry are so low now."
“I was a banker for 15 years. I remember in order to invest, you need $50,000 or more, right? You could not invest if you didn’t have money. And so, now when you think about all of the different platforms that allow you to invest with a dollar, with five dollars, you can do fractional shares, this is a new concept that now… it has to start with education.”
"So, I think that the biggest barrier is just not looking at everything as a scam, and there are scams out there. So, I'm not saying that there isn't any… there's reasons why people are skeptical, but I think that with all of the information that's out there now, financial education is important, which is why I do what I do, right? This is why my mother used to always say, 'Put the medicine in the candy.' And as a hip-hop head… since '88, right? So, I've been a hip-hop head since 88. And so, I am financial education, but I am also hip hop. And that's why I infuse hip hop in the financial education to kind of allow people to understand the concepts and to know that it's not as scary as it may seem."
Caleb:
"Yeah. Let's get into that because Express listeners know that I'm a little bit of a hip-hop head, a little bit more than that, but you've gone next level in tying the lessons that you're teaching from artists like Jay-Z and Nipsey Hussle into your books, into your posts. How are you able to tie that financial educational message into that work through looking at entrepreneurship, through looking at investing, the way we get paid? Because there's a lot of important messages in there that a lot of people are missing. But you've been able to fuse that. How are you doing that? 
Ash:
"I think because I've always been an entrepreneur, since eight, and I've always been a hip-hop head since eight, right? So, ironically or coincidentally enough, my first record that I listened to was Big Daddy Kane at eight years old, right? And so, because I am that in my core, as I'm listening to music, there are things that the normal ear wouldn't necessarily listen to."
“I’ll give you an example: My first book that I kind of started to tie it in obviously was the Wake Up Call, which is based on Jay-Z’s 4:44 album. When I listen to the album… a lot of people were shocked, cause Jay-Z the fight with Solange in the elevator, and they wanted to know all the tea. And so they started to say, ‘Oh my God, Jay-Z cheated on Beyoncé. And so, the whole focal point of the 4:44 album was Jay-Z cheating on Beyonce. The truth of the matter that’s only 20% of the album. The whole 80% of the album, he’s talking about generational wealth. He’s telling you, ‘Stop going to the strip club.’ He’s telling you to buy land. He’s telling you to fix your credit. He’s telling you about trusts, about wills. And so, as I’m hearing this, I’m going, as a financial educator, ‘This is like a dream to me.’ I said, ‘This is the guy that had gangsters stop wearing jerseys and have gangsters wearing button ups. So, now people are going to listen. When Jay-Z says financial freedom the only hope, people are going to listen.’ And when I started to see people focusing so much on the 20%, the cheating, I said, ‘I got to do something.'”
"And so, it started out me just going to colleges and teaching lessons on it. But then I realized there was a need to go deeper and to go in. And so, now it's just sort of a natural thing for me to kind of listen to hip hop lyrics and be able to visualize it in a different perspective too, right? Because sometimes… I've never sold a drug in my life. But sometimes when I hear a rapper with track music talking about drugs, I say, 'Oh, this is a similar concept to stocks or bonds or whatever the case may be.'"
"And again, to the point of putting the medicine in the candy instead of trying to… if you have a deep desire for your audience to be attached to your message, instead of trying to stay up where you are and bringing your audience up to you, it's better to just go to where your audience is. Because the truth of the matter, when you go to where your audience is, they'll actually respect you. They'll know that you really care for them. And then if you talk their language, then they'll be able to now have an open mind, open heart, and you can change the trajectory, not just for them, right? The work that we're doing is not only about the individual. It's actually about a whole community, right? Because I'm not in the community every day. So, if I could get somebody in the community who could get this message and now be another example, now that starts to spread out and then it becomes part of the culture, and that's the aim."
Caleb:
“Yeah. And that’s exactly what you’re doing because you’ve built a very, very big following. But I can see that you’re not just trying to build this for you, you’re trying to build this as a movement towards financial literacy writ large, towards building wealth and helping people escape that cycle of poverty or escape that cycle of income inequality. And there are plenty of reasons, you’ve said it, Ash, plenty of reasons that that exist today, but there’s also probably opportunities that folks aren’t aware of to build a path to wealth. And if they’re in debt, there are ways to get out. There are strategies that I know you’re teaching and others are teaching. If you have some savings, there’s a way to think about what you need, how much you’re going to need, how you can invest. And you’re right, the platforms make it easier. You don’t have to be an accredited investor with 50 grand. You can invest with $10 today. But it’s hearing the message… and I think especially from you and for people who look like you and not like me because they’ve been hearing from people that look like me for a very long time, Ash. But when it comes from you, it’s easier to relate, and you’re relating to the people that they are looking at every day.”
Ash:
"Absolutely. Absolutely. And that's the beauty of the time that we're in, right? Because there's so much information, and that information can be spread faster than ever before. When you think about social media, I can literally do a reel that reaches hundreds and thousands of people, a two minute reel or one minute reel that I did, it took me two minutes to record, can reach so many different people. And so this is a great time. And as we look at all of the access that we now have and all of this information and how we could change the trajectory, it's just important that we continue to speak in the language that our audience understands so that they can also now enjoy what the American dream is and build wealth for themselves and their generation."
Caleb:
"So, let's talk about people that you do admire. Are there celebrity investors out there or people in general who are out there, and they could be in the hip-hop world or sports or in the professional and business world or services, that you admire and that you admire them for the way that they've gone about their business. Who are some of the people you look up to, Ash?"
Ash:
“Yeah. I mean, obviously number one on that list is Jay-Z, right? So, coming from Marcy Projects, being able to not only master music but also master business and be able to have these different businesses that influence in the way he invests in other businesses and the business acumen that it takes to touch so many different types of businesses. So, I’m going to say Jay-Z first. Definitely Nas. I’m a big Nas fan. And, again, another person that has this PhD, his public housing degree, growing up in Queensbridge Houses. But just watching some of the silent moves that he an his team have been making behind the scenes. When you think about Queensbridge investors and what they’ve been doing, being able to invest in a lot of these tech companies, these startups, making a lot of money from there. Magic Johnson has been a very, very big influence. A lot of the moves that he’s been making… And I would say LeBron James as somebody who’s young but very quickly… he surrounded himself around the right people. He built his own team. I mean, he’s made some smart decisions, as it relates to his money and investments. So, I would say, those are my top four folks that I admire and I look at as far as their business moves go.”
Caleb:
"Yeah. Pretty good starting four right there. You can add a point guard to that mix and you got yourself a championship team, no doubt about it. So, in your life, though, beyond the folks that you looked up to, who was there for you to inspire you to kind of say, 'It's Ash's time to be Ash and do what you got to do.' Is there anybody really key in your life who helped you with that motivation that you're now spreading to other people?"
Ash:
"Oddly enough, I always give a shout out to my OGs that I grew up with in the neighborhood because, for whatever reason, they saw something special in me. And so every time I tried to kind of veer left or right and try to go in a different direction, they were there. They were like, 'No, go to school.' I remember getting beat up in the elevator because I wanted to cut school or I wanted to do something. And my OGs, my guys, who probably weren't doing the right things themselves, but they were like, 'Nah, Ash, you're not going down this path.' And so, first and foremost, those were the guys, but my basketball coaches… I'm 6'3, so I played basketball coming up. And so, a lot of my basketball coaches were inspirations to me."
"But definitely as an adult, Alfred Edmond, the senior vice president at Black Enterprise, has been a mentor to me, has really been instrumental in helping me craft my story as a financial educator and me watching him and seeing you can make money by educating people on money. And so, he's been very instrumental in helping me. John Hope Bryant, who's the founder of Operation Hope. It's funny because he's a mentor to me now in real life. I've interviewed him, I know him, but he was mentoring me before he even knew who I was. My first time going to an inner city school and teaching financial literacy was because of John Hope Bryant and the movement he's been doing with Operation Hope and just knowing that he's from Compton, he's from the inner city as well, and he was able to create a whole business helping people. And so, he's been a mentor to me. Rashad McDonald, who's a powerful business manager and personality has been… So, I've been fortunate to be around some powerful people who are givers first, and they give, and they see that in me as well."
Caleb:
"So, we talked about a little bit about dollar-cost averaging. We always ask our guests for their favorite investing term. I got a feeling it's that, but if you have another one that you want to share with us because we're a site built on terms, what's your favorite investing term or financial term, Ash, and why?"
Ash:
“Yeah. So, besides dollar-cost averaging, I’m going to stay in the d-lane. I’m going to say diversification. Diversification to me is… I always say that you should have… in the words of Jay-Z, ‘You should merrily, merrily eat off the streams,’ right? And so, a lot of times, when we talk about multiple streams of income, diversification to me is really about making sure that your portfolio is diverse, that you’re not putting all your eggs in one basket and that you’re investing like you work hard, right? Especially a lot of us who come from nothing. You want to make sure that you don’t get to a space of financial abundance and then lose it all because you know you’re banking on Amazon or you’re banking on Walmart or you’re banking on this one stock.”
“And so, I love diversification. I love to spread it out. And another reason for that is because it’s for the long term. If you’re a hustler, if you know how to get money, you’re always going to have an increase of cash flow. But when that hustle dies down, when it’s time to get the beach house and want to have that compound interest, you want to make sure that you’ve done the right thing to diversify your funds so that later on, when it’s time to put the jersey up on the rafters, you’ll have a nice cushion that keeps growing dropping.”

Caleb:
"Yeah. Well, you looks like you're building that for your own business with the books and with the courses and what you're doing on the platforms and your speaking circuit. So, it's really a delight to watch your business grow, and you seem to be really off to an amazing, amazing hot start, even though you've been at this for a while, you're really doing great things. Ash "Cash" Exantus, so good to have you on the Express, and we look forward to great things from you in the future. Thanks for joining us."
Ash:
"Thank you so much, brother. I appreciate you."
It’s terminology time. Time for us to get smart with the investing term we need to know this week. This week’s term comes to us from Mary in Houston, Texas, who suggests backwardation, and we like that term, given what’s been happening with oil prices lately. Backwardation, according to my favorite website, is when the current price or spot price of an underlying asset is higher than prices trading in the futures market. Backwardation can occur as a result of higher demand for an asset currently in the contracts maturing in the coming months through the futures market. Traders use backwardation to make a profit by selling short at the current price and buying at the lower futures price.
Oil markets have had a turbulent ride over the past few years, but especially over the past several months. Back in the spring of 2020, the price of a barrel of oil notoriously entered negative territory as overall demand sharply declined because of the pandemic. Now, demand is bouncing back and causing prices to rise past $95 a barrel. But prices in the futures market are not looking so good, aka backwardation. Suppliers are struggling to catch up and eyeing the market for clues on what to do in the months ahead. Great suggestion, Mary in Houston, Texas. We've got a pair of sweet Investopedia stocks heading your way for your next stroll over to the Buffalo Bayou Park.
National Association of Realtors. "Existing-Home Sales Surge 6.7% in January."
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