The ABC series “Black-ish” is inspired by the life of its star and executive producer, Anthony Anderson. And every season, Anderson’s character Dre navigates a host of very familiar family situations — including one hilarious episode where he realizes that, despite their affluence, the family is in sore need of help with their finances.
But for Anderson, this is one instance where art does not imitate life. One of his personal passions has been encouraging Americans to take control of their financial lives. Anderson shares his financial planning story and how he discusses finances with his family — including his mom and “To Tell the Truth” co-star, Doris Bowman, who, at age 67, is now starting her own financial plan.
2020 was a hard year for everyone. But now that it’s a new year, looking back, what were your silver linings?
Just like most families, 2020 forced us into a lot of introspection. I walked around barefoot in the backyard every morning just to ground myself, trying to figure out what fun thing we were going to do today as a family. There was a lot of gardening, a lot of cooking, a lot of laughing, a lot of board games. There was also a lot of wine drinking and weight gaining. So, it's been about quality time and doing the things we love to do together.
When did you first come to realize how important financial planning is?
I remember in elementary and junior high school, someone from a bank would come in every January to talk about starting a Christmas savings plan, so that by the end of the year you had a little stash to buy presents. Growing up living paycheck-to-paycheck, it was a simple formula to me: I knew I had X amount coming in, which means I would spend half of it and put the other half in the bank for Christmas, birthdays, a rainy day. I never, ever wanted to live beyond my means. Thinking back, that was the beginning of my financial planning without me even knowing it.
How do you discuss finances with your family?
I once heard someone say that the day your child reaches for a $100 bill over a dollar bill is when it’s time to have a financial conversation with them. And that’s what I did with my children. I showed them a dollar bill and a $100 bill and asked them to pick one. When they reached for the $100 bill, I asked them why, and they said it was because they could buy more things with it. That’s when we started having our financial conversations. I wanted them to understand the value of a dollar.
But over the years, I’ve had those same conversations with my mother. We never talked about money growing up, because how can you talk about something you don’t have? Every dollar that came in went out to pay a bill. She was a hard worker for the county of Los Angeles, but her pension was nothing, and she spent it 25 years ago. I needed to have a heart-to-heart with her to get her to understand how important it is to plan for the future. In retrospect, I wish I had started a financial plan sooner and I wish financial planning was something my parents knew was accessible and available to them.
How did your mom’s perspective change on her own financial planning?
Fortunately, when she was in her 50s, I was able to set aside money for her and create an income plan that would let her receive regular checks once she reached her 60s and through the rest of her life. And now that I’ve been able to employ her through commercials and our game show, “To Tell the Truth,” she really understands the value of a dollar. Before, she had always wanted me to buy her a house, and I promised I would. Now, she’s changed her mind because she’s able to buy her own home and is in the process of doing that without any outside help. I love that my mom is financially independent and understands what it means to have a financial plan.
Recently, we spoke with Northwestern Mutual financial advisor Mark Haywood together. One of my biggest things is making sure she’s taken care of, while she wants to make sure she’s got the cash flow to buy her house, enjoy her hobbies, take her trips and be comfortable in retirement, even if she stops working. So we talked through a few different scenarios and how having a financial plan could set her up right now and in the future. I appreciated how he listened to her, asked the right questions and explained things in a way that made sense to her. She understands the importance of planning for the future, even at this age, and Mark truly showed her the value of a plan.
What advice would you give to people who are hesitant to work with a financial advisor?
I would say, if you have heart failure and need a heart transplant, would you trust yourself to do that on your own, or would you go to the best heart specialist and have that person do it? I think it’s similar with our finances. Sure, you can do it by yourself to a degree, but you’re going to hit a ceiling because there’s so much information out there, and you’d be doing your family a disservice by not having all that information and taking advantage of it.
That’s why I even decided to partner with Northwestern Mutual, because I know that so many people are looking for someone to point them in the right direction on everything from how to protect your assets to how to grow your wealth. People don’t always realize that a financial plan can be designed around their lifestyle.
Like in Mark’s discussion with my mother, it wasn’t about her money — it was a conversation about planning for her life and her dreams, now and in the future. With Northwestern Mutual, you can create a financial plan that’s right for you, whether you want to take your family on a vacation, put an addition on your house, save for your kids’ college or plan for retirement. It can all start with a simple conversation.
Anthony Anderson is a paid spokesperson for Northwestern Mutual.
The testimonials presented may not be representative of the experience of other clients and are not a guarantee of future performance or success.