“You really need to understand culture to build a brand that’s going to connect to this community.”
This Hispanic Heritage Month, we are celebrating the achievements of Beatriz Acevedo, a media and fintech entrepreneur who is helping the Latinx community achieve representation and economic equity.
Growing up in Mexico City, having financial conversations in Beatriz Acevedo’s family was never an issue—because it wasn’t discussed at all. “It’s just not our favorite dinner topic,” Acevedo tells us over the phone. “But it is [talked about] among other cultures and cohorts in the U.S. And I think we’ve gotta start changing that narrative.”
Acevedo’s father often told her that money is evil. “El dinero es el diablo,” he warned. The first of his lineage to attend college, he spent his life hustling for success. But as his wealth grew, so did his guilt. When he died, he donated “every cent,” she says, to Fundación Acevedo, a nonprofit Latinx advocacy program he had founded, of which she is now its president.
Acevedo’s father isn’t the only Latino who believed money has negative connotations associated with it. Many others in the Latinx community believe talking about money in front of others is considered “mala suerte,” or bad luck. Money has long been considered a taboo topic in Latinx culture, and with this mentality, overcoming the country’s systemic economic disparities rooted in race is even more difficult.
Despite being the largest community of color (18.7% of the population) and fastest-growing native born group in America (52% of the total population growth from 2010 to 2019), Latinos make considerably less money than white people do. Five times less, to be exact, as Hispanic families make 21 cents per every dollar of white wealth, according to data from the 2019 Survey of Consumer Finances, conducted by the Federal Reserve.
According to Acevedo, when the pandemic began, nearly half of all U.S.-based Latinx families had $1,000 or less in savings. A few months into the COVID crisis, 42% of Latinx families had used up all of their savings to pay for basic living expenses, according to a Abriendo Puertas/Latino Decisions National Parent survey conducted in June 2020.
The wealth problem, as Acevedo describes it, is “critical.”
Tackling the taboo of talking about finances is part of the challenge in breaking through to Latinx people of any age. Compound that with negative thinking; the reality that the median income for Latinx households is less than $56 thousand yearly, and 17% are living below the poverty line, and you’ve got a serious challenge. That’s exactly what media executive and fintech entrepreneur Beatriz Acevedo wants to change.
From hosting a kid’s radio show at eight years old to earning Emmy Awards for the Televisa network in her teens, Beatriz Acevedo got to work early. She moved from Mexico City to Los Angeles in her 20’s, soon co-founding the Latinx-centric digital media brand, Mitú. Mitú singles out a systemically overlooked audience which Acevedo dubbed “the 200% people,” which are essentially made up of millennials and Gen Zers who identify both as 100% American and 100% Latinx. In 2016 Mitú was announced as the largest Hispanic-focused digital network in the world, getting over 2 billion views a month.
Acevedo continued focusing on the Latinx community, partnering with the Los Angeles mayor on LA Collab, a program aimed at increasing Latinx representation in the entertainment industry. Through a series of initiatives and collaborations with Hollywood’s biggest names, LA Collab provides access to emerging Latinx actors, directors, producers, writers, and storytellers.
“I’ve always loved the intersection of philanthropy and scaling a company that super-serves an under-served demo, which obviously we are so underserved in so many ways,” Acevedo says. “And I love the idea of building something where we could give Latinos all the tools and resources that they needed to build economic power.”
Driven by this mission to better the lives of Latinxs, Acevedo swiveled into fintech, launching SUMA Wealth in November 2020. The still-growing company is poised to make a major impact by providing education, resources, and routes for Latinx to level up financially through its web-based mobile app—now in beta testing with 200 users and slated for official release on October 12—as well as its standalone app, to be released in November.
Not valuing the importance of savings and investing is a major problem in the Latinx community. As overwhelming as managing finances may seem, particularly for someone with little to no backup funds, SUMA makes it very clear that a stable, and potentially lucrative, financial future is possible. For example, Acevedo says anyone—when they’re economically ready for it—can begin to make investments. The company’s free financial check-up, which she compares to analyzing lab reports post-annual doctor check-up, helps get things rolling.
“You’re able to see what’s in range and what’s out of range,” she says of the app. “Once we say, OK, you have enough to live for three to six months with your emergency savings and you’ve paid off your debt, then I think you should consider starting to invest.”
Like Mitú, SUMA Wealth targets U.S.-born millennial and Gen Z Latinxs through thoughtful, funny, and clever content that helps them feel seen and understood. The SUMA website, app, and social media channels (Instagram, Twitter, Facebook and Linktree) are all branded around this idiosyncratic signature approach, which Acevedo feels is very important.
Financial memes targeting millennial and Gen-Z Latinx communities on SUMA’s Instagram.
“It’s that emotional connection, of knowing that somebody is like you, building this for you, whether it’s comparing gorditas to arepas in talking about the different types of credit scores…it’s not just putting a word in Spanish or English, or [including Spanish words like] chancla or abuela,” Acevedo says. “You really need to understand culture to build a brand that’s going to connect to this community.”
SUMA’S Social Media Manager Miriam Bribiesca likes to keep the company’s Linktree clean and concise. “In general we don’t want people to scroll too much because then they’ll be like ‘oh, I’m so overwhelmed,’” she says, citing the choice overload paradox: too many options can lead a person to opt out altogether. Compound that with the reality that financial planning can, all on its own, be a confounding subject for many.
SUMA Founder Beatriz Acevedo uses Linktree for her personal account as well as for her company
Where Latinxs stand in terms of the wealth gap shouldn’t only matter to Latinxs. Acevedo points out that the latest studies on GDP and the workforce show “it’s Latinos driving every single number,” making them responsible for the future economic growth, social security, and retirement for all Americans. As a fast-growing demographic that’s currently the country’s second-largest ethnic group, Latinxs make up approximately 15% of the workforce in the United States, and that number is expected to double by 2050. Nearly half are young, U.S.-born Latinxs, too: the average population age is just 19 years old, while other groups’ age average stands around 40.
With much confidence and zero regret, Acevedo, now in her 50s, says SUMA is her last startup. Because if it works as planned, everything else she’s passionate about—helping more Latinx people become entrepreneurs, gain financial independence, and founders of their own companies—will be bolstered as more Latinx people achieve greater economic power.
When Acevedo’s father repeatedly told her that money is the diablo, he couldn’t have foreseen how she might put the devil to good use. Avecedo wants all U.S. Latinxs to thrive, and raising overall wealth among the community will certainly help us get there.
“If I’m able to really fulfill the vision that we have for SUMA and really help our community build wealth and help close our wealth gap, that would be a really awesome life that I got to live, right?”
About the author: Jhoni Jackson is an Atlanta-born, Cuban, queer femme living in San Juan, Puerto Rico. Her work has been published by Rolling Stone, The Washington Post, PAPER, The Daily Beast, Teen Vogue, NBC Out, and others.