“It’s never too late to start saving,” says Shenice Brown, a 27-year-old professional who with her partner, Shan Randle, 33, helps people plan for their financial future at Empower Financial.
“People shouldn’t live paycheck-to-paycheck,” she adds. “You should put 50 percent of your earnings into savings. That doesn’t mean you have to give up everything, but be realistic.”
The couple met in February of 2018 at a networking event with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce. Shenice was already a member, and Shan was attending her first event. They exchanged business cards and kept in touch over the next few months. Not only did love bloom, but so did the idea for a financial-planning business, which they opened later that year.
Shan, who had been a public-school teacher for eight years, shifted her focus from teaching reading and writing to teaching financial planning in 2017. “I wish I knew what I know now about finances when I was 18,” she says.
Both women came from difficult childhoods, and their goal now is to help other families plan for the future and for unexpected events. Shenice explains that if she could go back in time, she would tell her family two things: get plenty of life insurance, and save and invest your money.
“Too many times, we see someone who loses a loved one and, on top of the grief, they go bankrupt or have to start a GoFundMe account to pay for end-of-life expenses,” Shenice says.
“Along with helping individuals and businesses with life insurance and retirement planning needs,” Shan says, “we knew that our passion is improving our society’s financial literacy. We’re not taught much about money and its role in the real world.”
In their real world, the couple shares a rental home in Spring, but they’re looking to buy a home soon. Both also have real-estate licenses. Shenice has a nine-year-old daughter who lives with her father in Connecticut, so traveling to see her is a priority. But otherwise, they live on a pretty tight budget. “We each get $90 a week to spend on nonessentials,” Shenice says. “So date night is something inexpensive.” They also use a lot of coupons and look for specials.
But the end game is that they plan to have the option to retire in just five years.
“Retirement doesn’t have to mean you quit work,” says Shenice. “But it might mean you can afford to take off for a month and travel. We had a couple who flipped houses and wanted to retire in three years, but they had no savings. Everything went back into the properties. But we helped them restructure their business plan, and I think they can do it.”
The couple doesn’t really have much time for going out, between their business and their charity work. They do free financial-literacy classes and workshops for high-school students, churches, and nonprofits, and they volunteer with the Greater Houston LGBT Chamber of Commerce, the local Human Rights Campaign gala, and The Woodlands Pride festival.
When they do have a little down time, Shenice likes to take long baths and listen to business podcasts. They plan to start their own podcast soon, featuring LGBTQ business professionals.
“I’m pretty boring,” says Shan. “But when I have time, I love picking up my basketball—and doing yoga and meditation.”
Shenice admits it can be challenging for a couple to both work and live together, but they seem happy—in spite of some minor cultural challenges.
“Can I tell this story?” Shan asks Shenice. “Okay, Shenice is from Jamaica. The first time I saw her eat shrimp, she just bit into the whole thing. I couldn’t believe she was eating the shell and all!”
“That’s the way we eat it!” Shenice says with mock indignation. “Just google “Jamaican hot pepper shrimp”—we eat the shell and the whole head. All of it. It’s good!”
Empower Financial (empowerfinanciallife.com) is a National Gay and Lesbian Chamber of Commerce (NGLCC) certified LGBT Business enterprise.