• Justin O. Cooper

Eric Jackson, New York Life Executive Aims to Close The Wealth Gap in the Black Community

Updated: Apr 30

Forbes Magazine published an insightful article at the end of 2019 that highlighted the latest report from McKinsey & Company that indicates that the US economy would be between four and six percent larger by 2028 if the country managed to close the racial wealth gap by then. The underlying logic for the economic benefits of eliminating the racial wealth gap is straightforward. Without the wealth gap, African-Americans would be more likely to be homeowners, and this is a meaningful economic effect that would raise living standards for all American families.

For Kingstree, South Carolina native and 2020 Who's Who in Black Atlanta Honoree, Eric B. Jackson, this challenge is personal. It is also apart of his professional devotion as the Corporate Vice President and Market Manager of New York Life Insurance Company's African American Market Unit.

With the nearly 20 years with the Fortune 100 Company, he's garnered an array of achievements include most recently being the Lead Ambassador of the company's $50 Billion Community Empowerment Movement, an agent-led crusade to change the financial future of Black America.

SOLIVAGANT caught up with Jackson to learn more about financial literacy, legacy, and what we all need to consider when it comes to building generational wealth that transcends our finite lives.

SOLIVAGANT: How did you begin your journey toward financial literacy and empowerment? Did you think when you got started that it would have led you to your current position?

ERIC B. JACKSON: I started my journey towards financial literacy and empowerment in January of 2002 as an intern at New York Life while I was a student at Johnson C. Smith University in Charlotte, North Carolina.

At the time it was merely a requirement to graduate, I had no clue I would learn so much and that it would help me find my passion and purpose. It's all led where I am now as an executive and allows me to serve my community.

SOLIVAGANT: What's your description of financial literacy, and what is the importance of putting tools in place for establishing generational wealth?

ERIC B. JACKSON: Financial literacy is an understanding of money, finances, taxes, and the economy - yes. I think we all get that. It's also an understanding at a deeper level of establishing a foundation for us and the generations to come.

Moreover, it's not just a lack of what money allows us to buy for our selves, but also about what it does for our community at large like what Robert Smith offered as a gift recently to Morehouse College graduates.

SOLIVAGANT: When it comes to generational wealth, what is your experience with the difference between White Americans and communities of color?

ERIC B. JACKSON: There is indeed a gap of income and a gap of wealth – for many reasons, most of which we've had no voice. This gap has lead to a lack of opportunities in the black community. Leveraging generation real estate has made up the largest share of this wealth gap.

Research shows that if nothing changes, it will take 228 years for Black families to amass the same amount of wealth as white families… in TODAY's dollars. We don't have that amount of time, which is where my work and conversation of life insurance comes into position. Although considering our mortality isn't something we like to think about, we do know that it is one of the absolutes of life.

What many communities have uncovered is leveraging life insurance for not only final expenses but also create wealth for pennies on the dollar. The understanding and access to life insurance in other communities has also been a tool to contribute to this wealth gap – meaning different cultures had understood this for years before our community received the same messaging.

We are a strong community and have achieved so much in many areas - innovation, sports/athletics, entertainment, technology, business, politics, etc. The area we MUST continue to pursue, and champion is the area of economics. Wealth = opportunity and the inverse is also true. The lack of wealth equals a lack of opportunity.

SOLIVAGANT: Throughout your career, what are a few of the reoccurring myths that you've had to dispel around life insurance?

ERIC B. JACKSON: 1). 'IF' (not when), but 'IF' I expire it'll be someone else's problem; 2). I only need enough insurance to bury me; 3). Black people are discriminated against when it comes to insurance; 4). I have insurance through work, so I'm good; 5). I don't want to leave anything behind for them to get rich; 6). I did it myself so those I love' will figure it out on their own too; 7). Insurance is a scam; 8). Life insurance is used only when someone passes away. Should I go on?

SOLIVAGANT: How can consumers determine how much coverage they need?

ERIC B. JACKSON: GoFundMe.Com is not coverage. We must understand and think of ourselves as an asset. A simple way to determine how much insurance one should have as a minimum is to consider our economic replacement value. Meaning, if we didn't make it home today, how much income would also be taken out of our family, our contribution to society.

For example, a 40-year-old making $50K per year who plans to work for another 20 years is a $1M asset ($50K x 20 years = $1M). That person should at least consider having foundational protection of $1M!!! If we owned a home (asset) worth $1M, would not we have $1M in protection for the home (asset)?

It is something many other communities have understood and implemented – again contributing to the wealth gap. Things like our mortgages, college education, retirement for our spouses, and the contributions we make to our organizations are other considerations. It's not someone else's problem – it's ours. And with simple planning, we can make sure to remove any doubt.

SOLIVAGANT: Is the consideration for life insurance an expensive undertaking?

ERIC B. JACKSON: Expensive compared to what? I always remind people of the cost of action vs. non-action. An example being when purchase a $5 drink at Starbucks, something I do almost daily, especially when traveling.

I don't think about the fact that the cost is $100 per month (buying a drink every day). I also just opened my cable bill and nearly fell out of my chair analyzing it. For a fraction for either my Starbucks or my cable bill, I could take care of that $1M protection amount we just discussed.

Imagine the impact on our community if we started to erect $1M foundations to benefit our families and communities when the absolute happens versus passing along debt and frustration.

SOLIVAGANT: In your current role, you manage the multicultural marketing for the African American unit of New York Life.

ERIC B. JACKSON: Actually, I manage the African American Market Unit – not just a function of marketing. Many people get confused when it comes to that. My role is to support the 1300+ African American agents around the country and our near 50 managers who take our message of financial stability, economic opportunity, and multigenerational wealth to the community each day.

It is indeed a role I fully embrace and take seriously. These dedicated men and women are the ones on the forefront, having real conversations with our community, and they are the ones who deliver the checks. And let me say, they don't just provide checks when someone passes away --- a lot of payments are delivered while alive (another little known secret).

SOLIVAGANT: What are a few key achievements you're most proud of?

ERIC B. JACKSON: I'm most proud of our team achieving a milestone in 2017 of creating over $50 Billion of tax-free, future income(insurance) as a result of a collective national movement called "The $50 Billion Empowerment Plan."

SOLIVAGANT: As a man of faith, is there any overlap between what you believe and your professional perspective when it comes to money/financial empowerment?

ERIC B. JACKSON: Thank you for recognizing me as a man of faith. It guides me every day and is the sole reason I've committed myself to this work. There are tons of overlap. The bible has a lot to say about money, finances, inheritance, wealth, knowledge, etc.

SOLIVAGANT: You're named as one of 2020 Who's Who in Black Atlanta Honorees, what does receiving such distinction mean to you?


RIC B. JACKSON: I was humbly surprised when I received notice that I had been nominated and selected to receive this distinction. It tells me that the community is watching, but it also fuels me for the work to come. I'm just getting started. Thank you, Who's Who Atlanta for this honor.

SOLIVAGANT: With nearly 20 years of experience in the financial industry and public honors to your name, what's next for you?

ERIC B. JACKSON: I certainly plan to continue using this platform to elevate this conversation about wealth creation in the black community. I also look forward to fruitful partnerships with other individuals and influencers who share this same passion.

I'm one who has tunnel vision when I'm in and committed, and that's where I am now. I most certainly look forward to becoming more active in programs throughout the City of Atlanta and nationally.

Jackson, a proud member of Kappa Alpha Psi Fraternity, Inc. and lives by a simple mantra, "To empower the African-American community through wealth creation."

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