Adrienne Bailon Houghton Gets Real About the Importance of Latinas Learning Financial Literacy
Last month, Emmy Award-winning TV personality Adrienne Bailon Houghton debuted her home-design series All Things Adrienne Presents House to Home, produced by Kin Networks and TV One. While the show mostly focuses on Houghton's journey to decorating her new LA pied-à-terre, she also drops quite a few important learnings when it comes to investing in real estate. In fact, in a recent interview with POPSUGAR, the TV host chatted with us on the importance of women of color — Latinas especially — brushing up on their financial literacy skills and the significance of being the generation attempting to break financial trauma and build generational wealth for our communities.
Houghton was surprised by the number of views received on an episode of All Things Adrienne, about the first house she bought in Bel-Air. After buying her new home, she was inspired to dedicate a whole series to how she gets her home to look completely glammed up without breaking the bank. She also wanted to use this as an opportunity to share some of the things she's continued to learn in her journey as a homeowner.
"Growing up in New York City, I always lived in apartments. I grew up in the projects, sharing a room with my sister, so if I'm being completely honest, I was always scared of having a house because I hated the idea of being on the same floor where someone could jump in your window," she says. "Versus like, if you look at an apartment building, nobody's coming up to my window on the ninth floor."
On the same note, Houghton acknowledges that becoming a homeowner has been a major accomplishment. She had never lived in a house, and being able to buy her own home was something she has taken a lot of pride in. She's also excited to see how interested her fans have been about her first home and how she chose to decorate it, which is why she anticipates folks really enjoying All Things Adrienne Presents House to Home. She makes a point to always feature a mix of luxury pieces and affordable items from stores like HomeGoods and Target, to show viewers that you can design your home to look as luxe as possible even on a budget.
"I really have to give my husband (Israel Houghton) a little shout-out for encouraging me to invest in real estate. He has properties that he owns in Santa Fe, NM, and so many other places, and when we were getting ready to move, I had decided I wanted to live in Calabasas, and Israel was like, 'Why don't we make this an investment for you?' And I think as a man, that's a big thing to say. Let's do this where the house is completely in your name and for your credit," she says. "He was like, 'You should invest your money and this is your property, this is something you own, something for your assets — separate from me.'"
Houghton says her husband really helped walk her through the home-buying process with her first investment being the Calabasas home, which she ended up selling 10 months later for a nice profit. When the pandemic first hit, she realized she wanted to be closer to her family in NYC and invested in her second property in Westchester. She admits she has come across obstacles and learned quite a few important financial lessons along the way.
"A few things I learned in the process of buying a house was how important my credit was. I have money, but I had terrible credit at one point, so bad that when I lived in an apartment, I had a penthouse here across from The Grove in LA. But although I had the money to pay for the penthouse, they would not let me get the apartment without having someone cosign with me because my credit was trash," she says. "I was already on The Real for like four years. I literally could not get an apartment. I'm like, 'I have the money. I want to show this is how much money I make.' I was sitting at the leasing office, and I was like, 'Why am I being denied?' And sadly, especially for Latinos, and especially if you grew up in a family who maybe didn't have financial literacy themselves, they're not going to teach you what they don't know. And it's not that they're trying to do this to us. But if they don't know, they can't pass the information to us. And you know, sadly, my mom growing up was taught, you don't want credit cards. Credit cards are bad. Don't get a credit card. They thought it was some sort of a scam and that you were gonna end up in debt if you had credit cards, so I never had a credit card. I only had a debit card, and that was it."
Houghton soon learned that without a credit card, she had no proof of credit. She quickly started to work on building her credit by first getting a credit card. It took her wanting to purchase her own home to realize how crucial having good credit was. It also really helped her get her finances in order.
"I put recurring things on my credit card, like my cell phone bill. I knew that these were things I could cover and that they were gonna be recurring, and that really helped me get my credit score up to become a homeowner," she adds. "Being a homeowner is super important also because we put so much money into rent. When I added up how much I've spent in renting, I could own like two other homes. So it's important. If you get a chance to become a homeowner, it doesn't have to be of the biggest or the most glamorous home. It could be something tiny and small and just for you. One of my girlfriends who lives at home with her family, she enjoys living at home with her family, but she was like, 'How should I invest my money?' So she's actually getting a condo that she can lease out."
"It's super important, especially for us Latinas, to be part of the real estate game, to be part of the playing field, to even out the playing field for financial wealth for the future and for our children," she says. Houghton shared with us three tips for Latinas who are really looking to improve their finances:
"You got to get those savings together. They actually say that Latinos are the number-one spenders on entertainment and beauty. We are spending so much money in being consumers. We are phenomenal consumers — we are. Trust me when I tell you that marketing people and big corporations recognize our spending power. We spend, and we spend, and we spend. When we are spending, all we are doing is investing in other people instead of ourselves," she says. "So, the first thing I would say is to create a savings account. Put yourself on a budget, and recognize what your spending habits look like."
She advises to try to keep your credit-card balance below 30 percent, pay off as much debt as you can, and build credit by making purchases you know you can pay right back. "Don't max out that credit card, and don't go into debt on that credit card, but be able to prove to the credit agencies that you are reliable and that if they lend you money, you are absolutely going to pay it back in time," she says.
"I put [money] in a savings account that I do not touch because you never know what's going to happen, and then once it's got a nice amount in there, that's when I decide to invest. I'll say, 'OK, I have $10,000 in this savings account. What do I want to do? Do I want to invest in a new launch for one of my clothing lines? Do I want to invest on some cameras for All Things Adrienne?' There's so many things. Or I think I'm just going to hold it for now just in case when I actually know that there's something I want to invest in," she says. "In the average person's case, they can say 'OK, just for a few years I'm going to put away $10 every check I get,' or whatever it is, and at some point, that number is going to build and grow, and that might become an investment on a home."
Houghton hopes that when people watch the show, they feel inspired not just to eventually invest in homeownership — whenever that time is right for them — but to realize it doesn't have to cost a lot to make your home look beautiful.
"You can make any space really cool, especially now when you have Instagram and you're looking at how people make everything just look aesthetically dope," she says. "You can do that in your home, and I just hope that people get inspired to try things and to not look all the time online and see other people living beautifully but really take the time to do that for themselves, because it makes a huge difference in your life when you wake up and you're like, 'Oh my gosh, my house is clean, my things are organized, it looks beautiful. I'm in a beautiful space. It really changes how you feel on the inside."