When the topics of social justice, wealth inequality and financial insecurity come up, financial literacy is often presented as one way to address them. But Phuong Luong says financial literacy is not a silver bullet; instead, financial professionals, she argues, have an obligation to address social justice by weaving the good, the bad and the ugly truths about the nation’s financial history into their day-to-day work.
“Focusing solely on financial literacy as the solution adds additional burdens on people already experiencing financial insecurity to solve systemic problems on their own and can be a distraction from structural barriers that together we have the power to change,” she said.
The 34-year-old is a financial planning educator and financial planner and, this past October, became Robasciotti & Philipson’s investment strategist.
In all those positions, Luong has weaved a common thread of social justice activism. As an educator who once taught special education at urban schools and now teaches financial planning at Boston University, Luong is passionate about helping students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds.
In 2017, around the same time she started teaching at Boston University, she launched a financial planning and coaching firm for middle income earners. Her goal was to remedy the economic problems she saw in her students’ lives, as well as those she experienced firsthand growing up in Brooklyn, N.Y.
“I cannot be an effective change-maker without understanding the systems that cause the financial poverty and pain that so many experience either temporarily or for the longterm,” Luong said.
Her knowledge of underserved markets and social justice investing has made her an emerging leader in wealth management. She sits as chair of the CFP Board’s Council on Education and is a member of the Center for Financial Planning’s Diversity Advisory Group.
And now, as an investment strategist, she is using her sagacity to lead the management process for Robasciotti & Philipson’s social justice investment portfolios. She works with investors, data providers, activists and community partners to construct portfolios that invest for climate, economic, gender and racial justice.
The Black-owned, women-led firm has also asked her to be the investment strategist for Adasina Social Capital, a sister firm launched in August that seeks to make R&P’s new and custom social justice index and its other investment strategies more accessible to the general public.
“Financial professionals have strong technical knowledge in financial systems, so we can have a big impact in clearing barriers to wealth building that currently exist, as well as in strengthening new and existing pathways to more equitable wealth for all people,” Luong said.
Luong’s passion for social causes is even reflected in her love for music. Her favorite on-trend band is BTS, a Korean pop group riding the wave of international stardom that sings about class divides, consumerism and self-confidence.