Michaela Jae Rodriguez
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Mom and Advocate Dr. C. Nicole Mason on the Power of Financial Freedom

Directed by Kelly Teacher for The Advcoate and Merrill.

Dr. C. Nicole Mason, a single mother to twins, was recently named one of the World’s 50 Greatest Leaders by Fortune and a Champion of Pride by The Advocate and is the president and CEO of the Institute for Women’s Policy Research, a beltway think tank focused on winning economic equity for all women. Dr. Mason is the second leader in the organization’s history, and one of few women of color leading a think tank in Washington, D.C. "When I think about where I started out to where I end up," Mason says reflecting on the path that brought her to where she is today, "It's definitely been a journey, and an imperfect one." Financial freedom is something she thinks about a lot. “It means having food and shelter and all the things that I need for not only me but for my children, [also] being able to dream and have possibility,” she says. That sentiment reflects her desire to impact the financial freedom of all women, as she describes her organization's mission to "win economic equity for all women and to build women's power and influence in society."

“When I think about financial freedom, it really is about my ability to dream and to chart my own course and to know that I’m OK and that I have everything that I need.”

This lines up with Merrill’s Diverse Viewpoints:  Exploring Wealth in the LGBTQ+ Community study of affluent LGBTQ+ individuals, which found that 44 percent of respondents said financial independence is one of their top priorities, while 21 percent said being able to purchase what they want is also of high importance.

Dr. Mason attributes purchasing her first home as one of the most important steps in charting her path to financial freedom. While she was attending Howard University in Washington, D.C. and living with a roommate, she remembers a moment when her landlord raised their rent. "Then I did the math, and I said, 'Well, why don't we just buy a house?' It seemed so foreign because I was like 24 or 25, but within six months I had purchased my first home. And that was the beginning of what I know now was my journey to financial freedom." Since then, Dr. Mason has purchased four homes, and still owns three of them. Dr. Mason is not alone in purchasing a home to build financial freedom. According to Merrill's study, 18% of affluent LGBTQ+ individuals are planning to or want to buy a home, compared with just 9% of the general population who say the same.  

When it comes to plans for her financial future, she’s taking both herself and her children into consideration. "My biggest accomplishment are my twins," she says. The attention she's given to charting her own path to home ownership and financial freedom, she describes, "has not only provided me financial security and stability, but also allows me to be able to pass on wealth to my children in a way that my family, my mom, my dad, were not able to do." 

To learn more about Merrill’s study “Diverse Viewpoints: Exploring Wealth in the LGBTQ+ Community” visit ML.com/Diversity.

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