Mellody Hobson of Ariel Investments: ‘Capitalism Needs to Work for Everyone’

How did you go from that to finance?

Finance was right for me because I was desperate to understand money. Money was, in my life, a debilitating topic. It was a source of great worry and anxiety. I thought, “Could I be in a position to help ease people’s burden when they think about money by teaching them?”

Because we don’t learn about money in school in America. In high school in America, you can take wood shop or auto, but not take investing. But who whittles in their spare time? No one cleans their own carburetor.

Money is a subject that is extraordinarily uncomfortable for a lot of people. Parents have been queried about their comfort level in speaking to children about money, and they say they are more comfortable talking about sex and drugs than money. That comes from their own money anxiety. And interestingly, we inherit our money anxiety. All of our money habits are inherited from our parents.

How did your mom talk about it with you?

In my life, money was a pervasive topic. My mother was very direct. When we didn’t have any, she told us. She would tell us when we were in trouble. She also made money a part of my everyday life in ways that were very helpful. For example, she always had me pay the check in a restaurant. I knew what things cost. My mother would have me look at bills. I knew what the phone bill was, what the light bill was.

What do you tell people who are starting on their financial journey, wherever they might be?

I start off by explaining to them that it’s never too late, literally never. I also think the most important thing you can learn about money, and Warren Buffett talks about this, is compound interest. It’s the eighth wonder of the world. If you understand compound interest, you understand money working for or against you.

We talk about long-term patient investing, and that idea that slow and steady does win the race, that time can be your best friend when it comes to investing. That’s why we have a turtle as a logo at Ariel.

Given your commitment to leveling the playing field for working families, do you advocate for their interests in your board work?

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