By Michael Ashcraft
PACE NEWS Contributor
People told Nikki Cannon’s mom, diagnosed with dyslexia, to be a typist. With bigger ambitions, she, notwithstanding, graduated with a bachelor degree, a master’s and a Phd. She became a university professor and a consultant for the U.S. Congress on social justice.
Triumphing over tough times was always part of Nikki’s life. Today she holds six professional licenses and an MBA and is building a team of financial professionals with World Financial Group. “I definitely did not grow up with a silver spoon in my mouth,” she told The Pace.
While she was in high school in Hawaii, her mother packed one suitcase and she and Nikki fled a physically abusive husband/step-dad. Mom and daughter landed in LAX, got a hostel room for two weeks and ate at soup kitchens until Mom got a job at Burger King.
Yup, a PhD flipping burgers. “She made it work,” Nikki says. “Honestly, I don’t feel like I came from poverty. I had a great childhood. There was never any obstacle that she was not going to overcome.” Eventually, mom landed a job with Children Protective Services and segued back to academia. For her part, Nikki was a stellar student at Los Angeles High School who, ironically, didn’t plan to go to college.
“Have you heard back from any of the colleges you applied to?” a college counselor called after her one day. No, she responded. She wanted to take time off to help out Mom. He looked at her grades and her SAT. It was too late for the UCs and Cal States, but she could still apply for private schools. At his insistence, she applied to four universities and was accepted into all four. She chose USC, from which she graduated with a degree in broadcast journalism and later got an MBA. She landed a job at Monster.com in 1997 and, lucky to ride the crest of the dot com boom, rose through the ranks. An associate invited her to work for WFG, which recruits and trains people with dreams to become financial professionals. Today, she leads an office in Torrance, helping everyone from the anesthesiologist in Beverly Hills to the janitor in Compton to put away what is possible for retirement. Of course, she has a heart for people of color.
“It’s up to us to seek financial education and literacy. It’s up to us to create generational wealth. It’s really been just this last generation that we’ve had a shot at creating generational wealth. Prior to the Baby Boomers, the rug was constantly being pulled out from beneath us.” WFG sent Nikki to Tulsa, OK, to be on hand and speak at events marking the 100th anniversary of the razing of the Black Wall St.
“Those people were doctors and lawyers and theater owners and bankers and grocers, and they lost everything in that fire,” Nikki recounts. “Could you imagine where their children and grandchildren would be today if they had been allowed to pass down their wealth?” Nikki’s grandmother worked all her life in a hospital but couldn’t save to bequeath any inheritance to her daughter. Nikki’s mother, however, is going to give her daughter an estate. Nikki, 51, happily married with two children, is doing quite well herself.
The cycle of oppression and racial poverty is being broken. Years ago, Nikki’s church paid for her tuition at USC. Today, she is able to “pay it forward.” When her hairdresser shared that her daughter wouldn’t be able to attend Stanford University’s summer law program as a senior, Nikki pulled out her check book. “Nope, she’s going,” she said.
Michael Ashcraft is a financial professional in Los Angeles https://agents.worldfinancialgroup.com/michael-ashcraft