Alumna Lazetta Rainey Braxton (MBA ’04), Founder and CEO of Lazetta & Associates and Co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners in New York, NY, speaks with Alumni Council member Mona Baset (MBA ‘12) about the importance of identifying and constantly chasing your “Why.”
Mona: You are the Founder and CEO of Lazetta & Associates and the Co-Founder and Co-CEO of 2050 Wealth Partners. Tell me more about your journey of entrepreneurship and the companies you lead.
Lazetta: I became an entrepreneur because I didn’t agree with much of what I saw around me in financial planning and wealth-building for underserved and overlooked populations. As part of my Wake Forest MBA program, the entrepreneurship business plan I developed was for a company I eventually founded in 2008 called Financial Fountains, which provided fee-only financial advice. I merged this business with 2050 Wealth Partners in 2019, a virtual, fee-only financial planning and wealth management firm. By the year 2050, the US Census Bureau says the US will be a racial mosaic; we want wealth to transfer accordingly. At 2050 Wealth Partners we believe that everyone deserves access to financial planning. Lazetta & Associates is a complementary consulting firm focused on DEIB (diversity, equity, inclusion and belonging) strategy. My firm guides registered investment advisor firms (RIAs) to nurture culturally aware and hospitable workplace environments that ignite innovation and allocate equity among their employees, their most valuable asset. It is important that RIAs are well-positioned to attract, retain and develop talent who can serve well the changing client demographics.
Mona: What inspired you to take this specific entrepreneurial path?
Lazetta: I found my “Why” early on, and it never changed. Growing up, I saw my parents struggle with money and wondered if it was systemic. I grew up in a rural town in Virginia and didn’t see a lot of Black professionals or Black wealth. I cannot separate the fact that racial oppression was very much a part of my hometown experience. I saw my parents’ experience, I noticed the racial disparity, and I knew I wanted to help people achieve their wealth and retirement goals despite racial oppression. Most importantly, I wanted that for my parents, and I needed to learn everything I could to make sure they retired comfortably. I am happy to say my parents reached their retirement goals! I didn’t realize until later how strongly that Why was driving everything.
Mona: Your approach to business and your service offerings seems unique. Tell me more about that.
Lazetta: To be honest, I’m not sure I really designed anything that has come to me. I stumbled upon solutions and ideas on the path of always chasing my “Why.” Lazetta & Associates believes in human capital and that everyone should bring their full self to the job – and get paid for it. How do we transform human capital to leverage it as an asset to the organization and the individual? DEIB isn’t an HR function – it’s an encompassing business strategy. How does this weave into the culture a firm creates for its people? When employees do not receive the compensation, promotions, and opportunities that they deserved, their ability to build wealth is significantly hampered by a depressed income trajectory. Also, how can any employer expect employees to be productive and strong contributors to the bottom line if they are treated inequitably? 2050 Wealth Partners is the laboratory, if you will, and the anchor for what I believe financial planning can do to leverage human capital. When firms value their people, their employees can really live out the life and legacy they desire and deserve and extend this opportunity to the clients that they serve. Both Lazetta & Associates and 2050 Wealth Partners are very boutique in their approach, and we choose our clients and partners with care and courage.
Mona: Given all your experiences with helping people grow, build wealth, and achieve their goals, what are some career Do’s and Don’ts you would share with us?
Lazetta: Do market research on what salary you should be at every point in your career. There is so much information available online now; there’s no excuse not to research your market worth and invite your employer to pay you equitably. Do lean into your network. Every time I moved to a new city, I started by connecting with my University of Virginia and Wake Forest University alumni networks. You need your tribe; you need your community. Do create a budget based on your current salary. When you’re starting off, think about what it will cost to set up your apartment, cover student loan payments, and other large expenses. I like to look at it as a lifestyle plan, not a budget. What kind of lifestyle do you want, and can you afford it? Think about your employer’s benefits and retirement plan as the base for your financial planning. The essentials are medical insurance, disability insurance, life insurance and retirement savings. Build on these foundational areas. Repeat all these Do’s throughout your career so you can ensure you will retire comfortably and live the life you want on the way to retirement and beyond. And, of course, find your “Why.” My only don’t: Don’t sell yourself short on the life and legacy you desire and deserve.
Mona: You recently were a keynote speaker at an American College of Financial Services Working Women and Wealth Summit on March 8 in New York. Are there some key points in your presentation you can share with us?
My talk was called “Charging Ahead with Care and Courage.” I laid out three important elements in this journey. First, get paid for DEIB work. It’s not just an HR function. It is a strategy that can help organizations and their people – their greatest asset – achieve success. Second, acknowledge and address burnout. We need to give ourselves permission to create the space needed to be our best selves in the workplace and outside of it. Finally, reflect on your own DEIB journey. Some of us have stumbled into being advocates without being experts or having training. What do we need to be the best versions of ourselves, and help others along the way?
Mona: You speak fondly of your time at Wake Forest University. What stands out for you?
Lazetta: I loved the intimate class size – there were just 33 students in my section. It allowed me to lean in and take a deeper dive into every aspect of the program and flourish as an MBA student. I was fortunate to be a Wachovia Scholar at the time. With the full scholarship, I was able to focus completely on the learning experience and the leadership opportunities. It was an honor to receive the Babcock award upon graduation. I also appreciated the network and have leveraged it many times in my career. My degree hangs prominently on my wall and visible in my Zoom background for all to see!