The latest edition of the Mavericks’ HUDDLE was designed to help people just starting their journey on the financial road map.

Or those who had gotten lost along the way.

What it delivered was much more than that, supplying terrific advice for just about everybody, no matter what economic milepost you might be at.

The one-hour virtual event on Wednesday had wonderful wisdom from a strong panel of community leaders and business experts who spoke at the session – Financial Empowerment: Closing the Wealth Gap.

The Mavericks partnered with online banking leader Chime, the team’s jersey-patch sponsor, to produce this version of the HUDDLE. The group, expertly moderated by Yahoo Finance anchor Akiko Fujita, stressed that getting ahead financially requires sacrifice, but also a lot of common sense, too.

“The No. 1 thing (for younger people) is to learn to live beneath your means,” said Roland G. Parrish, CEO of Parrish Restaurants. “If you’re able to get a good job, stay with your parents for a year, then the next year, you’ll have enough cash to get a home or get a vehicle.

“Live beneath your means.”

To which, Fujita said: “That’s advice all of us can take.”

Joining Parrish and Fujita on the panel were chief marketing officer of Chime, Melissa Alvarado, VP of government affairs and public policy at Dallas Area Habitat For Humanity Joli Robinson, executive director of Way Back Home Robert Manley and Michael Finley, Mavericks’ vice president of basketball operations and one of the founding board members of the HUDDLE.

The HUDDLE is an initiative of Mavs Take Action! It stands for Honesty, Unity, Diversity, Dialogue, Listening, Equality.

This was the sixth installment and, like the five before it, featured lively conversation.

And more. The Mavericks and Chime announced that they will donate $80,000 to five North Texas organizations who work to provide financial empowerment programs and support:

Greater Dallas Habitat for Humanity, Way Back House, Lone Star Justice Alliance, Oasis Center and Dallas County Promise.

That financial investment is impressive, but the advice on Wednesday was priceless, so to speak.

“Save money. Forget that you have it,” was Alvarado’s key point. “The first thing toward financial health is to make sure you have that emergency fund.

“And take simple steps. This can feel incredibly overwhelming. If you don’t have an emergency fund, start one. It can be overwhelming if we try to solve it all at once. Progress is important, but we won’t solve it all in one day.”

Alvarado said Chime is doing its part to get individuals in all creditworthy categories into a better place financially.

One of the best pieces of advice she could offer was to be aware of predatory lenders – such as payday advance loans.

“We offer free overdraft (protection) to our customers,” Alvarado said. “The No. 1 thing people worry about is they don’t know how they’re going to make it to payday.

“And they worry about overdrafts.”

She used the example of a $3 cup of coffee turning into a $38 cup of coffee if it is paid for with insufficient funds. Chime works with customers to eliminate that.

Robinson endorsed this financial strategy wholeheartedly.

“The starting line is different for different families with debt-to-income ratio, credit ratings (and more),” she said. “Predatory loans – I’ve heard them referred to as quicksand. Those lending practices typically have targeted low-income people.”

Manley’s organization helps citizens re-enter society after having been incarcerated. It’s a difficult restart for anybody and Manley said that employers and landlords have to fight the temptation that there are built-in biases in these situations.

“Once the employer or the landlord finds out about the individual’s background, they put together a stigma and it also relates to those who minorities,” Manley said. “So finding housing is extremely tough. That’s where Way Back works with employers and landlords to find housing. Those are the two biggest parts, housing and employment. They have to take place quickly for them to stabilize and build up some savings.”

He said the average wage for people who have been incarcerated but are returning to the workforce also can be much lower. “There’s a huge gap, which exacerbates the problem,” he said. “When the average annual (wage) is $20 per hour and most of our people are making $10 an hour. So I would challenge the landlords and employers to give those who may have a background – they say they’re background-friendly, but they’re not – to give them opportunities.”

Robinson said that two areas of concern are front and center when it comes to helping people through Habitat for Humanity.

One is simply being able to take care of the day-to-day business of life without being nickel-and-dimed.

For instance: “On Friday, if you go to a business and cash your check, they’re taking a percentage of your check for you to cash it there – instead of being able to go into a bank, establish perhaps a line of credit and have a bank account in your name so your check can be deposited without those fees. That means your take-home pay is not what it should be.”

And when it comes to advice for younger people trying to gain a financial foothold?

“I wish someone would have told me on first day of college that you don’t have to get a credit card,” she said. “Be mindful of your spending. Credit cards can be a problem for years.”

Finley worked his way up from a bare-bones upbringing in Chicago to become an NBA star. But he has never forgotten his financial roots.

And he tries to impart that wisdom to this generation of NBA players.

“I talk to a lot of young ones,” Finley said. “And I always tell them: stash now, so that you can flash later.

“And that goes for non-NBA players, too.”

That’s sometimes hard for younger people to embrace. Putting the shiny new set of wheels ahead of the mortgage payment is a recipe for financial hardship.

For more information, or to watch a repeat of the The HUDDLE, visit:

The Huddle – The Official Home of the Dallas Mavericks (

Twitter: @ESefko


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