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Caribbean Diaspora

15 Personal Finance Experts In The Caribbean & Diaspora You Should Know

Caribbean and Diaspora Personal Finance Experts

When I started on my own journey to pay off debt, save and invest, I binge read many personal finance books, and blogs by mostly American-born and bred experts.

Although the financial principles they shared were usually universal, there’s nothing like getting personal finance knowledge from people who share your cultural background and have overcome obstacles like supporting extended family, while tackling a mountain of student debt, navigating the permanent residency and  F1 Visa immigration processes or building wealth in Caribbean countries where practical personal finance information on investing and increasing your net worth is hard to find.

To that end, I’m happy to share these 15 personal finance experts in the Caribbean and the Caribbean American Diaspora you should know.

Melinda Belle

Barbados, West Indies

Melinda Belle Astrape Finance

Melinda is a Barbadian with more than a decade of experience in the field of accounting and founded Astrape Finance to bring transformation to your money and life through education sound planning and advice.

On top of personal and business finance consulting, Melinda created the Lampy the Lighthouse: Earning & Spending educational series and coloring book for children, authored My Money & Me and hosts Money Matters with Melinda broadcast to discuss educational personal finance tips.

Learn how to improve your money life over at

Abena Cannady

St. Lucian Heritage, USA

Abena CannadyAbena Cannady was determined to graduate from college debt free and worked full-time during her undergraduate studies in economics.

Not only did she graduate student loan free, but with a jump start on investing and well positioned to seize the opportunity to start her first business.

Abena views personal finances as a construction project and founded Finances Under Construction to provide practical and implementable tools, tips and resources on managing money, dumping debt and entrepreneurship for young adults.

Learn all about creating a blueprint for your money over at

Felicia Blaise

Haitian Heritage, USA

Felicia Blaise is the resource plug for Millennials who want to spend less and travel more.

As a new graduate living on her own, she found juggling her living expenses, settling into a new city and student loan payments all at once, a major challenge.

Through creating her own money management system, Felicia was able to pay off $7,000 of credit card debt in 7 months, save up a financial cushion and put money towards the thing she loves the most: traveling.

For the real-life cheat code to spending less and traveling more, check out her money management tips and savvy travel hacks at

Yanely Espinal

Dominican Heritage, USA

Yanely Es[inalYanely Espinal grew up in a family of 9 siblings and immigrant parents from the Dominican Republic, with very little money.

By working hard in school, she won a full ride to Brown University but still ended up finishing college with more than $10,000 in student loan and credit card debt.

She taught herself about credit and money management, is now completely debt free and saves half of her income.

Learn about savvy money hacks, plus credit and spending tips from Yanely’s video posts on her website

Jamila Souffrant

Jamaican in the USA

Jamila SouffrantJamila leveraged her money saving habits and financial savvy to purchase her first investment property, as a recent college graduate, in what is now one of Brooklyn’s most popular neighborhoods: DUMBO, New York.

Using that same money saving mindset, she was able to save $85,000 of her household income in one year and now, Jamila and her family are on the journey to financial freedom in 7 years or less.

For inspiration and tools to launch your own journey to financial freedom visit

Kara Stevens

Antiguan Heritage, USA

Kara Stevens

After Kara Stevens clawed her way out of $65,000 of debt ($40,000 of which she paid off in two years), she founded The Frugal Feminista to use what she learned about herself and money to help black women manage emotional health, build wealth and live a juicy life.

Kara prides herself on providing authentic, kind and thoughtful content on her blog, that tells the truth about how brown girls can strengthen their relationships with themselves and their money.

Learn how you can be happy, wealthy and brave over at

Claudia Russell

Jamaican Heritage, USA

Claudia RussellClaudia Russell believes that personal finance doesn’t have to be complicated, confusing or risky and is passionate about addressing the pressing problem of the lack of financial literacy affecting this generation’s communities of color.

She created Ms. Engineered Wealth to provide financial education that equips young professionals of color to increase their financial IQ and leverage their college degrees and high paying jobs to invest and build wealth for their own families and communities.

Get empowered, educated and informed over at

Kenishia S. Mais

Jamaica, West Indies

Kenishia S. Mais is a Jamaican entrepreneur and financial educator who is passionate about personal finance.

In 2013, after Kenishia’s entire financial life collapsed, she regained her financial footing and got her money back on track.

Out of that experience, she founded Thriving Dollars – a Jamaican-based digital community empowering 20- to 30-somethings to create their ideal financial lives.

Kenishia is convinced that with the right tools and resources, everyone can live a life they are proud of.

Find out more about the Thriving Dollars community at

Kara Perez

Dominican Heritage, USA

Kara Perez

Kara realized that her lack of financial education was crippling her when she found herself broke, unemployed and saddled with student loan debt.

She then made the decision to tackle her largest financial challenge: her student loans.

Kara became obsessed with increasing her financial literacy, and figured out how to pay off just over $25,000 in student loan debt on a $30,000 salary.

With the financial knowledge she gained and the empowering experience of paying off her student loans, Kara founded Bravely, a community that provides financial tools to help women bridge the gap between their dreams and their realities.

Learn how you can live your best life as a self-identified woman over at

Steven M. Hughes

Jamaican Heritage, USA

Steven M Huges After spending several years educating himself about money and turning around his own personal finances, Steven M. Hughes founded Know Money, Inc., a non-profit organization committed to creating money-savvy youth and young adults across South Carolina.

Know Money, Inc fulfills it’s mission through strategic partnerships, program development, financial events and workshops to build the foundation for self-sufficiency and generational wealth.

Steven is a Certified Financial Education Instructor and was named a Best & Brightest 35 and Under by Columbia Business Monthly and 2015 Global Shaper by The World Economic Forum.

Read up more about Steven and Know Money, Inc. at

Patrice C. Washington

Belizean Heritage, USA

Patrice C Washington lost her successful 7-figure business in 2008, then rebuilt her financial life by reconnecting to her purpose and reinventing herself.

She is one who believes in straightforward personal finance and founded Real Money Answers to provide tools and resources to help move the masses from debt management to money mastery.

On top of the tools and resources she offers on her website, Patrice is a best-selling author of three books and a featured money expert on the Steve Harvey Morning Show.

Start mastering your money over at

Cherryl Hanson Simpson

Jamaica, West Indies

Cheryl Hanson Simpson

While working at a leading financial institution in Jamaica, Cherryl Hanson Simpson started a personal journey to discover money success.

By learning positive financial principles, she transformed from a carefree spender to an avid saver and successful entrepreneur.

In 2008, Cherryl founded Financial Smart Services out of her desire to empower others towards personal and financial enrichment.

She has been featured as a personal finance columnist for the Jamaica Observer Online and is the author of The 3 M’s of Money: How To Manage Multiply and Maintain Your Money a guide on creating financial and entrepreneurial success.

Get into Cherryl’s smart money gems at

Natasha M. Campbell

Jamaican Heritage, USA

Natasha M Campbell

Natasha M. Campbell learned about the importance of money when she decided to strike out on her own at the age of 17.

Although she took the time to map out her financial needs, separating her wants from her needs became a serious challenge.

When her daughter was born, prematurely, at 27 weeks, Natasha realized she did not want her financial mess of maxed out credit cards, a non-existent budget and zero dollars in savings to be part of her daughter’s story. So she got to work, together with her husband, to pay off $18,000 in debt, save $16,000, improve credit scores and purchase a home, by their daughter’s 1st birthday.

Motivated by her own journey, Natasha created to empower mothers to live happier, financially healthy and fulfilled lives.

Wilson Muscadin

Haitian Heritage, USA

Wilson M

From an early age, Wilson learned valuable financial lessons from his father and built a solid foundation for financial decision making from the personal finance books that were required reading in his home.

Once he got to college, though, he quickly realized that many of his peers never learned or discussed how to manage money.

This fact was reinforced further throughout his 13 years in the financial services industry: the gap in financial education for young professionals continued to persist. To fill that gap Wilson created a forum for young professionals to learn and discuss money topics in simple language.

Join the discussion and “Reject The Status Quo” over at

Sandy Smith

Jamaican in the USA

Sandy SmithSandy Smith was in $121,000 of debt from her closed retail business, personal and student loans and owned absolutely nothing.

By establishing S.M.A.R.T. debt payoff goals, haggling directly with credit card companies, negotiating her own debt consolidation and leveraging a side hustle as an Amazon seller, Sandy was able to pay off $50,000 of her debt in less than two years, while being unemployed.

Throughout her debt payoff journey, she has used unorthodox methods, like opting out of Christmas gifts for her family and investing in rental properties with money from her 401k, to pay down her debt fast.

Sandy is on a mission to get herself out of debt and help others do the same, faster than they think is possible.

You can jump on board over at her website,

Who are some other Personal Finance experts in the Caribbean and Diaspora people should know?

~Melisa Boutin

7 Personal Finance Books By Authors in the Caribbean & the Diaspora

7 Personal Finance Books by Authors In the Caribbean & Diaspra

Reading personal finance books is one of the key ways I increased my financial knowledge about saving, investing and paying off debt fast.

I was always able to learn new money concepts and money management strategies, from the perspectives, approaches and experiences different authors shared, on the topic personal finance, although it was never easy to find one from a Caribbean author.

Thankfully, that is no longer the case and I am happy to share 7 personal finance books by authors in the Caribbean and the Diaspora you should read.

Smart Money Rules: How To Secure Your Financial Future In A New Economy

By: Marie Deary, Grenadian Heritage, USA

Smart Money Rules Book Marie DearyIn her book Smart Money Rules: How To Secure Your Financial Future In A New Economy, Marie Deary helps you navigate the intimidating waters of personal finance in the new economy. This personal finance read is a “powerful, must-have manifesto” on how to budget to save, save to invest and investing the right way.

Add Smart Money Rules to your reading list to learn how to build the financial security you want for your life.

Stock Market Investing Mini Lessons for Beginners: A Starter Guide for Beginner Investors

By: Mabel Nunez, Dominican Heritage, USA

Stock Market Investing Mini Lessons for Beginners Book Mabel Nunez

Mabel Nunez found her passion for stocks and investing as a junior in college and wrote Stock Market Investing Mini Lessons for Beginners: A Starter Guide for Beginner Investors to teach others how to understand the stock market and start investing.

Learn how the stock market & individual stock investing works in an easily digestible and straight to the point way, with Mabel’s book.


Unmasking The Strong Black Woman: 16 Essays on How To Manage Your Emotional Health, Build Your Wealth, and Live a Juicy Life

By: Kara Stevens, Antiguan Heritage, USA

Unmasking the Strong Black Woman Book Kara Stevens

Kara Stevens is on a mission to help black women be healthy, wealthy and brave and wrote Unmasking The Strong Black Woman: 16 Essays on How To Manage Your Emotional Health, Build Your Wealth, and Live a Juicy Life as a resource that converges personal finance, feminism and self-help.

Make a change in your mental health, self-care, family relationships, finances and redefine strength, with the help of Kara’s book.

Life, Liberty N’ Property: A Guide To Successful Real Estate Investing

By: John Delia, Haitian Heritage, USA

Life Liberty n' Property Book John DeliaJohn Delia raised, managed and exited a $300,000+ real estate investment fund by the time he was 25 years old and shares his knowledge and experience as a millennial real estate investor in his book Life, Liberty N’ Property: A Guide To Successful Real Estate Investing.

Get the knowledge you need about real estate investing and a roadmap to your first income-producing real estate, here.

RELATED: 15 Personal Finance Experts In The Caribbean & Diaspora You Should Know

The 3 Ms of Money: How To Manage Multiply & Maintain Your Money

By: Cherryl Hanson Simpson, Jamaica, West Indies

3 Ms of Money Book Cherryl Hanson Simpson

 After taking her own journey to financial success, Cherryl Hanson Simpson, shares how she managed, multiplied and maintains her money. Find out how to overcome financial failure, and learn the steps to win in the game of money with  Cherryl’s book, The 3 Ms of Money: How To Manage Multiply & Maintain Your Money.




Student Loan Answers: A 7-Step Guide To Understanding Your Caribbean Student Loan

By: Melisa Boutin, Kittitian in the USA

Student Loan Answers Book Melisa Boutin

In my book, Student Loan Answers: A 7-Step Guide To Understanding Your Caribbean Student Loan, I share my first-hand experience with tackling my Caribbean student loan, and how Caribbean students can navigate the muddled college financing process, avoid lender mishaps and slash the high-interest cost of Caribbean student loans. Learn how to reap the benefits of your investment in higher education with Student Loan Answers



My Money & Me

By: Melinda Belle, Barbados, West Indies 

My Money and Me Book Melinda Belle

 Melinda Belle, knows firsthand how your mindset, emotions, and financial behavior can negatively affect your money. In her e-book, My Money & Me, Melinda helps you examine how your own behavior keeps your money from growing and how to set your finances on the right path. Start transforming your finances with a copy of Melinda’s book, here.  

What are other personal finance books by authors in the Caribbean and Diaspora to read?

~Melisa Boutin

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Featured – Secret Birds Caribbean: November Rare Bird

Caribbean Millennials: Here Are 3 Smart Ways to Invest in Yourself

3 Ways Caribbean Millennials Can Invest In Yourself

As Millennials in the Caribbean and the American diaspora, we are more educated than our parents and grandparents, yet face very differenet financial challenges.

If you are one of those Millennials, trying to get a handle on your finances and your life, here are 3 key ways to invest in yourself that I shared in my article for Shuga N’ Spice Magazine,

3 Smart Ways Caribbean Millennials Can Invest

1. Create A Vision For Your Life

One that clearly defines what you value and the goals your need acieve in order to make that vision a reality.

2. Learn More About Money

Financial success is more than increasing and realizing your earning potential.

3. Use Technology To Earn Money

When your job prospects, work life or earnings from you career fall short use technology to
your advantage.

Read the entire article over at

~Melisa Boutin

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10 Ways Your Caribbean Lender Is Robbing You Blind

10 Ways Caribbean Banks Are Robbing You Blind

When I signed up for a Caribbean student loan to fund my college education, I thought I made a simple agreement.

I know, now, that it was everything but a simple financial obligation, and after my own lender messed up my student loan, I identified 10 ways your Caribbean lender is (probably) robbing you blind.

Non Disclosure of Policies and Procedures

Although you signed and agreed to a promissory note for your student loan from your Caribbean lender, details on its policies for applying principal payments, the process to apply for deferment, what happens to interest that builds up during your in-school or post-graduation grace period and when you will have an opportunity to keep outstanding interest from being added to your loan’s principal balance, are not disclosed to you in writing.

The result: You lack a full understanding of what you agreed to, and your lender makes more money

Mysterious Account Transactions

When you signed up for a student loan, you expect transactions to involve disbursements of loan funds, accrual of interest, loan payments and not much else. Yet your Caribbean lenders apply mysterious fees without much explanation, set payments aside to phantom holding accounts, record disbursements you did not request, and fail to apply payments to your loan account even after the funds have cleared from your personal bank account.

The result: You pay more in interest & fees, and your lender makes more money

Not Issuing Regular Statements

Even though transactions occur on your student loan account monthly, you don’t receive regular statements. Most times, it’s impossible for you to know what the status of your loan is, whether your payments were properly applied, and you can’t even be sure if your principal balance is on an upward or downward trend.

The result: You’re confused about what you owe, and your lender makes more money

Limited Access to Account Information

You’ve tried to get up-to-date information about your account, but experience delayed responses and if your lender offers online account access, the account information is hard to discern. Getting a clear picture of what you owe in terms of outstanding principal and interest balances, or how many payments you have remaining, seems out of reach.

The result: You can’t stay on top of what’s happening on your loan account, and your lender makes more money

Outdated Methods of Payment

Because the options to pay your student loan are cumbersome, your on-time payments are delayed and show up on your account, days past the due date. Your lender’s idea of innovation is an online payment option that involves the multi-step process of downloading a form and submitting a copy of multiple forms of identification, to make a payment by credit card or by directing you to third-party bill payment platform, whose system has with varying payment delivery times.

The result: You get hit with late fees and default notices, and your lender makes more money

Losing Track of Payments

You submit your monthly payments using the options available to you, then months (or even years) down the line, when you are able to get a copy of your loan statement, you realize that multiple payments are missing or not properly applied to your account. Your loan’s principal balance, that you thought that you were chipping away at with each payment, is stagnant or reduces only slightly.

The result: You end up repaying your loan for a longer period of time, and your lender makes more money
Related Article: How I Shaved $6,000 Off My Caribbean Student Loan After Making $4,000 in Interest Only Payments

Capitalization of Interest Without Prior Notice

Capitalization of outstanding interest on your student loan has a huge impact on the total cost of the debt to you and the size of your monthly payments. Yet, your Caribbean lender fails to inform you of when it takes place, and what happens to outstanding interest after capitalization.

The result: You pay interest on top of interest, and your lender makes more money

Withholding Extra Payments

After making room in your budget to submit extra payments to pay down your student loan faster, your receipts fail to reflect how it was applied to your account. You contact your loan officer, and you are surprised to find out, that although the money for your extra has left your own personal bank account, it has never made it to your loan account.

The result: Your loan accrues more interest than it would if your extra payments were applied, and your lender makes more money

Not Warning About Interest-Only Payments

Although it’s easy to tell when your principal balance stays the same after on-time payments, it’s harder to figure out why. You are totally unaware of when your loan effectively becomes an interest-only loan and receive no warning from your Caribbean lender when your loan negatively amortizes.

The result: The total cost of your loan can potentially double over time, and your lender makes more money

Subpar Customer Service

On top of the inefficient operations of your Caribbean lender, the customer service is the worst. In order for you get a minimum level of service, you have to contact a friend of your family who works at the bank directly. Other than that, the best case scenario is to endure frustratingly long hold times, unanswered emails, and unresponsive and rude staff.

The result: You are repeatedly worked up by the low level of service, and your lender makes more money

All these practices work together to bring more profits to your Caribbean lender at your expense. Make sure to use these 7 steps to keep avoid these lender mishaps and cut the costs of your Caribbean student loan.

~Melisa Boutin

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