Ani Mercedes
Ani Mercedes Miami Girls Wealth Gap
Ani Mercedes

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Graduate school left me with an overwhelming mountain of student loans that I was afraid would stifle my pursuit of becoming a filmmaker and artist. I had a decision to make: find a way to pay off my debt or follow my dreams to become an artist. I did both. In two years, I paid off my student loans, produced two short documentaries (both featured at film festivals and one on PBS), all while working full-time and learning as much as I could about personal finance. I’ve since quit my day job and am a full-time freelance documentary filmmaker. I want to help others who feel trapped and lost with money by sharing my experience and knowledge. I launched You’re Already You and started leading workshops on personal finance and helping other ambitious dreamers take action in the direction of their dreams. I’ve been featured in financial publications such as Learnvest, Zerobound, and Bankrate. My goal is to help soulful ambitious women become financially and professionally confident.

WHY MIAMI?
I grew up in Miami — going to public school from 3rd grade through high school— and consider it my hometown. However, I left for about 10 years in search of a place that was more educated and respectful (i.e. with less road rage). However, family, sunshine, and food (Palacio de los Jugos!) brought me back. As did a sincere belief that you have to ‘be the change you wish to see in the world’ — if I want my hometown to be a more educated and respectful place then I must help make it so. I became an elementary school teacher in the same public school system that I was in (via Teach for America) and I created short documentary films that share the stories of the people and hidden gems that I love here. I’m rooted in this city and hope to help other ambitious dreamers to live an abundant and confident life in Miami or wherever they choose to live.

PROBLEM
Miami has “a 47% earnings disparity between men and women with a graduate or professional degree, with women earning $49,400 versus men’s median earning of $72,821.” These numbers put us on the list of America’s economies with the biggest gender pay gaps.

The problem persists across educational levels, race, and even among college graduates. As a result, women have more difficulties paying off their student loans. They end up paying more and for a longer time than men.

SOLUTION
While education improves the pay gap problem, it is not an effective solution for closing it completely. Women have to acquire skills to better negotiate for equal pay. This is why I’ve created a platform called You’re Already You that does three things: building community, teaching personal finance skills, and sharing stories.

First and foremost, it is important to provide a supportive community that would help empower women to advocate for themselves, allow them to share their experiences, take action, and stay on track with their goals. Secondly, I educate women about the importance of financial independence and teach them personal finance skills and negotiation strategies for better salary, benefits, and promotions. Lastly, I share inspiring stories of soulful independent women who challenge stereotypes — like a retired 70-year-old woodworker who built a canoe from planks she salvaged off of Biscayne Bay and a graphic designer who has built a freelance business that’s she’s managed on four continents.

I want women in Miami — and beyond — to fearlessly negotiate for a raise, confidently start the business of their dreams and own themselves fully.

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