Financial independence is an accomplishment which people of varying ages and ethnic backgrounds strive for. Yet, within Black and Latino communities, the struggle to attain that goal has been well-documented. Passing down generational wealth to loved ones was once considered more anomaly than trend in economically-challenged neighborhoods, due to a lack of resources, education, and opportunity. Yet, with the passage of time and countless barriers broken, that imbalance has been diminished, with figures like Rashad Bilal and Troy Millings, co-hosts of the popular podcast Earn Your Leisure, helping to lead the way by example.
Raised in Westchester, N.Y., Bilal and Millings bonded through their thirst for learning the ins-and outs of the financial world, which both have passed along in their respective journeys as educators. In 2018, the lifelong friends decided to join forces and take their teachings from the classroom onto social media and beyond with Earn Your Leisure, a brand that has produced a successful podcast that has amassed over 50 million downloads to date. In addition to interviewing various figures in business and entertainment, Bilal and Millings have structured Earn Your Leisure into an educational platform with Earn Your Leisure University (ELYU), and have expanded into seminars, festivals, and other live events.
Unabashed fans and students of Hip-Hop, the pair’s professional, yet relatable demeanor and disposition have led to them being embraced not only by fellow fans of the music, but the artists themselves. Relaying their insight on investing and building passive income to some of the biggest stars in the game, Bilal and Millings have helped bring financial literacy to the forefront of the culture while simultaneously cultivating their ever-growing empire.
The next step in Earn Your Leisure‘s expansion is “global domination,” as the duo prepare to make the trek to the UK for their upcoming InvestFest, which takes place October 30-31, 2022 at the storied Royal Albert Hall in London. Founded by Millings, Bilal, Matthew Garland, and Michael MacDonald, InvestFest launched in Atlanta in 2021, with its latest sold-out event attracting over 14,000 attendees.
The third installment of the financial literacy festival is also the first InvestFest under the budding moguls’ new partnership with Steve Harvey, who spoke at the inaugural event, and will take place over the course of two days. In addition to a VIP Seminar & Mixer, Halloween Party hosted by Terrence J, InvestFest UK will conclude with a live recording of Earn Your Leisure and will include appearances by 19 Keys, Ian Dunlap, WallStreet Trapper, Patricia Bright, and more.
VIBE spoke will Rashad and Troy about taking InvestFest event overseas, partnering with Steve Harvey, the success and growth of their Earn Your Leisure podcast and brand, and the music that keeps them focused on the grind.
VIBE: This month you’ll be heading to the UK for the latest InvestFest, which coincides with the British end of Black History Month. What about that experience are you most looking forward to?
Rashad Bilal: I mean London’s evolved, so it’s dope to actually be able to interact with people internationally. I realized that a lot of the same issues that we have in America, especially for black people, it’s not just a local thing, it’s a global thing. So, the hunger and thirst for information that people have in America, which is the reason why we became so popular, is the same hunger and thirst that people have all over the world, especially the UK. That’s a country with a lot of immigrants and not a lot of information. So to be able to go out there at the end, I think it’s real fitting that it’s the end of Black History Month. So it’s like this is the bookmark [of] forward thinking into the future. And then it’s also at the Royal Albert Hall, which is the most prestigious venue in the UK and I think that that’s also very symbolic. Us coming from America and getting that venue where the Beatles played and the royal family goes and different things of that nature. Just to kind of show the people of London where we’re going as a people all over the world, I think it’s very important. So it’s something that I think is gonna be extremely important to the world. To the UK, Europe and everybody.
Troy Millings: Yeah, I think it’s fitting. It’s Black history, they didn’t say African-American history, it’s Black history. So the fact that it’s culminating at the last day of it, I mean, it makes perfect sense. This is a unifying event, so when we cross the pond, we see faces like us and they see faces like themselves and then we’re getting education. So the fact that it’s us doing it and it’s not rooted in entertainment, the fact that it’s rooted in education, it speaks volumes. Like even when we say it to people, they’re like, ‘Yo, can you believe this like Royal Albert Hall for education?’ So it’s going to be a historic moment. Anytime we get to touch international land is going to be historic. That’s what we came for, [to] create history and become financial missionaries and spread the word of finance. Like [Rashad] said, it’s not a localized issue, it’s not an American issue, it’s a global issue. So if we can provide information [and] education that helps people’s lives, that’s what we’re gonna do.
Definitely. For those who may not be aware, what is InvestFest and how did it originate?
Rashad: InvestFest is a financial literacy festival, it started in Atlanta. We did Atlanta last year and then this year and our idea for the American-based content was to have something that was kind of similar to a lot of different music festivals that we see. Like Coachella or Made in America or Broccoli City, stuff like that, but we wanted to put our twist on it and have financial literacy and business. So we had food trucks, we have a vending marketplace, hundreds of small businesses set up booths. Musical performances, people like Rick Ross performed, T-Pain Queen Naija, but then we have fireside chats about cryptocurrency, real estate, stocks. Then we have like people like Steve Harvey that come and do live podcasts. We had Tyler Perry do a live podcast. So we’re just blending culture, music, sports, entertainment, everything, all together but it’s all rooted in business and financial literacy, so it’s a vibe.
So the whole thing is just to create a fun, festival type of vibe, but actually do something productive with [something where] somebody can actually leave with information that could change their life. So we started that last year and that grew crazy. We had like 3,500 people last year, we had 14,000 people this year. So now being that it has become such a cultural phenomenon, we thought that it would be a good idea to take this show on the road and take it to different continents. So London is gonna be the first place outside of America where we have this, but hopefully we can do this in different parts of the world, as well. Kind of just like Rolling loud. You got Rolling Loud Miami, Rolling Loud Toronto. I’ve heard that they’re about to take it to Asia, then like the Philippines or something. Thailand, I think. So, just like that model.
Earlier you mentioned Steve Harvey, who you recently partnered with for this InvestFest. So how did that come to life?
Troy: We connected with him through his business manager who was a huge fan of the show, loved everything that we were doing. A young man named Thabiti Stephens, he loved everything we’re doing and said, ‘Look, I want to introduce you to S.H.,’ and he was a man of his word. That happened last November and we sat down with him to do an interview and that interview just sparked an organic relationship. And we had conversations before we sat with him for the interview and after. And just from the way we were talking, he was like, ‘Listen, I love what you guys are doing. Anything that you have that’s involved in business, I want to be involved, as well.’ It just so happened that InvestFest was the next thing on the lineup for him to get involved it with and he said ‘You know what, this is it. I want to be a part of it long-term.’ So we were fortunate and gracious enough to have him as a partner and his relationships led to other pieces of the puzzle for us when it came to InvestFest. So his relationship opened the door for Dan Cathy to be part of it, it opened the door for Tyler Perry to be a part of it, but it also introduced all audience to him, as well. I think he’s one of those people who is just a generational talent, right? So my generation and our generation might know him for being at the Apollo or The Steve Harvey Show. And another generation might him only for Family Feud, but most generations don’t know the business acumen and the things he’s been through from that side. So it was a valuable relationship and it’s something that we look forward to expand on in the future.
Speaking of Steve’s growth in entertainment and building empires, a lot of people may not know that he didn’t get his first car until his thirties. How important is partnering with somebody like that who has a backstory similar to many people?
Troy: I mean, you’re talking about a guy who’s been in the entertainment business over 35 years, so he’s seen it all. And the best thing about is that we get to learn from those mistakes. That’s one of those things about life, when somebody who goes through something, if he pays it forward he gives you information that you can’t and that’s what he’s done. He’s given us a lot of information when it comes to this business and actually giving us pointers and and how to navigate through it. And like I said, he wants to collaborate even more so it’s gonna be more stuff that comes from there.
You’ve become big in the financial literacy world due to the popularity of the podcast Earn Your Leisure. How did the podcast come to life?
Rashad: Yeah, it started on social media. Building a following and a lot of buzz around that and it was one of those things, it was just the right timing. The demand grew from putting up content. People was asking for a podcast, people was asking where could they see full episodes. So I just thought it’ll be a good idea to start a podcast and that was almost four years ago. As soon as we started, it was a hit show right away and just kind of never let down from there. So we just kept scaling, scaling, and scaling, just adding different things, adding different shows. Doing the network, doing a lot of events, doing merch and just kind of kept growing from there. But the buzz and the momentum started with the people and started on social media.
Tell us like a bit about your backstories and how you even came to be involved with the financial literacy world?
Troy: Yeah, so I started out as a teacher. I was teaching in New York City for over 10 years and kind of quickly decided that with the way the kids are learning, it probably won’t be something that they can use in the future. So I wanted to create something that would last for lifetime. And I had a program and I wanted to give them skills that they could use whether it be for resume prep or it was for college prep. It was like, ‘All right, these are things that they’re gonna need’ because a lot of times kids walk onto campus and they have no idea.’
Another piece was financial literacy and that was because we were gonna pay the kids based on their performance in the program. And at the time, he was starting this financial advising career. I’m like, ‘This makes perfect sense. You should come in and teach financial literacy to these kids because if they don’t know what to do with money, we know what they’re gonna do, they’re gonna spend it.’ So that’s kind of how it started. It was like, ‘All right, I’ll write lesson plans, you come in, we’ll co-teach this. So the kids were learning, I was learning and he was actually given information that he had learned from starting a career.
What would you say were the hardest lessons for you to learn or implement while growing into this lifestyle?
Rashad: You want to just not take too much risk in investing. A lot of times people just use their emotions. So even you think you might be doing something productive or something good, but it wasn’t fully thought out and that’s kind of synonymous with gambling. That’s almost the same as gambling, really. So a lot of times, I feel like for me at least, it’s just a matter of not getting too emotional, not doing something just because I think it’s a good idea in the moment. Like really thinking about it, sitting back and really looking at the full landscape, it’s something that I had to learn, for sure.
Troy: Yeah, I think the biggest lesson is understanding how to make money work for you. Working a 9-5 for 13 years, it was like, ‘All right, we’re gonna work hard, we’re gonna work hard,’ until you realize you can’t work hard enough, right? So it was like, ‘How do we get creative and how do we have money work for us? So that was one of those lessons. It was like, ‘Oh, okay. I get it. If we’re gonna put money in the bank and they’re gonna use it, we’ve got to figure out how to make it grow.’ So that’s something that has stuck with me over the past four years for sure. Like ‘How many different ways can I make money work for me, but being properly educated as well in those spaces.’ So if it’s real estate, if it’s crypto, if it’s stocks or any type of investment, being fully educated on how the money could work for me.
Being of the Hip-Hop generation and fans of the culture, which often celebrates excess, has it been difficult getting others from that community to get on board with this line of thinking?
Rashad: I mean, I feel like now, it’s starting to change and it’s become more popular and part of that is because of the music. Like Jay Z’s 4:44, then of course, you’ve got Nipsey [Hussle], ‘All Money In, No Money Out’ [motto]. That was one of his things. Rick Ross definitely always talks about entrepreneurship, investing. So you starting to see that even in the music, it’s starting to change and become more and more popular. I mean, of course, it’s gonna be people that’s always gonna be on that blow money fast type of time, but I don’t really feel like it’s that hard now. I feel like now investing and real estate and crypto and all that stuff is kind of in style right now. So maybe a couple of years ago, it would have been a lot harder, but right now I feel like everybody’s kind of really much on that wave. Or if they’re not on the wave, they’re at least willing to kind of listen and learn. It’s not like they just throwing it out the window because the momentum is on our side right now.
Troy: Yeah, it’s become the cool thing, you know. And we can understand that culture of having flashy things, but you can see it now even. When you hear Quavo talking about he doesn’t buy bust-downs anymore. We can understand because when you buy a watch and you take out the factory diamonds off it, it obviously depreciates. So there’s lessons in everything. I heard Lil Durk, he’s buying trucks. You can hear when somebody’s buying Sprinter Vans because they’re over 6,000 pounds, it’s a tax write-up. So it’s becoming the cool thing, more and more, so if that translates across the culture, think about how far ahead we’re going to be. When the music, the most important part of the culture, is now talking about ways to actually create assets. And create things that can generate revenue, rather than having things that just depreciate over time. I mean the impact is going to be overwhelming.
Yeah, you even got Rick Ross building a car museum.
Rashad: I mean, even like Lil Baby, who’s a street artist. He’s saying, ‘I be saving more than I be spending, that’s what I be on.’ Like, ‘I need equity to sign a deal.’ So I feel like even our street artists, they still kind of got that message and they’ve got that understanding. So when they put that out there, it helps us a lot because the music really helps shape the culture. So now when they’re putting in that message out there kind of makes what we’re doing a lot more receptive, as well.
Who are some of the artists that people may not expect that you admire for their financial literacy?
Rashad: We just interviewed LaRussell, he’s a young kid coming out [of] The Bay. People might not be familiar with him, he’s an independent artist, but he’s gaining a lot of steam and he’s super, super dope because he got a whole business model behind what he’s doing. He charges people whatever they want to pay to come to his show, he charges people whatever they want to pay for his music. He’s doing shows actually in his backyard, at his home. He got his family pressing up merch, he’s got a whole family business, so he’s somebody that’s really, really dope. And then, there’s a lot of other people. Chance The Rapper, he’s been independent for a long time. Made a lot of money off of merch and really found a way to kind of navigate that independence lane. So, you know, people like that. They’re not necessarily celebrities or superstars, but it’s attainable. Like it’s more likely that you’ll be on that level than you’ll be like Drake or somebody like that. So those are people that I think somebody can actually look at their business model and be like, ‘That’s something I can actually do myself.’
Troy: Yeah, we said Jay, obviously, I’ll add Nas in there. Just from the standpoint of what he’s done in the Venture Capital world with QueensBridge [Venture Partners], so it’s encouraging right? Because the generation we grew up [in], this is one of the best MCs of all time. And now, for the next generation, they can almost see him as one of the best investors of all time with the things he’s done. So he’s dope. I think what 50’s doing is incredible. Especially for the media standpoint and the content that he’s developing and what that’s gonna look like in five years. We know that content is king, so think about the catalog of what he’s doing, especially with Starz and all the shows that he’s put out. So those are two, definitely, that we look at like, ‘All right, they’re killing it out there.’
What’s it been like mingling with some of these artists you may have used to listen to and giving them jewels and trading info, so on and so forth?
Rashad: Yeah, it’s dope, man. I mean, for us, we’re big fans of the music, so people like Ross, that’s somebody I used to listen to all the time. You know, he’s Rick Ross, so you ain’t really thinking you’re actually gonna become friends with him at some point. But then we’re actually at his house and he’s cracking jokes with us and we see him out and it’s love. He comes to our events, we go to his events, so now, we’ve actually developed a real relationship with him. Jim Jones, same thing, so it’s dope, really. These are people that we kind of grew up on and now they’re our peers and they respect us on a whole different level because we’re not entertainers. We’re not rappers, we’re teaching financial literacy, but they see the value in it and they respect what we’ve been able to accomplish, what we’ve been able to build. So it’s super, super dope for me, man. Definitely.
Troy: It’s great. It’s one of the illest parts of this whole journey. It’s like you watch these people, you’re listening to them and like you said, now they’re your counterparts. Even like Tip. Tip, I was super, super fan of him for a long time. Shadi is like a die-hard Tip fan. So to have a relationship with him [is great]. Literally, I’ve been on Zoom calls with him and his family and going over how to invest. It’s just incredible because a few years ago, we were just bumping his albums, you know. It’s super encouraging, but that’s one of the dopest parts of this whole journey. Meeting the people that you looked up to for music, but also finding out how invested they are in their finances, as well.
Definitely. When you’re not watching the money grow and imparting wisdom, who are some of the artists on your playlist currently that you’re listening to?
Troy: On the playlist right now… Jay-[Z]’s always on my playlist. I was just listening to his album. Symba’s new album, I’m checking for that. Lil [Baby]’s new album is pretty dope. Drake, of course, that’s my guy. And then a little bit of R&B, a little SZA every now and then. H.E.R., you know. Keep it mellowed out.
Rashad: Yeah, I listen to a lot of R&B, probably more R&B than rap. Like Blxst, I like him. I’ve been listening to his album a lot, lately, I like his vibe. People like Sir, that new R&B, West Coast R&B vibe. I think they got a lot of good [artists] where it’s a little bit of rap and R&B mixed together. That’s kind of what I’m into right now, so I’ve been listening to that. There’s a lot of good music out on that type of that vibe right now.
Who are some people, in any field, that you may want to work with on Earn Your Leisure or even InvestFest moving forward?
Rashad: There’s a lot. I mean, you’ve got Rihanna. She’s a billionaire and I don’t think people really talk about that enough. She’s a female billionaire, she’s doing crazy things in business. Hov, of course. You know, Hov is Hov, he’s the Billy-Goat in this whole situation. LeBron [James]. And then people in business, too. Like you’ve got Elon Musk, definitely [would like to] tap in with him, for sure. Jeff Bezos. So, people like that, a few people.
Troy: Yeah, all those, of course. Robert Smith, that would be incredible. Aliko Dangote, who is the wealthiest Black man on the planet is something that’s been high on our list for a long time. And many people, especially in America, may not know about him but he’s generated his wealth just in a tremendous fashion. And what he’s about to do for his country is gonna be incredible, as far as export and importing oil. Carlos Slim, another person that most people probably haven’t heard of that is a multi-billionaire. I think [he’s worth] over 70 billion or something like that. Just names that people are not familiar with and giving them the platform to shine because the more exposure that we get, especially to our community, the more aspirational it becomes.
With Earn Your Leisure, Invest Fest and everything you have going on. How do you see that evolving and growing and moving forward?
Rashad: I think it continues to grow, God willing. You know the network, Earn Your Leisure. We grew into a whole network where we produce shows and we have other shows under the EYLU umbrella. We have like seven shows under the umbrella right now and that’s growing. So looking to grow that to become the biggest podcast network out there and that’s something that I think is very attainable. And then Invest Fest, taking it global. Going to different global locations, growing bigger, you know, stadium status. I feel like right now, for us, the sky’s the limit. So it’s definitely a lot of scaling opportunities, for sure.
Troy: Yeah, I think world domination, that’s the key. Scaling it and touching as many countries as possible, spreading much information as possible. But not just indoctrinating what we know from, you know, United States actually learning about business in other places and spreading that.
Is there anything else that you’d like to plug or mention?
Rashad: We have a big show at MSG, Madison Square Garden on Nov. 27. We have a show called Market Mondays, which is really, really popular. It’s an investment show and we took that show to the Apollo, sold out. We did a show in Houston, we sold out, So we’re gonna end the year, Black Friday weekend, in New York City and we got a lot of surprises. Guests, we’re gonna performers, we’re gonna have giveaways everything. It’s gonna be a vibe in New York City, so that’s gonna be extremely, extremely big. So everybody in the Tri-State, everybody anywhere that wants to come experience New York City for a magical weekend [come through]. Thanksgiving weekend is probably one of the best times to actually be in New York City. There’s so much stuff going on, just the energy of the city is on a thousand. So, we’re really looking forward to that, as well.