Audrey Hurst inspired hope as she shared her financial dreams during a film shoot in Detroit for Prudential’s ‘Legacy Lives On’.

By Madhu Pai

June 18, 2019

Madhu Pai

Madhu Pai

Rain was falling from a foreboding sky as our plane touched down in Detroit. It seemed a fitting introduction. After all, friends had warned me to expect a deserted, dilapidated and depressing city, adding, “Watch where you go.”

Ironically, the warning was worth heeding because Detroit offers a lot to see. Far from being deserted, the city bustles with activity and new development. Construction cranes dot its skyline, promising sleek new skyscrapers, boutique hotels, restaurants, housing and schools.

And Detroit is where Audrey Hurst is raising three children and working to give them a strong financial legacy.

I was there to meet Audrey for the filming of “Legacy Lives On,” a documentary Prudential created in partnership with Urban One—the largest distributor of content to black Americans in the U.S. The documentary, scheduled to air June 19 on TV One, profiles Audrey and two other black millennial women—one from Atlanta and the other from Tulsa, Oklahoma. Through the stories of these three women, it highlights modern-day financial struggles, hopes and dreams juxtaposed against past events that have shaped each woman’s perspective on money and finances.

The film builds on stories told through The State of US, Prudential’s exploration of financial wellness across America, and the challenges that stand in the way. Black Americans share those same challenges but bear the burden of overcoming past economic and social injustices that have created barriers to building financial wealth. The film is the first to tell this story in this way.

The camera crew set up at Audrey’s mother’s house, a third of which Audrey now owns as an inheritance. Audrey entered the house carrying her baby girl, filling the space with optimism despite the rain. She’s a newlywed who works full time at a local Costco, along with running several side hustles that help her earn money to offset her family’s mounting debt. She held her daughter during most of the two-day shoot, talking about how she’ll do whatever she can to help her children fulfill their dreams.

Audrey has set her hopes on her inheritance—counting on the proceeds from the sale of the house left to her and her siblings after her mother died. She sees the house as an inspiration to pass along something of value to her own children and as a path out of financial insecurity.

As a mother, I related to Audrey’s desire to leave a financial legacy to her children. And as a first-generation immigrant from a family of refugees who overcame loss and rebuilt their own legacies over two generations, I felt an instant connection with Audrey. She’s like many black Americans—more optimistic about her ability to reach her financial goals than the general population. In fact, Prudential’s 2018 Financial Wellness Census found that two-thirds of black Americans making $60,000 or less said they were optimistic about their finances, compared with only half of all Americans in the same income bracket.

While Audrey’s optimism made me smile, I also wanted to remind her that she will get just a third of the proceeds from the sale of the house, and that she’ll need to balance the money she receives between paying off debt and day-to-day bills while leaving something to her kids. But I stayed quiet. My partners at Urban One were doing a beautiful job drawing out Audrey’s story and I didn’t want to interrupt.

Yet my hopes for Audrey turned into worry because her optimism doesn’t seem to square with reality. That’s not unusual: The Financial Wellness Census found that despite high levels of optimism, just 29% of black Americans making $60,000 or less annually say they are on track to save enough for retirement.

Despite only knowing her for a day, I believed Audrey would figure out how to reach her goals and build a strong foundation for her family. She openly admitted that she doesn’t know much about managing finances and finds it overwhelming. However, she’s already seeking guidance to manage her debt and start building wealth.

Audrey’s story fueled my own sense of purpose and illustrated the importance of Prudential’s work to bring to light the complex construct of legacy within the black community in a way that’s seldom acknowledged. This film is only the beginning of a journey to understand and learn as we seek to bring financial wellness to all Americans.

Prudential was founded on the belief that financial security should be within reach of everyone, offering insurance to working-class Americans from day one almost 145 years ago. Unfortunately, that hasn’t always included everyone, including the black community, but that part of the company’s history will not be its legacy. Our Legacy campaign is not only an important first step toward serving the black community, it also demonstrates Prudential’s commitment to being fully inclusive as we push toward our ambition to become the leading financial wellness partner for all communities.

Without giving away any spoilers, I can say my time in Detroit ended with a sense of hope. I hope to revisit the city in the future to enjoy its revitalization. And I remain hopeful for Audrey, who left the shoot after two days of rain and stepped into sunshine.


Where you can watch the film: “Legacy Lives On” premieres at 9 p.m. ET, Wednesday, June 19 on TV One and will be re-broadcast on June 20 on CLEO TV. The documentary will also be made available online via Madame Noire and News One.


Madhu Pai is vice president, Brand Development and Engagement for Prudential Brand Marketing and Advertising. She joined Prudential in 2016 after working for advertising agencies where she supported blue chip clients including Procter & Gamble, Pepsi, Merrill Lynch and Ameriprise. Outside of work, she has served on her local school board, volunteers with local charities for at-risk youth and serves on boards of two philanthropic organizations.

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