‘Baby billionaire’ gives back to community

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by Suritia Taylor

WASHINGTON (NNPA)—Lonnie McNeill has never been the type that needed to be in the spotlight or one to indulge in glamorous things like many of her Howard University classmates. Her mantra has always been minimalism, an attitude that she doesn’t need everything. In fact, she doesn’t even Facebook or tweet!

babybillionaire
INVESTMENT SUCCESS—At 21, McNeill’s net worth in stock investments is over $5 million.

This 21-year-old Howard graduate isn’t on anyone’s list of millionaires, but she is a savvy investor who has been in the stock market since she was eight years old. Even with the near collapse of the market last year, McNeill reveals that her net worth is “currently enough for her to retire with over $5 million without saving another dime,” that is with the assumption that she maintains a 13 percent annual rate of return on her present investment.

Some of McNeill’s wealth is made up of income from her stock portfolio of companies such as Pfizer, The Home Depot, CVS, Wendy’s, Caterpillar, Limited Brands, and Kellogg’s, which are all worth more than $8,000; that isn’t including her retirement account (Roth IRA).

As a result of her early exposure to investing, she started a company called Speak 2 Share, Inc., at age 15. S2S, as it is often referred to, is a professional speaking organization that conducts speeches, presentations and workshops for kids and young adults about investing. In fact, in June, she was a key panelist at the Kidult Youth Leadership Conference in New York City, an event sponsored by popular rapper/producer Pharell Williams for young people aged 14-21. Also, in November 2008, while still a junior at Howard University, McNeill was a featured speaker at Essence Young Women’s Leadership Conference where she addressed more than 1,500 women.

“Speaking at Essence put me on another level,” she said. “Since then, I have gotten more attention, now people refer to me as ‘The Baby Billionaire.’”

While in high school (Monsignor Edward Pace High School), Lonnie was featured in the July 2003 issue of Black Enterprise Magazine, in an article entitled, “And the Children Will Teach.“

“I was honored because Black Enterprise is revered by the Black population,” she said proudly.

Lonnie grew up with both parents and older sister, Danelle, 33, in the Miami and West Palm Beach area of southern Florida. Her mother, Ann McNeill, owns MCO Construction and Services Co., a multi-million dollar minority-owned corporation. Her father, Daniel is a purchasing manager with United Technologies.

Ironically, the young mogul doesn’t have a Facebook account, nor does she Tweet.

In addition to her dad teaching her the value of frugality and the importance of supporting Black-owned businesses, it was her mother who prepared McNeill for the world of investing and entrepreneurship. Ann McNeill started taking her daughter to investment meetings at the age of seven and relied on Lonnie to understand what was being taught.

“I was exposed to investing so early on that I couldn’t really say whether I liked or didn’t like it,” McNeill said. “I didn’t know what I liked yet.” But Lonnie quickly picked up tips from the investment meetings. “We learned together, I picked everything up fast, and sometimes I even did the homework for my mom.”

Lonnie made her first investment into Citrix Systems. In the ’90s Citrix Systems had a strong partnership with Microsoft. “My investment club took a field trip and met with the CFO and other executives and they seemed to have a profitable strategic plan,” she recalls.

“At the time I chose Citrix because I was able to meet the executive team and they had a partnership with Microsoft. This was before the courts claimed Microsoft to be a monopoly on the market and consequently broke the company up,” she said. Interestingly enough, McNeill’s first investment was a sinker. Even though she advised her mother to buy it for her when it was in the $40 range, her mother didn’t end up investing in it until it was close to $100.

By then it was too late. After reaching a high of $127, Citrix soon fell down to the $20s within the same year. Needless to say, after that, Lonnie began to purchase her own stock and she started with companies that most people are familiar with. Lonnie prefers to invest in companies that she patronizes.

These days, Lonnie realizes the importance of spreading her knowledge to the African-American community through S2S.

“We put our money into these corporations that don’t put anything back into the Black community,” she said. Though she hasn’t yet begun to invest in a Black corporation, she is adamant about teaching people about the value of investing in general and being a conscious customer and supporting Black businesses.

“We should be shopping at stores like Sankofa and Everlasting Life,” she adds, referring to the food and retail stores adjacent to Howard University. “These businesses all reinvest in the Black community, some even help to fund Howard’s programs. Do we know McDonald’s to do that? Yet, some of us eat there every day. Don’t just be a consumer, be a shareowner,” she advised.

Having graduated last year from a rigorous accounting program magna cum laude, Lonnie plans to stay for a fifth year at Howard to get her master’s in accounting. She could have gone to many other graduate schools, but has decided to stay in the district and return to Howard in order to give back to the school. She wants to help Roberta McCleod, the director of the Blackburn Center with planning for workshops, seminars and activities geared toward financial literacy and empowerment for the students.

For now, she plans to travel and visit friends and “take a breather” before beginning her graduate career.

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