Jeff Badu is 28 years old, a licensed CPA and a millionaire.
The latter he achieved by age 25, despite zero financial literacy education growing up.
Had he learned about money at a younger age, he feels it wouldn’t have taken him as long.
So now the millennial, a resident of Uptown and founder and CEO of Badu Enterprises, LLC, a multinational firm with a successful real estate arm — which began with the purchase of one unit in 2017 and now owns 118 units — wants to help youth like him achieve the same.
His year-old Badu Foundation is accepting inner city applicants ages 6-18 for four-week financial literacy programs that are accompanied by a $500 college scholarship.
“My family has always been entrepreneurs, math folks. We just have a love for business,” said Badu, who attended the Chicago Public Schools’ McCutcheon Elementary and Uplift Community High School, where he matriculated in 2010 with an honors GPA of 4.23.
The Ghanaian immigrant, whose parents emigrated to Chicago with their three children when he was eight years old, went on to obtain both his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in accounting from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign in 2014 and 2015.
“Long story short, when I was younger, I unfortunately surrounded myself with the wrong crowd, which ultimately could have gotten me into some really big trouble,” Badu said.
“I didn’t have someone to teach me about money and finances and prepare me to live the best abundant life possible. With all of the violence going on in Chicago with our youth, I guarantee you that if they had more financial education and empowerment, they would be able to stay out of trouble. They just want to sustain themselves and get out of poverty.”
His father is a real estate developer in Ghana, his mother, a nurse. He’s the only boy and middle child, with two sisters. Growing up in Uptown, it was at age 16, as he was headed down the wrong path, that his parents took him for a visit to their native country.
That visit, and the poverty he witnessed, proved life changing. He came back determined not to throw away his opportunities, and more importantly, to be able to help someday.
“To be honest, it was God. That trip really opened my eyes and allowed me to see the light and to see my purpose in life,” the soft-spoken young man said.
“I saw people struggling. I wanted to be part of the solution, not the problem. I wanted to find resources to help people get out of that scarcity and live abundantly. It was a deep moment for me. From that moment on, I worked 10 times harder and got myself educated.”
In high school, he’d been on the soccer team, in band and After School Matters programs.
In college, he was vice president of the school’s National Association of Black Accountants chapter and spent the summer of his junior and senior years interning at PricewaterhouseCoopers in Chicago, which hired him upon graduation.
But Badu would only stay one year. He’d started his tax preparation business at age 18, and by the time he left PwC, he had built a client base of 100, from family and friends.
Badu Tax Services, LLC, was launched September 2016; Badu Investments, LLC, in April 2017, and the 501c3 foundation in April 2020. In a pandemic, its inaugural program only drew three students. The foundation has set a goal of serving 30 students this year.
Badu and his team teach the youth the value of saving, budgeting, investing and starting college savings accounts that are launched with the $500 scholarship from the foundation.
“So we basically teach them the importance of applying for scholarships, provide them with resources to find and apply for scholarships, and then give them the first $500. Our students will be able to reapply every year, and each program they complete will garner another $500. When they enroll in college, all those funds will go toward tuition,” Badu said.
“I want to help our youth think differently. We only allow students residing in low-income communities in Chicago to apply. I wish I knew some of these things much younger, because I could have gotten more of a head start in life.”