About Toussaint

Washington, DC, circa, 1975: Six-year old Toussaint Gaskins sits in the principal’s office awaiting his fate. His indiscretion? Not throwing spitballs or pulling Mary Ann’s pigtails. Gaskins is here because he questioned his teacher about the true meaning of the pledge of allegiance. Even as a second grader, he sought to understand the fundamental democratic concept of freedom and justice for all.

That moment some 35 years ago provided just a glimmer of the brilliance, principles and determination of Toussaint Gaskins. And it is that same discernment that propels him and his actions today.
A native of Washington, DC, Gaskins grew up in a middle class family that was, like most families, susceptible to the ebb and flow of an unpredictable economy. There were periods, he says, when his household would have been considered lower-middle class. “My mother’s a teacher and she got ‘rifted’ in the eighties so money was really tight.” Gaskins’ father was an activist whose work kept him away from home for long stretches. “It took a toll on the family unit,” he admits. And ultimately, his parents divorced. “From my perspective, divorce tears at the very heart of families,” says Gaskins. “And most times causes financial stress on all parties involved. Financial stress leads to emotional stress and, at times, distress.”

These were feelings that Gaskins and his mother were all too familiar with. But despite their struggles, they were never adrift for long. They had a constant and reliable life raft. “My maternal grandparents were our support system,” he recalls. “Anything that we lacked, they provided. I don’t know where I would have been without them.” To this day, Gaskins refers to his grandmother, who passed away in 2009, as his ‘best friend.’conomy. There were periods, he says, when his household would have been considered lower-middle class. “My mother’s a teacher and she got ‘rifted’ in the eighties so money was really tight.” Gaskins’ father was an activist whose work kept him away from home for long stretches. “It took a toll on the family unit,” he admits. And ultimately, his parents divorced. “From my perspective, divorce tears at the very heart of families,” says Gaskins. “And most times causes financial stress on all parties involved. Financial stress leads to emotional stress and, at times, distress.”

Gaskins’ mother remarried and gave birth to a daughter, Mia. Times continued to be tough and a little uncertain. “We moved approximately 20 times in my first 22 years of life,” he says. “We lived in various apartment communities until my high school years… In our first southeast apartment, I remember someone stealing our rugs from the clothesline in the laundry room.” Gaskins admits that he “tried his hand” at shoplifting only to discover that he didn’t quite have what it takes to be a criminal. “I tried to steal some football cards,” he recalls. “I got caught and received a well-earned punishment,” he says.

Gaskins proudly acknowledges the influence of his mother, an elementary school teacher of 30 years, and his father, an attorney/law professor/activist who was the Founding Dean of the Moi University School of Law in Eldoret, Kenya. But the young Gaskins wanted to indulge all his ambitions – and there were many. “I wanted to be a civil rights activist,” he recalls. “But I also wanted to play pro basketball, pluck the guitar like Bootsy Collins, and sing.” Gaskins’ personality was big as his dreams. “I was vocal, active, athletic, inquisitive and determined,” he says, “but, depending on whom you asked, I was a hard-headed, stubborn kid who talked too much.”

In 1986, at the age of 16, Gaskins graduated high school. Shortly thereafter, he won a seat on the District of Columbia Youth City Council and was admitted to Morehouse College where he earned a B.A. in Business Administration with a concentration in Marketing. He would go on to fine-tune his interest in business, focusing more on finance. His inspiration, he says, came from a few unlikely sources. “I have always been interested in how to make money,” he explains. “I’ve had a few relatives that owned businesses, but my primary source of entrepreneurship inspiration came from the community hustlers.”

But, unlike the hustlers, Gaskins realized that making money was about more than splurging on bling, hot cars and even hotter women. For him, it was about empowering the disenfranchised. It was about tapping into the inner workings of the American economic system and understanding how it impacts our lives. And it was about using that understanding to help level the economic playing field for African Americans.

“I’ve been a student of African American history,” says Gaskins. “I had an understanding about the economic and societal impact of the Harlem Renaissance and the Civil Rights Movement. Further, I’ve always thought our community should have more money circulating within it to employ more of our people as well as to support our young talent. I believe that one has to finance their own freedom.”

It was in his business seminar class at Morehouse College that Gaskins was first introduced to the Wall Street Journal. “I was hooked!” he enthuses. “I began to see finance, and investing in particular, as a way to own a small piece of profitable companies and build wealth. I thought that if we, African American people, understood the process of wealth creation, growth, maintenance and defense, we would not be so dependent upon others to address our unique and specific, financial oriented needs….We could regain and maintain a high level of global self-respect and economic self-sufficiency. Hence, our community would be internally sustainable.“

Though he recognizes the importance of wealth building, Gaskins is quick to remind African Americans to put their financial goals in perspective. He stresses that the pursuit of money and wealth may not always co-exist with the pursuit of happiness. “The misconception concerning wealth is that the more money you have, the happier you will be. Not all people will have the opportunity to be materially wealthy. The other misconception is that wealth is only defined by the amount of money you have and value is not placed on the character of a person. I define wealth as ‘the state of having great principles, standards or qualities regarded as worthwhile or desirable.’ If you look at the dictionary definition of wealth and really break down its meaning, you may find that you are already wealthy.”

Today, Gaskins boasts more than 15 years experience in investment management, sales, corporate finance, marketing and strategic planning. As the founder and principal of Inove Asset Management in St. Thomas, Virgin Islands, he provides counsel to for-profit and not-for-profit executives, state and territorial legislators, pension fund senior management, college presidents, universities, corporate employees, entrepreneurs and “anyone else who is serious about empowering, enriching and educating their family, institution or community in the areas of personal finance and investment management.”

Gaskins also shares his knowledge and insights in his first book, “The Personal Finance Kit,” a practical financial management resource guide. Gaskins says the book is designed to provide everyday people with the necessary tools to improve their personal financial situation. “I wrote the book because I wanted to provide everyone, irrespective of race, color, religion, gender, sexual orientation and geographic location, with access to empowerment tools for wealth building that incorporates their value system. This book is written for people who no longer wish to remain a victim to ignorance. I believe that everyone, not just the rich and famous, should have the resources to better manage their life, as well as to plan for the future of their family.”

That, according to Gaskins, is the true meaning of liberty and justice for all.

He currently divides his time living in the U.S. Virgin Islands and Maryland. Gaskins is married to Hillary, and they have three children.

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