In a continued effort to help African Americans gain control of their finances and plan for the future, the financial organization dfree hopes to build on many of their successful programs in 2018 including its Billion Dollar Challenge, a mission to eliminate debt and close the gap.

Founded in 2005 by Dr. DeForest B. Soaries Jr., dfree promotes financial freedom through employing value-based principles and applying practical approaches to financial management. The movement is both “financial freedom” and “transformational lifestyle” movement addressing the cultural, psychological and spiritual influences on financial wellness. The movement is an attempt to achieve “economic justice” throughout the country, according to a statement issued by the organization.

“dfree is a lifestyle, a journey, and a mindset that puts us in control of our financial lives; it is a process that begins with the way we think about ourselves, our money, and planning for the future,” said Soaries. “The belief is that if we manage our lives well, then we will use money strategically to reach our life goals.”

Designed to help with one of the most crucial steps in achieving financial stability, dfree’s Billion Dollar Challenge aims to eliminate $1 billion in debt by 2020, by assisting individuals in achieving and increasing financial freedom and economic strength respectively in the African-American community. As part of the organization’s leading initiative participants are given free tools and an interactive tracking system allowing them to monitor their progress in paying down their debt. With more than 5,000 participants to date, the challenge has seen an $11 million deficit pay-down collectively, according to a dfree statement.

In addition to helping eliminate debt, the BDC aims to close the wealth gap in the U.S. In 2013 a study by the Survey of Consumer Finances estimated the median household income for whites to be 13 times greater than that of black households, according to a data analysis by the Pew Research Center. As recent as 2016 a report by the Child Defense Fund found that in New York the median income for black families with children was nearly $50,000 less than that of their white counterparts. However, through the BDC and other financial strategies, Saories insists things can change.

“If 125,000 people pay down the average $8,000 of household debt, $1 billion of debt will be eradicated. If those same people shift their past credit card payments to buying a $100,000 life insurance policy, we will be able to see an eradication of the estimated $100,000 wealth gap that exists between African Americans and white Americans,” said Soaries. We can redefine the economic state of the African American community by taking action right now.”

Along with the BDC, dfree hopes to see the continued success of many of its newer initiatives started last year including the redesign and relaunch of their website mydfree.org, serving as an informational hub about the organization. Also the launch of In the Black, a weekly podcast covering topics including wealth building, entrepreneurship, estate planning, finance basics, and more. It also features inspiring dfree success stories and interviews with guests like the host of the nationally syndicated radio show Breakfast Club, Angela Yee, and more.

The organization continued expanding its social media presence through Twitter and Facebook and immersive regional conferences in various cities across the country.

“As 2018 gets underway, dfree will continue to take its transformative message around the country,” according to its statement. “The organization has a strategic focus on reaching young adults and women, and bolstering the conversation around generational wealth in the African American community.”