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An Expert Gives 3 Crucial Tips For Building Wealth In The Black Community

Finance

Growing up, I didn't even really know what the word "wealth" truly meant. I never heard about it in a sense that applied to my family. All I knew was that we were real fly and I had all of my needs met, but lowkey, we were living paycheck to paycheck. All of the people around me were living the same way as well. It never dawned on me as to why things were the way that they were in my community until I got a bit older. It saddened me deeply to know that "MONEY IS POWER." And we had NONE.

Especially here in the U.S., that saying couldn't be more true.

Unfortunately, African Americans have always been behind in the wealth and power game. "It's time for the black community to start making asset collection and wealth building a top priority," says Lawrence Watkins, President of The Black Business School. Having wealth provides opportunities that the black community as a whole have not been afforded to for years and years and that's a major problem. That's why we need more resources like The Black Business School. Through teaching on all things wealth building and entrepreneurship, one of their main goals is to create one billion dollars of black wealth over the next 10 years.

I wish that my parents had the opportunity to get a piece of the pie early on, but the great thing about becoming financially literate and building wealth is that it's never too late to get started. I'm currently focused on being the cycle breaker in my family so that the legacy I leave behind goes beyond just my children.

Here's a few tips from Watkins that will put you on the road to taking control and creating economic power.

Redefine the concept of income.

We've been told all of our lives to go to college and then get a good job in corporate America, thinking that there's security in those jobs. But the reality here is this, job security is very slim these days and you could lose everything in the blink of an eye. That's why it's important to think of yourself as an entrepreneur. "We're all entrepreneurs whether you're working for a corporation or have your own company; the only difference is the number of clients you have," says Watkins.

With this mindset, you have to start looking at your paycheck a bit differently. Watkins explains that we have been tricked by corporate America and that what they call income is actually revenue. Start looking at your paycheck as personal revenue and then what you have left over after paying all of your expenses is your actual income. Once you know how much income there is, you then have to manage your budget as a profit and loss statement and determine how much you're spending and where.

If your revenue is more than your expenses, then you need to determine how much of that money that's leftover will go to savings and investments. If your revenue does not cover all of your expenses/savings goals, then you need to figure out where you can trim the fat. Additionally, it's imperative to diversify your revenue/income streams to reduce financial risks.

Stop thinking/operating like a consumer.

You have to make sure that you don't continue to fall into the trap of spending, spending, spending and not having anything to show for it. "Historically, African Americans have been a nation within a nation of consumers. Our community consumes Nike, we consume Pepsi, we consume Ford, we consume Mercedes...we consume all these different things but we aren't necessarily responsible for the producing of these things," says Watkins.

You have to stop thinking about the here and now and think big. Start thinking about the consequences that come as a result of your spending habits and make better financial decisions for your future. In order to become more aware of what you're spending your money on, Watkins suggests that you write down all of your spending and then go back to see where those things that aren't producing value or contributing to your long term financial goals, and cut those things out of your life.

Start investing.

Putting money away and making it work for you is major key when it comes to building wealth. Once you get a grip on what you're consuming, it's important that you use what you have in excess to save and invest into productive assets that are going to build wealth for you and and future generations. Two apps that Watkins recommend you get started with are Betterment and Robinhood. These apps are designed for you to put your investments into stocks and bonds on autopilot. You can determine the specific amount that you want to invest and the frequency that the money is deducted from your account.

For people who get a little intimidated by investing in stocks like me, another micro-investing opportunity is with the popular app Acorns. It takes your spare change from a linked bank account by rounding up your transactions and invests it according to the percentage and the kind of profile you select. You receive $5 during sign up when opening an account and pay $1 a month for the service. The great thing about these apps is that you invest without even feeling it.

The main part to remember is this: "Act like that money doesn't exist," and get into the habit of investing consistently.

You should start with investing at least 10% of your income or, if that's not feasible, start lower and work your way up. "It's the bottleneck that is keeping us from attaining our other goals that we may have as a community. We see these shootings by police, we see that our communities aren't necessarily in environments that we'd wanna raise our kids in...many of these problems can be solved by the creation of wealth within our communities. The most important thing for African Americans of this generation is to remove that bottleneck and push forward on wealth building so that we create stronger and more cohesive communities," he says.

Wealth building starts by simply deciding that you want more out of your life and the legacy that you want to leave behind. Once your mind is made up, your actions will start to follow!

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
Sign up

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