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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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Featured image by Shutterstock

Before she was Amira Unplugged, rapper, singer, and a Becoming a Popstar contestant on MTV, she was Amira Daughtery, a twenty-five year-old Georgian, with aspirations of becoming a lawyer. “I thought my career path was going to lead me to law because that’s the way I thought I would help people,” Amira tells xoNecole. “[But] I always came back to music.”

A music lover since childhood, Amira grew up in an artistic household where passion for music was emphasized. “My dad has always been my huge inspiration for music because he’s a musician himself and is so passionate about the history of music.” Amira’s also dealt with deafness in one ear since she was a toddler, a condition which she says only makes her more “intentional” about the music she makes, to ensure that what she hears inside her head can translate the way she wants it to for audiences.

“The loss of hearing means a person can’t experience music in the conventional way,” she says. “I’ve always responded to bigger, bolder anthemic songs because I can feel them [the vibrations] in my body, and I want to be sure my music does this for deaf/HOH people and everyone.”

A Black woman wearing a black hijab and black and gold dress stands in between two men who are both wearing black pants and colorful jackets and necklaces

Amira Unplugged and other contestants on Becoming a Popstar

Amira Unplugged / MTV

In order to lift people’s spirits at the beginning of the pandemic, Amira began posting videos on TikTok of herself singing and using sign language so her music could reach her deaf fans as well. She was surprised by how quickly she was able to amass a large audience. It was through her videos that she caught the attention of a talent scout for MTV’s new music competition show for rising TikTok singers, Becoming a Popstar. After a three-month process, Amira was one of those picked to be a contestant on the show.

Becoming a Popstar, as Amira describes, is different from other music competition shows we’ve all come to know over the years. “Well, first of all, it’s all original music. There’s not a single cover,” she says. “We have to write these songs in like a day or two and then meet with our producers, meet with our directors. Every week, we are producing a full project for people to vote on and decide if they’d listen to it on the radio.”

To make sure her deaf/HOH audiences can feel her songs, she makes sure to “add more bass, guitar, and violin in unique patterns.” She also incorporates “higher pitch sounds with like chimes, bells, and piccolo,” because, she says, they’re easier to feel. “But it’s less about the kind of instrument and more about how I arrange the pattern of the song. Everything I do is to create an atmosphere, a sensation, to make my music a multi-sensory experience.”

She says that working alongside the judges–pop stars Joe Jonas and Becky G, and choreographer Sean Bankhead – has helped expand her artistry. “Joe was really more about the vocal quality and the timber and Becky was really about the passion of [the song] and being convinced this was something you believed in,” she says. “And what was really great about [our choreographer] Sean is that obviously he’s a choreographer to the stars – Lil Nas X, Normani – but he didn’t only focus on choreo, he focused on stage presence, he focused on the overall message of the song. And I think all those critiques week to week helped us hone in on what we wanted to be saying with our next song.”

As her star rises, it’s been both her Muslim faith and her friends, whom she calls “The Glasses Gang” (“because none of us can see!”), that continue to ground her. “The Muslim and the Muslima community have really gone hard [supporting me] and all these people have come together and I truly appreciate them,” Amira says. “I have just been flooded with DMs and emails and texts from [young muslim kids] people who have just been so inspired,” she says. “People who have said they have never seen anything like this, that I embody a lot of the style that they wanted to see and that the message hit them, which is really the most important thing to me.”

A Black woman wears a long, salmon pink hijab, black outfit and pink boots, smiling down at the camera with her arm outstretched to it.

Amira Unplugged

Amira Unplugged / MTV

Throughout the show’s production, she was able to continue to uphold her faith practices with the help of the crew, such as making sure her food was halal, having time to pray, dressing modestly, and working with female choreographers. “If people can accept this, can learn, and can grow, and bring more people into the fold of this industry, then I’m making a real difference,” she says.

Though she didn’t win the competition, this is only the beginning for Amira. Whether it’s on Becoming a Popstar or her videos online, Amira has made it clear she has no plans on going anywhere but up. “I’m so excited that I’ve gotten this opportunity because this is really, truly what I think I’m meant to do.”

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