Most Black women won’t amass personal wealth in their lifetime—most people won’t. The term “wealth” is widely overused, and frankly, misleading. The typical definition of wealth goes something like this…“having a large amount of money or possessions”. It sounds great, but leaves out one pretty essential element: time. Wealth rarely happens in one generation; it’s a long game. Does that mean people shouldn’t aspire to be wealthy? Absolutely not. Hustle hard and often, but understand there is a sweeter goal on the immediate horizon: creating a legacy of financial stability for your family.
There is good news. According to Prudential’s 2018 study, The Cut: Exploring Financial Wellness in Diverse Populations, three-quarters of Blacks who earn over $60,000 annually and two-thirds of those who make under $60,000 are confident that they will reach their financial goals. It’s a great start. While financial legacy has been sold to many as an instant big money game, more often it’s actually attained through long-term strategy and growth.
Collectively, Black folks are just really getting off the bench and into the money game. We can’t ignore the history; oppressive policies have created systems that have financially crippled an entire group of people—a key tactic in keeping them marginalized. In 2010, the Insight Center for Community Economic Development reported that median wealth of single Black women was $5. Ouch. But it’s understandable. Black women are the leading demographic in small biz creation. And, according to the National Education Center, Black women are also obtaining college degrees and record-setting rates. The challenge is learning what to do with more income, and debt.
The upside is that financial stability is much closer than many may think, or feel. The Cut’s research reveals that almost three-quarters of higher-income Black households are lead by Gen X’ers and Millennials, folks with the time in the workforce and monetary means to create financial wellness for themselves and a legacy for future generations. Proactive, informed financial goal setting is a must here. It may be nearly impossible to amass $50 million if you earn less than $100,000 annually but what about $900,000? That money can be passed down to your children, and circulate in your community. That money can help purchase homes, start businesses, fund education and even finance a few dope vacations. It can also start a legacy of doing the same.
Undoing financial disenfranchisement requires more than embracing financial responsibility—having a decent credit score and an emergency fund isn’t enough. Overall financial wellness requires a change in how a collective thinks, moves and talks about money. The change must start with you, in your home. Those “hoping” to have something better for their kids, and kids’ kids has to ask themselves what they’re willing to sacrifice now to ensure their namesakes will have better.
Strategy is key.
Legacy building requires an honest look at your purpose, and past. African Americans are hypersensitive to the micro and macro impact of their spending, which means a greater emphasis must be placed on the why behind financial choices. Examining your relationship with money is the first step. This is commonly shaped by the financial choices of your parents or elders (and the habits created), delving into how spending/saving money makes you feel and how you feel about your current income and earning potential.
Next, it’s time to think about what you want to create for yourself and family in the big picture. Read blogs, books and consult with experts to learn more about money. Building a financial legacy isn’t a one-size fits all template, but there are key assets that are tried and true when it comes to building financial stability. Some people may want to invest in life insurance policies that ensure an inheritance, others may consider a stock or real estate portfolio and creating scalable small businesses work for others. There will also be those who can and will do all.
Last, it’s time to expand the movement. Tell your friends why you’re opting out of certain group financial choices. Make a concerted effort to patronize and invest in Black-owned businesses and acquire appreciating assets. The community’s financial legacy won’t change with a few unicorns. You have to spread the word.
Aiming for wealth is great, but understand your greatest duty is to simply move the dial by creating more stability and resources than you had. Think big and small. What does building legacy look like in your life right now? Maybe that means opting for the house with less square footage so you can get 2-3 more income generating units, collect rent and fund your kids’ college education or small business. Maybe that means limiting the toy giving during holidays and birthdays and setting up accounts that save or invest the money. That can also mean buying less of those luxury items that stretch your pockets too thin—and bolster someone else’s legacy—and doubling down on paying off debts that will prohibit you from investing in yourself, family members or friends with viable business ideas.
Overall, legacy is quite simple. It means betting on you.
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