The Color of Money
You studied hard, worked your way up from inner school to the state university, started off a career from the ranks and got yourself a family along the way. Life was good. As you near thirties, your two kids heading off to junior school, the hubby jumping from one job to the next, and the house mortgage on its fifth year, you still got your rank-and-file job and you still take the sub. That sinking feeling of being stuck in limbo grows starker as you march towards middle age and more debt. Was your mother wrong? “Get a college degree and get ya’self a ca-reeer,” her screeching voice still resonates in your head. It’s not your mother’s fault; neither it’s yours. Statistics simply stack up against you and the rest of African-American population in living the American dream, whatever it is.
Consider these: Only 4% of African American high school graduates entering college are academically ready for higher subjects; a third of African American students do not graduate from high school on time; African Americans lack access to quality teachers and schools, and that their scholastic achievements lag by two grade levels compared to other groups. These are data stated in an Executive Order released by the Office of the President last July to improve African American educational outcomes.
Does your boss “see” these statistics when he puts down your recommendation for a higher-paying job? Maybe. Maybe not. Still, you are lucky. The U.S. Labor Department reported that unemployment rate for blacks increased to 14.4% in June this year, up from 13.6% in May. Not only that, unemployment rate for Hispanics and whites stood below 7%, suggesting that only African-Americans are jacking up the jobless rate in the last quarter.
These statistics add up to why African-Americans, as a group, are perceived to have poor financial quotient, which is unfair and inaccurate. As the recent Prudential Financial survey The African American Financial Experience showed, 82% of the respondents know they should prepare for retirement and 78% aspire to be financially stable. The survey cited a growing African American middle class that is conscious about money matters.
While the big picture appears to work against them, at the personal level, they can institute game-changing tactics by starting at how to treat money. In his book, “Smart Money Moves for African Americans,” Kelvin Boston said that “we’ve been trying to spend our money to access the American dream rather than investing it to achieve the dream.” She dislikes the fact that blacks, especially those in the upper brackets, tend to splurge cash on material things to get respect, “giving away their money and power.”
You may not realize it, but according to another author, Annette Johnson (“What’s Your Motivation?: Identifying and Understanding What Drives You”), what little money you have now represents a trillion dollar buying power among African Americans that enrich other people’s pockets, notably white corporate America’s.
Do you prioritize things that appreciate in value like real estate over a devaluating one like a Volvo? Do you have short-term vs. long-term financial planning? Do you look out to integrated societies where land value is more likely to increase than in inner communities? Do you spend time to learn more about personal finance? Do you save for tomorrow? These are the trillion-dollar questions that, when answered in the positive, can tip the future of the next generation African Americans—your kids’—to a favorable light.