The Road to Wealth

by Debt Hater on February 21, 2006

Sick as a dog, I dragged myself from 8 hours of mind numbing work to a financial seminar sponsored by the church I attend here.
I got there on time, 7 p.m., but no one was there but the instructor. I wanted to go home and go to sleep. But I stayed and we started talking.
I told him how I had reached the point where I was sick of paying bills, sick of being in debt and sick of being scared to spend money on things I wanted. I told him I was afraid that I was getting started too late and that I’d never achieve true financial independence.
He smiled. He used to think that too. He told me about how he learned everything he knew about money from his father, who learned all he knew from his father and on up. For us black folks, our father’s father’s fathers were likely sharecroppers or slaves.
I feel like nobody knows how to work themselves to death like black folks. The “Sleep ‘N Eat,” lazy stereotype is so insulting in itself, but put next to our history of backbreaking work it’s damn ridiculous. Black folks know how to work.
But we’re still broke.
“We’ve been taught how to make money,” the instructor said. “But not how to make it work for us.” He laid out graphs, papers and transparencies while he talked.
“My family used to say don’t mess with banks. They mess up your money. That’s why they didn’t have a checking account,” he said.
I laughed because I knew a guy who worked hard but kept hundreds of dollars rolled in a wad in his pocket. I had a friend who refused to use credit cards and paid cash for everything, cash she kept in bills in her apartment. We both knew black families that worked and saved tens of thousands of dollars, died and had nothing to show for it.
Our grandparents and ancestors fed whole families, bought houses and paid for college educations as cooks, maids, porters and janitors. We work in investment firms, as professionals and can’t afford minimum credit card payments.
Why?
We haven’t learned to build wealth. If our grandparents knew how to build wealth, we’d be set right now.
By 7:30, only one other young woman had showed up. So the instructor, who is also a financial planner, told us he’d give us FREE individual financial planning sessions. He’d help us build a financial roadmap.
I felt terrible physically, but the promise of free financial advice and planning made me feel pretty good.
I have learned to stop beating myself up about my financial situation. Money was the only thing in my life that made me feel like an idiot (money and relationships… but I got the relationship part figured out good now!). I was a nerdy, book-a-holic, who overachieved and went above and beyond. It’s gotten me two degrees from prestigious universities and a steady job, but that’s about it.
I’m not knocking education and I don’t wish that I hadn’t worked hard. I just wish I had been smarter with the money I earned. I’ve earned more than $100,000 since I started working, but I’m $16,000 in the hole. What’s up with that!?
But it’s okay. Thankfully, money matters are all about attitude. I’m tired of the way things are and I’m determined to change them. A few years ago, you couldn’t put a financial book in my hand. Today, I read every one I can get my hands on. Years ago, I believed I would never be rich. Now, I think I can be if I want it bad enough.
The instructor told us life is all about our ATTITUDE:

“Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more than money, than circumstances, than failures, than success, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness, or skill. It will make or break a company, a church, a home. … We cannot change or past. We cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. … I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it. And so it is with you. We are in charge of our Attitudes!” — Charles Swindoll

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Miesha February 26, 2006 at 2:05 pm

make a list… that’s what i used to do. based on what you make and what you can afford to pay (on bills), make a schedule of [this bill] gets [this much] on [this date]… make that list until you see yourself at a zero balance on paper. that big fat zero, or even going from $800 down to $400 down to $200 on paper is what drove me. and also, back to the ski trips and things like that, i knew that if i had indulged in things like that, what i had on paper would no longer hold, and that would give me the will power to say no to the trips and vacations and fancy things in the store (not even fancy, just things that i wanted). it all boils down to what’s more important in the SHORT RUN… i knew that once i got down to that zero balance (for all my credit cards) i could do all those things as long as it didn’t mean making a new list of payoffs. but i found that putting it on paper made the goal more tangible, and not this random “one day” i’ll be debt free sort of thing: no, i had a specific date, “by december 12, 2007 (hey, keeping it real) I should be at zero with this credit card” and it would seem kind of far off, but that time would fly by so quickly. AND sometimes, of course (we’re human), i fell off the wagon and didn’t stick to the list for some things, and by that certain date i had originally set, i would say, “man, i could have been at zero by now… the time passed by so much faster than i thought it would. so let me set my date again and really drive toward that goal.”
anyway, if you’re 16K in the hole, including student loans, you’re not doing too bad; either way, just keep pressing on so that by the time you have kids and they’re old enough to start understanding and picking up on your financial habits, you’re setting a stellar example for them. BREAK THE CYCLE within your family that plagues so many other black families.
blogging is very strange… and posting replies to the blogs is even stranger, but hey. do these really long replies mean i need to get my own blog?? lol!

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Debt Hater February 27, 2006 at 10:05 pm

I don’t know Miesha, maybe you do need your own blog! Thanks for reading girl and BIG THANKS for posting! I will put your suggestion to work.

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supermom_in_ny March 1, 2006 at 1:06 pm

Excellent post. I can relate to that. My parents came here as young adults and their implied behavior was that car and home ownership were unattainable. I worked two jobs and went to college full time and never owned anything besdies lots and lots of clothing, jewelry and credit card bills.
Now I know better and I am trying to get out of this hole. Along the way, I am teaching my 7 kids that wealth is attainable no matter who you are. It just takes calculated moves.
Hopefully, I will be able to get out of this debt by next year. I pray that I will….

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