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.
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