A 6-PART FINANCIAL WELLNESS SERIES
Traveling is as much about the ability to pursue dreams as it is about boarding passes and bucket lists. At Griots Republic, we understand that building a secure financial base is only one aspect of ensuring that we reach those dreams. Stay tuned and please leave comments or questions for our 6-part financial wellness series.
“The billionaires who make up the Forbes 400 list of richest Americans now have as much wealth as all African-American households, plus one-third of America’s Latino population, combined.”
Let that sit with you for a second…
There are just 400 extremely wealthy individuals that have as much wealth as 16 million African-American households and 5 million Latino households in this country. Two (2) of them are African American (Oprah Winfrey & Robert Smith). As of 2016, only one is of direct Latino descent (Jorge Perez). Why is this important? In order to improve the financial circumstances in our communities, we need effective changes in a lot of different areas that govern them, for example: Education policy & access, healthcare policy, hiring practices, housing access, lending and credit criteria, voting rights, and laws that protect and prevent police from facing justice when they abuse their authority and commit criminal acts against citizens. The wealthiest individuals in our society have an unprecedented influence on, not only, industry, jobs, health care, the stock market & the environment, but also with politicians that help to write the laws that affect our everyday life. This makes them some of the most powerful people in the country. With only two in the top 400, we have very little representation. So, what can we do about it?
In the Building Fund series, the focus has been to take aim at decreasing the racial wealth divide (or racial wealth gap) from the very beginning because, well…wealth is power. In the first article, we covered Financial Wellness and provided ideas for how to budget and save the money you earn. This is one of the basic building blocks in creating wealth. In the second article, we discussed Improving your Credit, and the 5 major steps you can take to increase your credit score. (Even Jay-Z recognizes the usefulness of credit and raps about it on his latest album). Next, we talked about Estate planning, because you have to plan for the future and the inevitable (death & taxes). Following that we added tips on Life Insurance, and explained why you need it to protect the wealth that you have created. And finally, in our last article we introduced the concept of Inheritance and how the next generation is changing what it means. Our hope is to leave you equipped to become disciplined in building wealth and better suited to help others in your community; something that previous generations have struggled with.
Historically, there are many causes for the wealth inequality in the United States. These include years of racist Jim Crow laws, the lack of home ownership, household income, unemployment, education, and inheritance. Of these, inheritance might be the most important. It can directly link the disadvantaged economic position and prospects of today’s African Americans to the positions of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations. According to a report done by Robert B. Avery and Michael S. Rendall for the American Journal of Sociology & The University of Chicago Press, “one in three white households will receive a substantial inheritance during their lifetime compared to only one in ten black households.” This relative lack of inheritance that has been observed among African Americans can be attributed in large part to factors such as- unpaid labor (slavery), the violent destruction of personal property (The Destruction of Black Wall Street), unequal opportunity in education (spawning the creation of HBCU’s) and employment (racial discrimination), and more recent policies such as redlining and racist housing policies.
Real estate investments have been how the majority of Americans have built wealth in this country. Yet, the Fair Housing act of 1968 (only 49 years ago) is what put a stop to unfair and racist laws that prevented well to do African Americans from purchasing homes, small businesses, and investment properties. Our current President Donald Trump’s father Fredrich Trump started a residential real estate business in Brooklyn and Queens, New York in the 1920’s. After World War II, he was able to take advantage of large federal housing grants to build rental apartment complexes in the city (to house veterans and immigrants). By the 1970’s he was a multimillionaire. In 1973, the family firm was sued by the Justice Department for discriminating against black people who wanted to rent apartments. The applications were found marked with a “C” for Colored and were then denied. The company eventually settled and agreed to put in place an anti-discrimination policy. This is just an example of how racism can change the course of whole generations of wealth builders. If you have ever seen the stage play, “A Raisin in the Sun” by Lorraine Hansberry it is about a family that experiences obstacles and setbacks when trying to move out of the ghetto in Chicago to an Illinois suburb. The popular television show in the 1980’s called “The Jefferson’s” also dealt with how both black and white people had to adjust socially to black families that were experiencing upper-middle class wealth for the first time.
More and more we are seeing examples of African Americans that are accumulating real wealth. Entertainment moguls such as Sean “Diddy” Combs, Jay-Z, and Dr. Dre of NWA fame have made great strides with their music careers and other business ventures. Diddy tops these with $820 million, Jay-Z is right behind him at $810 million and Dr. Dre’s fortune sits around $740 million. It’s encouraging but we still have some ways to go. In order to be a member of the Forbes 400, you have to have at least $1.7 Billion. Yes, with a B. With so many factors against us and for so long it is very important for us to remain vigilant and steadfast in creating wealth for ourselves no matter the obstacle or deterrent.