It’s no secret that African Americans face unique challenges to their financial security that are unlike those of white households. An estimated 42 percent of African American households use credit for basic expenses, such as rent, groceries and utilities, according to The Challenge of Credit Card Debt for the African American Middle Class, (pdf), a report released last year by the NAACP. Moreover, 99 percent of blacks, who started new businesses using credit, are struggling to pay off those expenses, compared to just 80 percent of whites, the report says.
The good news is that it’s never too late to overhaul your financial situation. One of the first steps is changing your attitude toward money, according to Sabrina Lamb, founder and CEO of the WorldofMoney.org, an organization dedicated to the financial education of youth in the Tri-State New York area.
“There are three types of people,” she told NewsOne. “There are consumers, producers and investors. Most African Americans go through their lives in the consumer lane. But if you’re always in that lane, how will you grow your money or get it to work for you? You begin by changing your attitude toward money.”
Lamb is author of Do I Look Like An ATM? A Parent’s Guide To Raising Financially Educated African-American Children, which was nominated this year for an NAACP Image Awards for outstanding literary work-instructional. She suggests 10 ways to make your money work for you:
1. Examine your “money-logue”
Review your inner dialogue about money: how you think, believe and speak about it to yourself. Eliminate words that reflect lack or loss. Examine if your financial behaviors lean toward asset or liability accumulation and make a change. Use your current financial situation as a pathway to prosperity to help overcome shame and regret.
2. Make “saving” culturally cool
Examine your family’s culture as it relates to money management. Move the healthy and empowering discussion of personal finance front and center in family life and make it a goal-setting team activity.
3. Shop for quality financial services
Instead of choosing financial institutions with the best commercials, research bankrate.com for the financial institutions that provide the highest compound interest rate for investments in your city or online; or perhaps the lowest mortgage rate.
4. Pay yourself first
Seriously. Examine whether you believe that your life is worth saving and that you alone have an emergency fund for when “life happens,” or you encounter hardship. That fund should cover at least 4 months’ worth of expenses.
5. Watch your credit
Your credit report should be your bestseller. Review it for errors, including names, addresses, incorrect claims and violations of statute of limitations. The U.S. government makes a free report available at annualcreditreport.com.
6. Monitor your social media reputation
Examine your online reputation. People of color are already targeted by toxic sub-prime loans, high interest rates and sub-par financial services. Social media conversations and posts provide financial institutions with a treasure trove of information for a data repository—collecting, storing, and analyzing data—to determine a person’s credit worthiness.
7. Invest in what you know
Clueless as to which stock or mutual fund to own? Look around your home and list the products and services of publicly traded companies to which you are already loyal. Use low-cost sites such as sharebuilder.com that allow you to invest in companies with a modest investment.
8. Just say, “no.” Cash is king
In exchange for a discount, companies try to recruit new customers with “point-of-sale” high interest, high late fee credit cards. Just say no. One debit card is all one needs using the tried but true axiom: “If you don’t have the cash, don’t buy it.”
9. Sight unseen: Direct deposit
Open a direct deposit CD or IRA account, which provide higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts. Determine that a percentage of your income is automatically withdrawn.
10. Start now
Money attracts money. Your path to financial liberation may seem lonely at first, especially if family and friends choose not to join you. However, avoid having a money-logue only when experiencing an emergency or it’s New Year’s Eve. Becoming financially secure and financially educated is the only way that your money can grow.