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Developing a plan to build wealth

Melvin B. Miller
Developing a plan to build wealth
“Man, it’s gonna take a lot of work to get rich.” (Photo: Dan Drew)

The quest for racial equality in America now confronts the most demanding obstacle — equitable economic attainment. That does not mean that African Americans and Latinos must suddenly become wealthy. The objective is that their income and wealth statistics become comparable to the data of other racial groups. The Banner’s recent financial literacy conference, “Money Talk,” held at Roxbury Community College, provided advice and information on how to build black wealth.

Blacks in America have always had to fight for their place in the sun. The first obstacles were to end the legality of slavery and to provide citizenship with the right to vote for those who had been denied their freedom. The U.S. Constitution provided the basis for those rights. In the mid-20th century federal statutes made it illegal to discriminate on the basis of race in employment, education and places of public accommodation. The Voting Rights Act made it more difficult to discriminate at the polls. However, no law or constitutional amendment requires that blacks are to become wealthy.

When it comes to attaining affluence, African Americans are essentially on their own, as are any other racial or ethnic group. Many of the immigrants who came to America voluntarily were attracted by the nation’s promise as expressed in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” As is often the case with statements of high principle, they are more readily expressed than observed. Thomas Jefferson, the author of the Declaration of Independence, was also a slave owner.

After emancipation, blacks in the South faced extraordinarily dire circumstances. They had little or no money, no jobs and no place to live. The deft handling of cotton sacks in the agrarian South was not a transferable skill for building automobiles in Detroit. But somehow African Americans survived and ultimately joined in battle for Civil Rights to defeat racial discrimination. The law is now moving in favor of racial justice, but as the Donald Trump campaign has demonstrated, there is still considerable racial hostility in America.

The process of acquiring wealth is considerably different from joining with others to campaign for social change. It is a solitary activity, and no tooth fairy for adults will one day place a pile of gold coins under your pillow. As mediators explained at the “Money Talk” conference, the development of wealth requires determination, discipline and persistence. It is never easy to put aside funds in an investment plan rather than spend the money on attractive consumer goods or entertainment.

In order to succeed, it is also necessary to have a rudimentary understanding of how the economic system works. The first step is to handle personal finances wisely. “Money Talk” provided seminars on home buying, financial planning for college, development of a personal investment plan and the development of a high credit rating so that access to loans will be available.

Once a sound financial base is established, OneUnited Bank presented the 10 financial tips needed to succeed in the business world. “Money Talk” also provided information for emerging entrepreneurs. There was a seminar on how to avoid the 10 most frequent legal mistakes made by entrepreneurs. There was also advice on how to raise capital from loans, investors and so-called angels.

It is clear that wealth building requires effort. Affluence doesn’t just happen. Wealth is more than just high income. It is the result of the careful stewardship of the family revenue. Some investment failures are inevitable, but with the courage to persevere and try again, success can be expected.