Written by Sakina P. Spruell on March 19, 2010
Don’t be alarmed by the recent news that African American women only have a median net worth of $100. I’m actually glad to see that it wasn’t in the negative. The reality of the situation is that too many people define themselves based on income. Many say “I make six-figures,” or “I need to be in a two-income family.” This is senseless talk. If you are not saving or investing that income in a place that will create true wealth, you are headed for a three-figure-net-worth future.
When I discuss what it means to be rich at seminars, I explain that the vision is different for everyone. But the one constant is that you will need to have wealth to achieve that rich vision. There is a simple formula for net worth; it’s assets minus liabilities. Please note, INCOME is nowhere in this equation.
I commend the Insight Center for Community Economic Development for conducting a study of the wealth gap between women of color and white women. Perhaps, now more women will get a wake up call and start to do the following to change the picture and focus on building wealth:
A) Find Out Where You Stand
Knowing and accepting your situation is the first step to overcoming any situation.
Add up all your assets, i.e. everything you own or are borrowing-to-own (like a house, car, jewelry that’s paid for on a Zales credit card, etc.)
Subtract everything you owe, i.e. credit card balances, car loans, mortgages, student loans, etc. Do not include utilities because that is not a debt, you can turn that off and the bill goes away. Unless of course, you have to still pay for months that have already passed (as in overdue bills).
Get your outcome number from applying steps 1 and 2. This number is your net worth. Don’t panic or be alarmed if your number is in the negative. This is very common for the first time you apply this exercise. My number was like minus-$30,000 or something the first time I calculated my net worth.
I once interviewed a woman for a magazine story who said she actually got diarrhea after she realized her financial situation was so bleak. But imagine what she would have gotten if she didn’t correct the situation. She was about $20,000 short every year for her basic living expenses, which was making her credit card debt mount and continue to ruin her net worth. But after she realized it, she got a job making more money and she is now living quite pretty. She actually lives close by me and she is doing quite well for herself with her million dollar home.
B) Do Something About It
Apply these 5 Keys to Keeping It Rich:
Define. You must define your rich life for yourself. If you are shopping all the time and the bills are running up, its because you have not defined a better life for yourself. Decide where you really want to live, vacation, eat out, etc. then…
Invest in your newly defined lifestyle. Figure out how much that house or vacation costs and then start to save your money accordingly. Once you get 3 months worth of living expenses in the bank, then ask your bank advisor or a friend’s financial advisor about CDs or mutual funds. The options for growth will continue to grow as you grow.
Build your credit. In America, you can’t do much without credit until you truly fall into the upper echelon classes of Carlos Slim Helu or Oprah Winfrey. Get your credit report from www.annualcreditreport.com and call your debtors and work out a plan. See “A Perfect Score” I wrote a bit ago for Black Enterprise to learn more about building credit.
Own a home or a business. This is where the true net worth building will come into play. The value of a home (although some can’t tell today, but it will change) or a small business adds true worth to a net worth statement. Trust me. I’ll tell you my story at another time to convince you.
Hire professional advisors for insurance, financial advice, taxes, etc. Also, you will need to hire staff for your businesses. You will never become as large at Carlos Slim Helu or Oprah (they are my picks for today apparently) by doing all the work yourself.
Ok, I gotta run. I hope this helps you deal better with the news of black women and their net worth. Tweet me your questions at www.twitter.com/keepingitrich.
Sakina Spruell is host and creator of “Keeping It Rich with Sakina,” and a business journalist, specializing in personal finance and entrepreneurship; she contributes to the personal finance sections of Black Enterprise, Money, and Essence. You can follow Spruell on Twitter and Facebook, as well as view her Keeping It Rich video series and free newsletter.