Black Investment for the 21st Century

As calls for blacks to invest more aggressively become more insistent, our Board of economists examines the potential for building wealth in the new millennium

growth is likely to extend through most of 1999, says economist Andrew Brimmer. A former member of the Federal Reserve Board , Brimmer says the slackening in the rate of domestic consumer spending will be the principal cause of the reduced tempo.

Brimmer says in 1998 there was an average of 15.9 million blacks in the civilian labor force, making up 11.5% of the total. Blacks held 14.4 million jobs, accounting for an average of 11% of the total employed. “On the other hand, if blacks had enjoyed full job parity, blacks would have 15.9 million jobs,” Brimmer says.

In 1999, Brimmer forecasts that the number of blacks in the civilian labor force will rise to 16.1 million, with black employment rising to 14.5 million jobs, representing 11% of the total employed.

Brimmer estimates the total money income of black Americans in 1998 rose to $438.4 billion. That progress is expected to continue into 1999 as he predicts total money income of black Americans will rise to $458.5 billion. However, if the African American share of total money income was proportional to their share of the population, says Brimmer, “parity income for blacks would amount to $650.2 billion. So the income deficit may amount to $191.7 billion.”

THERESE SALMON, 36, single, Silver Spring, Maryland, international operations manager with the National Association of Realtors.
Household income: $50,000-$75,000

Are you currently invested in the stock market?
“Yes. I have shares in my former employer PaineWebber, as part of a company profit sharing plan. I have about $15,000 invested in two mutual funds (Janus and Oppenheimer) and a 401(k) plan. The total portfolio value has grown to over $50,000.”

Why did you decide to invest?
“As a single woman it’s important for me to be able to take care of my financial well-being. Having my money under a mattress or in a three percent savings account does nothing. But having it in something that’s compounded daily is a different story. I’ve been investing for 12 years now.”

Are you concerned about the current volatility in the market?
“I know you’re not supposed to time the market. But this looks like the best time to invest because stock prices are low and you know eventually they’re going to go back up. The stock market is about patience, which I have.”

How did last year’s drop impact your portfolio?
“I lost 10% of my total portfolio value. I was shocked and disappointed at first because it was scary. But I got over it. I realized I’m not going to touch this money for another 30 years anyway.”

Are your family or friends invested in the stock market or another investment vehicle?
“I’ve been trying to convince my sister to steadily increase her contributions to her 401(k) plan. The problem is African Americans were raised not to talk about money. So we really weren’t educated on what it means and how it affects our lives. By not talking about money and how to invest it we’ve turned it into this mystical thing that many people are afraid of.”

ROBERT WILLIAMS, 40, Chicago,

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