Financial Wake-Up Call

From advice on homeownership to unemployment, our economists offer strategies on how to secure your financial future

agreed that purchasing a home is the best way, at this time, to chart a course toward wealth creation. They give tips on how to overcome the real and psychological impediments to home ownership, as well as reflect on how the war will affect African American households and businesses.

JOB INSECURITY
Though the Porcher sisters are remaining positive about their job hunt, African Americans have good reason to be concerned. William Spriggs says that during the technology boom, and before Sept. 11, college graduates over the age of 25 — black and white — saw an unemployment rate of 2.7%. While the jobless rate for college-educated whites has remained stable, the rate for their African American counterparts has been steadily increasing. Last year, it was at 3.7%; now it’s 4.7%. Spriggs says we have to be concerned that the figure doesn’t reach 5%. Anderson agrees that in the past year the gap in the unemployment rate has grown across the board and manifested itself in a historic 2:1 ratio of unemployed blacks vs. whites.

Spriggs blames some of the nation’s economic problems on the Bush administration. “When President George [W.] Bush took over, two years ago, we were projecting a surplus of $5.6 trillion. Now we’re talking about a deficit of $2.1 trillion. When Bush took over, there were 2.5 million more people working than there are today. You don’t lose $7 trillion just because of a hiccup in the economy. This is the effect of having a poorly conceived economic policy. We can’t just be victims and think of economic policy as a spectator sport. We have to be more politically involved.”

Boston agrees that everyone should be proactive. While you are employed, diversify revenue sources, form alliances, and prepare for down times. This is something that Lisa Porcher plans to do.

“After I get my next job, I’m going to save at least six months of living expenses as an emergency financial plan,” she says.

Gordon Nembhard says taking steps to become a player in your local business and political sectors is the best way to have some impact on your community. She suggests starting your own business or forming partnerships with other local businesses. Lisa and Lori plan to work together on an entrepreneurial venture, but for now they are busy networking to make contacts for potential jobs.

Jaynes adds that this period of low interest rates is a good time to refinance your home to get a lower fixed mortgage rate and to pay off debts. Home refinancing can be used to develop a safety net by establishing a line of credit. This should only be used to live on for a few months if you lose your job. In addition, he recommends saving a little more each month, cutting back on expenses, lowering your debt burden by reducing the impact of high finance charges on consumer debts, and keeping your car a year longer. He also recommends investing in yourself so that you will become more employable. In other words, take a course

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