I’m Home!

Helen Flowers is the 2006 winner of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Own Your First Home Contest

heart,” says Flowers, an ordained minister. By living by the law of reciprocity — that of giving and receiving — she was able to encourage others to do more with their lives and has been blessed in return.

As one of millions of baby boomers who neatly fit into the “sandwich generation” — those middle-aged workers who find themselves simultaneously caring for growing children and aging parents — Flowers determined that she would create a new legacy for her family, one of homeownership, which is the premise of Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 1: to use homeownership to build wealth.

Designed to encourage African Americans to build multigenerational wealth, BE’s Own Your First Home Contest enhanced Flowers’ chances to do things differently. “This contest offered me an opportunity to achieve one of my greatest dreams, to leave a legacy for my children, to build wealth, and to see what my hard work can do,” she says.

GETTING SERIOUS ABOUT HOMEOWNERSHIP
Flowers started on the path to owning a home in 2002 by “inquiring about the process, from getting a mortgage to the closing. However, reality hit when banks denied my requests due to my horrendous credit history.” She contacted the three major credit bureaus to review her credit report. “I found duplicate accounts, accounts that were already paid and satisfied, and, unbelievably, accounts that didn’t even belong to me.” She began cleaning up her credit by paying down debts, writing letters to correct erroneous information, and, where appropriate, making settlements.

I’M HOME!
To create another income stream, Flowers took a course and now prepares taxes on the side, a gig that brings in nearly $4,000 annually. Flowers, who now earns about $72,000, prepares taxes and advises her clients on how to prepare fiscally for the future. Her tax savvy will come in handy as she becomes a homeowner as well. “You can break up real estate taxes quarterly or semiannually,” she says. “[In New York,] you can get a deduction off of your real estate tax and school tax. You can also make a deduction during the tax season and when you get your refund, it will cover you for the first couple of months of the mortgage, in order to not deplete all of your funds.”

With a renewed vision to get her financial house in order, Flowers was on track to buy a home. She committed to an aggressive savings plan and eliminated unnecessary spending to save $22,000 in two years. “I honestly believe that the reasons my finances began to grow was because of great discipline and being a faithful steward in the house of God as a tither and a cheerful giver,” she says. “By 2004, I paid [off] all my credit accounts and my car note, and I now owe a small student loan and a college credit card.”

FINDING HOME SWEET HOME
Finding the perfect home would prove challenging for Flowers, who had a few requirements. City government workers were required to live within the five boroughs of New York City, where it’s difficult to

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