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Make a Commitment to Invest in Yourself

This is the season when people ring in the New Year with champagne toasts and make resolutions to discard bad habits and achieve ambitious goals. For most, however, it’s merely a feel-good ritual, since research shows that 88% fail to keep such pledges. As for me, I’ve always taken my commitments—especially those to myself—very seriously. I use the beginning of the year as a time to take inventory, pursue corrective action, and make fresh starts.

For many of us, the past two years have been financially and emotionally trying. The Great Recession and sluggish recovery have wrecked businesses, stalled career plans, and drained bank accounts. Some are waiting to wake up from the nightmare, hoping for a return to an era when credit was readily available, jobs were plentiful, and individuals spent freely. I’m here to tell you those days are never coming back. You need to fully embrace today’s economic and financial realities. So instead of creating a list of short-term resolutions, make lifelong commitments to adopting the true meaning of Wealth for Life. To help you get there, here are four pledges you should make to prosper in what many have described as “the new normal.”

Get your financial house in order. Make your money work for you, not against you. According to the 2010 Ariel Black Investor Survey, African Americans have consistently saved and invested less than whites of similar incomes over the past decade. We must reverse this trend by taking a disciplined approach. It’s up to you to build a nest egg for retirement. Too many of us don’t make even minimum contributions to employer-sponsored retirement plans such as 401(k)s or 403(b)s. Just as important, repair your credit to gain maximum financial flexibility. Bad credit can keep you from securing loans or competitive interest rates, or even from getting jobs or promotions that could increase your income potential.

Improve your career mobility through continuing education. Employees no longer expect to stay with a company to receive a gold watch at retirement. In fact, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates individuals will have seven to 10 jobs during the course of their work life. To increase your portability, I suggest you enroll in post-graduate studies and training programs. For one, it’s vital to stay abreast of the latest industry trends as well as new processes and practices. Such moves can also broaden your career options and give your earnings a much-needed boost. In 2009, the BLS reported that master’s degree recipients earn about $13,000 more in wages per year than those who hold a bachelor’s degree alone.

Increase your tech literacy. It’s essential to be plugged into technology for your business and financial life. Embracing social media networks is a must if you want to be part of the conversation. Our editors have reported that the effective use of social media can increase your company’s market presence as well as provide access to real career opportunities. A Jump Start social media survey of hiring managers found that 66% use LinkedIn to find candidates for job openings, 23% go to Facebook, and 16% use Twitter. Moreover, technology can directly help you improve your finances with more individuals using online lending sites to get personal and business loans. According to financial research and consulting firm Celent, there were roughly $5.8 billion in outstanding online loans in 2010.

Renew your commitment to a healthy lifestyle. You need loads of stamina to be effective in today’s fast-paced world. Without regular exercise and proper diet, you will not be in peak condition to sufficiently handle your responsibilities. Across a range of maladies, African Americans tend to be more likely to suffer from preventable diseases and die prematurely. Since so many African Americans face life-threatening ailments during peak-earning years, our community is robbed of some of our wealthiest and most powerful citizens. Don’t become one of them.

We should not take the aforementioned commitments lightly. We must be vigilant in taking control of all aspects of our lives. By doing so we’ll do more than resolve to create Wealth for Life, we will fully achieve it.

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