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Make a Financial Commitment to Yourself

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

Earl "Butch" Graves Jr., President & CEO, Black Enterprise

Our mission at Black Enterprise is Wealth for Life, providing our audience with the information and tools to maximize their finances from the beginning of their professional lives through their golden years. To me, one of the most distressing images is of a worker who has given sweat, energy, and ideas to an employer most of his life only to wind up with a second career as a supermarket cashier to pay the bills. I’m alarmed by a series of recent conversations with friends, colleagues, and employees—many of them mid-career professionals—who haven’t even started plotting retirement much less investing in a 401(k) plan or IRA.

These folks will have membership in the nonexclusive group I dub “the permanent workforce.” A recent Associated Press – LifeGoesStrong.com poll revealed that 53% of baby boomers don’t feel confident about financing a livable retirement, and a staggering 73% of them plan to work well past retirement age. If you are a baby boomer and have not started, may God bless you. If Gen X and Gen Y don’t get serious about such planning today, then a lifetime of work will be their destiny as well.

This holiday season, my gift to you is a bit of basic advice: In 2012, make an iron-clad commitment to secure your financial future—by any means necessary. I’ve heard all the excuses about why people can’t save and invest, ranging from claims that they don’t have a single extra dollar to invest, they’re sacrificing to make better lives for family and friends, or worse they’re simply not interested because they prefer to live paycheck-to-paycheck.

The reality is we must budget dollars for foreseeable expenses such as taxes and bills, but these essential payouts should not eliminate our short- and long-term financial planning. Time doesn’t listen to excuses. It just keeps marching forward. Remember that scene from Saturday Night Fever, involving John Travolta’s character, Tony Manero, and his shopkeeper boss. In response to advice about saving his earnings, Manero says, “Oh, [screw] the future!” His boss’ response: “No, Tony! You can’t [screw] the future. The future[ screws] you! It catches up with you and it [screws] you if you ain’t planned for it!” The lesson may come from an old movie but the advice is still sound.

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