drive through that neighborhood, you will not find a single millionaire. What if those people had invested that money wisely instead? What if they’d bought Microsoft or Wal-Mart stock? What if they’d bought a mutual fund returning 16% a year? Then they could have built long-term wealth that could be built upon and passed from generation to generation. Instead, they bought lottery tickets and threw their hard-earned money out the window.
If you don’t feel prosperous, it may be that you have not yet committed yourself to prosperity by setting goals and developing and sticking with an investment plan. We deserve security and peace of mind in retirement. But in general, we have poor saving and investing habits-not just blacks, but all Americans. Compared to every other industrialized nation in the world, the United States of America is a nation of savings slackers. We may be the richest nation in the world, but we also lead the globe in bankruptcies. One-fourth of all adults between the ages of 35 and 54 have not yet begun to save for retirement, according to one poll. While the U.S. stock market went on an unprecedented bull run in the 1990s, nearly 60% of employed Americans missed out because they didn’t own stocks or an equity mutual fund either on their own or through their employer.
BRIDGING THE WEALTH GAP
When anyone starts talking or writing about the rich and the poor, you and I know who stands where. African Americans are among the least aggressive people in the nation when it comes to using our money to create greater wealth through investment. As a result, we get poorer while the rich get richer. “The reality is, no matter how great incomes become for individual blacks, our wealth is not sustained because we have very few assets that can be passed on from generation to generation,” noted Hugh Price, president of the National Urban League in his introduction to a 1998 study of the state of black America’s wealth.
In 1952, a great writer named Ralph Ellison eloquently expressed his anger at racism in this country with a novel entitled Invisible Man. This classic story explored the sense of racial alienation experienced by blacks, who were treated as though they were “invisible” by the white majority.
Nearly 50 years later, the 33 million African Americans in this country are anything but invisible thanks to many hard-won victories over racial discrimination. Since the civil rights era, we have made our presence known in politics, in business and in the marketplace. But we still have one major battle to undertake: the fight for economic independence.
“GOD WANTS US TO PROSPER”
Middle-class African Americans have been blessed with jobs and wealth-we must not bury our gifts or talents. We must multiply them by practicing financial responsibility and investing wisely. As a spiritual people, we must understand that “God wants us to prosper,” as my minister, the Rev. Dr. Johnnie Colemon, is fond of saying. All men and women may be considered equal under