A good man leaveth an inheritance to his children’s children, and the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just. — Proverbs 13:22
Wealth based merely on the accumulation of material things is fleeting. Wealth based on lifestyle and societal status rarely lasts a lifetime, but more often ends with the unexpected layoff, divorce, health emergency, or is lost in a blaze of conspicuous consumption. Without a commitment to diligent saving, disciplined spending, smart investing, and a focus on accumulating and passing on assets, much of what passes for wealth in our society — luxury cars, designer clothing, exotic vacations — is but an illusion of affluence. Unless you learn and practice the principles of wealth building as detailed in the Black Enterprise Declaration of Financial Empowerment (www.black enterprise.com/wealth/wbkguide.asp), the money you’ll earn and the assets you’ll acquire during the course of your lifetime will only slip through your fingers to be claimed by others. Just ask the person who bought more house than they could handle — with an eye on status instead of affordability — only to have their home become someone else’s great foreclosure deal.
Let’s be clear: BE’s Black Wealth Initiative is a multigenerational campaign. Joining this initiative and signing on to our DOFE principles means making a commitment to create a legacy of wealth for the future. This involves not just leaving assets to your children and grandchildren, but also taking steps to educate them about the principles they will need to follow to preserve and grow those assets for generations to come. Establishing this legacy requires us to do three things: teach them something, show them something, and leave them something.
First, teach them something. Education about saving, investing, entrepreneurship, and finance must be a personal priority, as well as a family and community priority. We must teach our children what we wished someone had explained to us when we were younger: how to balance a checkbook, what it means to use a credit card, why you must save a portion of everything you earn. Financial literacy should be a priority in our educational, community, and religious institutions. But it must start with each one of us. Leaving wealth for our children and enabling them to earn it themselves mean nothing if we do not teach them how to manage and use it. By making their financial education a priority, we can ensure that they can be trusted with our legacy and that the net worth we’ve accumulated during our lifetimes will continue to grow long after we are gone.
Second, show them something — set the example. The wealth building lessons you preach to your children must be practiced by you. Simply put, you must live the principles of wealth building, not just talk about them. Our young people may not listen to, comprehend, or believe half the things we say, but they have a laser focus and photographic memory for everything we do. If we don’t want our children to become addicted to credit cards, we can’t let them