Women, Control Your Financial Destiny

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

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

This month’s column is dedicated to our loyal female readers. My wise grandmother always encouraged the women of my family to be independent. Her consistent message was “A man is not a plan.”

She was not referring to your social, romantic, or family life. Instead, she was talking about your individual financial well-being. In general, I have found there are way too many African American women who focus on everyone else—except themselves. As a result, they are placing their own future in jeopardy.

I was shocked to read recent statistics on the wealth status of women of color. According to a 2010 study on women and money, single black and Latino women retain only a penny of every dollar of wealth held by men of their own race. And such comparisons to their white counterparts are just as startling: Single white women have a median wealth of $41,500 versus a mere $100 for single black women. Moreover, 57% of single white women are homeowners compared to only 33% of single African American women.

As the father of twin daughters who will be graduating from college this spring, I’m extremely concerned about this crisis. It is imperative for young black women to take control of their financial destiny now, and be as vigilant about money matters as they are in updating their social media pages.

I am alarmed by the number of my personal friends and colleagues—many of whom have graduated from the nation’s leading colleges and who work for some of the world’s largest corporations—that have opted not to save or invest but would rather wear their assets or carry them in a designer purse.

My message is simple: It’s no longer acceptable to claim that you lack resources to save and invest. Instead of making an investment in a new pair of Christian Louboutins, set financial priorities by paying yourself first and then sticking to a comprehensive, consistent plan of saving and investing. In fact, once my daughters leave college and become full-time workforce participants, I will give them no choice but to save a percentage of their income toward the purchase of their own homes within a five-year period. They will also seed their respective retirement funds by investing through a company-sponsored 401(k) plan or an IRA—an activity that a disturbing percentage of black professionals, including women, have decided to forgo.

It is imperative that you establish your own credit rating even if you are married. There are certainly no guarantees you’ll remain hitched for a lifetime. Having your credit status tied to an ex-husband or deceased mate could prove disastrous, especially if you’re unaware of exorbitant bills, missed or delinquent payments, liens, or other irresponsible acts.

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