In his new book, Living in the Village: Build Your Financial Future and Strengthen Your Community (St. Martin’s Griffin; $14.99), Ryan Mack, president and founder of Optimum Capital Management, discusses how to gain freedom from the weight of poor financial choices that often plague not only individuals but also communities. Mack proposes that since, like the African proverb, it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes a village to build a strong community. Mack says “village members” can become strong through financial literacy. Consequently, they will have the freedom to give back to the community and pass on their knowledge and newfound wealth. Mack sat down with Black Enterprise to discuss financial empowerment and achieving freedom in your finances.
What prompted you to write this book?
I saw what the lack of financial literacy can cause, just by the recession of 2007. Every dip in the economy can be solved by fiscal responsibility. From the consumer level to the corporate level and even the government level, we can learn that we should manage our resources more responsibility.
What does it mean to live in the village?
Living in the village is a play on the African proverb “It takes a village to raise a child.” But the book takes it a few steps further. If it takes a village to raise a child, then the strength of the children depends on the strength of the village. The village is comprised of individual members and households all doing what they can to contribute to the greater good of society, and all doing what they can to make sure they can manage their own resources. In 2007, we saw what happened if you were fiscally irresponsible and purchased a home with a 500 FICO score and no budget and had no money in the bank, but you were able to get an adjustable-rate or interest-only mortgage.
Essentially, when you go through foreclosure, your neighbors suffer because their property values decline as well. And now you have many individuals under water. If we’re going to look at the village as a whole, if we’re going to create stronger children and stronger villages, it has to start from the individual level. But it can’t stop there–we have to create stronger households in order to create stronger communities.
What are some obstacles to financial freedom?
The first obstacle is the mind. We fail to realize the mental aspect of wealth. Lack of faith and hope is another. We spend so much time looking at the news and hearing about how dreary it is out there. All these things are catapulted into our psyche so much that many individuals have given up. So we have to get over that first hurdle of understanding the importance of having faith and a strong mentality. Faith is belief that you can do well and that tomorrow is going to be a better day for you. And the other half of that is working to make sure that belief comes to fruition. It’s about your mindset. If you think you’re going be broke or you think you won’t be able to buy that first home, you’ll never be able to do it. We have to get our mindset right.
How would you define economic empowerment?
When we talk about true economic empowerment, it means all your needs are filled. You’re not suffering from lack. You’re thriving and you’re able to put savings away and all your needs are fulfilled. It’s also defined from a holistic level: Are you healthy? Do you have a solid mindset? Are you confident? Are you spiritually grounded? True economic empowerment from a financial perspective means that you have a clear, defined goal toward true financial independence. That means you have the option of never working again. When you’re financially independent, you can say, ‘I don’t have to earn another dollar and I’m OK.’
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Sheiresa Ngo is the consumer affairs editor at Black Enterprise.