In recent years, we’ve stepped up our efforts to help the widest possible income spectrum of African Americans gain that well-deserved slice of the American Dream with our “Black Wealth Initiative.” Conceived to encourage our readers to make a firm and binding personal commitment to sound financial practices, this initiative called for participants to literally declare their financial independence, pledging to pay themselves first, make responsible homeownership a priority, and develop a systematic program of saving and investing to secure their families for generations to come.
In framing this concept for the Black Wealth Initiative, publisher, Earl G. Graves, Sr., made the following assertion: “Our initiative must be to create wealth by building the cornerstones of economic empowerment: education, equity, enterprise and excellence. It requires that we be aggressive even to the point of zealotry.”
Since we developed that program, the dynamics of wealth building have changed significantly. Wealth preservation has emerged as an even more urgent priority in the wake of the current financial crisis. In the second half of 2008, the American public has watched the financial system shaken as century-old institutions have been severely weakened or failed. The plunge in housing prices has caused some homeowners to deal with an equity deficit in which they are paying mortgages for homes that are worth less than when they first purchased the properties. The increased volatility of the stock market continues to make investors jittery and more risk averse. It’s understandable considering that some market indices have tested their historic lows in recent months. For instance, in late November, the S&P 500 marked an annual decline of 48.8 percent, the worst yearly percentage drop in 80 years.`As for the Dow industrial average, it dipped below 8,000 — its lowest level in more than a decade. Along with these tumultuous times, there is a new generation of young entrants into the workforce who bring with them uncertain expectations of what the future holds.
In response to these developments, Black Enterprise has taken what we believe to be the next logical step in the evolution of our original Black Wealth Initiative. We call it Wealth for Life, and the emphasis here rests squarely on financial discipline. Through 10 newly modified principles, we offer African Americans a step-by-step guide to responsible saving, investing and spending in order to build wealth that can be passed on to future generations. Through consistent application of these principles, families will be able to establish a viable financial legacy, regardless of what the economy and financial markets look like. The 10 Wealth for Life principles are: