Retirement Security Week: Take Full Advantage of Your 401(K)

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Regardless of your age or standing in the workforce, it’s time for you to get serious about retirement. This tenet has always been a part of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Wealth For Life Principles. In fact, no statement brings more clarity to our assertion that we all need to focus on the long term than Principle No. 6: I will devise an investment plan for my retirement needs and children’s education.

We are currently in the midst of National Retirement Security Week—sanctioned by Congress every third week of October to increase public awareness about the need to save for that imminent moment—and as a result, our editors have used the past few days to give this subject our laser-beam focus. Earlier this week, we posted TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson Jr.’s remarks on the importance of retirement security in communities of color.

This is a critical matter for African Americans. Over the past few months, we continue to witness a trend in which large numbers of African Americans have not sufficiently used this tool to reach their retirement goals. For instance, a recent survey from the Economic Policy Institute revealed that only 41% of black families had retirement account savings versus 65% of white families. And BLACK ENTERPRISE reported earlier this year that another study by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) showed the median defined contribution balances held by African American working households with 401(k)s and the like plummeted from $31,100 in 2007 to 16,400 in 2013. That figure represented holdings that were more than three times smaller than the median defined contribution balances of white working households.

To help you get on track or resume your retirement saving program, BLACK ENTERPRISE has compiled advice that we have received from a variety of experts throughout this year. Recommendations include the following:

Keep track of your dollars.  

Our CEO, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr., had asserted in his Executive Memo column:Whether you’re receiving that first paycheck or you’re settled into your peak earning years, it’s never too late to save for retirement. First, honestly evaluate your spending. Take a notebook and track every cent you spend for the next two weeks. By doing so, I guarantee that you’ll find wasted dollars that can be used for your long-term investment program.” 

Start early.

One of our Wealth for Life subjects, Reginald and Kim Rich were able to amass in excess of $400,000 in separate 401(k) savings plans, in addition to pension and non-retirement savings. How were they able to do it? They began saving for retirement early and stayed on track. Each contributed enough to their respective 401(k)s to get the maximum employer match—the equivalent of  “free money.”

Know how much you can contribute to your employer-sponsored plan.

According to the IRS, the contribution limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains $18,000. The catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in these plans is $6,000.

Gain professional advice.

You don’t have to go it alone. There are plenty of reputable financial advisers who can help you map out a retirement plan. Assemble a team to ensure that you have enough life, disability, and long-term care insurance; proper tax management; and guidance in creating an investment portfolio that takes into account your risk tolerance and time horizon. In fact, the Riches took advantage of employer-sponsored financial planners.

Engage in disciplined investing.

Ariel President Mellody Hobson, who also writes the quarterly Total Return column for BE, says she’s been heartened by stats from her firm’s 2015 Black Investor Survey, revealing that stock market participation among black middle-class households was on the rise: 67% of African American households surveyed have invested in the stock market compared to 86% for whites. This is a significant reversal from its first survey in 1998: 57% of black households invested in the stock market versus 81% of white households. There are still nagging challenges, though. The survey found that African Americans were more likely to time the market: 65% of black households versus 51% of whites. That why Hobson asserts, that “workplace retirement plans are the golden door” with the use of automatic withdrawal accounts, taking advantage of the power of compounding while buying and holding a diversified portfolio of quality holdings.


5 Ways Millennials Can Overcome Financial Challenges

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Millennials are increasingly identified with disrupting the status quo—from driving change within various industries to taking on saving the world through the next hot social enterprise. Still, a large percentage of millennials face a number of financial challenges that can hold them back from achieving the life that they desire.

So Prudential teamed up with Millennial Week and sponsored a town hall focused on overcoming those challenges. Moderated by Tonya Rapley, a nationally recognized millennial money expert and founder of My Fab Finance, the interactive discussion featured millennial experts who shared tips on navigating entrepreneurship, while protecting and maximizing your financial life.

The innovators on the panel included New York City-based entrepreneur, professional speaker, and media personality Kwame Jackson; digital influencer, Chelsea Krost; and Phroogal founder and CEO, Jason Vitug.

Financial freedom, while living according to your values, was a common thread throughout the town hall discussion. Panelists, speaking from their unique perspectives, had a lot to share about their experiences in overcoming their own financial challenges to reach their individual and business goals.

Don’t keep up with the Joneses

Vitug, author and creator of The Smile Lifestyle Movement, created The Road to Financial Wellness to engage millennials in financial awareness via local grassroots interaction and social media. In the age of social media, he emphasized that the need to keep up with the Joneses causes people to focus on others lifestyle’s when the focus should be your own. “We need to break social taboos and the underlying issues that prevent millennials from achieving financial freedom,” says Vitug.

Retirement is evolving. Identify and refine your portable toolkit

Jackson, who is a serial entrepreneur and one of the first contestants on NBC’s The Apprentice, shared a number of tips for budding entrepreneurs. “Despite being a member of Generation X, I’m a millennial at heart,” says Jackson. After working in wealth management at Goldman Sachs, Jackson received the call for The Apprentice and the trajectory of his life changed. Seeing the platform as a branding opportunity, he’s worked on two to four businesses since.

He stressed the importance of developing and packaging your own personal, unique skill set. “The idea of retirement is evolving,” says Jackson. As the “backslash” generation, millennials are positioned to take those skills post retirement and parlay them into a new career.

Save, save, save

While entrepreneurship was a clear point of interest for the attendees, Rapley, whose mission is to help millennials break the cycle of living paycheck to paycheck so that they can become financially free, brought the conversation back to the importance of saving. When an attendee asked if they should sacrifice their 401(k) on investing in their first business, an overwhelming reply was—NO. “Don’t sacrifice your future for [a] possibility,” says Vitug.

Jackson added, “Saving is truly important because that rainy day WILL come.”
Additionally, saving and managing money has become easier than ever with the addition of technology and access. “We are the first generation to think of our money digitally and the average millennial has about five apps connected to their credit/debit card,” says Krost.

Growing your biz

Krost, who is a speaker, author, television and radio talk-show host, executive producer, certified health coach, and entrepreneur, has been an influencer since 16. She created a radio talk show, Teen Talk Live, which spoke to some issues specific to teens and young adults, and the show was the first of its kind. A branding expert, she recommended that attendees find their passion, start executing, and more importantly, maintain consistency. “Before you start a business, do severe social listening on social media,” says Krost. She also believes that entrepreneurs should work on consistent cash flow before quitting their day job, and also hustling before going out to fundraise. “Build out your side hustle until it becomes a full-time opportunity,” she adds.

Get a mentor

The panel also highlighted the need to network and build solid relationships with mentors to move your business to the next level. “Every moment is a moment for you to network,” says Krost. Jackson encouraged attendees to venture outside of social media to find mentors, adding that conferences are great for that purpose. Vitug adds, “Find a mentor who is five years ahead of where you are. Show a vested interest in that individual’s success.”

Consumer Affairs

TIAA CEO Roger Ferguson: Communities of Color Must Focus on Retirement Security

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Roger Ferguson Roger W. Ferguson Jr.
President & CEO

I had the privilege last month to meet and talk with Roger Ferguson Jr., president and CEO of financial service giant TIAA, during the Freedman’s Bank Forum, hosted by the U.S. Treasury Dept. The former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve maintained that among his organization’s top priorities are elevating the financial aptitude of American citizens as well as ensuring that they leave their working years with a bountiful retirement. No other group has been more challenged in these areas than African Americans.

I thought it would prove extremely valuable to share his instructive and empowering message with our audience. So here are edited excerpts of his remarks on the need for communities of color to embrace strategies for retirement security:

My organization, TIAA, has been focused on helping people prepare for secure retirements for nearly a century. We believe strongly that it’s achievable for all Americans. We also know that it can be harder than ever to reach, thanks to demographic, economic, and other trends that are reshaping our world. I want to outline some of the challenges all Americans face in achieving a secure retirement and then highlight some of the difficulties experienced by communities of color. I’m [also] going to share what we have learned about the best ways to get to and through a secure retirement.

The challenges that we face with respect to retirement here in the U.S., and financial security generally, is driven mainly by three factors. One, the lack of adequate savings by all individuals. Secondly, the decline in traditional pension plans in the private sector. Third, the aging of the American population. The Federal Reserve has estimated that fully one-third of American workers have literally nothing at all saved for retirement. That’s obviously concerning when the average life expectancy in the U.S. has hit an all-time high. Meaning, many Americans will be spending far longer in retirement than previous generations. As lifespans have risen, the birth rate has fallen. Together, these two trends have produced a steadily aging population. In fact, it was predicted that the elderly will make up nearly 22% of the population by 2040.

The resulting strain in Social Security is already well-documented. Whereas in 1950, there were 16.5 workers for each retiree drawing Social Security benefits; today, there are only about 2.8 workers, so just short of 3 workers per retiree. That ratio is forecast to drop to 2:1 in the coming decades.

The second big challenge is today, individuals bear much more responsibility than ever before for ensuring their own financial security in the future. Many once were able to rely on company pensions, also known as the defined benefit plans. Since 1980, the share of private sector workers relying solely on a company pension for retirement has fallen from about 62%, almost two-thirds, down to 17% so under one-fifth. What’s happened is that today, the 401(k) and defined contribution retirement plans dominate in the private sector with more than two-thirds of workers relying on them for their core retirement savings vehicle.

Frankly, there’s ample evidence that the current retirement model is not getting the job done in terms of adequately preparing workers for a financially secure retirement. Over 67 million Americans lack access to a retirement plan at work. Of those who do have a plan, many choose not to participate. Even when employees do participate in workplace plans, they and their employers often don’t contribute enough to their investment accounts. And many fail to preserve their assets for retirement: They borrow against their account or liquidate it for living expenses.

There are a number of challenges that communities of color face in planning for a secure financial future. One is that the unemployment rate for black Americans has nearly doubled that of whites. The median income of African American households lags that of white households by nearly $24,000. In 2013, the median white family has 10 to 12 times the wealth of the median African American family and 10 times the wealth of the median Hispanic family. Given those challenges, it’s not surprising at all that there are serious gaps in the financial security and retirement preparedness for African Americans and Hispanic workers.

A key issue starts with the access to workplace retirement plans. In the private sector, blacks are 15% less likely than whites to have access to such a plan, and Hispanics are 42% less likely. As a result, households of colors are far less likely to have dedicated retirement savings than white households. Some statistics there: 62% of blacks and 69% of Hispanics have no assets in a retirement account. That’s compared to 37% of white households. Among those who do have retirement accounts, the amount saved is far lower among households of colors than among white households. In the working age population, three out of four black households and four out of five Latino households have less than $10,000 in retirement savings. You can understand, and I’ll come back to it, why the secretary puts such weight on saving early. Among white households, just one out of two has savings below that $10,000 threshold.

These issues clearly have a profound impact for our economic progress as a nation and for the long-term well-being of all Americans. We must actually make retirement challenge a national priority and toward that end, TIAA has been heartened to see the administration take a number of proactive efforts to enhance retirement security. Our colleagues at the Department of Labor have introduced a fiduciary rule , which we think is very important. It will make putting customers first, including, importantly, in that IRA rollover decision, and we think that’s an important industry standard and support the Department of Labor’s fiduciary rule as the standard for the financial services industry.

The Secure Choice state-based retirement plans are another good step forward. They will give many Americans an opportunity to save for retirement at work. [The Treasury Secretary Jack Lew has talked about] myRA program which is helping people without access to workplace retirement plans start to save. He’s very passionate about the importance of saving at a young age and taking advantage of the miracle of compounded interest in a safe and secure retirement program. All of those are very important initiatives, and we applaud the government for doing that and recognize that both the government, business and the not-for-profit sector have a role to play.

As a part of National Retirement Security Week, Black Enterprise will be publishing a series of tips from top experts.


3 Ways TIAA Is Attracting and Retaining Millennials

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The role of millennials in corporate America is one that’s often full of pros and cons, depending on the company. Though tech savvy and innovative, some executives worry about their company loyalty or alleged attitudes of entitlement. But TIAA, the leading retirement provider for academic and research professionals, sees millennials as part of their diversity and inclusion strategy. Listed on Black Enterprise‘s 2016 Best Companies for Diversity report, TIAA’s values have proven to be a strong point for attracting and retaining millennials.

Black Enterprise caught up with Skip Spriggs, executive vice president and chief human resources officer, who provided valuable insight into how TIAA reaches the most ethnically diverse generation.

“I think that most organizations just talk about diversity in terms of ethnicity and gender. We use a much broader definition here at TIAA, and millennials certainly fit into that category,” he says. “We recognize that there is a direct correlation between our employee base and the clients that we serve. If we want to, from a business model perspective, make sure that we’re relevant to that customer base, it’s equally important that our employee base mirrors that.”

Here are some ways TIAA includes millennials and ensures that African American employees get into senior management positions:

1. Employee Resource Groups (ERGs)

TIAA has eight employee resource groups that bring millennials on board and provide incentives for them to remain, including The Young Professionals or “Yo Pros”—an employee group dedicated to young professionals who are early in their career.

According to Spriggs, the group is very active in the millennial area, with social media recruiting and various volunteer events that recognize millennials’ desire for jobs that offer a purpose aligning with their own. “We feel that, because we’re in the business of providing for those people who serve others, it really resonates with millennials. [It’s] our value proposition, among making sure we [support the] financial well-being of our clients,” he says.

2. Senior Level Executive Sponsors

Each employee resource group has a senior level executive sponsor. Each senior level executive sponsor works with each employee resource group to make sure they have a business focused agenda, which is attached to a number of key performance indicators and metrics.

“So, when you think about millennial recruiting and bringing in senior level, African American talent, those are metrics that are on our dashboard. We monitor the representation of the people that we recruit very closely,” Spriggs says.

3. Mentoring Programs

TIAA has well-thought-out mentoring programs, through the women’s ERG, African American ERG, and the Hispanic ERG. Spriggs stresses that TIAA makes sure every employee has a development plan, regardless of ethnicity or gender. The mentoring groups are focused on making sure that once there is a development plan, the firm can make that plan actionable. “A lot of that is really having access to senior level people that look and sound like you,” he says.

“It is providing access to other senior leaders that can show their path. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy; if you already have a very diverse senior level team, this  provides a forum for the next level of leaders coming through, giving them a clear path for how to get there. We’re so proud of that,” he continues.

Additionally, the firm conducts town halls and events—like their Lunch-and-Learn event—all geared toward ensuring that early and mid-level professionals can figure out how get from where they are, to where they want to be.


Protect Your Bank Accounts, Credit Cards From Unauthorized Use

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Over the last several weeks, most people have heard about the settlements Wells Fargo made involving some of its customers receiving products or services that they did not want or request. Regulators hit Wells Fargo with $185 million in fines for creating millions of fake bank and credit card accounts from 2011–2015.

Wells Fargo workers reportedly opened up 1.5 million fake bank deposit accounts and issued debit cards with false pin numbers that may not have been authorized by consumers, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. They even created phony email addresses to enroll consumers in online banking services. What’s more, workers submitted more than 550,000 credit card applications without customers’ knowledge. Roughly 14,000 of those accounts incurred more than $400,000 in fees, including annual fees, interest charges, and overdraft protection fees.

More than 5,000 Wells Fargo employees were laid off and Chairman and CEO John Stumpf has stepped down (he retires with $134 million). So far, the bank has refunded $2.6 million to customers for fees associated with unwanted accounts. The average refund reportedly was $25. The impact of the unauthorized accounts on those customers’ credit scores is still unknown. Wells Fargo recently sent out a statement to its customer about how the financial institution is making amends.

Here’s What They’re Already Doing

Wells Fargo has eliminated product sales goals for its Retail Banking team members who serve customers in its bank branches and call centers. These sales targets and bonuses were apparently the motive behind the phony accounts.

Wells Fargo will send a confirmation after you open a new consumer or small business checking, savings, or credit card account so that you know what is happening and can notify the bank if anything confirmed is different than what you expected.

Wells Fargo is broadening its scope of work to find customers it may have missed. If there is any doubt about whether one of your accounts was authorized, and any fees were incurred, the bank will contact you and refund the fees.

Here’s What You Can Do

Have you found unauthorized bank or credit card accounts opened in your name by your bank? Or are you now terribly afraid of getting defrauded by your lender?

Call your financial institutions and ask to review a full list of all the accounts under your name. If any of them were opened without your consent, notify the bank.

Monitor your bank statements. Carefully look at bank fees and check for consistency to avoid unauthorized fees. Fees lost as part of the  fraudulent activities came out of legitimate accounts of victimized customers. Also, be aware that fraudulent charges often show up as “pending charges” for a period of time.

Review your credit reports thoroughly, looking for any unwanted or unfamiliar accounts. Should you find any fraudulent activity document it—note the account number, date, and any other pertinent information and alert the credit bureau.


What The Retirement Generation Gap Can Tell You About Your Financial Future

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Today’s retirement generation gap demonstrates that millennials, GenXers, and baby boomers have stark differences in their approach to securing their financial futures. However, the recent TIAA Lifetime Income Survey reveals that even though retirement strategies varied dramatically across generational lines, each group holds a common desired outcome: To gain reliable monthly income over the course of their post-work life.

Here are some of the findings in the survey:

  • 84% of baby boomers plan to rely on Social Security for retirement income versus 69% of members of Generation X and 61% of millennials.
  • 62% of millennials and 60% of GenXers, respectively, expect to make withdrawals from retirement accounts; less than half of baby boomers say they will engage in a similar practice.
  • In terms of retirement vehicles, millennials are least familiar with annuities—insurance contracts offering guaranteed income for life over a set period of time. Only 20% of members of Gen Y knew about annuities, compared to 38% of GenXers and 41% of baby boomers. (The survey also found millennials to be the most likely to commit a portion of retirement savings to an option enabling them to receive a monthly payment for life.)

The TIAA survey also uncovered the divide between people at different income levels. For instance, those earning annual incomes of more than $100,000 are more likely to draw upon a range of options than individuals with annual incomes below $50,000. Another telling stat: 69% of those at higher income levels plan to withdraw savings from a retirement plan versus 41% of those at the lower level. And 40% of higher paid individuals are more likely to receive payments from a pension plan, compared to 19% of their lower paid counterparts.

In the second part of our interview, TIAA Chief Income Strategist Denise Garnick reviewed the impact of generational behavior and aging on retirement planning. Here are edited excerpts from that session:

BLACK ENTERPRISE: The survey results I found of great interest were retirement outlooks across generations. I would have thought more baby boomers would be less drawn to Social Security given that so many have been beneficiaries of 401(k)s and like vehicles?

DIANE GARNICK: Baby boomers [still had more of the defined benefit] experience, whereas Gen X did not. Companies did not start really eliminating defined benefit plans until the 1990s.

BE: So the baby boomers have still been used to getting such payments regularly than other generations?

GARNICK: Exactly right. The other thing I think is interesting is the baby boomer mentality. When you talk to them, many of them say, “The company I’m working for right now, does not have a defined benefit plan but I also know all I have to do is get one job for five years and then I’ll have income for life.” I don’t think Gen X and Gen Y think that way at all.

BE: When you look at the survey, there’s definitely not a focus on annuities—especially among millennials and GenXers. What does the survey tell you about the mix of retirement savings and investments people are using to gain lifetime income?

GARNICK: There are a couple of takeaways here. It used to be that people thought about lifetime income annuities as all or nothing. That is no longer the case. People should think about guaranteed lifetime income to cover their four basic needs, which are food, shelter, clothing, and healthcare. What we found is that people who cover those four have a tremendous amount of financial security and then create the opportunity to invest in other assets. That’s been a winning strategy and it will continue to be.

The other phenomenon that we see is that many people are opting into automatic enrollment for target date funds. When we talk to target date funds participants, they all seem to believe that they are going to get lifetime income from the target date forward. That, in fact, is not what happens. It doesn’t mean that you’re suddenly going to get checks.

BE:  From your vantage point, one challenge is behavior, another is mindset, and then another challenge is education. How do these factors change with age?

GARNICK: I think the moment of retirement marks an incredibly important pivot point for every single American. However, our ability to make decisions clearly declines over time. As we get older, we’re not thinking as quickly. We supplement that with experience. It’s when you have your best thinking that you should [develop a plan for] lifetime income.

I think that’s incredibly important. The retirement system changed and generations to come still demand a paycheck in retirement. Now, more than ever, as we work longer, people need to put their best thinking forward and make sure they get guaranteed lifetime income while they can.

BE: As individuals and families go through this retirement process, what strategic advice would you share with them?

GARNICK: No. 1, I tell this to millennials all the time: Save now or die trying. So many of them say, “I’ll start later once I have [taken care of my] students loans.” You have to start saving now. No. 2, people are anything but average. Calculating how much money you need to save today so that you can live the same lifestyle in retirement is an incredibly complex task. it can’t possibly be right that the amount that a company says you should save for retirement is correct for everybody. Don’t rely on the average. Financial planning plays a huge role. No. 3, I would say [keep working toward] guaranteed lifetime incomes. We always want financial security as we age and longevity gets longer and longer.

Love & Money

Financial Violence: 4 Signs to Watch for in a New Relationship

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Most people think of domestic or intimate partner violence in physical terms, however there are other recognizable forms of abuse that can be predictors of the potential for physical violence in a relationship. These forms of abuse include verbal, emotional, and financial violence.

Recognizing these predictive patterns of behavior early while still getting to know someone is critical in avoiding abusive relationships. As a personal finance journalist, educator, and the co-creator of Grown Zone Relationship Education, I am passionate about teaching people what they need to know to protect themselves, in their pursuit of healthy intimate relationships.

Because a person’s relationship with money is often a reflection of a person’s sense of self-esteem, power, and control, signs of a financial abuser can actually be spotted relatively early on in relationships, long before physical abuse even becomes apparent. Unfortunately, because of our reluctance to address financial habits and behaviors in relationships, typically acts of financial violence are overlooked or dismissed.

Protecting your finances—as well as your emotional health and physical safety—means vigilantly watching for signs of financially abusive behaviors in a relationship.

Examples of such abuse include the following:

  1. Your partner attempts to read your mail, go through your purse, or otherwise gain access to your money and/or personal financial information without your knowledge or consent, or over your objections. In the beginning, they may insist that they are “just playing” or that they are doing it to get a rise out of you. Don’t be fooled—they are not playing.
  2. They engage in behaviors that undermine your ability to get a job, start a business, or that put the job or business you have at risk. It could begin with always calling when they know you have an important meeting, or showing up at your job or at a business lunch unannounced.
  3. They exhibit “Jekyll and Hyde” personas, demonstrating financial generosity in front of other people, but vindictiveness when the two of you are alone. For example, on a double date at an expensive restaurant, he or she may insist that you may order whatever you want on the menu. Then later, while driving you home, they may angrily accuse you of taking advantage of their generosity and insist that you owe them. This usually means you are expected to acquiesce to anything they demands of you, including sex.
  4. They constantly press you to grant financial favors, such as extending loans and paying their bills, and they react angrily or maliciously when you don’t. Punishment for your failure to grant requests could range from withering verbal attacks to destruction of your property.

If you see any of these signs of financial violence, do not ignore them. Minimizing or dismissing them could not only put your financial health at risk, it could also literally put your life in danger. According to the National Network to End Domestic Violence, financial violence is experienced in 98% of abusive relationships.

Recognizing the signs of a financial abuser early in a relationship should prompt you to end it immediately, to minimize damage to your finances and avoid becoming a target of other forms of abuse. When it comes to domestic violence, as with most threats to your health and safety, prevention is far better than the cure of rescue and recovery after damage is done.

The key to avoiding abuse is setting and strictly enforcing standards for your treatment in relationships. Adopt a zero-tolerance policy against any form of abuse, including financial violence. As we say in the Grown Zone, the rules of love and money are the same as for boxing: protect yourself at all times.


Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationship education coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a multimedia initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. This blog is dedicated to his thoughts about money, entrepreneurship, leadership and mentorship. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr.


Reality or Illusion: Will You Have Enough Money to Retire?

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According to financial services giant TIAA, thousands are not being realistic about their post-work financial standing.

Check out these recent stats:  The 2016 TIAA Lifetime Income Survey found that 58% of American adults feel confident that they can successfully turn their retirement savings into income once they stop working, and only 35% are worried about running out of money in retirement.  However, TIAA officials say that “confidence may misplaced,” since fewer than half, 46%, don’t have a clue about how much they have saved for their golden years. Moreover, a mere 35% can share how much monthly income that they will have available for retirement.

Here are other issues that the TIAA findings prove to be quite alarming:

  • 41% of respondents are saving 10% or less of their income for retirement, versus experts advising that people should save at least 10% to 15%.
  • 63% of workers maintain they’ll need less than 75% of their current income to live comfortably in retirement. Most experts, however, recommend that individuals should replace 70% to 100% of their pre-retirement income.
  • 28% of non-retirees aren’t saving a cent for retirement, yet 47% of those not saving worry about coming up short in retirement.
  • 49% admit that their retirement plan’s number-one goal should be to provide guaranteed monthly income in retirement, but 41% concede that they’re uncertain if their current plan provides an option for lifetime income.

This situation has become so urgent, that Roger W. Ferguson, Jr., president and CEO at TIAA, has been on the road advocating for people to take immediate and deliberate steps to ensure retirement security. “Today, people are living longer and spending more years in retirement, which can mean outliving their retirement savings, if they don’t plan carefully for the years ahead. Saving is crucial, but it’s not enough,” said Ferguson, who is also former vice chairman of the Federal Reserve, in a statement. “Workers also need to take a realistic look at what their expenses will be, and make a plan to generate reliable monthly income to cover those expenses in retirement. Guaranteed income for life is critical to a long, comfortable retirement.” I actually heard him make similar remarks on the dire state of retirement savings in communities of color, at last month’s Freedman’s Bank Forum.

To gain a better understanding of the financial behavior behind this retirement conundrum, I asked Diane Garnick, chief income strategist at TIAA and trustee for the CFA Institute Research Foundation, to lend her analysis. The following excerpts are from the first part of that interview:

BLACK ENTERPRISE: Were you surprised by the findings?

DIANE GARNICK: What shocked me more than anything else was that only 35% of the people that we surveyed are concerned about running out of money in retirement. There’s other data that found things, like 28% of people are saving nothing for retirement—zero. How could it possibly be that 35% are concerned about running out of money? That should be a much higher number. I think people in general are under the illusion that this moment of retirement may never come. They think to themselves, “It will all be okay—somehow.”

BE: Do you think that the behavior is not rooted in reality, or that the new reality is not retiring in a traditional manner?  Do you think people believe that they will always have to work, especially with the changing dynamics that grew out of the Great Recession?

GARNICK: I think both of these come into play. In the first portion of the retirement strategy that all of us know about, the retirement plan in the U.S., many people have a defined benefit plans. They are guaranteed a lifetime income when they reach a certain age, they work until a particular day, then they stop working entirely. They have guaranteed income for the rest of their life.

In today’s environment, when it comes to retirement saving, people live in what I affectionately call, the “yo-yo generation”—which stands for “you’re on your own.” People need to save all of this money to make sure that they can have the same standard of living in retirement. Calculating how much money you need to save today so that you can live the same lifestyle in retirement is an incredibly complex task. Most people do the easiest possible thing—and that is nothing—or they save the amount that their company suggests. They don’t know—and it can’t possibly be right—that the amount a company says you should save for retirement is correct for everybody. Averages don’t work for most families.

BE: It’s not one-size-fits-all.

GARNICK: Exactly right. On average, American’s work, looking at the Social Security data, 38 years. Not everybody in this environment is going to work 38 years. They’re going to have time off. Certainly, many women take time off to take care of their kids. Lots of people are taking time off to take care of elderly parents. Not everybody works the same length of time.

Secondly, not everybody has the same level of compensation. The defined contribution strategy was designed so that people can save a percentage of their income. When it comes time for retirement, that can have a tremendous difference on how much money you’ve been able to save. For people who do not earn the same amount—I’m thinking about things like the gender pay gap, for example—they are definitely undeserved by saying, “We’re both going to save 6%, and we’ll both be okay.” That can’t possibly be true, if you don’t [achieve pay] parity.

BE: What I found interesting about the survey, was the continued reliance of employees on employers for their retirement savings, despite the fact that large numbers have changed their approach to 401Ks. In fact, many employers stopped the match during and after the Great Recession.

GARNICK: When people are working, the constant of retirement is very far into the future, and people have a hard time thinking about things that are very far off in the future. Behavioral economists, like myself, recognize that people make mental shortcuts. When things become too complex, they’re shortcut is, “The company can’t be doing anything wrong, or someone else would’ve fixed it.”

What happens is, if people do the right thing, and they save even the maximum amount over time, at the moment of retirement, they have access to all of their money at once. That’s an area that truly scares me.

When we switched from the defined benefit society, where people were guaranteed a paycheck every month for the rest of their life, to defined contribution, where people needed to save on their own. Nothing about people’s preference for a guaranteed, monthly income check for the rest of their lives has changed—they’ve always wanted that. What did change is now, people are responsible for saving enough money, so that they can have that lifetime income.

BE: We always see horror stories, especially over the last 20 years, of people who did not save enough for retirement, and after coming up short, they must go back into the workforce.

GARNICK:  Today, we have a whole new segment of life that we refer to as “retiring” rather than “retirement.” We work part-time, we get some 1099’s, we work here and there [all to] try and supplement the Social Security that’s coming in. Some people start as early as their mid-50s, and for many people, it continues until they’re mid-70s.

Part 2: Retirement Across Generations



BE Money

Protect Your Wealth: Close the Bank of Mom and Dad

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Do your adult children still rely on you to finance their lives and lifestyles? It is likely about time to close the bank of Mom and Dad.

One of the most important keys to your long-term financial security, as well as the financial accountability of your children, is how quickly you eliminate their dependence on your financial resources, as they transition into independent adulthood. This is especially important for “sandwich generation” families, led by people taking on financial and care giving responsibilities of aging parents, while simultaneously funding college and other expenses for their children. What is often neglected in this scenario is planning and saving for retirement. The more prepared children are to take responsibility for financing their lives and lifestyles, the more resources their parents can free up to see to other needs, including retirement savings.

While it may spark disappointment and even resentment, you need to be ready to close the bank of financing for your adult children, for their sake and yours.

Here are three things to focus on:

1. Don’t Be Their Emergency Fund


One of the first rules of money management is to create an emergency fund equal to at least six months of your household expenses. I call this an “income interruption fund,” which is to be touched only in cases where your income is lost or significantly reduced—for example, because of a layoff or a serious illness. The idea is that this money will buy you time by helping you keep up with your bills and other obligations until you can replace the lost income.

Resist the temptation to use your emergency fund to deal with the emergencies of your adult children, who should be putting away savings in their own emergency fund for such situations. Just because the money is sitting idle, does not mean that you can afford to spend it. Close the bank.

2. Don’t Take on More Debt


Do not take on additional debt, such as maxing out your credit cards or assuming responsibility for a loan, including as a cosigner, to make purchases or solve problems for your adult children.

Once your children reach the age of majority, it is no longer your responsibility to finance their lifestyles, not even the ones they enjoyed under your parental authority as minors. As you move closer to retirement, you must make reducing debt, especially credit card and mortgage debt, a major priority, and don’t increase it. Close the bank.

3. Don’t Put Your Own Financial Stability At Risk


In order to really close the bank, it is critical that you are able to say the following words without stuttering or apology: “No. I can’t afford to do that.” It helps to practice saying this on your own.

Your children may react as if you are suddenly speaking an extraterrestrial alien language, but repeat it enough, and they’ll eventually recognize it as English. To hold your ground, you need to be conscious of the emotions you must keep in check, to control your finances: fear/anxiety, anger, sadness/depression, and guilt.

It also helps to be clear on what the definition of “I can afford it” means:

  • You can give/lend this money, and still pay all of your bills and obligations in full and on time.
  • You have a fully funded emergency fund, with at least six to nine months of household expenses saved.
  • You are able to make the maximum legal contributions possible to your retirement account, and you are on track to meet your retirement savings goal.
  • You can extend the loan or financial gift without borrowing money or taking on additional debt.

If you can’t say “yes” to all of these statements, then the financial gift or loan in question will put your financial health at risk. Work with your adult children to find another solution to their problem or another way to get what they want. Or just say, “No.” Again, close the bank.

When you spend money, cover expenses, and otherwise provide for the financial needs of able-bodied adults, you create what I call “adult dependents.” These are otherwise capable people, who are disinterested in providing for themselves and may even resent having to do so, especially if they know others willing to do it for them. Many people in your life may fall into the adult dependent category, common among them, adult children. To avoid creating or to, at least, stop rewarding that dependency, you must close the bank of Mom and Dad.

Check out for great advice and resources for parents who need help dealing with their adult children.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-at-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a relationship education initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr

Featured Stories

Protect Your Wealth: Treat Adult Children As Tenants, Not Guests

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Adult children returning to live with their parents, whether after completing college, a financial crisis, a divorce, or other life transition, is a common occurrence.

However, when you allow your children to move back in after they’ve reached the age of majority, it’s a mistake to do so under the same terms as when they were minors and you had both parental authority and responsibility for them. Both to minimize conflict and to protect your financial stability, you need to identify with adult children not as a parent, but as a landlord. Unlike when they were minors, they are no longer living in their home (even if they stay in their old bedroom). They are now tenants in your house. For both your sake and theirs, you must treat them accordingly.

That begins with requiring adult children to sign a mutual living agreement which outlines the terms under which they will be allowed to live in your home. This is no different than what they would be required to do if they rented living space in the home of a person unrelated to them. The house rules common in room rental agreements can provide a starting point for the terms of this agreement. The agreement should cover ground rules such as:

  • The maximum length of the living arrangement and under what conditions it will or will not be extended
  • What monthly financial contribution the adult child is expected to pay toward the cost of rent/mortgage and utilities
  • Responsibilities for cleaning and maintaining the home (especially common spaces including kitchens and bathrooms)
  • Under what conditions and during what hours guests will or will not be allowed in your home
  • What habits/behaviors, such as drinking, smoking, drug use, loud music, etc., will or will not be allowed in your home
  • Which resources of the home (such as food, toiletries) are available to them and which they are expected to purchase for themselves

You don’t have to create an agreement from scratch. There are plenty of great templates of parent/child contracts for adult children living at home to be found online.

It is critical, for both your financial stability and peace of mind, to make it clear that you will not hesitate to enforce the terms of this agreement. You must also be prepared to require your adult child to leave if it is not honored. In fact, if you doubt that you’ll have the heart to put him or her out or enforce the agreement, it’s best not to take him or her in.

More important, if this is meant to be a temporary arrangement, treat it as such, by having a real deadline for when adult children must leave no matter what, and requiring them to lay out and execute a plan (working a job, saving money, completing a degree, apartment hunting) for making that happen.

Whatever you do, resist the temptation to revert back to parent mode, unless you want to become a permanent caretaker of adult dependents.

Check out for great advice and resources for parents who take in adult children.

Black Enterprise Executive Editor-At-Large Alfred Edmond Jr. is an award-winning business and financial journalist, media executive, entrepreneurship expert, personal growth/relationships coach, and co-founder of Grown Zone, a relationship education initiative focused on personal growth and healthy decision-making. Follow him on Twitter at @AlfredEdmondJr


4 Takeaways from a Conversation with Gayle King and Elaine Welteroth: How Millennials Are Transforming Media

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Gayle King Image: Derek Dingle

I recently had the opportunity to attend Google’s News Lab event for black media professionals at its New York offices. In addition to eye opening sessions that introduced and offered instruction on a set of digital tools, to produce more data-driven, dynamic content, those assembled also gained an exclusive; a compelling fireside chat with Bonita Stewart, VP, Global Partnerships, News & Broadcast at Google interview with Gayle King, co-anchor of CBS This Morning and Editor-at-Large for O, The Oprah Magazine and Elaine Welteroth, Editor-in-Chief of Teen Vogue, the youngest editor and second African American to run a title at Condé Nast, the mammoth media empire.

It was a timely discussion about media, but it also shed light on how the lifestyles of millennials, the largest segment of our population, has not only transformed media, but also how all of us work, live, spend, save, invest, and play. From two distinct generations, King, 61, a devotee of Instagram and Twitter, and Welteroth, 33, a self-professed Snapchat fanatic, may differ in their embrace of technological platforms, but they do share some common characteristics, as both are brilliant, insightful, and witty.

The information provided via the discussion both confirmed and clarified how the world has changed in the “Digital Era.” This insight proved helpful to journalists, like me, who are trying to figure out how to best today’s media outlets. For you Luddites out there, the interview offered a direct, sobering message: evolve or perish.

Here were four valuable takeaways from the session:

1. Social Media Will Further Determine Relevance

Citing that 63% of news now comes from Twitter and Facebook, Stewart started the session by asking King and Welteroth how they believed these trends have changed the media environment.

Welteroth, who has been at Teen Vogue for four years, said, “It’s changed everything. When I first started, people approached social media as a nice thing to do—something fun to do. Now, it is a requirement to maintain your relevance. It’s not something I overthink in my own day-to-day life, but it is something that I can’t underestimate.” Although she found it exciting to see her work come to life on the pages of a magazine, Welteroth also found print to be a limited, one-way form of communication. With social media, she’s able to “break down that wall and have the two-way conversation, [which] holds you accountable in a different way. It allows you the opportunity to continue growing and learning about what is working, what’s resonating, and what’s not.”

King maintained that, although she fully embraces the value of social media, “We have to be very careful. It is instantaneous. I know at CBS News, just because someone said it on Twitter, Instagram, or Snapchat, it doesn’t make it necessarily factual.”

2. All Professionals Must Embrace New Technology–Even the Platforms Yet to Arrive

Stewart asked the two whether they were leaders in embracing media disruption.

“In 2016, I don’t think it’s very difficult to convince people that you have to be active in digital,” said King. Although the O readership is much older than that of Teen Vogue, she maintained that the audience wants to know what their children are doing, and that they also find the need to be more current.

King further emphasizes that use of mobile technology to share real time video, such as the fatal police shooting of Philando Castile past this summer, has become even more vital to the news gathering process. “[It] was live on Facebook Live. We saw this man lose his life, right before our very eyes,” King asserted. “That was certainly a game changer. That had never happened before, where you actually saw in real time, with his fiancée screaming the way that she did. Here, you see this man buckled with his seat belt, bleeding, and groaning. It was so instantaneous, that went from digital to mainstream very, very quickly.”

She says that more tech-driven ideas are being developed by members of “the old guard” at Hearst, the publisher of O, and other media companies, because “we all know that [tech is] here to stay. We know we have to get with the program, or we’ll be left behind.”

3. Don’t Dismiss the Interests and Issues That Millennials and Generation Z Care About 

Welteroth said that her mission is to break the stereotype that her audience is “just so self-absorbed. They just want to take selfies all day.” Her wish is that each member of this generation be addressed as “a whole human being–someone who thinks about what is happening in the world and cares very deeply.”

Welteroth added, “We have made a decision that our brand is going to be progressive. We are going to speak out on social injustices in real time. It’s interesting just to see that you can break the rules. You can talk about politics, social injustice, and wellness in the same conversation as fashion and beauty. No one’s going to call you out for that. It’s something that is incredibly important for us, as we move forward and rethink what Teen Vogue is going to be.”

In fact, Welteroth and King believe that they can use their vehicles to bridge the generations. In fact, Oprah Winfrey has a group that she’s assembled called the “Super Soul 100,” which King describes as “a group of younger, innovative, creative thinkers. Our hope is we will align ourselves with them, and some of their followers will come to us and vice versa. We realize that it’s an important audience.”

4. Diversity Matters in the Decision Making Process

King cited that African Americans and millennials, among other groups, are not “monolithic communities.” She stated, “I think is important is that you must have a seat at the table, as people of color and leadership positions. I think that is so important, and I can’t stress that enough. People see that you’re on TV or you’re the Editor-in-Chief, but you’ve got to figure out a way to have a seat at the table. I say that because just having another voice at the table makes people think differently.”

She used the fatal shooting of Travyon Martin by George Zimmerman in 2012, as an example. “When I heard the Trayvon Martin story, first of all, it was heartbreaking to me, as a mother of a son myself. I remember bringing it up at a meeting. I asked, ‘We’re not doing anything with that?’ The response was, ‘Well, no. There really isn’t anything there. It was an isolated thing.’ I said, ‘No, no, no, no, no. This may have been an isolated incident at this particular time, but what has happened to this kid is wrong.’”

As a result of King’s vigilance, that story evolved into coverage of the Black Lives Matter movement and a discussion of race that reverberates from communities and courts, to corporate boardrooms and campaign trails. Moreover, O—for the first time in its 16-year publishing history—will produce an entire issue devoted to race in America.

Welteroth, who used her role to organize a silent protest on social media after the death of Castile, agreed. “I think it’s important to recognize that we stand in the gap. We have the opportunity to bridge huge divide as people at the table and as thought leaders—especially for this generation.”

Wealth For Life

How Millennials Manage Their Money

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Millennials—the demographic between the ages of 18 and 35—have toppled baby boomers and are reportedly more than 74 million strong in the U.S. What’s more, minorities constitute a big makeup of that population. According to a Brookings Institute report citing data from the Census Bureau, minorities make up 27% of the total millennial population. That millennial group represents 47% of the money-earning minority workforce.

The Minds of Millennials

It seems these days  so many outlets are trying to get into the minds of millennials. A recent Harvard University survey of millennials ages 18 to 29 found that only 11% expressed trust in “Wall Street,” which includes banking and finances overall.

Using MFourDIY, the market research industry’s all-mobile, do-it-yourself platform for designing and carrying out studies, MFour recently conducted a survey of millennials across the representative U.S. millennial population by sex, age, race/ethnicity, income and employment status. MFour posed some 30 questions to millennials who make up about 60% of its million-member active panel, all of whom participate in research via  MFour’s on the Go app for smartphones and tablets.

Here are some of the insights from MFour on how millennials manage their money.

Mobile Banking

Only 18.1% of millennials said they prefer to do their banking in person. Roughly two-thirds had been to the bank in the past month. What’s more, 61.2% of millennials preferred to do their banking with mobile apps, with 82.7% having used a mobile banking app during the past month. Mobile was the most-preferred banking method across all racial, ethnic, and age groupings as well as income brackets, according to the MFour survey.

Asked how confident they are in the security of banking/finance apps, 62.9% were confident or very confident and 27.4% were neutral. Only 9.7% stated any concern. Mobile apps such as PayPal and Venmo edged out cash as the way millennials most prefer to transfer money to family and friends, MFour discovered.

PC Payments and Checks

Only 71.6% of millennials had used a personal computer for banking during the past month. That figure fell to 66.7% for the youngest age bracket, 18-24. The  survey further revealed that younger millennials also were less likely to use a PC to make a payment—51.1% in the past month, compared to 61.2% of millennials overall.

When asked about their preferences for checks, millennials made it clear that they don’t want a physical check as a gift. In fact, only 10% said they wanted checks from family and friends. Moreover, only 17% of the MFour respondents had written a check during the previous week, while 26.6% said it had been six months or more since they’d written a check, and 24% said they had never used a check.

However, MFour did point out that 87% of millennials do have a checking account—more than any other banking product. It’s just that mobile is their transaction of choice.


Renting vs. Owning: The Pros And The Cons

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Debating over whether you should lease a luxury car or buy a more economical vehicle? Thinking about renting a high-rise apartment in the city vs. buying a suburban condo or your first home?

Either way, there will be pros and cons no matter which decision you make. For example, it could cost you a lot more money to buy a house rather than sign a lease to rent an apartment. However, in the long-run, the value of the house may increase over time, whereas the owner of your apartment could decide to increase your rent.

Watch this video below for more tidbits on the pros and cons of renting property compared to owning property.

Wealth For Life

3 Reasons Why Women Need Life Insurance

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Today, many women are making more money than their spouse or they are working as a single parent and the head of a household. African American women are the head of 29% of all households, compared 13% for all women, according to the latest data. While women are achieving an unprecedented work-life balance, a piece of the puzzle that is more often missing than not is life insurance, says Brian Greenberg, a multifaceted entrepreneur serving as a founder and executive of multiple online businesses, including as president of True Blue Life Insurance.

While other types of insurance such as health, auto, and homeowners are top of mind, life insurance tends to slip through the cracks, adds Greenberg. The Life Insurance and Market Research Association reports that 48% of women are without any type of life insurance. But now more than ever, women need life insurance.

According to Greenberg here’s why:

Life Insurance Replaces Your Income

If your income helps to support you, your children, and/or your partner, a life insurance policy will provide financial support for them in the case of your death. “This can help not only cover the cost of the funeral and anything related to it but also with everyday living expenses,” explains Greenberg. “Of course, it’s unpleasant to think about and plan for your own death, but it is a responsible way to make sure your family doesn’t have to worry about such things on top of having to cope with your loss.”

Life Insurance Protects Your Interests

Even if you’re single and you don’t have any children, you still may have a need for life insurance. “If you carry a high amount of debt, have a co-signer for a loan or if you take care of an aging or ill parent or family member, having life insurance will help protect your estate, your co-signer, and those you care for,” Greenberg explains.

Life Insurance Is Less Expensive For Women

Typically, life insurance premiums are priced largely according to the average life expectancy for your gender and age. Women pay less than men, primarily because men have a shorter life expectancy. “If you’re wondering how much or what type of life insurance you need, here’s a tip: multiply your income by anywhere from three to 15 times to arrive at the amount of life insurance you should consider buying,” Greenberg suggests. You can also select a term life policy at a cheaper premium for a specific amount of time, or you can select a permanent plan that will last the rest of your life and provide you with additional financial planning options.

Greenberg points out that the type of insurance you choose and the amount you purchase depends on your goals, needs, budget, and family situation.

Related Story: The Most Overlooked Insurance Policies You Should Carry


Tired of Living Paycheck to Paycheck? Escape Now

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Do you sometimes feel like you are robbing Peter to pay Paul?  Have you ever felt like there was more month than money? You are probably tired of spinning your wheels, falling behind on bills, and feeling like it is almost impossible for you to save money because you are living paycheck to paycheck.

If you are frustrated with being frustrated and are looking for ways to break the cycle, here are some ideas:

Give Your Money a Job


You work hard for your money, right? Most people do. Doesn’t it make sense to have your money ALWAYS working for you too? It’s time to start knowing where your money is going at all times and give your money a job.

One of the most commonly untracked expenses is food. Each month, set a limit on how much you will spend on food. If your food allowance for the month is $300, then stick to it. Do not look to your checking account balance for approval on going out to eat; just because there’s money in your account, it doesn’t mean that you have to spend it. Refer to your $300 monthly food allocation, and see if there’s enough to go out that evening.

One of the easiest ways to manage your food expenses is to withdraw a set amount of cash from the ATM each paycheck, based on your spending plan.  Get a nice envelope to store your cash and keep it in your wallet. Every time you purchase some sort of food or beverage, only use the cash that you set aside. You may find that three days before your next paycheck, there’s only $10 in your envelope, but that just means it’s time to look in the refrigerator and get creative for the next few days.

Prioritize Your Spending


As you begin assigning jobs for your money, you will find that some transactions do not align with your monthly spending plan. You may find yourself spending money just because you can see it or even out of boredom. Well, now’s the time to cut back on the unnecessary spending.

You can cut back on your expenses for shopping at stores like Target or Walmart. It’s perfectly fine to grab that one item you need, but oftentimes, we also end up buying eight or nine additional items that were not on your original list. Ask yourself, “If my income was cut in half this month, would this be something I would still need to purchase now, or can this wait until later?”

Other expenses that you can cut back on when you “only” spend $15 per day on lunch at work or during happy hour; “only” is really just a word we psychologically use to justify our bad spending habits. So, only spending $15 per day for more than half the week, causes you to spend almost $3,000 per a year. It’s only $3,000 that you probably didn’t need, right?

Oftentimes, what we buy are items that do not align with our long-term and short-term goals. Focusing on the goal is the only way we’ll score in life. Remind yourself of what’s important and prioritize what is a need, versus what is a want.

Bring in Some Extra Income


Finally, start looking to generate more cash flow. However, you should not begin focusing on making more money, until you are able to maintain the money you already have. Make sure that each dollar you bring in has a job assigned to it, before you turn your attention to bringing in additional income.

Once you’ve properly assigned roles for your money, understand that you cannot rely on just your paycheck to give you the life you want and deserve. Yes, a job may start the race, but it definitely won’t finish it.  Begin developing unique ways to make additional income.

One way to create additional income is by selling your old clothes and shoes. Everyone has old clothes that they barely wear or old shoes that they no longer want. Start reselling your clothes on places like Poshmark, Ebay, The RealReal, or, for men, Grailed.  This will help generate more income, without causing you to work tremendously hard for it.

Change Your Way of Thinking


You are going to feel like life is tight, and you may even feel like you’re giving up too much. You will get frustrated, and you will ultimately realize that managing your money, at first, isn’t fun. If this is truly how you feel, then you are on the RIGHT track. Change that negative outlook and realize that this temporary pain is setting you up for future prosperity.

Using your entire paycheck before it gets here isn’t fun. Not being able to take your dream vacation isn’t fun. Not being prepared for emergencies isn’t fun. If you want to stop living paycheck to paycheck, you must change your habits. Ask yourself, “What matters more—spending all my money now, or becoming financially secure forever?” Whenever you find yourself wanting to give in, remind yourself of why you started.

Always remember that there are people making six figures who have financial issues. There are also people making $30,000 per year who are doing just fine financially. Most times, living paycheck to paycheck has more to do with one’s mindset around money versus their actual money. You do not have to continue living paycheck, unless you choose to. It is a lifestyle choice—it’s up to you to decide how long you are going to accept it.

Ashley M. Fox is a former Wall Street analyst, a Howard University grad is now an expert in her field as a Financial Architect. She is the founder of Empify (merging of the words EMPower and modIFY), an education- based organization created to help working professionals, small business owners and the youth build wealth from the ground up. Ashley focuses on the creation of life-altering curricula, informative digital content and interactive events curated to teach the basics of financial literacy. Ashley is a highly-sought after speaker, and she has been featured on empowerment tours, college campuses, and keynote speaking platforms. She has been featured on Jim Cramer’s “The Street”, Yahoo Finance, AOL,, Huffington Post, and Glamour Magazine.

Twitter: @_Ashleymfox   Facebook: Ashley M. Fox


5 Steps to Clean Up Your Credit

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iStock_000057577364_LargeFor many Americans, credit only becomes important when it’s time to make a purchase or request a loan. However, at that point, it may be too late to fix any major problems and still secure the loan.

You should take a look at your credit annually just to maintain and monitor it, the same way you annually check your health. Consider your annual credit check as preventative care for your financial health.

1. Pull Your Reports

The first step, if you want to clean up your credit, is to know your score or what is in your credit reports. Pull them from the three major credit reporting bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union. You can start by going to; it’s free to download all three reports once a year, but your scores must be paid for separately, if you want to see them.

2. Check for Errors

Once you have each report in hand, make sure that the debts listed all belong to you. Go through each one to make sure the balances are correct and that the payment history is up to date. Once you have a list of any accounts that either don’t belong to you or have errors, you’re going to want to file a dispute with each reporting agency directly. Creditors have 30 days to prove a debt is valid. If they do not respond or provide proof, you can request the debt be removed from your report.

3. Call Your Creditors

Any debts that are proved valid—such as public records, collection accounts, or any other debts—must be paid. There is no shortcut or quick-fix. Anyone who tells you they have the ability to cancel valid debts if you just pay them a certain amount of money is leading you down a slippery slope—don’t believe them.

4. Negotiate

Debts that haven’t been paid on in some time may have the option to negotiate the amount due. So, instead of paying the full balance, a creditor may extend a better offer, such as a settlement to just collect something on the debt and then close the account. This is totally valid and legal, however it is at the company’s own discretion and will not cancel the debt all together.

5. Make Payment Arrangements

Lastly, once you’ve negotiated with creditors, you’ll want to set up payment arrangements. Whether you pay them in one lump sum or make payments over time, you will start to see slight increases in your credit health and overall credit score.

Check out this overview below:


A Must-Have Financial Priorities Checklist for Married Couples

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iStock_000053133474_MediumFrom deciding when to co-mingle funds to setting your financial boundaries, your financial life will change significantly upon tying the knot.

The goal is to handle your finances as a couple and not leave all the responsibility on one person’s plate. After the honeymoon’s over it’s time to set up your first married money meeting and establish your financial priorities. Even if you have been married for quite some time and you’ve never had this conversation with your spouse, it’s never too late to schedule it.

Here is a list of the top items you want to tackle in those meetings, whether you’ve been married 6 months or 10 years.

[Related: Don’t Delay Your Retirement Savings Another Minute]

The exciting part about being a couple is that now you have the option to tackle financial goals with funds from 2 incomes instead of one— which will help eliminate debts and build nest eggs faster! Start with a financial priorities kick off meeting, to set the tone, expectations, and goals for the year.

This can be held any month you choose. It’s the meeting where you plan, which will impact your monthly money meetings for the rest of the year.

Keep the full list handy during your monthly meetings as well, so you can revisit it further down the road for updates or adjustments.

Financial Priorities Kick-Off Meeting Checklist

  •    Discuss all your goals and dreams for the next 5 years.
  •    Pick which goals to tackle over the next 6 to 12 months.
  •   Check your credit reports and score.
  •   Create your annual and monthly budgets.
  •   Review your insurance coverage (Auto, health, life).
  •   Make a list of all your debts to be paid.
  •   Create an actionable plan to tackle debts and savings goals.

In your actionable plan, you will want to assign roles based on you and your strengths, who will be responsible for opening the bills and who will set the monthly meeting reminder?

Set the meetings as an appointment on both of your calendars. If one of you is a spender and the other is a saver, remember to leave wiggle room in your budget that meets in the middle. Don’t expect the spender to suddenly stop spending. Allot a line item in your budget for spending that still allows your goals to be met, without letting the spender feel deprived.

One of the best parts of having your collective goals written down along with your action plan is that it will assist both of you in holding each other accountable to what was agreed upon. After the kick-off reconvene at least once a month to pay bills, assess spending, and check in on goals.

Monthly Financial Check In Meeting

  •  Review or adjust your monthly budget.
  •  Allocate funds to savings or debt payoff goals.
  •  Pay other household bills.
  •  Allot petty cash for spending.
  •  Celebrate another month of being on the right financial track!

Accountability is the cornerstone that is usually missing from couples financial houses, which is why they fold. If no one is willing to take responsibility for what was agreed to or how much was agreed to be spent, financial goals cannot be met.

Featured Stories

Is Your Broken Behavior Causing You Money Woes

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broken behavior (Image: Futcher)

The goal of financial independence mandates that you are clear about your money situation at all times. This includes having your family sit down and talk about money on a regular basis. Wealthy people talk about money all the time, learning a lot of great information when they talk about money (e.g., tips on saving money, great investment ideas, or helpful resources), says certified financial planner Robin A Young. “Not talking about money creates money shame.”

Shame is one of the toughest human emotions to deal with because it causes you to shut down, erodes your confidence, and eats away at your self-esteem, notes Young, who is the founder of Behaving Wealthy. More importantly, shame makes you hide and is the reason behind many broken behaviors. You avoid looking at your money or small money irritations become big problems. Hiding from money keeps you on a perpetual hamster wheel of robbing Peter to pay Paul or constantly worrying about money or never really getting ahead.

Avoid the Shame Game

Shame also causes many people to avoid looking at their debt. So if you believe you’ll never get out of debt, you will look for proof or evidence. If you feel shame over the debt you have accumulated, it will show in your behavior. Similarly, if you believe you aren’t good with money, then you will live this out and look for evidence to back up that belief.

How you feel about your finances will impact how you earn, spend, save, and even ask for money. For example, shame will affect the rates you charge for your work because you don’t value yourself or believe you deserve to ask for more money.

Focus on Your Goals, Your Values

Here’s a something constructive: work on strengthening your internal shame mechanism, which moderates your own behavior, suggests Young, citing the following example. “You know when the clerk gives you an extra $5 back and you smile while thinking about a free Starbucks coffee you could buy with this “free money.”  But your conscience says, “Give it back, right now!” You don’t want to but you do because your conscience always keeps you honest.  Then, you walk away feeling wonderful with your head held high…that is a strong internal shame mechanism.”

Develop your internal guidance system so that you can make better money decisions, which in turn will guide you in building sustainable wealth, adds Young, a former Wall Street executive who successfully managed the portfolios of more than 500 millionaires and hundreds of other investors. It keeps you focused on your goals and keeps you in alignment with your values. It’s also beneficial to have a trusted resource. “My clients always run their decisions by me not because they have to but because they benefit from my analysis.”


U.S. Treasury Department Hosts Freedman’s Bank Forum To Explore Ways To Build An Economy That Works For All Americans

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On Sept. 23, the U.S. Department of Treasury hosted the Freedman’s Bank Forum in Washington, D.C.—bringing together public, private, and nonprofit leaders to discuss strategies to improve jobs, economic opportunity, financial inclusion, and shared prosperity for all communities.

It was an honor to participate in this essential conversation — to extend the legacy of the Freedman’s Bank by focusing on actionable steps to ensure that all people are empowered to effectively participate in the free enterprise system

The Forum’s name is a tribute to the Freedman’s Savings and Trust Company, which was created to provide economic opportunity for newly emancipated African-Americans more than 150 years ago, and which was commemorated with the building’s renaming, from U.S. Treasury Annex to the Freedman’s Bank Building, by the Treasury Department earlier this year. Today, it remains a significant part of American history, symbolizing the aspirations of African-Americans to become fully integrated in our nation’s economic life.

Operation HOPE served as a catalyst to the historic renaming, representing a commitment to ensuring more Americans have the financial tools and education to build a secure future.

The Freedman’s Bank Forum aligns with the historical significance of the bank and its original mission—to promote economic integration and financial inclusion. Additionally, the Forum coincided with a series of events throughout the nation’s capital that marked the opening of the National Museum of African American History and Culture on September 24.

The Forum opened with a discussion between Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew and Derek T. Dingle, Senior Vice President & Chief Content Officer, Black Enterprise, on the future of financial inclusion, followed, by remarks from Roger Ferguson, President and CEO of TIAA.

The first panel, moderated by Deputy Treasury Secretary Sarah Raskin, explored “Building Jobs and Opportunities.” Panelists included Curley M. Dossman, Jr., Chairman of the Board, 100 Black Men of America, Inc., John W. Rogers, Jr., Chairman, CEO, & Chief Investment Officer, Ariel Investments, and Raj Chetty, Professor of Economics, Stanford University.


I participated in the second panel, moderated by Amias Gerety, Department of Treasury’s Acting Assistant Secretary for Financial Institutions, entitled, “Financial Inclusion and Shared Prosperity.” I shared insight around how financial stress affects communities and individuals and effective ways to bridge the gap between Americans and financial institutions. In total, the dialogue examined possible federal, state, and local government solutions to economic inequality, with valuable input from the Honorable Kasim Reed, Mayor of Atlanta, Georgia, and Kim Saunders, Founder, President and CEO, Eads Group; Board Member, National Bankers Association.


The Forum concluded with treasured words of inspiration from Ambassador Andrew Young, chair of the Andrew J. Young Foundation, civil rights icon, and Global Spokesperson for Operation HOPE.

We’re sitting in a moment in history right now, but history never feels historic when you’re sitting in it – it just feels like another day.

Let’s go!


 John Hope Bryant is an American entrepreneur, author, philanthropist, and prominent jhb-head-shot-thumbthought leader on economic empowerment and financial dignity. He is the founder, chairman, and chief executive officer of Operation HOPE, Inc., and chairman and chief executive officer of Bryant Group Ventures. He is the author of bestsellers, “How the Poor Can Save Capitalism: Rebuilding the Path to the Middle Class”, and “LOVE LEADERSHIP: The New Way to Lead in a Fear-Based World”. Bryant is a member of the President’s Advisory Council on Financial Capability for Young Americans.