Can Blacks Build Wealth and Remain Charitable? - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine January-March 2019 Issue

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retirementnestegg_edited-1James Johnson, a business professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, remembers when his older relatives helped him out financially while he was in graduate school. With that in mind, he has tried to make sure that their needs are met, but the costs of caring for elderly loved ones continue to rise at the detriment of his own savings.

Before his mother died two months ago, Johnson gave her at least $500 per month for utilities. In addition, he paid the insurance on his parents’ cars and houses, and their taxes. One year ago, he took on his mother-in-law’s mortgage when she couldn’t sell her home. She needed the money to buy into a retirement community that cost $6,500 per month. Last week, as his family planned a Thanksgiving retreat, he offered to pay the airfare for a relative whose leukemia prevents him from traveling by car, train, or bus.

“I know I could have that money in an interest-bearing account, but I just can’t afford to do that when I have these responsibilities,” says Johnson, who has been trying to sell his mother-in-law’s house since last year. I take it very seriously because I wouldn’t be where I am if it weren’t for those people.”

Johnson falls within a population of affluent black people who have either $250,000 or more in household income or at least $1 million in investable assets in 2007. The Northern Trust Corp. questioned members of this group about their giving habits and published their findings in a study called “Wealth in Black America,” which was released last month. The study shows that giving and wealth building, even within affluent black communities seem to be at odds with the temperament of most blacks.

The findings reveal that approximately half of affluent blacks feel a responsibility to provide financial support to family members. Additionally, participants of the study donated about $35,000 to charitable and religious organizations in 2007.

“Financial support of family members is certainly relevant to anyone, regardless of ethnicity or cultural background, but we found this to be a particular area of focus among blacks,” says Shundrawn Thomas, senior vice president and head of corporate strategy at Northern Trust. “Blacks on the whole are very charitably inclined.”

Six in 10 affluent blacks currently provide support to parents, and two in five provide support to siblings. Long-term care or disability is the most important need affluent blacks believe will be met through their financial support of adult family members.

“I have eight people in my family who are aging between 78 and 88 years old,” says Johnson. “You never know when you pick up the phone what they are going to need. It can be $50 for gasoline or $2,000 because the phone has been turned off. I don’t know how you plan for that. A lot of it is emergency stuff and the other part is related to health crisis.”

Younger generations, aged 18 to 42,

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.