Ready To Go The Distance

As part of the BLACK ENTERPRISE Black Wealth Initiative, we hope that an award of $2,000 and the advice of a financial adviser will enable contest winners to make some real changes in their financial lives. But we all know a lot can happen in a year, and sometimes the best-laid plans fall short. With that in mind, we checked in with three winners from 2006 to find out if they’re still in the starting blocks or nearing the finish line of financial stability.

Each of our contest winners told us that they’ve been presented with life-changing opportunities. Two of the three seized the moment and are taking steps forward that are already showing promise. Another contest winner is awaiting word on a job opening that may transform his lifestyle.

While there was plenty of good news–a purchase of rental property, new jobs at higher pay in a new town, and the chance to relocate overseas–some of our experts’ advice has yet to be acted upon. And one winner confesses contritely that, much to his disappointment and detriment, he hasn’t reined in his spending.
Here’s a closer look at three past winners.

Baton In Hand; Jennifer Bogar : SEPTEMBER
A self-proclaimed slave to fashion has changed her ways. Jennifer Bogar has traded her shoe shopping jaunts for trips to Home Depot. Bogar, 32, says that over the past year she’s taken her love for real estate a step further. Last December, she purchased an investment property, a two-family house for $289,000 in Irvington, New Jersey.

The investment was prompted in part by a desire to help her father, whose apartment was damaged in a fire, forcing him to stay with Bogar and other relatives until he could make other arrangements. Together they decided that a rental property would help them both. “He had the money and I had the credit,” says Bogar, a single mother to her son, Aaron, 6.

Her father now lives on one floor of the home, and the other is rented. The rental income doesn’t quite cover the mortgage, but they plan to renovate and rent the attic to make up for the shortfall.

Buying the rental property was enough to kill her shoe addiction; she hasn’t splurged in quite some time. She’s also curbed her travel habit. Fortunately she was lucky enough to win a four-day, three-night, all-expense-paid trip to Barbados from a New York City radio station. That provided a welcome break from her job as a paralegal.

Now her shopping appetite is for more property. She plans to start an L.L.C. to put her existing and future rental properties in to reduce her personal liability. “I’m on a kick,” she says. “I want another house.” Bogar is beating herself up because now she realizes that if she had done more saving than shopping, she would be in a better position to do just that. “It’s a wake-up call. I see these foreclosures in New Jersey and I could have snatched them up.”

She’s learned another important lesson. “I got that house and helped