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Feb. 10, 2006, marked yet another milestone in the history of BLACK ENTERPRISE. In recognition of our 35 years of providing essential business information for success-oriented African Americans, I was given the honor of ringing the bell to signal the close of the New York Stock Exchange.
It was indeed a heady moment for me; my wife, Barbara; my oldest son and Earl G. Graves Ltd.’s CEO, Earl “Butch” Graves Jr.; and other members of our company’s top management as we joined NYSE CEO John Thain to end the trading day of the world’s largest and most technologically advanced equities market. As we took our places overlooking the fascinating and chaotic stock exchange floor, the mood was festive (probably because the Dow Jones industrial average gained 125 points for the week). A smiling Barbara turned to me and remarked, “It took 35 years, but we’re finally here.” Leave it to my wife of 47 years to sum up such a thrilling and significant event in our life’s journey in one simple — yet deeply profound — sentence.
The lesson? Wealth is not about what you can acquire but about what you can accomplish, and accomplishments take discipline, self-denial and, yes, time. To build wealth, to experience true abundance in our lives, we must go beyond meeting short-term needs and wants — a roof over our heads, clothes on our backs, the “bling” of things quickly acquired and just as easily discarded — to focus on long-term goals. That’s why our wealth-building crusade is not about get-rich-quick schemes but about what we can achieve for generations to come. Becoming a successful wealth accumulator can be as simple as a change in mindset, shifting your focus from merely buying things to creating a solid foundation for multigenerational wealth.
True wealth is not rooted in how much (or how little) you have but in what you choose to do with it. You spend money when you rent, but that is not an accomplishment. Neither are buying a new car every other year or going on weekly shopping sprees at the mall. Each of these things serves its purpose in the short term — to deliver a “sugar boost” of immediate gratification — but they provide zero nourishment for your long-term wealth-building goals. You’re just spending money.
Homeownership, the foundation of personal wealth for most Americans, is a wealth-building accomplishment. Launching a profitable business is a wealth-building accomplishment. Higher education is an accomplishment that increases your wealth-building potential. Building a diversified investment portfolio is an accomplishment. Regular tax and estate planning are accomplishments that preserve wealth for you today and for future generations. All of these things cost money, and they also take time to achieve. But they increase — often dramatically — our potential to build wealth.
True wealth building is about an investment of time as well as money. It is critical for each and every one of us to remember this as we pursue our wealth-building goals, despite the missteps, setbacks, and challenges we may face along the way. If you’ve already joined
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