Staying Focused On Financial Empowerment

With a seemingly dysfunctional financial industry being undermined by the twin perils of excess debt and shrinking availability of credit, who knows how long these tumultuous times will wreak havoc on our fragile economy, whether government actions to stimulate the economy will make a difference, or how much additional damage will be done to the financial positions of American citizens-and black Americans in particular. More importantly, does this difficult economic environment signal a need for black enterprise to retreat in our campaign to grow our individual and collective net worth, to wave the white flag in surrender of our mission to increase black wealth and financial empowerment?

Absolutely not. It is in tough economic times that our commitment to the 10 principles of the be Declaration of Financial Empowerment becomes more critical than ever. The habits of serious wealth builders do not change with the ups and downs of the economy. Our DOFE principles-including building wealth through homeownership and proactively managing, your budget, credit, debt, and tax obligations-are not seasonal or situational. They are proven guidelines of financial stewardship that stand the test of time … through wars, recession, stock market volatility, and other events that impact our economic lives.

That’s why I was so proud and pleased to visit Clearwater, Florida, to present the $10,000 grand prize to Elena Borneman, the winner of our third annual Own Your First Home Contest. The single mother of twin daughters, Victoria and Elizabeth, Borneman is an excellent example of how a commitment to financial discipline and homeownership education, along with a positive and focused can-do attitude, can overcome the obstacles and adversity that often convince others that homeownership is beyond their reach. Borneman serves as a
powerful role model and source of hope and inspiration for others facing similar hurdles on the path to first-time homeownership. Her determination is just one of the many reasons our editors selected her as the winner from more than 1,000 contest entrants.

But Borneman’s story illustrates another important fundamental of successful wealth building: Changes in our economy, especially tumultuous ones, present opportunities for those who are financially disciplined. Because Borneman spent the last few years shoring up her credit score and reducing her debt, she was able to easily qualify for a traditional mortgage with a competitive interest rate. This made her even more attractive to sellers in a market with too many homes and not enough qualified buyers. Also, while the current mortgage crisis has created a glut of people desperate to sell homes, plummeting home prices have also created wonderful opportunities for first-time home buyers who have their financial house in order. When Borneman first found the home she wanted, the asking price was $145,000. She offered $140,000, and her offer was accepted in a matter of hours.

The lesson? Well, there are at least a couple. First, we cannot let negative economic news and trends intimidate us or lessen our determination to adopt and maintain the proven wealth-building habits identified in our 10 DOFE principles. Second, the principles