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{popin}On Saturday, June 14, 2008, Nationwide Insurance brought its innovative five-city economic empowerment and financial literacy tour to Richmond, Virginia.  The event’s keynote speaker was Tavis Smiley, an individual that is well-known for his efforts to educate, empower, and encourage all people, but specifically African-Americans.

As I received the call, inviting me to attend the event the day prior, my initial response was, “the last thing I need to spend my Saturday morning doing is listening to someone with money tell me how to get money and materialistic things for myself.”  To be perfectly honest, I almost had an attitude about having to go to the event, especially since I was charged with the task of reporting on the activities that took place.

You must understand, my father, who is also a member of Kappa Alpha Psi, as is Tavis, raised us with a healthy respect of finances as it pertains to our lives.  We were constantly admonished to view money and wealth as a “tool” for changing and improving the world that we live in, not as a “tool” for promoting our own comforts and self indulgences.

 

 

Case in point, my father was a Chemical/Mechanical Engineer for one of the top corporations in the world.  He made six figures easily, however, my four brothers, two sisters, mother, and I never lived above our means.  My father always told us, “just because you can afford it does not mean that you have to buy it.”  This would be his response when others would ask him why he chose to drive a plain old Ford Taurus instead of a Mercedes, when it was clear that he could easily afford one.  

He would also say this when others teased him about building his own boat, instead of buying one.  For nearly five years, we endured being called “Noah’s children,” but no one complained when we all went fishing on the boat and Dad eventually ended up selling it to a boating company for a sizeable profit, which he of course, invested.

My mother was a  “stay-at-home” mother that cut coupons, looked for sales in the weekly paper, made our clothes, did our hair and hers, and did a great deal to ensure that she managed the household budget based on the standards that she and my father had agreed upon.

Now, my mother was also a shopaholic, which is a genetic trait that must be attached to her X-chromosome, because she has passed on to all of her three daughters.  Under the financial plan that my parents devised, as a couple, my mother was afforded a shopping account for all of us.  From an early age, even when we lived in Chicago, with the Macy’s and other affluent department stores, we were always raised to “go for the sale, clearance, or Goodwill sections when buying clothes.”

Make no mistake about it, we were the “fashion divas” of our schools.  I was the only African-American female in my high school until my sister arrived.  Our classmates were always amazed at how “unique” and “fashionable” our clothes were. Little did they know!  

Neither my mother, nor my father would allow us to spend excessive amounts of money on items like clothes and other things that depreciated.  Because this value was instilled in all seven of us at an early age, we thought that everyone lived by that rule.  

That rule is what has kept all seven of us down through the years.  We are all financially independent, owning several homes, established in our careers, and understand and respect the role of money within our lives.  To drive home that point even further, I remember my father kissing me good-bye as I left for my freshman year of college in New York.  He gave me $75, which he said would be all I would get from him for my education.  The rest I had to work for.  I guess in his mind,, that would cover bus fare and Ramen noodles for a month until I found a job, which I did eventually. 

Getting back to the financial empowerment conference.  As I shared, when I arrived, I expected to hear the same ol’e, same ol’e.  “Three Ways To Get Improve Your Credit Score,”  “You, Too, Can Be A Homeowner,” “Credit Repair For Dummies,” and my all time favorite, “Why I Need A Budget.”

Now, I must say that I was pleasantly surprised at the beginning of Tavis’ presentation when he opened with an old gospel song from Donnie Hathaway.  I was even more impressed when he began to speak about economic empowerment and financial literacy without ever mentioning the terms on a superficial level.  Instead, he went much deeper.  

Tavis addressed the source of economic slavery and financial illiteracy by forcing the audience to come to terms with their own oppressive and destructive mentalities and habits that are counterproductive to edifying them economically.

In addition, he centralized his focus on the need to cultivate economic empowerment and cultural literacy as a means of ensuring the welfare of our children, as the next generation.  He even went as far as to say that when we fail to leave an inheritance for our children, we engage in a form of child neglect.   

His statements were not only profound, but embodied the sense of urgency that is before us, as African-American communities, as we strive to create a legacy of overall prosperity; on a spiritual, emotional, mental, physical, and financial level.  There must be a paradigm shift within our collective mindsets that requires us to live, sleep, eat, dream, and spend based on the future that we want for our children.  

Twenty years from now, our children will not care if we had a Gucci, Mercedes, Prada, or 22’s.  They definitely will not care if all of our debt and other financial burdens are the only things that they have to remember us by.  In a world where Ed McMahon and Evander Holyfield’s homes are being foreclosed on, we would be wise to learn the lesson that no matter how much money you have today, it can be gone tomorrow if it is not managed with integrity, wisdom, and most importantly, with the future in mind.

Economic empowerment and financial literacy are just educated terms for what we already know we need to do, what God has called us to do for our children.  We are to manage our finances with the goal of leaving a legacy of more than enough for our children, their children, and their children’s children.

Our legacy must be one where our children can look back and say, my family loved me enough to plan for my financial future.  I am truly blessed that I can say that and am working very hard to make sure that my daughter can give the same testimony.

Tavis is right, we must do better, for our children.  Now that we have the tools, we must take action to do better.  This call to action is not optional if we wish to provide for the next generation

Read more about the Nationalwide-Tavis Smiley Five City Tour at:

http://www.nationwide.com/about-us/tavis-smiley.jsp

Managing Money Is A Matter of the Heart…..