“Jesus take the wheel! Someone please tell me how, and why, I got myself into this.”
These are the exact words that raced through my mind as I sat in my cost accounting class.
I graduated high school in 2002 with college on my mind, however, I had no idea what I wanted to do. One thing I did know was, after a two-day stint as a cashier at McDonald’s, I had to do something else, as fast food was not for me. (I’m in no way knocking fast food employees.)
I decided I was going to break the cycle, by being the first person in my family to graduate from college. I wanted to make my parents proud. I mean, after all, they’d sacrificed tooth and nail to make a better life for their children.
During the summer of 2002, I got a call from an advisor at the college. “So, what do you like doing? What do you see yourself doing in the future? What was your favorite subject in school?”
I replied, “Well, as a kid, after watching Angela Bassett in ‘How Stella Got Her Groove Back’, I thought about becoming a stock broker. I’ve always had a passion for business, and of course math is my favorite subject.”
So, she suggested I do accounting. To be quite honest, at the time I was 18 years old and had no clue what accounting was. My family never had a need for an accountant, but my response was “let's do it,” as if the advisor was going on this journey with me.
Fast forward to now, 18 years later. It's so clear to me why God steered me in this direction. I’ve been fortunate enough to have a great career in public accounting that spans across any industry that you can think of. I’ve worked with exceptionally high net worth individuals and what has always lingered in my mind is how these people create and build wealth. Like the wealth that Beyoncé sings about. This is something that many of us, coming from less fortunate families, can’t afford to pause long enough to even begin to put into perspective. Sad, but true!
Before we can think about building wealth, we must know the basics:
1. Money Is Not The Root Of All Evil
Maybe the love of money is evil, or maybe when money starts creating bad and evil behavior. But to simply have money is not evil. It is OK to want to be financially stable. It is OK to have the urge to make money.
2. Budgeting Is Important
One plus one is two, all around the world. It’s impossible to make two dollars and spend four. In addition, you can’t manage what you don't measure! Living paycheck to paycheck is not the answer, and we can’t wait for the next crisis and get stuck out having to depend on the government.
3. Your Credit Score Matters
We live in America. Credit scores matter. Besides the systolic number in your blood pressure reading, your credit score is the most important 3-digit number in your life. It determines if you get approved for a loan, how much it will cost when approved for a loan and in this day and time, it can even determine if you’ll get the job offer.
We shouldn’t just ask how much our payment will be, but how much we’re being charged to buy this car. It is not OK to buy a car with a 15% interest rate. Interest rates are directly linked to our credit score. The higher the score, the better your rate.
5. Home Ownership
It is one of the key factors in building wealth.
Society teaches us to go to school, graduate college and go work for someone. This is not a bad idea, after all, it's how many of us got our start. However, it's not the only route. We must talk entrepreneurship, ownership and freedom.
And last but most importantly …
Don’t just invest in the stock market or real estate, but we must invest in the most important factor — ourselves.
Our mental wellbeing, and our mindset.
I can teach you everything there is to know about financial literacy, but if you have a poor and defeated mindset, it’s a lost cause.
So, I’m on a mission. I’m on a mission to economically empower as many families as I possibly can. I want to educate under-served communities and help them become financially literate, which in return reduces the wealth gap. After all, that’s why I was so graciously placed into this position. Something bigger, something greater, to simply give back.
Robyn Jefferson is a certified public accountant. Follow her at @robyn.denita