Black And Broke In America: A Blueprint For Rebuilding Your Finances
It's possible, you just have to start.
There are lots of TV shows today about house flipping and other renovations. I used to enjoy watching This Old House on public television and seeing the transformation of a run-down dilapidated home into a beautiful showplace. The construction crew and carpenters made it look so easy and methodical, replacing worn-out beams with new wood or updating features with the convenience of technology.
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My own experiences, however, particularly with the building of a new church, tell me that the process of renovation is an arduous undertaking. For our church, what started in 1937 as an abandoned gas station being rented by a handful of people for $4 a week resulted in an 80,000-square-foot worship center being constructed on an adjacent site in 2003. The newer facility’s auxiliary chapel alone is almost as large as the main sanctuary in the old church. Obviously, this transformation did not happen in a week; it took decades. Even after we had broken ground on the new building site, it was still several years before the structure materialized.
Renovating and rebuilding your financial house takes time as well. You did not arrive at your current level of debt overnight. A financial renovation requires a sound blueprint for rebuilding the structure of your relationship with money. You must develop a spending plan that will serve as your guide in knowing where to rebuild, who to enlist for help, and how long it’s going to take to complete. You must estimate the cost, or create a spending plan so that you won’t run out of resources before your house is built. You must establish a strong foundation.
If our financial house is infested with parasitic debt and about to collapse in upon itself, then we must remove the rotted wood and start building a house that can withstand our weaknesses. A written spending plan accompanied by a thoughtful strategy that identifies your past weaknesses and provides alternate behaviors can become your blueprint to freedom.
An effective blueprint for success clearly identifies your central goal. Do you want to pay off all credit card debt? Save 15 percent of your monthly income to purchase a car? Pay bills on time and improve your credit rating? You must be as specific as possible in identifying and articulating the particular goals that will form the pillars of your plan.
Having a goal without a system for reaching that goal is like having wood, nails, and sheetrock without having land to build upon. Assembling needed support should be part of this system. Great athletes have trainers and coaches; great leaders have mentors and advisers; great businesspeople have dedicated teams and administrative support. Your goals to financial freedom are more likely to be achieved when you’re sharing the project with peers and others who understand where you’re coming from and, better yet, where you’re going.
Your supporters are there to help keep you accountable but also to share your milestones, recognize your success and celebrate it. They need to know what you're aiming for by when so, in addition to specific goals, you must have a schedule.
While there are a variety of ways to attack your debt, a basic way is simply to create a pay-off calendar. You make a list of all money you owe – mortgage, credit cards, car payments, school loans, everything – and then the amounts you owe for each, the amount of the monthly payments, and the length of time at this rate of payment to fulfill your debt.
It can be daunting. However, today there are many apps and online tools to help, including one I created, Billion Dollar Challenge, which challenges Americans to eliminate at least $1 billion in debt by 2020. Just remember, you’re not alone. The Gallup organization reports that two-thirds of Americans are living without a spending plan or a budget; among African Americans and Hispanics, the numbers are predictably the highest. Research throughout the past decade consistently reveals that roughly 70 percent of people in this country are living paycheck to paycheck. Without a spending plan or a budget, you will never achieve your freedom.
The barrier to financial freedom is debt. When starting your plan, identify three to five specific challenges that have to be addressed to advance your financial status. For me, it was credit cards; it was eating in restaurants. It really revealed my mentality at the time. I thought I needed designer clothes to be important. I had to change the way I thought.
It may simply be not earning enough money. Don’t identify a challenge that is external. Don’t be a victim. Don’t blame any of your circumstances on anyone else because, once you do that, then you basically have forfeited any possibility of pulling yourself along this journey. No one can do for you what you fail to do for yourself.
Once you’ve identified them, begin writing down your financial goals. I am not talking about dreams. I dreamt of living in a big house and I couldn’t even afford an apartment. I dreamt of owning a big company and I didn’t even have a savings account. Write down some very specific goals. Where would you like to be by this time next year? How much debt do you plan on paying off by next month this time? Research has shown that people with goals are nine to ten times more likely to achieve their goals.
Next, you must consider specific strategies for achieving your goals. Think about things you’ve done in the past that have worked. Perhaps you resisted buying those shoes, opened a savings account or reduced your cable plan to save money. Maybe you stopped using check-cashing facilities and payday lenders or you started investing even $5 per paycheck in a company stock option. If you invest $100 per month for 40 years, from the time you’re 25 to 65, in the right kind of investment, you’ll have $1 million! Imagine what type of house that could build.
I think we agree, it’s time to get your financial house in order. Now you have the blueprint. Let’s get to work and let’s move forward together.