Debt Burden Hits African American Families Hardest, But Here’s How You Can Begin To Declare Yourself Free
"Becoming debt free starts with the acknowledgement that America’s culture of borrow-and-spend materialism is not healthy."
Like every summer, millions of Americans gathered earlier this month to stand proud as we celebrated our nation’s independence. Current politics aside, these United States have given many gifts to the world, including democracy, the belief in basic rights and dignities and a nation that boldly unifies under God. America also is burdened by its share of travesties, including its treatment of indigenous people, slavery and our wealth divide. And while average Americans may not feel that they can change many of America’s blights, one thing we can all change is the shame of our collective debt.
Becoming debt free starts with the acknowledgement that America’s culture of borrow-and-spend materialism is not healthy. We have a problem that needs fixing. Another important step is recognizing that the problem is one that requires a lifestyle change and not a series of quick fixes.
A June 2018 survey by Bankrate shows that nearly one quarter, or 23 percent, of Americans have no emergency savings, while only 29 percent have enough emergency savings to cover six months. Some 22 percent can cover fewer than three months and 18 percent can cover three to five months. As if that’s not alarming enough, while less than half of all Americans are somewhat prepared for financial emergencies, more than 60 percent aren’t really even worried about their situations!
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Like many challenges, the debt burden hits African American families hardest. It’s one reason why, for more than a dozen years now, I’ve been sounding the alarm and helping thousands of individuals, families and communities become and stay debt free — so they can realize true freedom.
Booker T. Washington once said: “At the bottom of education, at the bottom of politics, even at the bottom of religion, there must be for our race economic independence.”
Winning the lottery is not a strategy for economic independence. Counting on the lottery to get you out of debt is like counting on some friend dropping by daily to get you to work on time. If you truly want that job, you’re going to plan your transportation and probably have contingency plans. You’re going to have a strategy that will help you reach and keep your goal. Why would you plan any less when it comes to your overall finances?
For many people, once they are in debt they are so depressed that they rather avoid thinking about their situation or they go for a quick fix — and they end up sinking deeper and deeper into debt. It’s a vicious cycle that must be broken. It can be, step by step.
Getting out of debt takes direction, discipline and dedication. It’s not something that is easy to do on your own. Yet a lot of people are conditioned not to talk to “outsiders” about money issues — period. But if someone could help you get out of debt and even become wealthy, would you talk to them? Before you say yes, consider the fact that many professional financial planners and banks and other financial institutions offer free financial services that our communities rarely use.
It’s an irony that many people will pay for the things that get them into debt — items that they may no longer own by the time the debt is paid — yet, will not pay for help to get out of debt.
Feeling comfortable about having these difficult conversations is important and is one of the main reasons why I’ve encouraged churches and community organizations all across America and in many parts of the globe to offer free programs that help people move from debt to financial freedom.
The help is out there. It’s waiting for you. Once you set a strategy and attain your goal, you can use Juneteenth, Independence Day or your own personal Debt-Free Day to celebrate year after year. It’s a legacy holiday that will mean everything to your family for generations to come.
It’s your turn to declare your independence from debt. What are you waiting for?