Girl, Get Your Money Straight

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As youth, I was never taught about the importance of financial security. Sure, I learned how to balance a check book in the 4th grade. I even established my first savings account at the age of 16 (although my teenage shopping habits did not allow for much contribution to it). However, it was not until I actually had to take care of myself that I learned how much money does matter, even if it isn’t everything.

Today, as a mid 20-something, I’ve learned through trial, epic failure and the advice of financial planners, the importance of money management and planning for my future. About a year ago, two of my very best friends and I decided to create a book club. The first book we read, titled Girl, Get Your Money Straight: A Sister's Guide to Healing Your Bank Account and Funding Your Dreams in 7 Simple Steps by Glinda Bridgforth, was selected by one of my girls who was inspired by an interview she saw of her on TV.

Bridgforth served as much more than a Suze Orman money whiz. She broke down our personal history as Black women in relation to why some of us mismanage our money. Among some of these reasons as to why we do this were a lack of education on money matters (both through schooling and our households) and overspending to soothe our fragile self-esteem and/or emotional burdens (i.e. retail therapy and/or keeping up with the Joneses a la Sheree Whitfield).

Personal responsibility and the mastering of my impulse control ended my retail therapy long ago. And being the practical, easy-to-please woman I am, I never felt compelled to keep up with the Joneses (or any trend for that matter). What resonated with me was my complete cluelessness on how to manage money. I knew about the importance of saving up for retirement.

By this time, I had already started contributing to a 401K account. I knew about the importance of assets and how in order to attain wealth you must have these. What I did not know was how to get there. How could I, a 20-something working in corporate America during The Great Recession with a frozen wage, get to a place where I was at the very least, financially comfortable? I quickly learned (unsurprisingly) that when it comes to wealth, the odds are highly stacked against me.

Buying a Home: According to The Examiner, 33% of single Black women own a home compared to 57% of single white women.

Retirement: 38% of Black women over the age of 65 are living in poverty compared to 26.7% of all women. This is possibly due to the fact that 59% of unmarried Black women over 65 utilize SSI as their only source of retirement income.

Additional Income: According to Essence, 70% of professional Black women are single thus decreasing the likelihood of having a second income within the household. And of course, there is the ever increasingly disparate wage gap between all black women and white males.

Considering that I have a retirement plan in place, I have a fighting chance to beat at least one statistic. This gives me a sliver of optimism but I’ve realized that in order to get to a place where I am 100% financially comfortable (my terms of financial comfort, not anyone else’s), I have to make a conscious effort to be smart about my money in other aspects as well.

After finishing the book, I adopted some of the methods suggested including planning my spending a month in advance and saving a specific amount of my earnings for a rainy day fund. This has given me more cushion compared to my late teens/early 20’s when the struggle was too real and I was living paycheck to paycheck.

I often wonder if I would be as money savvy today if I had not picked up that book. It was not necessarily a life changing book in itself but it helped open a gateway of an awareness that had not been mine for my entire life.

Not every Black woman aspires to be wealthy and not every Black woman is in a financial bind but every Black woman has the responsibility to learn how to manage her money in a way that works for her beyond conventional means. Why? Because society depends on us not to.

Let’s not overlook the enormous Black buying power that so many corporations and advertisers suck on like leeches or the home mortgage loan sharks. Companies see us and they see dollar signs, a way to capitalize or get over. We have to keep ourselves 10 steps ahead of them in order to not put ourselves in compromising situations.

According to a Washington Post poll, nearly ¾ Black women worry about paying their bills. We could easily draw assumptions and say that this is because there are a lot of low income Black women, or single Black mothers but it would be very ignorant to do this.

The truth is, there is no difference between the Black woman who is a struggling single mother making minimum wage and the Black woman with a corner office on the verge of bankruptcy from credit card debt. Money issues are very real for many of us, it does not matter what class you are a part of, how educated you are or high up on the corporate ladder you sit.

We cannot depend on anyone but ourselves to make sure that our necks are protected and that we do not suffer the mental strain money problems. Living within our means, planning for the future and learning how to budget and work with what we got (no matter how much or how little) are some of the keys to attaining financial freedom. The saying is that money is the root of all evil. Why then, should we ever make the mistake of allowing ourselves to become a slave to it?


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LaChelle is an aspiring novelist and songwriter. An avid reader and social commentator, her mission is to engage the minds of others through her artistry. Catch her on Twitter @_theELLE_

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