I'm Tired of Successful White Men Giving Advice on How to Become a Millionaire

by Charmaine Griffin

“At the age of 21, I got out of college, broke and in debt, and by the time I was 30, I was a millionaire,” wrote a contributing writer for Entrepreneur.com.

Everytime I read an article with the title “How to Become a Millionaire,” it’s always written by a white male. I frequently read articles in Forbes, Business Insider and The Huffington Post’s business section, as I’m on my journey down the road of entrepreneurship. While I’m well aware of the successful black entrepreneurs in my community, I see few examples when I am parousing such websites.

One of the best tips I ever got about success was to research those who were already successful and find out what they did. Well, I’ve done my research.

The quote above is from an article titled “How to Become a Millionaire by Age 30.” Tips included “follow the money” and “avoid debt.” However, I found they were devoid of the realities of people who grew up outside of middle class white privilege. As a Los Angeles expat living in Korea, I know all too well the realities of joblessness in America. After you graduate college, depending on your field of study, you’ll either land a job straight away or spend 6 months — sometimes longer — trying to figure out your next steps. Following the money is a great option if you can actually land a job, but like most of us, post-graduate salaries are less than $40,000. Then there’s the debt issue. The author states that you should avoid debt and one commenter stated that it’s choice to go into debt. While that’s true, it ignores the fact that many black college-educated people such as myself can’t avoid debt, especially in the face of rising tuition cost and limited financial support.

In a blog post for The Tim Ferris Experiment, AJ Jacobs, editor-at-large at Esquire magazine, wrote “I don’t have a corporation; I don’t even have an up-to-date business card. I’m a writer and editor working from home, usually in my boxer shorts or, if I’m feeling formal, my penguin-themed pajama bottoms.”

From Tim Ferris to The Minimalists, these businesspeople are all selling the idea of outsourcing work, becoming financially independent and living the best life ever. When I first dived into to Tim Ferris’s book The 4-Hour Workweek, I was immediately sold. Like so many of you, I desire financial freedom, the ability to travel the world and an income that nearly makes itself (coined as passive income). I did extensive research trying to find out how exactly I can get myself down this road in a matter of a year or less, as many of the entrepreneurs that I’ve read about have.

But wait… Why don’t any of these entrepreneurs that make it into big name magazines look like me? Why is a single, white man telling me how to travel the world by outsourcing work? More importantly, what if I don’t already have a business?

Those questions haunted me as I tried to figure out how these men could live in 7 different countries in one year, make $10,000 a month and run thriving businesses. Then reality hit. I don’t already have a thriving company that I can turn into a means of passive income by delegating work to low-paid workers in the Philippines. I would have to start from the ground up. Come up with a business plan, let this business grow and then go from there. Or I would need to successfully develop a business that I could manage remotely with a team in place. Both plans include one magic ingredient: starting a successful business.

As most of us know, nearly 80% of entrepreneurs who start businesses fail within the first year of their inception. Alarming right? This can quickly put a damper on any of our grand ideas for success. In the past decade, we’ve seen a rise in black businesses, especially black female entrepreneurs within the natural hair industry. But our revenue totals pale in comparison to white businesses. There are myriad reasons backing this claim. The main takeaway is that we CAN start businesses but staying afloat with the masses is a never ending hustle.

So what if you didn’t attend to an ivy league school like Tim Ferris? Or you didn’t start off with a $250,000 paying job like The Minimalist? The reality for many black entrepreneurs is that many can’t even get off the ground for lack of access to loans, networks and safety nets. Tim Ferris went from making nearly $40,000 a month by age 24 to currently doubling his income, outsourcing work and traveling year around. While I find that admirable and definitely a goal to aspire to, the reality is this didn’t happen for him overnight. Not only did he go to an Ivy League school, but he had a support system and resources to successfully start his own company. While I’m not saying this isn’t possible for black people, I’m saying that his perspective doesn’t provide a perspective of all black entrepreneurs nor does it speak to people whose upbringing may not have supported this path so early on.

What we need is more examples of entrepreneurship in our own communities. Not the one or two “amazing” rags to riches stories but actual articles from black entrepreneurs. Telling me that I can start a business tomorrow and then move overseas, make $10,000 a month and outsource all my work does not tell me how to handle my student loan debt, quit my job and find a safety net to make sure my bills are paid while I’m on this journey. Reality is this can happen, but it will not happen overnight. So let’s stop with the far fetched fantasies that only work when you’ve got the almighty grace of privilege helping you to the top. Let’s find real advice to building our dreams, for our people.

Photo: Shutterstock

Charmaine Griffin is the creator and writer for lifestyle blog hellocharmaine and the founder of natural hair collective @kollectivekoils. Follow the L.A girl living in South Korea at @_hellocharmaine

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