A few months ago I submitted a post about Will and Jada Smith and how they seem to be positioning their children to create their own legacy from a foundation that we have all seen develop since The Fresh Prince, A Different World and Jason’s Lyrics came into our lives over 20 years ago. Despite the obvious family fortune, the Smith’s seem to be making it their business to uncover the talents of their children and expose it to the world. After checking out Willow Smith’s latest music video and watching the Karate Kid on DVD I felt it was appropriate to revisit this story and see how it applies to African American Families and the creation of wealth within the black community.
What’s in the value of a name? A name is very important in my opinion. Of course a famous name is easy to recognize but the most important thing to me is the bond that exist between family members that share that name. Does the value reside in the fact that Will and Jada have millions of dollars to pass on to their children but the beauty in the vision of parents that seem to be doing whatever they can to uncover the gifts of their children? We don’t have to look towards Hollywood for these types of examples but in our own communities. There are many African American families that place extreme value in the growth of their children and strength in their family. There are African American families all over the country that have a rich heritage, important names and great contributions to their community. Despite this we continue to see issues in the African American community as divorce, absentee fathers and other factors play a huge part in dismantling the African American family.It’s my opinion that a new frame of thinking has to take place in the African American community. We have to start planning to leave wealth for our children and then teach our children how to leave wealth to their children. This wealth won’t come over night however, as I listened to Elder George Stewart say in a recent seminar, “You have to be all in!” Well my friends, we need to be “all in” if we want to see a change in our communities. What does this mean? We have to commit to not be selfish for starters. Men, Father’s, Dad’s whatever we call ourselves must step up to the plate and be willing to raise our children despite the situation. When I say our children I also mean those children that are not biologically ours. Support community programs, encourage the young people in your reach to strive for greatness and certainly reach out to the young men and women in our extended families. Mother’s have to understand the need for their children to develop a relationship with their fathers. There is no longer room for hatred from a bad relationship. Instead be happy that you may have been saved from a bad situation and make sure your child has a relationship with his father, if all possible.
I think one of the biggest problems that we suffer with as a race is that we have to “show-off” what we have. This used to a be a male dominated issue but it seems that more and more women have also fallen into this trap for whatever reason. We are certainly a “Me Generation”, with a need to showcase our expensive cars, clothing and jewelry. This seems to hold a greater value in our community than a couple that has been married for 20 plus years.
The changes I am suggesting will bring an extremely huge sacrifice and a very slow forming solution but one that will certainly help bring change to the African American community over time.
In the book, Our Kind of People: Inside America’s Black Upper Class, author Lawrence Otis Graham, looks into the lives of prestigious African American families that have experienced years of family wealth. Critics of the book suggest it is one-sided and self serving but the fact remains that there are African American families that have generational wealth. How did they do this? What has to happen to create more wealth in the African American community? What roles should a strong black elite play in America and how would it benefit everyone else in the country and across the world?
The Smith family has certainly stepped in and created an International spotlight for an African American family. However, how do we create role models like this in other industries outside of entertainment. Is it easy to find generational wealth and an elite class of African American families in the medical community, automobile industry, politics, technology and other areas? Of course there will always be a “social front” and the need for a group of people despite color to fit into a certain social and financial class. However, one thing I must say about African American wealth is that a millionaire with African American roots will always have those ties and family heritage. This means donations, volunteer and economic development opportunities will always take priority in the mind of this person. The more African American elite families the world creates the better chance we have of seeing more resources funneled to education, health and social programs that benefit African Americans. I would think the Obama family is a prime example of how effective outreach can be targeted to help better the lifestyles of other people. Before taking on the top job in the country, President Obama and his wife were dedicated to supporting social programs that would ultimately help select groups reach for a better lifestyle. We can certainly see this in many of the programs and special projects the Obama family have taken on over the past two years. There is no doubt this is the role that other well off African American families would take so the creation of black family wealth seems to be a key factor in changing our communities.
The formula seems simple but the challenges of getting people to share, not be so self-serving, volunteer, be good stewards of resources and seek change are all grouped into one huge problem.
So what are some basic steps to consider for building Generational Wealth
- Educate your family on financial matters. Everyone should be “all-in” and understand why they need to start planning for building generational wealth. Lead by example, and do your best to show your family how important it is to save and not overspend. Be realistic on your needs for housing, transportation and clothing. In the African American community we like to look good and ride good which makes it really easy to spend more than we should. Home ownership is certainly important and if you have to spend more in this area and cut back in other areas then so be it. I know that home ownership is not for everyone so don’t be afraid to explore other areas of wealth building but I was always told you can’t go wrong with real estate!
- Life Insurance – We hate to think about death but its real and the best way to protect your family is to secure life insurance. If something happens to you or your spouse not only have you given your family the financial resources they need to live but additional income for education, investing and wealth building. So remember, life insurance offers your family an immediate estate if something happens to you or your spouse.
- Reward hard work not behavior! I think it’s good to give your children gifts or money for grades and hard work. I know there are plenty of people that may not agree with this but i believe hard work with some type of reward incentive gives a child a value system. However, I do believe that good behavior should be expected.
- It’s never too late to get started! We often feel that if we are over 40 or even 50 we have waited to late. Well that is just not the case. While you can’t erase the past you can always plan for creating wealth with your family. If you have children, grandchildren, nieces, nephews and other youthful family members that can benefit from your practice you won’t go wrong.
By the way … check out Willow Smith’s latest video.