Another key attribute in the level-up process is improving one’s financial health. On the surface, this might look like I am referring to the idea of women making more money, and I assure you, I am not opposed to this sentiment at all. I love watching other black women win, especially if it means they’re getting paid, too.
And since the word has been out about the pay gap between males and females, I am all the more enthusiastic with my support of black women building wealth for themselves, because that means they’ve figured out how to master the tricky game of rising up in an economic system that doesn’t necessarily want them to win. I absolutely celebrate black women stacking paper, especially if it was earned from an honest living.
But even the richest woman can have failing financial health. How? Poor investments, unmonitored spending habits, no saving, and lack of financial tracking and goal-setting are some of the major culprits that come to mind. At least, those were my hang-ups. And I had to learn to undo each of them one-by-one. Here’s a cheat sheet so you can sidestep some of my pitfalls:
Lesson 1: Start investing as soon as you start earning.
That 401k option that is available to you at your job that you despise? Go ahead and start that, especially if your employer offers to match your contributions. The sooner you can begin investing, the sooner your money can start compounding and growing for you. Even if you feel you won’t be at the job that long, once you become eligible for an option like this, especially with an employer match, take it. It’s free money that can be rolled over into another account should you decide to quit later. Don’t do what I did and swear up and down that you, “won’t be here that long,” and then whittle away two years. That’s two years of saved contributions that you will have missed out on.
Lesson 2: Live below your means and above your circumstances.
Impulse buys and splurges are fun, but try to keep them to a minimum, especially if your bank account cannot support them. Some purchases require you to finance the debt as you just might not have the cash on hand i.e. new computer equipment for work or school, a house or condo, a car – but these tend to only work best when a structured plan for repayment is in place.
The same is true of smaller items like apparel, accessories, or jewelry. You should only put purchases like those onto a credit card if you have a concrete plan for how to pay off the balance within 1-3 months. Otherwise, the charges add up until suddenly you have maxed out the balance on one card with no end in sight. Your value comes from the words you speak, the way you carry yourself, how you treat yourself, and how you treat others, not from what you wear or drive.
Lesson 3: Real estate is still a good investment.
Technically, I am a millennial (born in 1984) and a trend among millennials is to not purchase real estate for the binding commitment a mortgage creates. This may be true, but the benefits of owning real estate far outweigh the drawbacks, as I have witnessed. My husband and I purchased our first home in Southern California just as the market there was beginning to rebound from the crash of 2008.
This meant that we purchased a property in a decent neighborhood at a cheap price, and it appreciated in value greatly over the next few years allowing us to sell, make a profit, finance the move to a different state, and secure the down payment on our next home. Our first home purchase was huge in helping us get ahead financially, and yours can be too.
Start small. It won’t be your forever home, but an investment milestone on the pathway to your overall success. Pay attention to real estate prices in your area and target areas you’d like to live, and learn about the different types of loans you can apply for (Conventional, FHA, USDA Rural, VA if applicable). If you have friends who are home owners, talk to them about the process. The greatest way for you to learn is to ask questions, and truly successful people aren’t trying to keep processes like that a secret. Winners want to help others win.
The good news is that even if you are not great with finances, you can learn. Take note of the behaviors of those around you who are financially savvy, and shy away from anything that you know will deter you. Many financial institutions and libraries also offer classes on home buying and investing that you can take for free. It’s okay not to know everything; nobody knows everything. But don’t allow what you don’t know to hold you and your future back.
Antoinette is an online curriculum designer who moonlights as an author, editor, podcaster, and yogini. When she is not designing courses, authoring books, or recording episodes for her podcast, she is enjoying life with her husband and two children. Find her on Instagram @msantoinettechanel.