The Clinton Herald, Clinton, Iowa

Opinion

September 12, 2013

You don't have to stay poor

No one can blame you if you start out in life poor, because how you start is not your fault. If you stay poor, you’re to blame because it is your fault. Nowhere has this been made clearer than in Dennis Kimbro’s new book, “The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires.”

Kimbro, a business professor at Clark Atlanta University, conducted extensive face-to-face interviews, took surveys and had other interactions with nearly 1,000 of America’s black financial elite, many of whom are multimillionaires, to discover the secret of their success. Kimbro’s seven-year study included wealthy blacks such as Byron E. Lewis, Tyler Perry, Daymond John, Bob Johnson, Cathy Hughes and Antonio Reed. Kimbro says that many of today’s black multimillionaires started out poor or worse. So what were their strategies?

‘‘The Wealth Choice” argues that wealth (millionaireship) is not a function of circumstance, luck, environment or the cards you were dealt. Instead, wealth is the result of a conscious choice, action, faith, innovation, effort, preparation and discipline. Or, in the words of billionaire W. Clement Stone, founder of Combined Insurance, whom Kimbro met with and mentions early in the book, “Try, try, try, and keep on trying is the rule that must be followed to become an expert in anything.” He also said, “If you cannot save money, the seeds of greatness are not in you.” Saving is necessary for investment and wealth accumulation. Therein lies much of the problem for many black Americans.

Kimbro gives us some statistics to highlight some of the problem. The median net worth, or wealth, of white households is 20 times that of black households. In 2009, 35 percent of black households had no wealth or were in debt. Twenty-four percent of black Americans spend more than they earn, compared with 14 percent of all Americans. Thirty-two percent of blacks do not save at all, compared with less than 25 percent of all Americans. To underscore these statistics, Earl Graves Jr., CEO of Black Enterprise magazine, said that blacks are six times as likely as whites to purchase a Mercedes-Benz and that blacks who purchase Jaguars have an income one-third less than whites who purchase the same vehicles.

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