by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor – Syracuse University
As a Finance Professor, I find it incredibly ironic that many people get married without talking about money. They talk about every kind of compatibility from emotional, to spiritual, sexual, and professional, but they seldom take the time necessary to ensure that they can tolerate the idea of sharing their financial life with a person who may not be on the same page. This problem is compounded in black relationships, where many women describe economic hurdles as one of the reasons that black women have trouble finding the right mate.
I’d like to ask you a quick question that I ask my students here at Syracuse University. It is also a question I had to honestly ask myself when I thought I was on top of the world after spending 12 years going through college and graduate school to earn a PhD in Finance (which was unbelievably difficult). The question is this: Do you have financial security? If you don’t have financial security, do you at least have job security? If you believe your job is secure, then how many jobs do you have?
If you are like most Americans, you probably have just one job. I am not here to tell you that this is wrong. But, I am here to tell you that you might want to rethink what it means to be economically secure.
At worst, economic security is not provided by just having a high income. In fact, in some ways, having a high income can make you less secure, since you are more likely to have higher monthly expenses. To some extent, having a high income from just one job can fool you into believing that you are financially secure, when the truth is that you might be one paycheck away from economic disaster.
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Why, the email asks, do we still have Black History Month? The writer might be white, or she might not. She identifies her self as a "conscious woman" and sends the email to one of my public addresses. She seems chagrined that "race still matters" and wants to initiate an exchange of views with hers at the foundation – studying black history is obsolete. We have a black president, the woman writes. Black people have made so many strides. Aren’t you holding on to the past, she argues, when you insist on having this month to study black history?
I am not in the habit of engaging in email debates with folks who are ill informed, so I ignore the note. Still, I am intrigued enough by it to print it out and paste it to my desktop for a few days. When I pick up high school history books, I see African American history sprinkled through, like seasoning, as opposed to being placed at a base. And I think of the tremendous vision of Dr. Carter G. Woodson, the second African American to receive a Ph.D. from Harvard (after WEB DuBois) and the founder, in `1915, of the Association for the Study of African American Life and History (ASALH). Woodson wrote the masterpiece "The Miseducation of the Negro" and founded Negro History Week in 1926. By 1976 the week had expanded into African American History Month. The Association, based in Washington, DC, sets a theme for Black History Month each year (notice that I use Black and African American interchangeably – for me they are the same thing). This year the theme is "The History of Black Economic Empowerment".
Economics is the study of who gets what, when, where and why. It is the study of the way the factors of production – land, labor, capital and creativity are paid in rent, wages, interest and profit. It is the history of the knife, of how the pie is sliced. And it is the story of why African Americans get so much less than our fair share of the pie.
Hip hop mogul Russell Simmons seems to feel that banks are not treating the poor in a proper fashion. This week, in a rant on his site, “The Global Grind,” Simmons had this to say:
“They trick customers into doing things that are not good for them through lack of transparency, and surprise them with new fees when they can least afford it. I’m learning an important lesson about ethics or lack of ethics in this industry. In fact, I’m fighting with a bank right now that doesn’t know what kind of ass whipping they are going to get when I expose them for the abusive practices and exuberant fees they are charging the poor. What they are doing is trying to double their already outrageously high fees in exchange for providing absolutely nothing to my customers.”
Simmons went on to try to create a “movement” by adding a call to action:
“Let’s start the biggest public discussion ever about how banks treat us and expose these banks for their unequal treatment and unconscionable conduct. The time is now.”
From left are, Rep. Donald Payne, D-N.J., Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., Rep. Edolphus Towns, D-N.Y. and Rep. Charles Rangel D-NY. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)
Does anyone think that the Congressional Black Caucus works for the interests of the African-American community? Well, think again. It appears that, according to a scathing report in The New York Times, African-Americans don’t have the money to buy the CBC’s loyalty. At the very least, they do not appear to be the top priority for a legislative group that has allowed dollar signs to complicate its priorities.
The New York Times article details a highly suspicious network of foundations and charities that seem to funnel money to CBC members in exchange for influence in Washington. The political and charitable wings of the CBCtook in $55 million dollars between 2004 and 2008, with only $1 million of that coming through their political action committee; the rest came through their unregulated network of foundations, which are allowed to escape campaign finance laws designed to keep legislators from being bought by corporate America.
While the CBC argues that the funds are used to support charitable causes in the African-American community, it seems that the foundation spends more time "big balling" with elaborate corporate events than it spends actually doing work for the community. Federal tax records show that the CBC Foundation spent more money on the caterer for its annual dinner, $700,000 dollars, than it spent giving out scholarships. As my mama used to say, "That’s just trifling."
Even more disturbing are the relationships that the Congressional Black Caucus has formed with industries that clearly do not have the interests of the black community at heart, including the Internet poker industry, cigarette manufacturers, alcoholic beverage producers and rent-to-own companies. Many rent-to-own companies operate in predominantly black neighborhoods and are effectively electronic drug dealers: They give consumers a quick high today in exchange for unethically high fees and massive amounts of debt. Well guess what? The CBC is one of the reasons that the rent-to-own industry has been allowed to expand its operations in urban communities where CBC members don’t even live.
Historically, marriage was the surest route to financial security for women. Nowadays it’s men who are increasingly getting the biggest economic boost from tying the knot, according to a new analysis of census data.
The changes, summarized in a Pew Research Center report being released Tuesday, reflect the proliferation of working wives over the past 40 years — a period in which American women outpaced men in both education and earningsgrowth. A larger share of today’s men, compared with their 1970 counterparts, are married to women whose education and income exceed their own, and a larger share of women are married to men with less education and income.
"From an economic perspective, these trends have contributed to a gender role reversal in the gains from marriage," wrote the report’s authors, Richard Fry and D’Vera Cohn.
U.S. insurers may have very little exposure to the massive losses caused by the earthquake that struck Haiti.
Haiti is one of the smallest insurance markets in the Americas, with a total non-life insurance premium income of just under $20 million, "which reflect the country’s poverty," according to a report Wednesday from Newark, Calif.-based Risk Management Solutions Inc. By comparison, the total net premiums for property and casualty coverage in the U.S. in 2008 totaled nearly $441 billion, the most recent figures available from the Insurance Information Institutes 2010 Fact Book.
Funerals are never fun. They are emotionally draining and you are forced to endure the shock of knowing that your loved one will never be back in your life. In addition to the emotional devastation, you have to deal with the financial burdens of paying for someone to be buried. We all know that funerals are not free or cheap, and the last place you want to be cheap is when it comes to burying the person you love.
But there are ways you can keep the cost down. They say you can’t take the money with you, but someone who doesn’t plan for their death may be taking their relatives’ money with them to the grave. Here are some ways that you can bury on a budget: giving relatives dignity without creating financial hardship.
There is a funeral cost calculator on FuneralswithLove.com that helps you to figure out how much your funeral might cost and whether or not you’re going to be able to pay for it. Effectively, the cost estimator first determines your total resources from prepaid expenses, personal savings/investments, and death benefits. Once you know what is available to you, you have to determine how much you want to spend. Some of us want to go out in style and some of us figure that since we’re dead, our relatives should be the ones having all the fun.
An entrepreneur doesn’t think like everyone else. She is willing to take chances, disciplined enough to focus on a dream and passionate enough to pursue that dream. Towanna Freeman is in that category. AOL Black Voices had the chance to catch up with Towanna, to get some advice on striking out on your own, as well as managing a marriage, children and career, all at the same time.
1) What is your name and what do you do?
Have you noticed how so many people seem to be living an unbalanced life or living beneath their full potential? Well, I assist people, particularly women, who are ready to take life changing action to get that sense of balance back along with that greater feeling of fulfillment and happiness. I am also the principal consultant of Towanna Freeman & Associates, a management consulting firm with the primary emphasis on leadership coaching and employee performance improvement; the founder of the Young Women’s Empowerment Network a nonprofit organization that produces empowerment workshops, conferences, and other special events for teen girls; and the author of "Purposeful Action, 7 Steps to Fulfillment."
Back in August, Federal Reserve officials suggested that the Great Recession was ending and the U.S. could expect "a gradual resumption of sustainable economic growth." But even with stock market indexes and the bottom lines of large financial firms bouncing back, small businesses can expect a longer slog to economic health.
"Small business performance is a lagging indicator of recovery in the same way that unemployment is," says Villanova University business school professor John Pearce II.
And it’s likely that small businesses will find this recovery even slower than previous ones. The downturn has especially hurt construction firms, retailers and food service providers, the vast majority of which employ fewer than 20 workers. To make matters worse, more than 110 banks have failed since early 2008, most of them community thrifts catering to the financial needs of local firms.
Education is critical for success, but when everyone has the same education from the same Ivy League schools with the same GPA… how do you stand out? Other factors beyond education – business etiquette, dress, playing well with others, teamwork and dedication are easy to measure and log. But what of those immeasurable traits that count for just as much in the corner office: passion, drive, commitment and stamina?
How can we measure the immeasurable?
When it comes to playing at the top, it’s often the intense, burning desire of the candidate that makes the difference between success and failure. At the end of the day, performance and results are two of the most important traits a top performer can possess. Work harder than your competition, and you’ll win the battle every time.
Another thing that people can’t measure with grades, paychecks, promotions or time cards is what’s inside your heart.
Uncle Ben from Spiderman made the most prophetic statement of the entire film series in his dying days (I almost cried, but don’t tell anybody): "With great power comes great responsibility." Most of us understood what Uncle Ben was trying to say, and that includes Barack Obama.
Uncle Ben should have been the keynote speaker at the latest G-20 Summit, taking place this week in Pittsburgh,PA. The G-20 Summit is a gathering of the Finance Ministers and Central Bank Governors of the world’s 19 wealthiest countries, plus the European Union. These countries encompass 85 percent of the world’s gross domestic product, so they would probably meet Uncle Ben’s qualification for "great power," at least when it comes to money.
The G-20 Summit’s primary objective is to achieve broad cooperation on the preservation of international financial stability. The motivations of the group, created in 1999, are seemingly noble and make perfect sense in light of the fact that the global economy has reached an unprecedented level of integration. If large nations do not work together, the world’s financial system will be subject to alarming amounts of volatility.
Not everyone can see the vision behind G-20 ambitions. Usually, the gatherings of the G-20 are as out of control as a frat party, as protesters have made a game out of disrupting the meetings as much as they possibly can. To prepare for this year’s economic fiesta, the city of Pittsburgh has brought in 4,000 police, 2,000 National Guard troops and 11 Coast Guard vessels.
Police, in an overwhelming show of force, declared Thursday’s march illegal almost as soon as it began, firing rubber bullets and canisters of pepper spray and smoke after small bands of anarchists responded to calls to disperse by rolling huge metal trash bins, throwing rocks and breaking windows. As of Friday morning, reports said nearly 70 people had been arrested and police were bracing for scattered protests around downtown.
President Obama, being the conflicted capitalist/black man/ex-community organizer that he is, made some telling comments about the demonstrators.
When I read about the predatory lending allegations against Tavis Smiley and Wells Fargo, I wasn’t surprised. Not because I feel that Tavis is some kind of crook, but because economic downturns are usually when everyone’s dirty laundry gets aired out. The high flying 2000s were a decade of extravagance, overspending, easy money and troubled relationships. The party was bound to end. Smiley’s party has ended with Wells Fargo, as the company has been accused of using Tavis Smiley and financial expert Kelvin Boston to convince African Americans to sign on to loans that turned out to be predatory. Neither Boston nor Smiley is willing to disclose the amount they were paid for the service, but I’m sure it wasn’t chump change.
I’ve been open and honest in my critiques of Tavis Smiley in the past, but I give credit where it’s due. I’ve always felt that Tavis Smiley is a man who works out of a sincere respect and appreciation for the black community. He is not out to hoodwink, swindle or hurt us, at least not deliberately. At worst, Smiley is guilty of being caught in a situation that he may not have fully understood.
Although I agree with the black community’s decision to hold Tavis Smiley accountable for his actions, I want us to be cautious of going overboard in our judgments. Here are 5 things I want to say about Tavis Smiley:
Click the image to watch a video that explains the difference.
from AOL Black Voices
Did Tavis Smiley help Wells Fargo herd black people into subprime loans? Yes, according to information contained in a lawsuit filed recently by Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan. The suit alleges that Smiley was the hook used to draw in potential customers for subprime mortgages.
You might be familiar with the "Wealth Building" seminars that Wells Fargo conducted beginning in the year 2000. Smiley was the headline speaker at these events, held in Baltimore; Chicago; Richmond, Va.; and San Francisco. The seminars were advertised aggressively in black media and aimed directly at black communities. They were a huge success. Often, standing room only audiences would hear Smiley speak about how he mostly disliked banks while strongly urging attendees to invest in real estate as a sound strategy to build wealth. …
I recently appeared on ABC News to talk about Financial Lovemaking, and the link between sex and money. I’ve discussed relationships and money several times on AOL in the past, but I think that I should quickly lay out some very interesting similarities that may not have crossed your mind. As I teach my Personal Finance Class at Syracuse University this semester, I am reminded that managing our money is linked to managing our love, which is critical to the ultimate goal of effectively managing our lives.
1) Many people think about both sex and money every single day. Don’t lie, you know you enjoy thinking about sex, even if you aren’t getting any. But chances are, you also think about money, whether it’s figuring out how to get what you need or how to keep what you’ve got. Even most rappers spend all their time talking about either sex, money or how they use their money to get more sex. It’s actually a universal concept.
The economic downturn has hurt us all. Black unemployment has been nearly 70% higher than that for …
As part of my series on comparisons between sex and money, we will continue with parts 3 and 4 …
Some people think that money and sex have nothing in common. Actually, they have everything in …
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Wells Fargo was recently hit with another discrimination suit in the state of Illinois. This is …
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In his video called ‘Rich N*gga Sh*t’ (I can’t even write the title, because I don’t want to …
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In a letter written to NCAA president Myles Brand, Chairman Bill Thomas of the House Ways and Means …
Many of us remember the nearly $822,500 gambling debt and subsequent arrest of former NBA star …
It’s not easy to be an entrepreneur, but the rewards are high. Owning your own business can be one …
Beyonce has a song about how she loves men with "big egos." This might imply that she likes men …
Dr. Byron Price is a black scholar with a mission. His book, ‘Merchandizing Prisoners’ opens the …
I’ve written extensively about the NCAA and what I perceive to be its consistent effort to exploit …
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In this interview, I speak with Michel Martin, host of "Tell Me More with Michel Martin," an NPR …
Previously, I did a piece on Michael Vick and discussed ways in which Michael can get his …
Dr Boyce Watkins, Finance Professor at Syracuse University, discusses foreign policy, The Obama Administration and the Economy. Click the image to listen!
A woman who received a $5,077 bill from AT&T for data charges on her Netbook is suing the wireless carrier and RadioShack for fraud, reports Jacqui Cheng at Ars Technica.
The lawsuit alleges that the two companies conspired to promote a netbook plus data deal that deliberately misled customers and tricked them into paying thousands of dollars per month for service.
Here’s Parks’ story:
Parks purchased a netbook from RadioShack in December of 2008 after the electronics retailer began advertising a heavily subsidized netbook deal: for $99.99 and a two-year AT&T contract, customers could buy a netbook with AT&T’s DataConnect plan, allowing them to get online from anywhere. The DataConnect service costs roughly $60 per month before the usual taxes and fees.
Dr Boyce Watkins will be the keynote speaker at the 2009 National Black Graduate Student Association Conference, to be held in Houston Texas March 11 – 15. The theme for this year’s conference is “Engaged. Empowered. Expect It.”
NBGSA is a non-profit, student-run organization dedicated to encouraging the high-quality achievement of African-American students through academic, professional, and social programs.
Dr. Boyce Watkins is one of the world’s leading Black scholars and author of “What if George Bush were a Black Man?” He was also the 2007 Black Speaker of the Year. For more information, please visit www.BoyceWatkins.com.