**LB raising fists to the sky**
WU TA.NG...WU TA.NG FOREVA!!!
Sorry, I guess that I got a bit crunk and carried away...I loved me some Wu Tang...well Meth, actually. And how could you not? After all, he came to bring the pain, hard.core to the brain...and we went inside his as.tral plane. Aiight, I think that I got that out of my system.
I'm really trying NOT to write only once a week, but I had some thangs going on and well, I hadn't been bitten with the blogging bug like before. But I was sitting here...about to complete this tag by the infamous Leezarus and as I was thinking about 3 things that I like to do aside from blogging, in my peripheral vision, I saw this paper tacked up on the board above my desk. I know, I know...attention deficit and whatnot. Funny thing is...on this board, I have pictures of my baby, random business cards, a blue school calendar, a yellow class schedule for JJ, and a green school booklet. But what stuck out was this stark white paper that I had printed out over a year ago...the day after my bday in 2006, to be exact. It's a "Declar.ation of Fin.ancial Empower.ment" that I retrieved from the Black Enterprise website. Honestly, I look up at it probably once a month and examine it only once a quarter. But I decided to take it down and review my year-old pledge and track my progress. Thought I'd share...like to hear it, here it go:
I, LB, from this day forward, declare my vigilant and life-long commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:
1. To use homeownership to build wealth.
Well, I'm proud to say that I bought my house and moved in 2 weeks before my bday this year. Certainly a challenging process, but one of the more rewarding ones. While visiting for the first time the other day, Choir Boy said, "Mayne, do you ever just look at your skylights and feel accomplished?!" I never thought of it that way, but I guess so. Shortly after he left, I started digging through my huge plastic container full of photo albums and stacks of memories. I came across the pictures that me and Old Dude took of my house in the N.O. after the storm. I remember standing in the midst of all of that and wondering, "Where in the hell do I go from here?" My answer NOW: With the grace and favor of God, I can go anywhere.
2. To save and invest 10% to 15% of my after-tax income.
THIS.IS.HARD!!! I created a budget sheet in Excel that accounts for this, but my level of comfort hasn't reached that yet. I've heard several times from financial professionals and preachers alike that the key to financial prosperity is to tithe 10% and save 10%, at minimum. Strangely, I find it easier to tithe (which is at the absolute TOP of my budget sheet). I HAVE to have my savings debited from my checking account or else it'll be burned up at Son.ic or a Pop.eye's (if I can ever find one of these gold mines 'round these parts, I might have to be hospitalized...I swear the last time that I saw a spicy white breast was on a Gi.rls Go.ne Wi.ld commercial), lol. But I digress...so as of today, I invest:
$50/month to my Mon.ey Mar.ket Acc.ount (my money NOW fund)
$50/month to a Mutual Fund (JJ's education fund...on a slow build)
$50/month to a Mutual Fund (have no idea fund...on a slow build)
3. To commit to a program of retirement planning and investing.
Recently, I became eligible to invest in my 401K at my not-so-new-anymore J.O.B. So, as soon as open enrollment was announced, a sista was on the phone with a financial advisor trying to get some hot tips, right? LOL. The hottest tip I got...max out your percentage, if you can. Well, that ain't happenin' b/c you can transfer your whole daggone check to your retirement plan. Once I found out that the company will match half of your investment up to 4%, I decided to fold at a cool 8%. It's been a little rough, but I figure that if I adjust my living to it now, then once I get my annual increases, I'll be an old pro and won't even feel my tummy tickled.
4. To engage in sound budget, credit, and tax managment practices.
So, I DO have this nifty Excel spreadsheet, but I can't lie...I deviate from it...especially when it comes to eating. I NEED to brown bag it and put my acquired Rach.ael Ray knowledge to use but I gets lazy, lol. I have everything in this spreadsheet including JJ's monthly haircut expense, his kar.ate classes, and even my tolls...but that dayum food budget gets busted everytime.
On a grander note, my credit is looking much better. When I think of where it was 2 years ago...heck, LAST YEAR, I shudder. But I patiently watch it climb and have decided that when I enter into my desired range, I might have to have a backyard BBQ.
As far as tax management is concerned...I can't wait to manage my tax returns next year, b/c I KNOW that they will be a beast, lol.
5. To measure my personal wealth by net worth, not income.
Assets and liabilities...
I think that this ia a part of the reason why I don't save as much as I should...I'm so busy trying to pay down debt. As it stands, I have no credit card balances but I have some student loans that threaten to NOT disappear until 2018. I JUST worked out a 4-year plan to make those monsters vanish. After that, I can increase my investments and become the neighborhood 50-Ce.nt. Net worth = a helluva lot more than 50 cents!
6. To be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues.
I have about 5-6 finance books, including a thick hardback about the stock market. The latter may collect more dust than my blinds, but the others have certainly planted some seeds. I think that the most helpful book that I own is prolly Dav.id Bach's, "Sma.rt Women Fin.ish Rich."
7. To provide access to programs that will educate my children about business and finance.
I eventually want to get into the allowance stage, but J AND I are not there yet. As it stands, he always does odd jobs around my father's church when he goes back home...and he seems to make good ends there! Plus, my dad's friends just peel off 10-dollar bills just b/c J is in the room! So, he needs to learn good, solid money management practices NOW! Especially since the "regional tooth fairy" in the N.O. likes to drop off $5 per tooth. I remember when I gave this boy one dollar for a tooth, he said, "Here you go, mommy. You can have it." Mayne, I was ready to tear up...until he said, "...keep it with your money b/c I have some games that I want to get." He's been on a tight money program ever since!
8. To support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises.
My church is actually starting this magazine that offers free advertisements (temporarily, of course) for members that are business owners. If I'm ever in need, I may do some more research on those companies. Until then, I'll keep giving Brutha Master G, J's karate teacher, my monthly payments, lol.
9. To use a portion of my wealth to strengthen my community.
I'm in the planning stages on this one. There are things that I would like to become involved with back home, but I'm trying to develop a solid foundation while up here. I keep bouncing this idea around with regard to hooking up young women with successful sista mentors of various professional backgrounds, but then I draw a blank. One day...
10. To ensure that my wealth is passed on to future generations.
Slacker, I am. I keep visiting Legal Zoom from time to time and I even invested in computer software that creates thousands of legal documents, but I just haven't taken the leap towards a will. I don't know what's up with my lead foot on this matter, b/c after the legal mumbo jumbo that I had to go through with my dad after my mom passed, I should be eager to set matters right. I have my insurance policies in place, but there's nothing like a directive that can ensure that my JJ benefits, if something happens. I DO have specific instructions on some matters, so I may just bite the bullet and consult an attorney, in the flesh...prayerfully, before this time next year.
And there it is...my financial assessment, folks...
**LB throws arms in the air in a hard and swift knife-like motion**
AND IT'S GOOD!
I encourage anyone that may happen upon this blog to print this (yep, it's a link), sign and date it. MAKE IT VISIBLE and take control of your financial destiny.