As an African American woman who has witnessed the ebb and flow of my people in this country, I’m reflective as we move from one year into another. I’ve reached the conclusion that our rocky tenure in America has caused us to think short term, and we need to change. Lately I have watched in dismay as Black money and property, acquired by earlier generations, through hard work, suffering and self-denial has been lost or victimized through poor planning for its transference and maintenance.
This statement from the Building Black Wealth website resonates deeply with me “African Americans are estimated to own less than 1% of the wealth in America. A number that hasn’t changed in more than one hundred years.”
My father, was a certified public accountant, who despite, at one point, having had a thriving clientele died leaving only his personal effects and a parcel of land for which he was so indebted that it fell back into the hands of the developers. He was a person who lived in the “now” and the lesson I drew from his example is that if each generation’s intention is for the next generation to have a better start in life, they have to plan for that.
Years ago, as a single mom, I was advised that the best protection for my dependent children was to carry the largest insurance policy I could afford so that in the event of my premature death there would be economic benefit for them.
Many people who can afford a life insurance policy neglect to get them and when they die their bereaved relatives are called upon to “pony up” to bury a family member or friend. I smile when I recall when a dear friend’s grandmother died and her family was deeply comforted by the fact that she had planned and paid for her funeral down to deciding what outfit she was to be laid to rest in. Her grief stricken family had only to execute “Mama’s” plan. That’s a best practice!
Even, deciding while we are healthy how we want to experience our end of life is important. Would you want to be hooked up to machines that mechanically simulate life or die with dignity? If you have not created a Living Will or designated legal Power of Attorney for your health decisions you lose the ability to have your wishes granted.
The Atlantic notes, Black buying power is expected to reach $1.2 trillion this year, and $1.4 trillion by 2020, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth.” However, spending power does not mean accumulated wealth and we simply have not curated our finances in a way that secures our assets for coming generations. Nor have we, considering the barriers we face in a clearly unequal society, harnessed our finances to exert our collective economic power to our benefit!
And why wouldn’t we focus on leaving our tangible assets, like cars, business, land, and our home, protected from having its value taxed away by the government? The best way is setting up a trust or at the very least a notarized will that names people responsible for making decisions about your asset’s allocation. One of my contemporaries remarked that planning to transfer his assets is like giving up on living. But when I paid off my home and placed it in trust for my children I was flooded with a sense of peace. I believe planning ahead makes life better for loved ones. We will all die.
If you are an inventor, artist, poet, or a writer like I am, you have intellectual property. Your works should be copyrighted through the US copyright office and the library of congress. This protects you and allows your heirs to benefit from your work. Pastor Torrey Barrett, recently shared an Internet link from a Vanity Fair article about his father, T. L. Barrett’s forty-year-old forgotten gospel recording being sampled in Barry, a film about the young Barak Obama. One never knows what the future holds. Prepare.
As you read this article hopefully, you are among the insured. Hopefully you have legally secured your possessions and intellectual property to transfer to coming generations. If not, why not? It is going to become increasingly important that African Americans begin to harness our economic power for the social and economic benefit of our people.
Can we begin 2017 with that end in mind?
– Susan D. Peters
Susan D. Peters, aka, Ahnydah (ah-NIE-dah) Rahm, brings a wealth of experience gained as an expatriate living in West Africa. Her memoir Sweet Liberia, Lessons from the Coal Pot, received the Black Excellence Award for Non-Fiction from the African American Alliance of Chicago and the Mate E. Palmer award for Non-Fiction from the Illinois Press Women’s Association. Broken Dolls, Susan’s second book, represents her foray into the mystery market and is the first of a series featuring Detective Joi Sommers as its heroine. Her most recent publication is Stolen Rainbow, a short story focused on the post combat recovery of a beautiful marine captain after a devastating combat injury. Her work is featured in three anthologies, Baring It All, the Ins and Outs of Publishing, Signed, Sealed, Delivered … I’m Yours, a contemporary romance anthology, and The Anthology of the Illinois Woman’s Press Association. Buy her books online and at www.SusanDPeters.com.