By James Clingman
We are at a critical stage in the economy when “more than one-third of workers (36%) have a measly $1,000 saved for their later years,” according to a study by the Employee Benefit Research Institute. “Compare that to the 28% of workers who said they had $1,000 saved in last year’s survey, and the picture gets a little more grim,” the article continued. The report refers to all workers; that 36 percent likely skyrockets when applied to Black people. You know what happens when America gets a cold – we get pneumonia.
With baby boomers at the head of the mortality line, all we can do now is reflect on the financial “what ifs” in our lives and try to figure out how to live with a $1,000.00 or less in the bank. The millennial generation had better pay close attention to their finances and start saving as early as possible to keep from making the same money mistakes their parents and grandparents made.
First and foremost, be very careful with those student loans. Leaving school with a debt of tens of thousands of dollars, even before you get a job, is a prescription for financial disaster. I know the money is great to have, especially what some of you call your “monthly check,” which is in excess of what your tuition requires. But you will have to pay it back no matter what, with interest, of course. Imagine trying to find and keep a job, a car, a place to live, and food to eat, while having to pay a monthly note of $400-$600for a student loan for the next 20 or 30 years! When you get old you may also end up in the group with less than $1,000 saved for retirement.
Keep in mind that a college education, while it is very important and necessary in this economy, is not worth what it used to be. Thus, it would be prudent to forego that high-priced school you want to attend and consider a smaller community college, a tech school, or an HBCU. Unless you get a scholarship that covers most or all of your costs, a smaller less expensive school is the way to go.
I know most young people refuse to acknowledge it, but if you keep living you will get old. Question: “What will getting old cost you?” Getting old in today’s economy is very expensive. And who knows what will happen to Social Security and Medicare? The way things are going now, young people will be pretty much on their own when they get old.
It’s best to get a Roth IRA started now, or at least some kind of savings plan that will multiply and be there at retirement. (A few dollars saved each month now will multiply into hundreds of thousands or even a million dollars by the time you reach retirement age.) Don’t put all your eggs in one basket by simply depending on your employer’s contribution to your 401-K and insurance plan. Unless you “own” the job you have, it can be taken away from you at any time, along with your retirement plan and your insurance policy.
Understand, young people, that if a young athlete or entertainer can go broke after making unwise decisions with his or her millions of dollars, your $80,000 per year will evaporate at a much faster pace, especially if you try to live like they live. Be smart, learn from the mistakes of others, and understand that you do not have to end up like the current 36 percent in this country.
The other caveat for young people as they prepare for their retirement is the dreaded conspicuous consumption syndrome. In an article I wrote some years ago, titled, “Supply and Demand,” I noted that Black folks demand and others supply us with their goods and services. Anything someone makes we will buy it, no matter how much it costs. Just look at Nick Young of the L. A. Lakers who recently had his home burglarized for a pair of $6,000 shoes called “Nike Air Yeezy 2.” That reminded me of basketball star, Antoine Walker, getting robbed of a $55,000 watch.
A great article on this subject is featured on The Root website, written by Demetria L. Lucas, titled, “Fronting:We Need to Stop Living the ‘Fabulous and Broke’ Lifestyle. It’s time to put the ‘fake it till you make it’ philosophy out to pasture.” She wrote, “My wake-up call came…when my friend called me in a panic, not knowing what to do. He was around $30,000 in credit card debt and had student loans. That friend ended up moving back in with his parents for a year-plus so he could save money to pay off his credit cards. (More than 10 years later, he’s still paying off student loans.)”
The cost of getting old is high – be prepared.
Jim Clingman, founder of the Greater Cincinnati African American Chamber of Commerce, is the nation’s most prolific writer on economic empowerment for Black people. He is an adjunct professor at the University of Cincinnati and can be reached through his Web site, www.blackonomics.com.