“”None of us are free until all of us are free”
– Fannie Lou Hamer
By Ja’Net Adams
Fannie Lou Hamer is someone that I highly admire. She understood the power of financial freedom. For her, economic freedom was the solution to Jim Crow, and she was right. When African Americans were in the position to do for themselves and not depend on money or debt from others, they could thrive on their own. Fannie was alive; although just a little girl when there were Black Wall Streets all around the United States, she had never seen it firsthand in the Delta. She only saw African Americans live in poverty, but she knew there was a better way, and she helped those in her community move to a better life. Fast forward to today. After everything that Fannie Lou Hamer and many others before her fought for, financial freedom for African Americans is non-negotiable. Truthfully, Whether people like it or not, we are making way more money than our parents and grandparents, but yet are not in a better position financially for the most part. People can argue that student loan debt is a significant problem, but student loan payments have been on pause for two years, and if your savings have not gone up substantially over that time period, maybe student loans are not the problem. Perhaps it is something else entirely. Maybe the focus needs to be on what steps African Americans need to take to reach financial freedom. What steps need to be taken for African Americans to generate enough wealth for a hundred lifetimes!
Get debt out of your life: This is a must, and I know from personal experience! I was once $50,000 in debt, and during that time, I felt like my back was against a wall. I felt out of control because I owed so much money. When you are in debt, whoever you owe that money to, has control over you. If you don’t think that is the case, miss one payment and see what happens. Debt on a car, they can repossess it. Debt on a house they can foreclose on you. Debt on a credit card, they can sue you. If that is not control, I don’t know what is. To gain control back, you need to work on paying off the debt that you have. Take the time to sit down and write down all of your numbers. Write down how much money you owe to each creditor and how much the monthly payments are. What this does is help you know how much of your hard-earned money is going to other people each month. It also enables you to get an idea of how much more money you need to bring in to pay extra on the debt each month. It is hard to pay off any debt fast if you pay the minimum payment. Creditors encourage you to pay the minimum payment because that is how they get more money out of you over the long run. So how will you find the extra money? First, you will find the money in your everyday expenses. Look at your monthly spending plan (budget) and look for areas where you can cut back or cut out. The goal is to look at every expense! Can you cut out a streaming service and save $15 a month? Can you eat out less each week and save about $100 a month? Can you look at your insurance plans (health, car, renters, home, etc) and save money? You need to look at every expense and make changes. The changes you make will add up to real money that can be used to pay extra on the debt. When I did this exercise for my household, we found at least $350 extra a month. Our car payment was $400 a month, but instead of sending $400 a month, we were sending $750 a month ($400+$350). The extra $350 was added to the principal, which made the overall $25,000 we owed on the car go down much faster! The trick is you have to beat the interest.
Financial freedom is not something that just falls into your lap. It takes focus, sacrifice, and discipline. It takes understanding that your future is more important than your today. I said “no” for two years to say “yes” for the rest of my life, and this financial freedom was worth it all!