August 19th, 2011

Breaking the Color Barriers of Wealth

African American unemployment rates are at their highest since 1984, according to Christian Weller, senior fellow of the Center of American Progress.

Recent news on the wealth gap has brought to light the discrepancies between the complacent belief that minorities are progressing and the salaries and statistics that show otherwise. Currently the United States is experiencing the biggest wealth disparities by race in the last 25 years, as reported by the Census Bureau.  The rich are getting richer and poor people are now broke. Interesting to see the Pew Research Center’s report “Wealth Gaps Rise to Record Highs Between Whites, Blacks, Hispanics” and note that the median wealth is 20 times greater than that of Blacks and 18 times that of Latinos. Makes you wonder what we are doing wrong.

The barriers to wealth have already been identified, and financial literacy is the only solution to get through these barricades. Blacks and Latinos need more access to full-time jobs, 401(k)s, health benefits and quality education. Subprime lending, lack of knowledge on saving and investing, stagnant jobs and consumerism are just some of the reasons why minorities are faced with the current financial situation.  Below are some insights on how to avoid the mistakes previous generations have made.

Avoid subprime lending.

Subprime lending is for individuals with bad credit (usually a score lower than 640) that lenders know are at risk to default on debt repayment. Lenders still make these subprime loans and offer a higher interest rates and less favorable terms.  Beware of predatory lending that might negatively affect your financial situation. Which leads me to my next point:

Get what you can afford.

If you cannot afford that new car, a house or whatever else you are considering a loan for, do not get one. Learn to use those good old checking and savings accounts more often. Save some money, build your credit and sit tight with your current situation until you are financially stable to move forward. Simply having a job does not qualify you for financial stability. A child is also included on the list of things-to-be-financially-stable-for-before-acquiring.

Be an empowered employee.

Latinos and Blacks are few and far between the higher you search on the corporate ladder, but it is possible to reach senior-level management with the right tools. Getting senior executives comfortable talking about race and ethnicity and its implications for the bottom line is the first step. The second step is for minorities to build their professional networks and connections. Having colleagues who are aware of your work ethic, talent and ambitions is the fastest way to get endorsed for that higher position. Do not sit quietly in your office or industry. Make those connections with people who can vouch for your promotion or recommend you for your next position.


Invest in stocks, bonds, mutual funds, a business, a retirement plan, life insurance etc. Scared money doesn’t make money. Call up a friend, invest in a book or search online, but learn about investments and find a way to start building your assets.

Rehabilitate yourself from consumerism.

You know that Louis Vuitton bag you just purchased? And I know you love your new Prada loafers, but are they gaining any interest? You know they will be worth nothing next season right?  Set financial priorities and focus on becoming rich instead of looking rich.

Leave something behind.

Always think of what you are going to leave behind for your children. Hopefully it will not be bills and debt. Trust funds were for wealthy people who had large assets they wanted to protect. Now, they are available to everyday people. Leaving your children with money, a small business, or another source of income is the best thing you can do for them. Think about how much faster you could become financially stable if you already had some capital?

The wealth gap is a wake-up call for millenials. As Maya Wiley, founder and director of the Center for Social Inclusion (CSI) said, “The good news is that there are solutions. If we can muster the moral courage and political will to declare race all too relevant today we have an opportunity for a new discussion … And perhaps we even recognize that we must raise the debt ceiling and invest in the programs that support solutions.

About the Author

Emmelie De La Cruz
Emmelie De La Cruz is an eager public relations student with a knack for writing. Born and raised in the Bronx, she knows that a person fulfills their vision through passion not position. Grateful for the guidance she has received throughout her college career at Syracuse University, Emmelie is determined to share all she has learned with other young professionals. Education is the fuel of passionate fires.



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