Monday, March 31, 2014


Friday March 28th, 2014 marked the inaugural Summit On Educational Excellence For African Americans.  This PHENOMENAL event was put on by the White House Initiative For Educational Excellence For African Americans.  They partnered with Ebony Magazine (Amy DuBois Barnett) and Morehouse College (Dr. Wilson, President) to bring dynamic thought leaders to Morehouse’s Ray Charles Performing Arts Center for two days of intense conversation about how to close the achievement gap among African American Males.  Just to name a few of the heavy hitters on the panels: Dr. Arlethia Perry-Johnson, Dr. John Eaves, Al Dotson Jr., Jim Shelton, Otha Thorton, and Dr. Ivory Toldson.  There were many more!  The main moderators were Jeff Johnson ( award winning journalist) and David Johns (Executive Director of Initiative) who throughout the conference made sure the panelists gave honest direct answers that would push those of us in the audience toward action!

The topics discussed by various panels were “Challenges and Opportunities Facing Young Men of Color”, “Black Male Success in Higher Education”, “The Benefits of Education and Education Reform”, “College and Career Readiness”, “Cost and Consequence of Gun Violence”, and more.  The reason that I drove five hours down to Atlanta, GA is because after discovering @AfAmEducation on Twitter I have been engaged in their mission of closing the gap for African American Children.  More specifically their priority of increasing the number of African American students who successfully obtain a postsecondary degree, credential, or certificate that leads to a successful career.  The motivation for me traveling all over the country speaking to college students about Financial Literacy is because I know the success that comes with not just getting into college, but crossing the stage at graduation!

The first panel by far was my favorite and the reason that I wrote this blog post.  The first panel should have been titled “This Is Why We Are Here, This Is Our Future!” because on the panel were two high school students Miles Ezeilo (9th grade), Keith Slaughter (10th grade) and three college students Thabiti Stephens, Otha Thorton III, and Joshua Young.  These young men fueled my fire to bring Financial Literacy or more specifically behaving with money into the conversation at the Summit!  Although there was not a panel discussing how money behavior could alleviate or even eliminate a lot of these problems, the first panel brought it front and center.  Morehouse senior Thabiti Stephens who is an entrepreneur himself and the owner of Steps By Stephens a shoe company who donates a portion of its’ sales to help with food insecurity in the Atlanta area actually said the words “Financial Literacy” in one of his comments.  I was already going to ask a question to the panel about the importance of Financial Literacy, but once he said it I understood the need for the subject to be a part of this summit.  This young man along with the other four represent the “dreamers” I speak to across the country.  Students who have ideas that can help others in their community or around the world, but fail to bring those dreams to reality because of financial issues (debt).  Debt or irresponsibility with money could have kept a dream and the money for the food insecure an illusion!  That is why Financial Literacy has to be a part of the conversation when talking about closing the gap and NOT the usual talk about Financial Literacy where people teach students and adults that the credit score is important and a credit card is a tool!  I am talking about showing people how to behave with money.  Showing students and their parents that when you pay off debt you can make money work for you!  When you don't owe the bank money you can save for your child’s college education, you can save for retirement, you can start that business, you can give to that charity that provides quality daycare for low income children, YOU CAN!  Those talented young men were only the beginning.

The next panel consisted of Dr. Perry-Johnson, Dr. Toldson, Dr. Shaun Harper, Dr. Bryant Marks, and Morehouse senior Timothy Spicer Jr. and their task was to discuss “Black Male Success In Higher Education.”  They debunked the common myths about African American male achievement and the true percentage of African American males in college, but what truly caught my attention was a statement made by Dr. Marks.  He said, “what HBCU’s need from alumni is to write checks!”  What made this statement so profound is that first, it’s true, but more importantly the Deputy Director of the White House Initiative On Historically Black Colleges and Universities Dr. Toldson was sitting on the same panel.  The universities that the initiative represents are in dire need for alumni to give back!  Take for example Morris Brown College which is a five minute drive away from Morehouse has at the present time 35 students enrolled and is more that $30 MILLION in debt!  The college is going to have to sell majority of its’ land to stay open!  There is also Bennett College which like Spelman College is an all female HBCU and it is in financial hot water to the point that it had to close one of it’s buildings last Fall.  There are not many all female colleges left, let alone HBCU’s that are all female so it is a situation that needs close attention.  Lastly, there is Howard University and Morgan State University who last Fall seen a drop in students because of changes in the PLUS loans.  Hundreds of students found themselves threatened with dropping out of college because they didn’t have the money to cover the balance they owed.  There were seniors in their last year who had to go home!  These are just a few examples of Higher Ed institutions that are having financial issues and HBCU’s are not alone there are institutions all over the United States going through the same thing.  If Higher Ed institutions want any alum to write a check they should show that alum while they are still in undergrad how to behave with money!  The average student loan debt that a person graduates with is now at $29,000, so these students are grabbing diplomas in red deficit ink!  They go out on their own not understanding delayed gratification which leads to more debt (car loans, house loan, credit cards, etc) and all of a sudden they are up to their eyeballs in debt and have no money to give back to their alma mater who needs it!  I am sure there are plenty of people who have been out of college for over a decade still paying back student loans.  Some critics may say “not everyone graduates with loans.”  They would be right, and I am one of those people!  I graduated debt free and still racked up $48,000 in debt because I didn’t know how to behave with money.  I paid the debt off in 2 1/2 years, but that was lost money for retirement, an emergency fund, or donations to my alma mater South Carolina State University!  An alum who is debt free is an alum who writes checks and writes BIG ONES!  

The last thing that I will touch on from the Summit is the need for more African American male teachers.  A project that Jeff Johnson one of the moderators is the Jeff Johnson Institute For Urban Development which has a goal to recruit and develop 80,000 African American male teachers in 5 years.  Throughout the Summit the same statement was being said “we need more teachers that look like our children especially the male ones.”  The great news is that more and more African American males are going into teaching, but what I fear just like with any other teacher of any race is that the amount of money that they are paid will not keep them in the profession for the long run.  Teachers have an extremely difficult job and they get paid nothing!  I’ve had numerous teachers tell me that they can not get ahead financially because of their salary.  There are groups all over the country fighting for higher teacher pay, but in the meantime show those majoring in education and those who are already teachers how to pay off debt they have and build an eight month emergency fund.  Doing this is not to take the pressure off of lawmakers to do what is right and increase pay, but it is to take the financial burden off that teacher so that they can come to class with a peace of mind and give their best to that student they love to serve!  

I know that this post was much longer than usual, but this event was to important not to show how real Financial Literacy could make a positive impact in majority of the topics discussed.  This Summit was about recognizing the issues, but it also was about ACTION!  My first action was to write this blog post and my next action is to email as many of the over 100 HBCU Presidents to discuss the importance of implementing Financial Literacy (Financial Behavior) at their institutions.  Not just to benefit their undergraduates, but also to benefit their longterm survival!

A special thank you to Dr. Wilson and Morehouse for opening your doors to this event!  A supersize THANK YOU to David Johns and EVERY individual behind the success of the White House Initiative For Educational Excellence For African Americans and @AfAmEducation!

Monday, March 17, 2014

No More!

A divorce is final and a wife who always left the finances up to her husband is now left to fend for herself financially.  A husband for thirty years suddenly passes away from a heart attack and his widow has no idea where to start to put her life back together financially because she always let him pay the bills and invest on their behalf.   Both of these women and both of these situations I know personally. Both of these situations happen too often and women are always on the losing end!  When I write it is usually to inform the reader about how to manage their money better so that in the future they will have wealth and not debt.  Rarely do I write about subjects that are intense in nature, but as Women's history month is upon us I feel that I need to address an important issue that is affecting 4 in 10 households in the United States. 

Women are the primary breadwinners in 4 out of 10 households in America which means it is more important than ever for women to know how to manage their finances. Not only for themselves, but also for the children they have or hope to have. Whether a woman is married or not she has to be in control of her money! Gone are the days where a husband or a father would handle the finances of a wife or daughter. Whenever this took place in the past, all it did was leave that women in a vulnerable position with her finances if that father or husband died. More commonly today women are finding themselves in a divorce and completely lost afterwards because they spent their entire marriage letting their husband control the bank account and other financial matters. 

Today all of that CHANGES!  No longer as women will we sit on the sideline and wish that our finances just fall into place.  We will take the necessary steps needed to control our own money and stop letting our money control us!  So what can we do? First, we decide what we want in life. What goals do we have for our household in the short term (6-12 months) the intermediate (1-3 years) and long-term (5-10 years). These goals which I like to call dreams are the fire to our match and they are going to get us to where we want to be financially. When my family was $48,000 in debt we created our own dreams and we wrote them down on a piece of paper and put it up on the refrigerator so that it could be seen each and every day. Believe it or not that sheet of paper full of our dreams kept us focused the 2 1/2 years it took to pay off all $48,000 because every time that we wanted to buy something we didn’t need we would look at that sheet and say we want that dream more!  After women figure out what they want in their life going forward it is now time to take your head out the sand and figure out if you are in debt and if you are how much debt you are in. The only way that you can begin to become debt-free is to know who you owe money to and how much you owe them. Only then can you take action to pay off that debt!

Getting a spending plan (budget) down on paper is essential because you have to know how much money is coming in and going out each month so that you can start to make the needed adjustments. If a woman finds herself living paycheck to paycheck each month she can start her financial recovery by looking at her spending plan and seeing what she can cut out. Cutting out unnecessary expenses leaves money available in each paycheck to start paying off debt. If after cutting out all that you can in unnecessary expenses you still find yourself struggling financially then it is time to find extra income to pay off debt. That may mean adding extra job or selling anything that you can for the extra money. When we were getting out of debt we sold everything that we could. If people wanted to buy it, we would sell it to them!  We also found out what we were good at which was tennis and basketball and started training kids in each sport for $25/ hour!  Do whatever it takes to find the extra money to pay off what you owe!

Why is it important for ALL women to be debt-free and use their money to work for them and not someone else? The reason is that women on average make $.77 for every $1 a man makes, so we can’t afford not to be in control of our money! Even with the income disadvantage women can still come out on top by controlling their finances.  The secret is to make it up in your mind that you deserve better and you are going to do whatever it takes to get to that better!  No more spending money on stuff you don’t need! No more staying in debt because society said “that is how it will always be!” No more not having an emergency fund!  No more letting someone else tell you what to do with your hard earned money!  Today is the day you say “NO MORE!” 

Monday, July 29, 2013



A few months ago I read an article discussing the cost of state colleges and how if some of the colleges within a system were consolidated that it would save the state money.  For example in North Carolina there is UNC Chapel Hill, UNC Charlotte, UNC Pembroke, UNC Wilmington, UNC Greensboro, you get the picture. So instead of all of these Universities under one system the state would close a couple of them and incoming students would have to choose one of the Universities that were left after the cut.  Although this idea is provocative enough, what made me pause was that somehow HBCU’s were added to the conversation.  HBCU stands for Historically Black Colleges and Universities and I personally went to the one and only South Carolina State University.  The reason that I paused when the article mentioned HBCU’s is because these colleges and universities had nothing to do with the concept that the article was speaking of and it just seem like HBCU’s were added just as a suggestion that some of these schools whether they are part of the system or not can be shut down too because they are not needed.  I don’t usually step outside of financial literacy advice and I am not going to in this post either, but this article made me start thinking that HBCU’s and the students that attend them have the opportunity to be taken out of this conversation altogether and it starts with financial literacy.

Why financial literacy?  Majority of HBCU’s don’t have large endowments and they depend on donations from alumni along with other resources, but with alumni comes the issue and also the solution.  HBCU’s mostly consist of African American students who come from lower to upper middle income families.  Usually they are able to attend college through student loans, grants and scholarships (academic and athletic) and without this aid a lot of the students would not be able to afford higher education.  So here is how financial literacy can take HBCU’s out of the “elimination conversation.”
If majority of students at these universities and colleges depend on financial aid then one financial mistake small or large could lead to these students dropping out of college.  A student getting a credit card owing as little as $300 can cause them to drop out of college because they have no way of paying that debt off.  Students can lose a grant and that could lead to dropping out.  I met one student at North Carolina Central that before the fall semester even started she found out that she had lost an $800 grant and she did not know how she was going to get the money so she could start classes the next week.  She asked her mother and her mother could not help because she was struggling herself and just like that here was a student with a bright future at risk of dropping out.  I know that there are a lot of stories just like this one at HBCU’s all around the country and the result is the same. Dropping out.  The student dropping out not only hurts them, but it takes future alumni dollars out of the system making the institution vulnerable.  All universities and colleges must start to educate their students on how to handle money so that students can finish college and attain great paying careers.  HBCU’s much teach students not to spend their refund check, not to get credit cards, and not worry about a credit score because little mistakes like these can lead to a student being financially unstable.

I am sure that there are administrators, professors, student affair professionals, deans and so on who are wondering why should we focus on financial literacy?  Because you can’t afford not to!  The goal of financial literacy is not only to keep retention rates up, but it is truly to benefit the HBCU after the student graduates.  The 2012 college graduate left school with an estimated $26,000 in student loan debt.  This does not include the possibility that the student also had credit card debt or a car loan.  If it is not taught in college that DEBT SUCKS and that once you graduate that you need to pay off ALL debt as fast as you can then you end up with generation after generation that just lives a little bit better than paycheck to paycheck.  Alumni that live like this financially DO NOT AND CAN NOT give back to their alma mater leaving the alma mater to fend for itself.  This may not have been a problem in the past, but with state governments more and more cutting back in the budget when it comes to higher education the dependence on donations from alumni will only become greater.  So as you can see current and future alumni are the issue but they are also the solution, but it starts with financial literacy being stressed to them while they are students.  Trust that not a lot of higher ed institutions are taking on this mission and maybe they don’t have to, but as a HBCU alumni I am here to tell you that you can’t afford not to.  It is time to get off the chopping block and to show the world that you are not going ANYWHERE!

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Silently Suffering

A couple of weeks ago I attended the NACA (National Association For Campus Activities) Conference in Nashville Tennessee.  NACA is where colleges and universities from all around the country come to one place to hire performances for their campus for the upcoming semester while at the same time attending beneficial educational workshops. The campus representatives who attend are mostly students accompanied by an advisor.  This was my first National NACA so 99% of the students and student affair professionals were meeting me for the first time.  Majority of the performances that are for hire at NACA are music acts, magic acts, comedy, lecturers, etc so what I have to offer is completely different and at first not easy to understand. That is why I wear a t-shirt that says “DEBT SUCKS” on it because that is what I am about, I am about showing students that they don’t have to die in debt like so many people before them. They actually can be different from their parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, etc and get out of debt in a few years after graduation.   I did not start off my speaking career talking to college students but I actually started speaking to individuals who were in the average age range of 40-65yrs and the common sentence spoken at the end of my presentation no matter where I was at was “where were you when I was younger?”  It was said to me so much that I decided I need to go to where the people are younger and that is when I started speaking at colleges.  I went to NACA because it is the best way to get in front of a lot of universities and colleges in one place and when you are able to interact with close to 2500 people in a few days you are able to see a disturbing trend.

Students on a daily basis would walk past me, look at my shirt, and say DEBT does SUCK! Then I would speak to them one on one and quickly come to understand that their financial issues ran extremely deep and that they don’t even know where to start to get a handle of it.  A senior came up to me who was in $30,000 of debt which consisted of student loans, credit cards, and a car loan.  He said “we need you to come to our school, or better yet I just need your personal email because I need help.”  He went on to talk about he didn't know how he would pay off the debt after graduation and to make the situation more serious he had a baby on the way in June.  I met a young woman who wanted after graduation to work directly with young kids at risk and help them towards a more promising future, but she said that she would have to take a job that she didn't want to just to pay off the debt she had.  In her words “I will have to put off my dream for a few years until I can get a handle on my debt.” Another young lady stopped me in mid sentence and said “please don’t remind me of my debt.  I went to a different university before attending this one and racked up so much already.”  As she was speaking tears started to form in her eyes and I quickly told her it would be okay, but she shook her head and said “I don’t think so.”  I tried to help her in the two minutes we had to talk, but I could tell that she needed more and at this type of event that was not possible.

The examples go on and on, but the point of the stories above is that there are A LOT of students that are silently suffering because of debt and they need help, they need direction.  When I was in college which was not long ago no one cared about how much they owed because we all just said we will get to it after graduation, but these students don’t have the same care free option.  With tuition at some universities increasing as much as 40% since 2008 students are feeling the burden of debt before they graduate and to add insult to injury because of the 2008 recession the government has less money to give to universities for grants, etc.  When less money is coming in from the government then who makes up the difference in the money owed? That’s right, the student and their parents.  The good news is some universities are seeing the importance of financial literacy for their students and like the idea of someone who has been in massive debt, got out of it, and now is able to show others how to do the same. After NACA I recognized that I have to do a better job at explaining to Deans, Directors, Advisors, etc the importance of this information because there are students silently suffering and if they don’t go in the right direction they WILL BE graduates silently suffering who will be deep in debt living paycheck to paycheck and not the prosperous alumni that can give back to their alma mater.  My mission is to help as many college students as I can before they graduate so that they are able to live a life without debt.  A life without debt for these students will lead to a world that is changed for the better.

Thursday, November 15, 2012


Football and basketball season are in full gear!  A local football team Winston Salem State Rams just won the CIAA Championship and their basketball team as well as Wake Forests’ are hitting the hardwood running!  These players may be playing for college fans now, but some may be playing for fans in the professional arena in the near future.  Recently ESPN broadcasted its’ documentary “30 For 30 Broke” and it was about professional athletes who signed contracts for tens of millions of dollars and still ended up bankrupt and BROKE!  As I watched the documentary anger rose up in me, not because these athletes were wasting their money on toys, but because majority of the athletes had the money stolen from them by people they trusted.  I have known for years about millionaire athletes going broke such as Mike Tyson, Allen Iverson, Warren Sapp, Sheryl Swoops, etc but it wasn't until this documentary that it started to hit home.  The reason that it bothered me so much is that I know kids who could be in the same situation in a few years.  My husband has been coaching AAU (Amateur Athletic Union) boys’ basketball for six years now and the kids are seniors in high school.  Every one of these kids have signed to Division I schools for basketball and some of them have a real chance at making it to the NBA in a few years earning the same millions that these other athletes on this documentary lost.

Once the program was over I started to think that every other person watching probably was wondering to themselves “how could anyone lose millions of dollars?”  These athletes are just like everyone else who finds themselves in debt they just have more money to be in debt with.  People with hundreds or thousands of dollars are no different than these millionaire athletes when it comes to money management it is just to a different scale.  These athletes may have spent money buying new Bentleys, but the average middle class person is spending their money on a new BMW.  The millionaire athlete may have bought the mansion with the six extra bedrooms they didn't need, but the middle class homeowner is in the average household debt of $47,000 (credit cards, student loans, car loans, etc) and as a result they are falling behind on their mortgage, light bill, water bill, you name it and it is a late payment.  These athletes trusted the wrong accountants and financial advisors and all their money was misused or stolen, but the average middle class adult has purchased whole life insurance and their money is being misused just the same.

The problem is not the amount of money you make it is your behavior with that money (Financial Literacy) that gets you out of debt and creates generational wealth.  When we all learn that we don’t have to spend money we don’t have, buying stuff we don’t need to impress people we don’t like only then will wealth start to accumulate.  Majority of these athletes come from humble backgrounds so when they get these million dollar contracts they just sit back and let someone else handle their finances and it ends up costing them dearly.  Just like these athletes you have a salary that is much more than you had growing up and you have to be diligent on how you handle it or you could end up broke or worse just getting by for the rest of your life.  No one is going to care more about your finances than you will, so pay attention to what you spend and save whatever you can because only YOU can control your financial future!

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eating Healthy On A Budget

With all the recent talk about Medicare not being around in the future it is becoming imperative that those age 50 and under start taking better care of themselves.  This can be a challenge on many fronts, but two that come to mind are exercise and diet.  Exercising becomes difficult for most because of the lack of will power and determination.  It has been many times I have attempted to get up in the morning to exercise only to roll back over and go back to sleep.  Another enemy of exercising is time.  With the busy world we live in it is becoming more impossible to go to the gym or run around a track.

Now food is a different story all together because majority of people can control what they put in their mouths.  Instead of me eating that piece of pork bacon I could choose turkey bacon or instead of that 200 calorie frappucino that I love I could have a nice glass of calorie free water.  People who try to eat healthy often do find themselves fighting an uphill battle thanks to the inexpensive food and quick service at fast food restaurants.  I can get a cheeseburger and 32oz Sweet Tea for $2 in less than a minute!  Unfortunately sticking to this kind of diet will have me at a hospital in the future fighting for my life.  On the other hand it is a perception out there that eating healthy can be expensive.  So how do you eat healthy on a budget?   James Davis, a reader of the blog recently shared with me a link to a blog about eating healthy on a budget and it gave different foods to eat that are nutritious and not expensive. The article pointed out that the best buys were bananas, watermelons, broccoli, romaine lettuce, turkey and tuna.  It also pointed to eggs, but I would leave those out since eggs lead to high cholesterol.

There are other tips that will help you to eat healthier food.  One option is to buy local at farmer markets where the food is fresh and always cheaper than the store.  Buying local helps you give back to your community as well.  Another option is to buy produce in season because this is when the food is at its lowest cost.  You find yourself paying higher prices when you crave strawberries, etc out of season.  Think about growing some of your own food in your yard if you have one.  A garden is a great stress reliever or even a fun project for the kids to help with.  Last, but not least have a meal plan when you go to the grocery store because if you are able to save on other items you have the option to buy even more nutritious items for your home!  Let me know how you save on the food that keeps you healthy.  Now I must get back to my spaghetti made with whole grain noodles, ground turkey, and turkey sausage!  

Friday, August 3, 2012


My life’s purpose is to help people get out of debt and build generational wealth and I really love sharing the information I know with the working poor and the middle class because it will help them move up to the next level of the income bracket.  Lately I have been reading about how the income gap in America has widened and how the poor and middle class are suffering.  As I read these sometime heart breaking stories I say to myself “it will get better, it has to get better.”  Then I start to wonder what could be done to end this poverty problem and I am not talking about the homeless person you pass on the street, but that co-worker that has not eaten today because they want their kids to eat first.  How do we help those who are working as hard as they can and even with government assistance (which most don’t want) are still struggling to make ends meet?

I decided to take a look in the mirror and say what are you going to do with your gift to help those who are helping themselves, but still falling short?  The blog is a start, but not everyone is your friend on Facebook or Twitter and even more importantly most don’t have computers.  I do financial literacy presentations and workshops, but some of the people who need my help the most may not know about those events and may not have a car to get them there.  So what is the solution?  I think the solution is “it takes a village” and what I mean by that is those who attend my workshops to point out to them that I am only one person and I need them to take this information to family members, friends, co-workers, etc who they see working to make ends meet.  Even take the information to those middle class individuals who may not be struggling right now, but you see them making foolish decisions with their money that might land them in poverty with a job loss.  Sharing my information on financial literacy is a big step toward prosperity, but it is not nearly enough.  Here is where your gift comes into play and helps build up the village.

What do you do well?  I am not just talking about your 9-5, but what other talents do you have?  Are you someone who looks for a job and finds one in a month when the average is six?  Then show other job seekers your obvious superior methods for finding a career.  Are you someone who can cook anything put in front of you, make it delicious, and have leftovers for the rest of the week?  Your mission is to find those who are struggling to make the grocery budget stretch to the end of the month and show them how to cook low cost meals for their families that end up saving them money that could be used to pay a bill or better yet save for a rainy day!  Are you someone who is excellent in a subject such as math, english, etc?  Find those kids in your neighborhood (village) and help them out with their homework because it has been proven that the average college graduate will make $650,000 more in a lifetime than a high school graduate!  I think $650,000 would definitely move you up to a great tax bracket. As you can see we all can do our part to help others make it to that next level and you know what the best result out of all of this is that person you help will reach their hand down and help the next person and over time there will be no more working poor and the middle class will be thriving again.  IT WILL GET BETTER!  The real question that remains is what are you going to do to help your fellow man or woman?  They’re waiting!