Reading, Writing and Dividends

MellodyHobsonI always like to hear what Mellody Hobson, the brilliant and photogenic president of Chicago-based Ariel Capital Management has to say about money. Mellody recently made a speech at a conference in San Francisco and I listened to part of it before going to bed. The running time is just short of 45 minutes. She’s right in suggesting that investing should be part of standard school curricula.  Between pay cuts, the scarcity of company-sponsored pension plans and the gradual replacement of formal healthcare plans with high-deductible health savings accounts, skyrocketing college costs, and the realities of retirement, middle- and upper-class Americans are going to have to shoulder more and more HUGE expenses. Which means that they will have to be very smart about money.

For Black women (78% of whom are single if you believe Oprah) an education, gainful employment and financial health are more imperative now than ever. And since a lot of Black women are unwilling to do what I did (marry a white guy) figuring it all out solo is going to be a reality. And that’s OK. No judgements either way. And let’s be honest: Not all married women will stay married. Life is unpredictable and any married woman could eventually find herself divorced or widowed. There are times, especially when Hubby is driving and he turns half-way around in his seat, eyes off the road, to talk to Baby or Little Sister in the back seat that I think I’ll be a widow. (It drives me crazy! And makes me think I need to shop for 20-year term life policies, just to make sure there’s enough money to get the baby through college.)

Start by listening to Mellody, if for no other reason than to get you thinking about where you stand in the whole ‘investing’ world. I remember watching one of Mellody’s segments on Good Morning America on one of my days off between Christmas and New Year’s and she was talking about the ten financial new year’s resolutions that we should all stick to. I didn’t abide my all her advice, much less remember them, but I did do one thing: save your raise. Take that percentage increase in your salary after your next performance review and bank it. If you are disciplined with your spending and diligent with putting the money away, you won’t even miss it. I tried it, eventually, and she was right! It helped that I had direct deposit and worked for cheapskate company that offered measly pay increases, more like cost of living adjustments (COLA) that were just slightly above the rate of inflation. So it’s not like I was getting 10% raises and had to turn around and force myself to save all that dough instead of vacationing or taking writing classes or getting a bigger apartment. My raises were small, and so the impact of my savings were small.

Invest the time in listening to Mellody’s speech, and maybe into reading the article, too. The story appeared in a first-rate pensions industry publication called Pensions & Investments. According to the research that she diligently dug up about our investing habits, we are not nearly as engaged in the investing process as we should be. But financial health is still attainable. The key: get started early and stick with it.

As for the Latte Cafe angle, the last I heard and saw, film director George Lucas was still sweet on Mellody and they were still an item. But first things first. Listen to her speech and think about whether you and your family need to make any changes in the way you invest and manage your money.

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