02-19-2017  6:06 pm      •     

The National Urban League's economic empowerment agenda concentrates on four different areas — jobs, homeownership, entrepreneurship and wealth accumulation. If we ever expect to close the economic gap that exists between Blacks and Whites in the United States, our community needs to learn how to handle its finances. The success of the Urban League's agenda hinges heavily on how well people manage their money and make it work for them, instead of the other way around.
That is why we expanded a partnership with Citigroup to bring financial education services to more African Americans through our local affiliates. Initiated in 2004 and available in 13 cities as of now, the program has helped more than 3,000 people to date. It's just one of six different programs we've launched with several other partners – including Honda Financial, Freddie Mac, Allstate Corporation, the Investment Company Institute and Chrysler Financial. Altogether, more than $2 million is being spent to beef up financial literacy in the African American community.
The aim of our financial literacy efforts is to strengthen the social and economic fabric of the communities we serve through comprehensive, result-oriented programs tailored specifically for minorities who tend to possess less financial knowledge and financial market experience than Whites.
It equips African Americans with the ability to sort through the myriad of options out there and tailor a strategy that will most effectively serve them in light of their needs and goals. Currently, nearly 40 affiliates have been directly involved in our efforts but every one has been touched in some way or another. For example, our partnership with Allstate Corporation provides for the distribution of financial education materials to the entire affiliate network with no personal instruction.
As more and more African Americans make more money, buy their own homes and start their own businesses, they will have more disposable income to invest in the future of themselves, their children and grandchildren. It's not enough to get a job, purchase a home, start a business and take care of your children and their educational needs. We also have to think about building adequate nest eggs to carry ourselves through old age and to leave for future generations to build upon. Great wealth doesn't often happen overnight. It is carried down through generations. Our community needs to learn how to let money make money for us.
According to our 2006 State of Black America, the personal wealth of African Americans is one-tenth of that of Whites. And Blacks tend to concentrate the little wealth they have in their homes. In 2000, 61 percent of their net worth was tied up in their homes, twice the percentage of Whites, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. A mere 4 percent was invested in stocks and mutual funds, compared to 16 percent for Whites.
It's painfully obvious that African Americans are a lot more conservative than Whites when it comes to investing money in the stock market, which, when played wisely, can reap great rewards. We go for the safe choices – our homes, which, given the housing market as of late, aren't always the most lucrative places to put our money. We cannot hide from our finances just because they seem complicated and foreign to us. African Americans need to take the bull by the horns when it comes to their own financial education or risk squandering the nest eggs they're working so hard to build.
Where we also need to teach the value of financial literacy the most is with our children. The earlier we teach our children early on about the value of money and what it can do for them in the long run, the faster we'll close the economic gap.
Marc H. Morial is president and CEO of the National Urban League.

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  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
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