From saving for college and retirement to accumulating assets, building wealth is an arduous task for many African Americans.

Dr. Michael Eric Dyson moderates panel on money and wealth for African Americans (AFRO Photo/Christina Sturdivant)

Leading experts on wealth-building, financial planning and money management participated in a panel discussion on Sept. 17 entitled “Money, Wealth and Disparities: Mastering the Game,” during the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference.

Moderated by author, professor and commentator Dr. Michael Eric Dyson, panelists shared methods that African Americans of all ages can develop to improve their knowledge and money-management principles.

The growing millennial generation of African Americans has their entire lives ahead of them, said panelist Troy Simmons of Nationwide Insurance. “The decisions you make today will have an impact on how your life turns out down the road.”

From a professional perspective, this generation must seek out mentors, he said. They must also treat each day as if it’s “interview day,” he said. “People are watching you, evaluating you, and taking notes—make sure you come dressed to impressed.”

In terms of wealth building, Simmons encouraged involvement in equity markets such as purchasing stocks.

“There are so many of us who are concerned about not losing money that we don’t want to make money,” he said.

Goal-setting is also imperative, said Simmons. In order to plan ahead, panelist Pamela Everhart of Fidelity Investments in Boston encouraged getting organized.

“Know how much money is coming in and what you’re spending money on,” said Everhart, speaking particularly to women, whom she said often lack the confidence to speak about money.

“And then you need to own your future and take control of it,” she said, adding that women should not be afraid to engage financial planners, online tools and other resources for assistance.

The first half of the discussion also included panelist Reginald E. Humphrey of General Motors who offered tips on purchasing a vehicle such as building relationships with lenders, understanding your credit score and understanding what incentive programs actually offer.

Susan L. Taylor of the National CARES Mentoring Movement, detailed how she made smart financial decisions as editor of Essence for more than two decades.

“I took my lunch to work and saved my money over 27 years,” she said.

The discussion concluded with tips for mastery of wealth from Gloria Mayfield Banks, who is among the top 10 in sales in the country and the number one African-American sales director in the world for Mary Kay, Inc.

“Make strong decisions and have confidence,” she said. “Confidence is dynamic so you have to regain it at every single level.” Confidence must be enforced by belief in oneself, people skills and work ethic, she added.

If you want money, you must see it first, so “have vision and imagination.” Management is also important—not only of money, but emotions and skills, she said. Then, take stock of your image, “You have 7 seconds to make a good impression.”  

Passion is also important, she continued.

“You either live in pain or passion—if your money is pain, you better find you some passion,” she said. “No matter how educated you are, you must have discipline and always hustle. And lastly, be willing to sacrifice, “how many of you are willing to stay ‘stop’ for one year?”