Many African-Americans believe that being wealthy is beyond their reach because either you have to be born rich, or be fortunate enough to secure riches through your life experiences. Author Melvin B. Miller takes issue with this defeatist attitude. In his book, How to Get Rich When You Ain’t Got Nothing: The African-American Guide to Gaining and Building Wealth, he states that African-Americans indeed have the resources to become rich and prosperous. Obtaining wealth may not be easy, but it is possible through foresight and discipline. Director of the Boston Bank of Commerce and founder of the Bay State Banner, a weekly newspaper advocating the interests of Greater Boston’s African-American community, Miller argues that while the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965 provide African-Americans with legal remedies to social and political discrimination, “what remains is to develop the political clout and wealth to assure justice and equality for our progeny.”
In sixteen chapters, Miller outlines a strategy for becoming financially independent. Most financial gurus, including Miller, teach that the first and most important step in developing a financial plan is to prepare a detailed budget. Rather than simply listing all the bills you owe, however, Miller suggests listing all current expenditures to determine how you might spend less for every item. He calls this the “acid test,” because it forces you to confront the conflict between consumption and investment. Resisting the temptation to succumb to your personal desires for material items may be challenging, he says, but “visions of financial security may be a motivating spark.” Paying yourself first and developing ways to spend less on household expenses will prove gratifying as you initiate your savings and investment plan, Miller says. Before you develop a savings plan through investments in stocks, bonds and mutual funds, you must understand how to manage your money, Miller says. This is a “numbers game,” essentially a game of “counting pennies,” he writes. He recommends monitoring every purchase you make for three months, a practice that will allow you to determine whether you are getting the most mileage out of the dollars you spend.
As you take practical steps to become rich, be wary of abuses, such as overspending on goods and services, Miller warns. He suggests such practices as comparing prices at several stores before purchasing major items, researching reputable contractors and educating yourself about purchasing and obtaining an equitable mortgage. Miller emphasizes the importance of education in the pursuit of economic prosperity, advising readers to maintain a quest for knowledge as the economy becomes more technology- and information-based, and further preparing yourself to be more qualified to overcome racial disparities in employment.
Miller provides brief but comprehensive chapters on finding a job and on entrepreneurship, with its attendant rewards and pitfalls. In the chapter entitled “The Hidden Enemy,” he addresses the constant battle with inflation in the pursuit of wealth. The classic way to beat inflation, he advises, is to have a portion of funds invested in stocks.
Subsequent chapters deal with obtaining and managing assets, such as the home you purchase; becoming familiar with the stock markets; knowing the difference between stocks and bonds; considering mutual funds as an investment strategy and the importance of a life insurance policy. Miller also discusses retirement plans and the importance of preparing these early, whether through your employer or on your own. The chapter titled “Your Financial Advisor,” is especially useful in directing investors to seek appropriate professional help. Nine effective appendixes provide information on state and federal resources for adult education, employment, franchise opportunities, programs for small- and minority-owned businesses, and mutual funds, as well as a list of the regional Securities and Exchange Commission offices.
How to Get Rich When You Ain’t Got Nothing: The African-American Guide to Gaining and Building Wealth is an easy read, particularly for the novice investor. Rather than overwhelm the reader with intimidating charts, data and statistical information, Miller has chosen plain language and illustrations to explain investing as a simple and rewarding task.
How to Get Rich When You Ain’t Got Nothing: The African-American Guide to Gaining and Building Wealth
Author: Melvin B. Miller
Publisher: Amber Books
Reviewed by Patrice Toombs