Butch Graves wants more black Americans to learn this four-letter word: Save.

Many in our community “still have yet to learn the harsh lessons that come with conspicuous consumption,” Graves, President and CEO of Black Enterprise said in his latest column, “Choose Wealth, Not Style.”

In his piece, Graves — son of Black Enterprise founder Earl Graves, Sr. — warns that African Americans are “driving in reverse” in their quest for the proverbial American Dream.  In 1984, white Americans had a net worth 12 times that of our community; Today, he says, that ratio is 20 to 1.

What does that mean in dollars? Graves breaks it down.

“The typical black household has roughly $5,700 in wealth compared with about $113,000 for the typical white household,” Graves said. “Moreover, more than a third of our households have zero or negative net worth versus about 15% for whites.”

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Graves also offers frank examples of the mistakes some of us still are making with our money in 2012 and, for those who need a review, he spells out the difference between net worth and wages and earnings.

“Depending on how finances are managed,” Graves says, “many professionals with six-figure incomes can — and do — have a negative net worth.”

Though Graves concludes that many of his contemporaries have overspent and failed to protect their investments “placing them and their families in a financial hole that will take years, if not decades, to climb out” he does have hope for the next generation.

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By shifting gears and learning from the mistakes of the last generation, Graves contends that “young people hold the best chance for getting on the road to building significant wealth and, in turn, sustaining this process to pass it on to future generations.”

Read More at Black Enterprise.