A few months back, I had the opportunity to view a film called “Black Heirlooms” which chronicles the financial and emotional impact that a lack of proper estate planning has had one African-American family’s legacy of love and community.
Watching the short documentary was so moving that it inspired me to speak to my 74-year old mother about her affairs. Luckily, I learned that she is set in terms of a drafted and updated will, her plot is paid for, and she showed me where she has put the paperwork.
I did not ask about my father because I did not grow up with him, although I know where he is. It will take a lot of emotional strength for me to do this but I promised myself that I would pick up the phone this week and call Antigua to see what’s up with his affairs and what role, if any, I am supposed to play in handling his final wishes.
But my reality is not uncommon: black children being raised by single-moms. So, when the discussion about how families can ensure that wealth is organized and passed down to the next generation, I look to black women to serve as a central part of the equation.
African-American women are the financial pillars of their families, whether they like it or not, whether they plan for it or not. According to a 2013 Prudential Financial study called “The African-American Financial Experience,” compared to women overall, African-American women are significantly more likely to be decision makers of their households. Also, African-American women, compared to other groups, are more likely to carry the financial responsibilities of the household on a single income and head more multi-generational households.
So, how can Black women take the lead in closing the wealth gap in our community? I think we can start from the beginning— by starting to have conversations about the inevitable interplay of death, family, property, and wealth in our community sooner rather than later and filling the gaps in our own financial acumen.
So, this week, schedule a Saturday afternoon;
- Sign-up for a class that teaches about estate planning, financial self-awareness, and the importance of intergenerational wealth;
- Make sure you have taken care of your financial basics: emergency fund, retirement, and eliminated debt. If not, set plans in place to lay this financial foundation.
- Update your beneficiaries
- Speak to your spouse (or begin the process yourself) about organizing files,
- Read up on living trusts or wills via the internet or a book from the library
- Get comfortable with the fact that we all are going to die, so preparing for it will make the grieving process easier for those loved ones that are left behind.
- Contact an estate attorney to discuss first steps.
- Speak with your elders about the state of their affairs.
BMWK Family—What do you think? Can black women play a central role in building intergenerational wealth?