It's About the Money: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams

It's About the Money: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams

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by Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., Jesse L. Jackson
Rooted in the American dream, It's About the Money! is the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s program for helping every American become financially independent and self-sufficient. It offers the nuts and bolts of personal finance, including:

Getting out of debt
Preparing a budget
Building wealth through a regular program of


Rooted in the American dream, It's About the Money! is the Reverend Jesse Jackson and Congressman Jesse Jackson, Jr.'s program for helping every American become financially independent and self-sufficient. It offers the nuts and bolts of personal finance, including:

Getting out of debt
Preparing a budget
Building wealth through a regular program of saving and investing
Preparing for retirement
Avoiding financial scams
Dealing with major life events, such as sending children to college

The Reverend Jackson and Congressman Jackson believe that the message contained in It's About the Money! is the fourth step in the movement to freedom.The first three (emancipation from slavery, ending legal segregation, securing the right to vote) laid the basis for
the most contemporary stage: access to capital and financial independence. It's About the Money! includes many inspiring stories of people who have learned how to manage their money, save on a regular basis, and plan for the future by building a nest egg. Its message of financial empowerment is one that the Reverend Jackson will focus on and spread across the country in the year 2000: the need for every individual and family to become financially self-reliant. He will have strong support for this message through the African-American church network.

Editorial Reviews
A Review of It's About the Money! by the Honorable David Dinkins

The high-tech 21st century promises much, but one truism will continue: financial empowerment defines quality of life. Stimulating economic security is the core of It's About the Money!, the new personal finance blueprint from the Reverend Jesse Jackson Sr. and his son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr. Focusing on the critical details of household and family budgets, they stress the importance of building wealth. Their examples are solid, their programs are straightforward, and their advice is free from complex economic terms and theories that glaze over eyes with boredom and confusion.

For the Jacksons, financial empowerment represents a powerful advancement for all people, a direct link to the causes of abolition, civil rights, and universal suffrage. For them, fiscal autonomy is the fourth movement of the Freedom Symphony, the term they employ for building personal wealth and financial independence. The historic fights against slavery, Jim Crow, and ballot-box inequity now have a contemporary counterpart. Providing immediacy and encouragement, real-life individuals and community organizations are offered as examples, illuminating the avenues to economic freedom.

Do you feel that you are making less and spending more? Do you worry about debt and unreliable employment? These individual concerns are genuine, and together they can weaken the economic clout of an entire race. Does society recognize that African-American consumers contribute $500 billion to the economy? Half a trillion dollars annually? And that Hispanics account for $350 billion? The self-help program in It's About the Money! demonstrates how to make your money work for you, how to get a higher return on your capital, how to make smart investments in money market accounts and mutual funds or bonds, how to purchase real estate, and how avoid the burden of credit card debt.

Probably the greatest message of this capable, commonsense money guide is its core theme of saving, budgeting, and overall prudent monitoring of purchases. As the authors say repeatedly: "Don't spend for pleasure; use your money instead to build wealth." Their financial advice is very sound and practical throughout. Don't let your monthly expenses exceed your income. Use the financial markets and the Internet to help you create real wealth. Shop around for the best bank to avoid excessive fees and penalties, and use a credit union whenever possible to lower your costs. Start a business to gain even greater control of your financial future. Prepare wisely for your retirement with careful planning.

And, most importantly, foster a rich family legacy in money matters by instructing your children in the necessary lessons of financial empowerment and by investing in their education, assuring the development of their human capital. In the words of the authors: "Accumulating wealth -- as distinct from just making a big income -- is the key to your financial independence. It gives you control over your assets, power to help shape the corporate and political landscape, and the ability to ensure a prosperous future for your children and their heirs.... Income without wealth or a steady savings and investment is just flash without cash."

For many years both Jesse Jackson Sr. -- through his work with the Wall Street Project of the Rainbow/PUSH Coalition -- and his son, Congressman Jesse Jackson Jr., have sought to achieve economic parity for blacks by challenging the employment and contract awarding practices of big companies. Their latest project, this book, can be seen as a worthy extension of that work with its dual themes of financial prudence and empowerment. Yes, it's about the money if we as a community are to realistically compete in this nation and assert ourselves forcefully on its economic and political destiny. Control of our financial wealth can produce only positive, lasting benefits in a time when downsizing threatens many jobs, and poverty is seen as a minor inconvenience by many in political power.

In It's About the Money! the Jacksons have produced a most instructive and useful financial primer for African Americans, one that can guarantee that we not only live within our means but thrive as consumers and citizens in this complex, money-driven society.

David Dinkins, former mayor of New York City (1989-1993), has led a distinguished career as public servant and lawyer. He now teaches at Columbia University.

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Crown Publishing Group
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Read an Excerpt

An Excerpt from It's About the Money!


When I was a child growing up in Greenville, South Carolina, my grandmother Matilda Burns left a powerful imprint on me. She worked as a maid, cleaning people's homes, and didn't earn much. She didn't have a checking account, and she couldn't write. But she subsidized our family with her presence and her prudence. She took a little and did a lot with it, in the proud tradition that characterizes African American women in this country.

Grandma never believed in living on credit. She didn't owe anybody anything. She baked her own bread and biscuits. But always, always she taught us to save money as a cushion between yourself and disaster. She taught us to sacrifice for what is really important. A few times, as a child, I painfully watched her borrow $11 to pay back $22 between Christmas and Easter. I would see her go to work with runs in her stockings so that I could have matching socks and not be laughed at in school and discouraged. She sacrificed for an investment in my education.

"We're not poor," she used to tell us. "We just don't have enough money."

She made well enough do. "If you don't have enough meat, use what you have and make gravy," Grandma would say. "Stretch it out." If a mother has five children and two pork chops, she will not conclude that she has three excess children. She'll cut the pork chops up into five pieces and make gravy. These lessons endure.

My grandmother had a very strong commitment to the Lord. When we built a new church, my pastor, D. S. Sample, had a drive to raise money for the building fund. She stood and made her commitment to the building fund. Every Saturday, in her backyard, Grandma would fry fish and make ice cream; then my brother and I would deliver chitlins, rice, slaw, and greens to people's houses, until she raised her quota to build the new church. She was not able to write a check to the church: instead she lived her commitment, through her actions, and well enough, too. She stretched it out.

When my daughter, Santita, was born, rather than give her the usual gifts of baby clothes or toys, as our college friends did, my grandmother gave her a 25-cent-a-week insurance policy to help pay for her college education. She understood the value of investing in education and developing human capital.

Because of Grandma's strong influence on my life, when my wife, Jackie, and I were first married, we practiced sound principles of financial prudence. When we got our first apartment, we bought nothing on credit. We bought nice used furniture, waxed the floors, and used throw rugs. We went to the lumber company and got two doors and placed them on bricks close to the floor; then we put pillows on them and used it as a sofa. We had a music box for entertainment. It was cozy. It was ours. We were in no debt. And except when we finally bought our house and leased a car, we were very conscious of living just beneath our means.

When our five children came along, we invested in their education. We made that a priority, because we knew that if they had an education, nobody could take that away from them. They could go on to do great things. Jackie and I lived a high-risk life, involved in demonstrations and civil disobedience jailings, while we were in college, to break the shackles of legal segregation. But we knew that if either of us died, the best insurance for our children was to develop their intellect. I believe strong minds break strong chains.

On a personal level, that is where the impetus of this book came from: the values that I learned in my own family as it pertained to financial prudence, discipline, saving, and investing. Just as a squirrel stores nuts for the winter, so must we all carefully save and invest for the future.

This book must also be viewed in the historical context of the civil rights movement, to which I have devoted my life. I view the economic emancipation of African Americans as the fourth phase of an historic continuum. If I were to compose a four-movement Freedom Symphony, the first movement would be the emancipation of the slaves: a two-hundred-year battle, rooted deeply in our Constitution -- a season of walls that limited movement and roofs and artificial ceilings that limited growth. The second movement would be another one-hundred-year struggle to end legal segregation -- more walls and roofs. The third movement would be the enfranchisement of all Americans, eighteen and older, through the passage of the Voting Rights Act.

The fourth movement -- the final stage of the struggle -- would be access to capital, to resources, to financial leverage -- the democratization of capital. Hence this book. You could succeed at all the three previous movements, but if you didn't succeed at the fourth, you might starve. That's how crucial economic emancipation is. People of color and the working poor have won everything they've fought for: the right to organize, the right to form unions, and the end of racial and gender barriers as a matter of law. But we've not fought the battle for access to and democratization of capital. It's the ultimate battle. It's the unfinished business of our struggle to make this a more perfect union for all Americans, in which no one will be left behind.

Each phase of the civil rights movement had a how-to component. African Americans had to learn how to make the transition from slavery to freedom. We had to learn how to interact with whites on an equal footing in business, politics, education, and other realms of life, once segregation was ended. We had to learn how to participate as citizens in a democracy, voting in elections, when that had been denied us in the past.

The fourth phase -- economic emancipation of our people -- is no different. We must learn how to manage money and grow money in a capitalist society. We must learn how to be owners and entrepreneurs, shareholders rather than sharecroppers. We must learn how capitalism works and promote financial literacy among ourselves and our children. Failing to understand the role of money in a capitalist system is like being a fish that doesn't know how to navigate water.

This fourth phase is a continuation of Dr. Martin Luther King's vision. Dr. King's first assignment to me in 1966 was to serve as the national director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Operation Breadbasket, which was the economic wing of the organization. Reverend Leon Sullivan, pastor emeritus of Zion Baptist Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and founder of Opportunities Industrial Centers International, brought the idea of ministers fighting for jobs and rights, leveraging consumer strength, to Dr. King. I have been blessed to take it to some advanced stages. The church's role in expanding economic options is a powerful one.

We challenged the exclusion of African Americans and Hispanics from business and worked to open up franchises, loans, and investment for African American and Hispanic entrepreneurs. Eventually Operation PUSH and LULAC, a Hispanic organization, began to do joint negotiations. The cooperation between blacks and Hispanics must be expanded. Dr. King understood that equal opportunity required entry into the marketplace and access to jobs, education, and private investment.

Today we come to Wall Street to move corporate America through enlightened self-interest. It is in America's compelling national interest to tear down the walls that have limited growth and denied economic opportunity for all its citizens. Inclusion is the key to economic growth. Blacks, Latinos, women, and rural people in places like Appalachia need to be viewed not just as consumers in our society, but as people of diverse talents and training, with investment potential and underutilized skills.

Investors who speculate in emerging markets overseas too often forget that a far larger emerging market exists right here at home. African Americans as a group have $500 billion in purchasing power; Latinos have $350 billion. Let's harness the money, market, and talent that we have right here in America. Let's greenline redlined neighborhoods and rebuild scorched-earth communities. Let's create incentives to invest and hedge against risks at home, as we do abroad, to expand our economy. The new chains of slavery for the working poor are credit card abuse, using credit cards as a substitute for money and taking on excessive amounts of debt, on the one hand, then using lottery tickets or gambling boats as the plan for instant recovery.

This book is about building wealth. Our focus is on wealth, not just income, and this is a crucial distinction. It's not how much money you make that's important -- it's how much you keep. Income is how you make; wealth is how much you keep.

Excerpted from It's About the Money by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., with Mary Gotschall. Copyright © 1999 by the Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., and Jesse L. Jackson, Jr. Excerpted by permission of Times Books, a division of Random House, Inc. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.

Meet the Author

The Reverend Jesse L. Jackson, Sr., worked with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and served as national director of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference's Operation Breadbasket, the economic wing of the SCLC. He ran for president of the United States in 1984 and 1988, and is the founder of The Rainbow/PUSH Coalition's Wall Street Project and LaSalle Project. Congressman Jesse L. Jackson, Jr., represents the second district of Illinois. Prior to entering Congress, he served as the national field director of the National Rainbow Coalition. He has an M.A. in theology from the Chicago Theology Seminary and a J.D. from the University of Illinois.

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It's About the Money: How You Can Get Out of Debt, Build Wealth, and Achieve Your Financial Dreams 3.7 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 3 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A very good book written in everyday layman's language. This book is a must read for everyone, especially people of color, who must understand that our greatest challenge is closing the net worth divide between African-Americans and our Caucasian brothers.
Guest More than 1 year ago
This book,is written in a way that the people, He`s trying to reach,and teach, will gain a lot of wisdom,that they can use for life.
Guest More than 1 year ago
A total waste of time. I total waste of time and money. I feel like I just made Jesse more unearned money in his pocket