Do I Look Like an ATM?: A Parent's Guide to Raising Financially Responsible African American Children

Do I Look Like an ATM?: A Parent's Guide to Raising Financially Responsible African American Children

by Sabrina Lamb


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Nominated for:
45th NAACP Image Awards, Outstanding Literary Work--Instructional
With step-by-step advice and exercises for African American parents and their children, this guide to fiscal responsibility sets out to establish new financial behavior so young people will avoid the personal economic problems that have plagued the culture. This book guides parents through a self-examination of their financial habits, and by performing the exercises included in this book and having candid discussions with their children, parents can become engaged citizens in the world of money. With new financial traditions and a better understanding of money and its meaning, the next generation will realize the true power of wealth and use their money wisely.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781613744055
Publisher: Chicago Review Press, Incorporated
Publication date: 03/01/2013
Pages: 224
Sales rank: 867,246
Product dimensions: 5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.30(d)

About the Author

Sabrina Lamb is the founder and chief executive officer of the, a leading provider of financial education for underserved youth in the New York City tri-state area. She has written for Ebony, Essence, Heart and Soul, and Black Elegance. She lives in New York City.

Read an Excerpt

Do I Look Like an ATM?

A Parents' Guide to Raising Financially Responsible African American Children

By Sabrina Lamb

Chicago Review Press Incorporated

Copyright © 2013 Sabrina Lamb
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-61374-408-6


Assessing the Situation

"Children have never been good at listening to their elders, but they have never failed to imitate them." — James Baldwin

YOUR CHILD IS already aware of the quality of your money management skills. He may not know the balance in your savings account or if you have been investing in a mutual fund, but your child is very intuitive. Since his birth, your child has observed your emotions about money and your relationship to it. Money had his attention as soon as the little cupcake figured out what it could do, and ever since money and its power have captured his imagination.

Parents owe their children the opportunity to be financially literate and self-reliant at a very early age. This trait is especially important given the fact that there will be roller-coaster economic cycles. Those who will be most stable are the individuals who learn very early on how to earn, manage their finances, and examine their money personalities.

* What Is My Child's Money Personality?


1. My child only wears designer clothing and shoes. ____ ____
2. My child gives his/her money away to friends. ____ ____
3. My child saves every penny he/she earns. ____ ____
4. My child has stolen money. ____ ____
5. My child does not remember what gifts he/she received last Christmas. ____ ____
6. My child becomes angry if he/she is refused money. ____ ____
7. My child receives an allowance. ____ ____
8. My child has his/her own business. ____ ____
9. My child is curious about investing. ____ ____
10. My child's first words were "Gimme gimme." ____ ____
11. My child loves to make bank deposits. ____ ____
12. My child has asked, "How may I earn?" or "Can I get a job?" ____ ____
13. My child has been deceptive about a money issue. ____ ____
14. If my child has money of his/her own, he/she is reluctant to spend it. ____ ____
15. My child is eager to collect monies or goods to help the needy. ____ ____
16. My child believes money is a tool of the devil. ____ ____

* What Is My Child's Money Personality? Scoring Guide

First, know that no matter what result you calculate, that score does not mean your child possesses entrenched values. With your guidance, influence, and financial education, your child's relationship can be channeled in the direction that will benefit his or her future.

Your totals point toward those traits that your child may have developed under your nose or as a result of your influence. The quiz will also reveal which of your child's money traits may need nurturing.

Of course, as a parent, you hope that your child has the personality of a saver and philanthropist. But those characteristics must be nurtured to ward off the selfish, impulsive, spendthrift tendencies of most children.

Answer Points

1. Yes = 1, No = 2
2. Yes = 1, No = 2
3. Yes = 2, No = 1
4. Yes = 1, No = 2
5. Yes = 2, No = 1
6. Yes = 1, No = 2
7. Yes = 2, No = 1
8. Yes = 3, No = 1
9. Yes = 3, No = 1
10. Yes = 1, No = 2
11. Yes = 3, No = 1
12. Yes = 3, No = 1
13. Yes = 1, No = 2
14. Yes = 1, No = 2
15. Yes = 3, No = 1
16. Yes = 1, No = 3

32-38: Excellent

Your child is demonstrating the traits of a millionaire mindset. Congratulations! With careful nurturing and financial education, continue to encourage your child to build toward a financially secure life.

26-31: Good

While your child is off to a good start, she could be encouraged to take on added money management responsibilities and to learn more along with you.

20-25: Fair

Your child's perceptions and behaviors are too close to the danger zone for comfort. Any major event or influence could sway him toward ignoring the power of money or becoming entrenched in greed.

16-19: Toxic

Without immediate analysis and behavior modification, your child's attitudes or outside influences could negatively impact the quality of her life and that of your family's financial culture.

Akil's Story

In 2006, eighteen-year-old Akil, a student at the Youth Financial Education Institute, said angrily, "I'm getting ready to go out on my own, and nobody ever taught me anything about money. Until now, I didn't know anything about this stuff."

Jeff Gardere, PhD, coauthor of Practical Parenting, believes, "Though it sounds emotionally heavy, parents do owe it to their children to teach them how to be financially literate and responsible at a very early age. This is especially important given the fact that there are going to be challenging financial times for the foreseeable future. Both parents and children need to build a financially secure foundation. And in spite of what the media reports about our economic health as a nation, families can still prosper if they take corrective action to do so."

In "Boosting Financial Literacy in America: A Role for State Colleges and Universities" (Perspectives, American Association of State Colleges and Universities, Fall 2010), Thomas Harnisch discusses the urgent reasons your children must be taught personal finance. Harnisch writes, "Low levels of financial literacy may lead to poor health, decreased quality of life, and lower college attainment levels. Plus, the cost of poor financial decision-making and planning often gets shifted to the community, state, and nation through higher prices for financial products, and greater use of public 'safety net' programs."

A lack of basic understanding of the world of money can lead to emotional stress, depression, apathy, and dependent behavior. And when these things become entrenched in one's family and children over a generation, the results are debilitating, creating aimless, frustrated young adults. If children do not have a clear sense of the importance of the world of money and if the basics are only brought to their attention during a crisis, they will not know how to respond to and navigate life's economic roller coasters.

Laura Levine, executive director of Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, noted, "The lack of financial knowledge and ability among America's youth is also a serious problem that is not going to improve on its own. Additional emphasis needs to be placed on teaching personal finance concepts in schools, to prepare young people for their lives as independent consumers rather than waiting to offer remedial financial education after they have begun to make mistakes."

While that is true, a child's first financial instruction, whether positive or negative, occurs in the home. Parents and youth cannot wait for the government to provide financial education. Perhaps you were never taught about the world of money. Your parents and grandparents may have unconsciously passed down negative behaviors regarding money to your generation. Some of us may feel shame, depression, and anger about our present financial status. We may spend money to feed our low self-esteem or to try to impress others who are probably more broke than we are. These disturbing tendencies are then adopted by our children. Our children begin to believe that they are valued by how much money they can spend and whose logo they wear on their bodies.

Taught frivolous spending, our children will whine and resist all notions of community service and philanthropic donation. Children will grow to believe that they should only serve their communities if they receive a measurable benefit in return. Further, our children may despise or become jealous of the financially successful, or they may camouflage their fear of money by hurling insults at those who are wealthy.

How did we ever enter into these toxic relationships with money when it's really just a tool for basic survival? Members of the black community are often characterized as poor, downtrodden, underprivileged, and disadvantaged. And while that may be true for some individuals, no community that is projected to spend $1.1 trillion annually by 2012, exceeding the gross domestic products of Spain and Canada, could ever be considered poor.

Marketing Forecast also reports that the top five categories of expenditure were goods that have zero appreciative value: rental housing, food, cars, clothing, and health care. It is not being suggested that blacks are sitting on piles of cash, but what is clear is that in far too many instances, the cash available is not being used to create even a modest financial cushion.

Furthermore, without financial education, blacks are far more likely to be subject to high interest rates, high insurance costs, and expensive food from substandard supermarkets. It is often argued that the focus for fiscal responsibility must be aimed at government and Wall Street. That may be true, but while we are waiting for squabbling politicians to bridge a compromise, we as parents have the opportunity to bail ourselves out.

Starting now.

* The Life of a Financially Empowered Child

The issues of financial security and financial education are of paramount concern to many parents of African American children. In the wake of a tumultuous economy, parents are struggling to empower themselves but, at the same time, are at a loss regarding how to raise financially responsible children.

According to the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, African Americans' level of financial education lags behind that of whites, and the gap is steadily growing. This report is substantiated by Target Market News research of African American buying power, which topped $803 billion in 2008. Rental housing led purchases (with $166.3 billion), followed by food ($65.3 billion), cars/trucks ($31.5 billion), apparel products/services ($26.9 billion), health care ($17.9 billion), insurance ($16.6 billion), telephone services ($14.0 billion), housewares ($596 million), sports/recreation equipment ($475 million), and books ($257 million). None of the aforementioned products retain the retail cost value of the initial purchase. What these numbers reveal is that African Americans tend to wield their tremendous buying power on products with little or zero monetary value. The relative paucity of investments in savings, retirement, or investment vehicles held by blacks contributes to the growth of gaping wealth disparities.

Not only are African Americans less likely to own retirement accounts or investment securities, members of this community are far less likely to own homes, which remains the largest engine of wealth creation for most Americans. And when they do own homes, they tend to have less equity in them, in large part because they live in communities where prices appreciate more slowly. These outcomes are a result of a lack of financial education.

Money is a metaphor for the power, or lack thereof, one feels in the world. Show me an adult who abuses money, and I will show you an adult who feels vulnerable. Many African Americans possess a dysfunctional belief that their ability to spend reflects their acceptance by mainstream society. The spending habits of many African Americans reflect a deep-seated pathology, one that leads to flying through life financially blind.

The problem stems from the fact that young black people are less likely than their white counterparts to receive money management education in school or from their own parents. Following the behavior patterns of their parents, African American youth are more likely than their white peers to use credit and debit cards. Furthermore, black youth are least likely to have part-time or summer jobs in high school, thus depriving them of opportunities to become familiar with earning money before they reach adulthood. By that time, their white counterparts have gained a head start in practicing and learning valuable financial-literacy skills. Money management is not a predominant aspect of the African American culture; for generations, advocacy has focused more on civil rights than on "silver" rights.

African Americans, in general, perform better in the area of spending — rather than saving — when compared to any other racial group. The emphasis on consumption by African Americans is unconsciously passed down through generations and shows little signs of abating. The Selig Center for Economic Growth, which chronicles consumer buying power, points out that blacks spent a larger percentage of their income on natural gas, electricity, telephone services, and footwear, and a higher proportion of their money on groceries, housing, and women's and girls' clothing than other ethnic groups. Admittedly, food, clothing, electricity, and telephone service are necessities. But studies show that African Americans still set aside only a small portion of their incomes for a rainy day. According to a study commissioned by Prudential Financial, only 20 percent of African Americans believe that they are on track to meet their savings goals for retirement, and nearly 40 percent report that they have not begun. Even with their unconscious spending, 60 percent of African Americans surveyed have less than $50,000 in company retirement plans, and only 23 percent have more than $100,000.


Origins of Resistance

If your child tells you that she doesn't want to learn how to use money positively ... then tell her, until she does, to stop using yours.

USING HER DISTRAUGHT mother as a living ATM, seventeen-year-old Monica insists on wearing only designer clothing. When asked how her college was going to be paid for, she quipped, "I'm not worried about it. My mother got me." Her mother's professional network tried to help provide employment for Monica, but she has been fired from three positions for tardiness and insubordination. Monica believes that employers need to stop being so controlling: "It's just a job." Nathan has had a similar experience. He dropped out of high school, works part-time at a local bodega, and is paid cash off the books. He receives public assistance because of his alleged disability and at age sixteen has two children with two different teenage girls. Nathan wears diamond studs in both ears, owns an iPod and iPhone, and drives a late-model Cadillac Escalade. He lives with his aunt in a housing project.

Before I founded the Youth Financial Education Institute, I surveyed parents for their opinions about creating an organization dedicated to the financial education of children. Frankly, I was stunned by the remarks parents offered: "Kids aren't interested in nothing like that." "Parents don't want their children to know nothing about money; they are too busy spending it to teach it." "The love of money is a sin." "Money is for rich people."

Other naysayers expressed an irrational belief that there was something wrong with children knowing too much about money, and some thought that this subject should be reserved for wealthy people, for whom some parents expressed distrust. Other responses broke down along racial lines, with some expressing the belief that those outside of the African American community were more adept in their relationships with money.

Last year, while speaking for nearly an hour with a legendary television broadcaster, I shared how empowered I believed his audience could become through a program about the urgency of financial education. This popular television host flatly refused, saying that he would rather keep his program's focus on how white people established the entire financial system and then set about to rip off African Americans. He believed that people of color had been oppressed by Wall Street and that wealthy people, by and large, were not to be trusted.

When I discussed the enormous economic power of the African American community and how all parents wanted to learn how to teach their children how to harness that power, he adamantly refused to move his audience toward a conversation about financial independence. During his thirty years on the air, this popular host refused to produce one segment or program on the urgency of financial education. This gentle giant quipped during one conversation, "We must focus solely on white people and all that they have taken for four hundred years from people of African descent. We must continue to hold them accountable." In essence, he preferred to keep his vast audience ignorant and disenfranchised on this subject. He remained determined to rest complete financial responsibility in the hands of white people. While not denying the historical atrocities experienced by black people, one must not ignore that today there are financial measures that African Americans can take to empower their families.


Excerpted from Do I Look Like an ATM? by Sabrina Lamb. Copyright © 2013 Sabrina Lamb. Excerpted by permission of Chicago Review Press Incorporated.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.

Table of Contents

Introduction: Wake-Up Call 1

1 Assessing the Situation 11

2 Origins of Resistance 23

3 The ATM Generation 33

4 The Financial Bamboozle 41

5 The Problem with the Joneses 49

6 The Road to Travel 69

7 Remaking the Mold 87

8 Growing the Family Estate 141

9 Seizing Control 149

10 The Family as a Business 173

11 Invaded Nesters 183

Closing Bell 193

Acknowledgments 195

Financial Words Every Young Person Must Know and Understand 197

Recommended Resources 201

Index 207

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