The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires

The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires

by Dennis Kimbro


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It's no secret that these hard times have been even harder for the Black community.

Approximately 35 percent of African Americans had no measurable assets in 2009, and 24 percent of these same households had only a motor vehicle. Dennis Kimbro, observing how the weight of the continuing housing and credit crises disproportionately impacts the African-American community, takes a sharp look at a carefully cultivated group of individuals who've scaled the heights of success and how others can emulate them. Based on a seven year study of 1,000 of the wealthiest African Americans, The Wealth Choice offers a trove of sound and surprising advice about climbing the economic ladder, even when the odds seem stacked against you. Readers will learn about how business leaders, entrepreneurs, and celebrities like Bob Johnson, Spike Lee, L. A. Reid, Herman Cain, T. D. Jakes and Tyrese Gibson found their paths to wealth; what they did or didn't learn about money early on; what they had to sacrifice to get to the top; and the role of discipline in managing their success. Through these stories, which include men and women at every stage of life and in every industry, Dennis Kimbro shows readers how to:

· Develop a wealth-generating mindset and habits

· Commit to lifelong learning

· Craft goals that match your passion
· Make short-term sacrifices for long-term gain
· Take calculated risks when opportunity presents itself

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9781137279149
Publisher: St. Martin's Publishing Group
Publication date: 06/03/2014
Edition description: Reprint
Pages: 304
Sales rank: 54,894
Product dimensions: 6.10(w) x 9.10(h) x 1.00(d)

About the Author

Dennis Kimbro is the author of four books, including Think and Grow Rich: A Black Choice, and is a certified Napoleon Hill Science of Success trainer and leadership coach. Kimbro's motivational lectures have influenced the boardrooms of General Motors, Walt Disney, Frito-Lay, and Wells Fargo. He has appeared on such shows as the Today show and Larry King Live, and has been featured in Success, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and USA Today. Kimbro is listed in Who's Who in Black America and is the former director of the Center of Entrepreneurship at Clark Atlanta University.

Read an Excerpt

The Wealth Choice

Success Secrets of Black Millionaires

By Dennis Kimbro

St. Martin's Press

Copyright © 2013 The Napoleon Hill Foundation
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-1-137-32413-9




The Second Law of Wealth

The greatest of evils and the worst of crimes is poverty. Our first duty, a duty to which every other consideration should be sacrificed, is not to be poor. — George Bernard Shaw

The Wealth Choice began years ago, as scribbles on scraps of paper, before morphing into a PowerPoint lecture that I used in an MBA class. From there, with the help of U.S. Census Bureau, Federal Reserve, and U.S. Trust Survey data, I developed a one-page questionnaire for my survey participants. I tried to make the pool of respondents as authoritative, comprehensive, and objective as humanly possible, given the constantly shifting ground beneath the data. I do recognize, however, that no matter how rigorous the research, any respondent list is but a snapshot in time. My goal was to move beyond anecdotes of crucial career events and wise money moves and highlight the underlying factors that spell financial success. What emerged was a surprising set of habits and disciplines from a diverse body of people. At this point, I had the material collated by industry, gender, and net worth. This project eventually grew into bound pages of notes that begged for empirical qualitative analyses. Based on an 18-page, 118-question survey as well as crates of data, endless coding, personal interviews, and focus groups, I was able to piece together a composite picture of Black America's wealthiest — the top 1 percent of wage earners — that flies in the face of conventional wisdom. To keep the search moving, I cast a broad net, combing the country for Black men and women who had attained millionaire status.

Since the goal of this research was to secure at least 1,000 responses — a significant statistical representation — I collected names and data from many sources and utilized a network of professional associations and organizations. Individual surveys were confidential, held in complete anonymity, and reported in aggregate form only. Respondents did not sign the survey. In short, there was little need for me to know any proprietary information. Although the eventual choice of respondents was a decidedly statistical objective call, in order to remain true to the core data, I decided early on to omit athletes, celebrities, and entertainers, a subject that I will address in full detail later. I felt that if I were to crack the code on Black millionaireship, it would be best to focus on those participants whose wealth wasn't fleeting or temporary. This book is not about conspicuous consumption or high-tech bling. Instead, I chose to focus on the types of personal choices and decisions that are informed and driven by specific values.

When all was said and done, the project required not only seven years of random face-to-face interviewing, crunching numbers, and countless computer runs but ongoing field research and the subsequent write-up as well. Clearly I had touched a nerve. It turns out that respondents — even high-net-worth candidates, those with in excess of $5 million — wanted to think about, learn about, and talk about what this group of men and women know that others do not. I spoke directly with three of Black America's five billionaires and darn near 500 millionaires, not to mention their handlers. My ultimate objective is to highlight how you, the reader, can create your own fortune. It would be of little to no use to discover that your relationship with your parents or your childhood experiences failed to match some standard millionaire's profile. More important are the segments of the equation you can control — namely, the habits and strategies that you can emulate. To this end, the final chapter offers a chance for a bit of self-assessment. Armed with the knowledge that self-made millionaires display a tendency toward certain character traits and adhere to the laws of wealth, you can strive to correct any shortcomings and strengthen those traits within your own personality.

What distinguishes the haves from the have nots are not key connections, superior intelligence, or wealthy parents — although those advantages seldom hurt — but rather the nine disciplines discussed in this book. The affluent African American is not the son or daughter of the boss. Nor is he or she likely to feature an IQ in the ninety-ninth percentile.

The vast majority of Black millionaires profiled in this study began their careers like most others — with a solid education, tons of ambition, and precious little relevant experience. Like accumulating compound interest, these men and women achieved financial success slowly and consistently. The story of how Black men and women became millionaires, and how that event influenced their lives, takes nothing away from the mystery that surrounds the rich. But it does offer a lesson. These individuals did not necessarily set out to achieve material success; they just worked hard in a field in which they could apply their talents and gifts. Before they knew it, they were standing in a pool of liquid gold. Or, as one respondent shared, "I've heard that money changes you. That's why, though I am grateful for the blessings of wealth, it hasn't changed who I am. My feet are still on the ground. I'm just wearing better shoes."


As The Wealth Choice reflects, I discovered the inner workings of Black America's most affluent as well as the habits and attitudes of those who join the millionaires' club. For example, did you know:

• The average Black millionaire is a 52-year-old male nearly 12 percent, and growing, female; born in the Northeast and Midwest; the majority raised in a home where both parents were present; more often than not their mother was a housewife

• Average net worth: $4 million

• Average income of parents: $10,000 to $20,000 per year

• Married 15 to 20 years

• Children: two plus

• College degree: approximately 69 percent

* SAT score: greater than 1,000 (earlier version)

* College GPA: male: 2.9; female: 3.4

* Major: 52 percent business majors; 20 percent MBA

• Daily routine

* Rise 5:30 a.m.; retire by 11:00 p.m.

* Exercise: 3.5 hours per week; golf and tennis most popular with men and golf, tennis, aerobics, yoga, and gardening most popular with women

• Cars: four plus (Mercedes or Lexus; General Motors or Ford)

• Church habits

* Attendance: twice per week at churches with fewer than 2,500 members

* Donations: women tithe; men give 10 to 15 percent of their earnings to charity

• How they made their money? 90 percent entrepreneurship; 30 percent real estate

• Smartest money move? "Diversifying my portfolio": 31 percent. "Buying a home": 26 percent

• Investment strategy: stocks, mutual funds; "Earn it, grow it, give it away!"

• Best way to get rich? "Start a business": 30 percent

• Savings plan: 10–20 percent of income

• Average credit card debt: $2,500

• Appraised value of home: $200,000 to $299,000

• Average debt not including mortgage: Less than $10,000

• Definition of success: "Ability to effect change and the capacity to enjoy their work"

• What money means to them: "Freedom and security"

• Most important public policy issue facing Black America: economic development and education

• Golden rule to Black millionaireship: earn six figures ($100,000) or more by age 30

To say the least, this was a far cry from what I expected to hear concerning the creation of wealth and success. And now, in city after city, in hotel suites and meeting halls across the country, over soft drinks, cocktails, and coffee, I was finally given full access — the opportunity to discover the keys to financial success — in short, the million-dollar secret that unfortunately has eluded mine and previous generations. I had been given the chance to hear the answers to a host of questions that I had asked over the course of my adult life, answers that I am more than willing to share with a waiting audience.

To quote the American novelist and journalist Ernest Hemingway, when friend and fellow writer F. Scott Fitzgerald observed that the rich are different from you and me: "Yes, they have more money." And here lies the heart of the issue: What is the difference between you, the reader, and Victor MacFarlane, the California-based real estate developer who currently boasts a net worth in excess of $300 million? Between you and Oprah Winfrey? Between you and Lisa Price, the famed female entrepreneur who launched Carol's Daughter? Or between you and Daymond John of FUBU; Dave Steward of World Wide Technology; Sheila Johnson Lee, the team president and managing partner of the WNBA Washington Mystics and the first woman to manage three different sports franchises; or the hundreds of Black millionaires surveyed for this book? Why do some people generate wealth while others face a life of financial struggle? Is the difference found in their education, intelligence, skills, work habits, contacts, luck, or vocation?

So who are these wealth creators and what do they stand for? They believe in hard work, and they invest in themselves and constantly work toward self-improvement. They are more likely to place emphasis on receiving financial gain from their work and do not allow failure to deter them. And they don't waste their hard-earned money on the indulgences of the very rich; rather, they live and spend according to middle-class values. These are individuals who are driven by an unwavering aim; who cut their way through the opposition and forge to the front; who, in this information age, where everything is push or be pushed, dare to hold their ground and push hard. What are stumbling blocks to the poor and defeated are but stepping-stones to the strong and determined; poverty and humble birth do not bar the progress of men and women with the grit to seize their chance.

For those who believe that millionaire status isn't what it used to be, I suggest that you speak to the 35,000 Black millionaires — an all-time high — who boasted a net worth of $1 million or more in 2009, excluding the value of their primary residence. Well, that's what I've done. I asked — not all 35,000 but a representative sample. Enough to realize that both Hemingway and Fitzgerald were correct in their assessment in more ways than one. If I learned anything over the course of my seven-year study, I've discovered that despite our enduring fascination with those we classify as rich or high net worth, most of us misunderstand wealth. We mistake the trappings of money for genuine affluence. In a culture that encourages living above your means, Black millionaires work extremely hard, save their money, hold dear to their values, and plow their profits back into their business and/or vocation. In a nutshell, that's why they're millionaires. Needless to say, this image runs counter to how the masses view the well-to-do. More than intellect, education, or luck, discipline is the key to joining the ranks of this elite class.


Without considering temporary setbacks and extraordinary fortunes of inheritance or luck, if you wish to know how average individuals feel about themselves, look at their bank accounts. Money, or the lack thereof, is the greatest measurement of your mind-set. The age-old maxim that water seeks its own level also applies to income. Money will meet you where you are. Or, stated another way, your net worth will equal your self-worth. More than just a clever quip, the statement is a wise truth — and a stark reality for some. Money is neither good nor bad; it is only a resource. Money is the instrument of exchange for valued production and is earned only by the producer. The accumulation of wealth is accomplished only by consistent applied effort and discipline. Money possesses an energy of its own, and it is largely attracted to those who understand its value and respect its power. Although there are exceptions to every rule, money tends to flow to those individuals who can use it in the most effective and productive manner and who can invest it to create opportunities that will benefit others. It takes money to acquire food, shelter, and clothing. It takes money to build schools, churches, and institutions. It takes money to purchase cars, homes, and education as well as all of life's magical moments.

Money is not acquired, as many believe, by fortunate speculation or foolhardy enterprises but by the daily practice of faith, family, and hard work. Those who rely on these values will rarely be destitute, and those who succumb to thoughts of lack and limit will generally be broke. At some point in time, as this study points out, the wealthy break away from the crowd and ignore conventional wisdom to journey into the unknown armed only with their creative imagination and courage of conviction. Optimism, curiosity, creativity, and drive are universal qualities found in the profile of the "average" millionaire. Most in this study did not begin in pursuit of fame and fortune; they focused on solving a problem or by pouring themselves into the task at hand. Whether churchgoers or not, Black millionaires emerge from a culture shaped by spiritual values. The optimism and trust, the commitment and faith, the discipline and altruism that their lives reveal and their works require can flourish only in the midst of a moral order with spiritual foundations.

Over the course of seven years, I have found the Black wealthy to be constant learners and calculated risk takers unafraid to attempt new ideas, even at the risk of appearing foolish to their peers. Their financial windfall is the byproduct of these qualities. When money flows freely and circulates, it blesses humanity. But when hoarding, squandering, or abuse interrupts the circulation, money becomes a curse. In itself, money does not increase the personal merit of its possessor. It is not a sign so much as a test of real worth. It constitutes opportunity and means for either virtue or vice. Its faithful use or foolish abuse determines the owner's character.


If you asked the average person what it takes to become a millionaire, he or she would probably cite a number of predictable factors. Topping the list would be intelligence, inheritance, contacts, hard work, ambition, persistence, and luck, to name a few. It may be difficult to dislodge this misguided belief, but my study of Black millionaires reveals a critical skill that so many were forced to master prior to earning their millions. The listed qualities can and eventually may play a role, but none is the sole source of wealth accumulation. Consider the following profiles. Compare each and observe how these men and women are united by a single common chord: the golden rule.

Consider the words and deeds of Madame C. J. Walker, America's first Black female millionaire. Walker's accomplishments as an inventor, entrepreneur, and philanthropist are nothing short of amazing, considering the time in which she lived and the short stack she was dealt. Born four years after the abolition of slavery, she was orphaned, married, and widowed by age 20. She also suffered from a scalp condition that caused hair loss. In the early 1900s, she began testing various homemade cures, and by 1905, she had developed a revolutionary hair care system aimed specifically at Black women. And with that, this visionary blazed a new trail for Black women. Not only did she offer products designed for women of color during a time when the rest of the market ignored this segment, she opened the door for a small army of women, known as Walker Agents, to earn additional income pitching her products door to door. As the business grew, she embraced vertical integration, manufacturing the treatments in her own plants and selling them in company-owned beauty shops. Soon she and her sales force were nationwide.

A Black Enterprise feature article on this skilled entrepreneur also highlighted her shrewd real estate investments:

Walker owned properties in Chicago, Pittsburgh, Indianapolis, St. Louis, and New York, including an apartment building overlooking Central Park. Her crown jewel, however, was "Villa Lewaro," a $250,000, 20-room Georgian mansion on New York's Hudson River. True to her principles of Black empowerment, she hired a Black architect to design her elegant estate, which was located in the same community as those of the Rockefellers, Tiffanys, and Vanderbilts.

With her million-dollar fortune — a rarity for her race and gender — Walker gave as lavishly as she lived. "There is no royal flower-strewn path to success," this entrepreneurial wizard admonished. "And, if there is, I have yet to find it. For if I have accomplished anything it is because I have been willing to work hard. I was raised at a time when everybody had something to do, and they did it. Don't sit down and wait for opportunities to come — get up and make them!"


Excerpted from The Wealth Choice by Dennis Kimbro. Copyright © 2013 The Napoleon Hill Foundation. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press.
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

Acknowledgments v

Introduction: A Wealth of Knowledge: The Most Powerful Economic Weapon 1

The First Law of Wealth

Chapter 1 Decision: Resolve Now That You Will Not Be Poor 39

The Second Law of Wealth

Chapter 2 The Haves and the Have Nots: The Difference That Makes the Difference 79

Chapter 3 Believe in Thyself When No One Else Will 111

The Third Law of Wealth

Chapter 4 To Thine Own Self Be True: Find Your Unique Gifts 149

The Fourth Law of Wealth

Chapter 5 How May I Serve Thee? 183

The Fifth Law of Wealth

Chapter 6 The Road Not Taken 217

The Sixth Law of Wealth

Chapter 7 Make Thy Money Grow 245

The Seventh Law of Wealth

Epilogue: One Final Lesson 277

Notes 285

Index 295

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