black people and money

Dr Boyce Watkins: Here’s what I figured out when I was homeless

Dr Boyce Watkins: Here’s what I figured out when I was homeless

by Dr Boyce Watkins

I won’t say that my life has been harder than most, but it certainly hasn’t been easy.  During four years of college, I only received two checks from my parents for $25, when the rest of my friends were getting paid like they were employees.  I also think about the 20,000 hours or so I spent studying mathematics, statistics, economics and finance, all to be reminded by Syracuse University that I’m still a black man.

But I’ve never wanted to be a quitter.  So, I kept pushing.  The funny thing was that I was never sure if my investments were anything more than a complete waste of time.

I was thinking today about one of the secret benefits of being financially literate and secure that I wasn’t aware of when I was in my twenties. As I’ve gotten older, I’ve realized that many of the seemingly insane decisions I made to pursue education, learn how money works, etc have paid off in major ways that I didn’t anticipate.

By being educated, financially aware and properly positioned in my career, I’ve been able to do things that I could never have done had I worked a 9-to-5. I can leave for a week at a time to visit relatives, I can call my daughter and god kids in the middle of the day, I can help family members in need, I can travel around the world, and I can even take my afternoon nap.

Had I taken the traditional paths that were offered to me at an early age, none of this would be possible today. The temptation to go with the norm was great, since I endured severe financial struggles in my late twenties to the point of being homeless for a short period of time. In fact, I remember breaking the lease on my apartment in the middle of the night and driving across the country with a van filled with everything I owned.

Seriously.   Every single thing I owned was in that van, and I was scared to death.  Oh yea, and I also felt like a complete failure.

I had no idea back then that I’d be saying the things I’m saying to you right now.  Success, at that time, was nothing more than pipe dream.   But it was later in life that I realized that my most serious battle scars would eventually become a badge of honor.  By going through your own personal hell, you can often emerge stronger, more seasoned, more confident and more focused than ever before….kind of like one of those super heroes who gain their powers after being dropped into a nuclear reactor by accident.

No, I’m not a super hero.  I’m just a determined black man who’s seen some things.  I can also proudly say that I’m certainly not afraid of racist white people.

So, this message is to encourage those who are striving for a better life. Others may not understand you, they may not support you, they may not believe in you and they may not be with you, but just know that, by making these sacrifices today, your children will see benefits that you didn’t even anticipate. In fact, your decisions today may one day save their life.

Never give up on yourself and remember that there may be some unborn child who’s well-being will depend on whether or not you quit or chose to keep going.  Always keep going no  matter what.

Dr Boyce Watkins is a Finance PhD and teaches an online black financial literacy program, “Black Money 101:  An introduction to the power of money.”  You can get the first month free by visiting this link. 


black people and money

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