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by Leslie Quander Wooldridge
February 18, 2021
by Leslie Quander Wooldridge
February 18, 2021
Did you know most millionaires are not born into wealth? In fact, about 80% of U.S. millionaires worked for their money, with only 20% of millionaires inheriting their fortunes.
So while we know wealth can be passed down generationally, if that's not your story, you still have a shot at financial success.
The United States has the greatest number of millionaires — 18.6 million, or 40% of the world total, according to the 2019 Global Wealth Report by Credit Suisse — but that doesn't mean millionaires are the majority of this country's population. In fact, the report notes that the level of wealth inequality "is high, both within countries and for the world as a whole."
The gap is even wider when we look at Black and white Americans. In recent decades, the median net worth for white households has "far exceeded" that for Black households, according to the Brookings Institution, and the gap is only growing. At every income level — even among the top 10% of earners — white Americans' net worth is higher than that of Black Americans.
Still, I think it's important to highlight the Black people who have found success in America over the years. Knowing our history matters, but we can also consider how to grow beyond our original circumstances.
So how can we build wealth in our current environment? One way is to know what's possible and how to do it. But we don't always discuss money openly in America. Case in point: As I reported this story, some Black millionaires declined to talk to me on the record. I understand this, as current times are sensitive and people may not want to appear to brag. Plus, having a net worth of more than $1 million doesn't mean you're immune to stress or other concerns.
But I've dedicated my career to sharing information. And since knowledge can help others, I don't think sharing your story is bragging at all. So read on for advice on how to build wealth from three Black millionaires who didn't start out that way. Their responses, below in their own words, have been lightly edited and condensed.
Sevetri Wilson, 33, is the founder and CEO of technology startup Resilia, founder of strategic communications agency Solid Ground Innovations, and author of "Solid Ground: How I Built a 7-Figure Company at 22 with Zero Capital."
My parents died at a very young age, and unlike many, I did not inherit anything. I was actually left with debt from my parents, which I also paid off over time.
Because I grew up as a first-generation college student who watched my single mother struggle financially to provide for our family, I charged myself with creating a different outcome for myself. I was able to grow my first business because I was able to clearly define solutions for the problems my clients were having. Because of this, my company grew — along with my network.
The importance of a network can't be missed on the road to millions. Your network (a great one) will lead you to other opportunities, which will allow you to diversify your portfolio.
For me, my network has led to other opportunities in investing, and because of the money I made, I've been able to grow my real estate portfolio to four properties along with investing in a few other real estate transactions.
If you are going to become a millionaire you have to take risks. You've heard the saying: "Scared money doesn't make money." It's true, and it's very likely you'll make some less-than-desirable investments along the way, but you have to keep going.
April Stewart, 42, is a financial coach based in Washington, DC, and is known as April the Money Coach.
I wasn't taught about money [growing up] except that "there wasn't enough of it" and that "it was hard to come by." As a result, I developed a fear-based relationship with money.
After years of making a good salary but living paycheck to paycheck with minimal savings, it was obvious that I was missing something. I devoured books, articles, and interviews to discover what the financial rockstars were doing that I was not.
I started to budget. I had more money than I realized; I felt like I got an instant raise once I started budgeting. Once I realized that, I was able to take my money and apply it to my goals.
The first goal I tackled was my debt elimination: I had $25,000 — a little over that — in debt, and I was able to knock it out in eight months. From there, I went to build cash reserves of six months of living expenses. From there, I focused on growing my money: I started to invest and take the company contribution [for retirement]. I just kept investing more and more each year.
Through budgeting, debt elimination, saving, and investing, I became a self-made millionaire in my 30s.
Becoming wealthy is attainable for anyone. It truly is not about how much money you make, but what you do with your money. There are teachers with more wealth than doctors and lawyers.
Building wealth doesn't have to be complicated. You don't have to be a real estate investor. People jump to the "advanced" because they think it will fast-track them. You just have to do the basics, in the right way, consistently. It may take you some years; it took me 14 years. [Now] I'm teaching how to build a seven-figure net worth using your salary alone.
Control what you can control. You can't wait for the barriers to be dismantled. You can't leave your future in the hands of others. Take the steps right now to unblock your money mindset, eliminate debt, save, and invest. One of the most revolutionary things you can do is gain financial freedom.
Rachel Rodgers, 38, is an intellectual property lawyer based in Greensboro, North Carolina, and CEO of Hello Seven, where she seeks to help women make seven figures.
Part of my drive and motivation to make money was my family's health history. I wanted to have money to be able to solve health problems because I had seen members of my family die young from things that are curable.
I wasn't going to become a millionaire as a lawyer because I just didn't love it enough. But once I moved over to coaching, it was something I felt passionate about and it was easy to get to seven figures.
The thing that probably had the biggest impact was community. One, having a squad of ambitious friends who were also trying to get to seven figures. We're on group chats; we email each other. I think [people] really underestimate how impactful it is to be surrounded by people who have similar goals.
And the second way was building the community around my business. Creating a newsletter list — emailing those people on a regular basis. It took me a while to build up an audience of 1,000 people on my mailing list. Once I had those people, that was enough to start to see some momentum. They were becoming customers or they were referring customers to me. Now that community has 65,000 people.
I'm going to keep building wealth. There are so many ways that money can be used to do good things in the world.
Wealth requires consistency. There's a certain level of discipline required. You have to take risks. You have to do scary things. The people around you will tell you that you're crazy. But you have an end game, and you're willing to almost suffer for a short time so that you can have a big pay-off in the future.
So what keeps you consistent, I feel, is having a strong "why" and/or doing something that actually matters to you and that you love.
Practical tips for doing that are: Doing an audit of your skills and talents. Finding work that you feel naturally drawn to. And looking at your work experience and seeing: How does that match a problem in the marketplace that you could solve?
You are born with innate, natural talent. Tap into that. Because then you're going to do work that you love to do. And because of that, you're going to get better and better at it.
This article was written by Leslie Quander Wooldridge from Business Insider and was legally licensed through the Industry Dive publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to firstname.lastname@example.org.