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Here's to 5 years of DOFE: these readers have been taking control of their financial destiny using our 10 principles.

ALTHEA DENKINS WAS DRIVING FROM her home in Kelly, North Carolina, on her way to work in Wilmington when she heard BLACK ENTERPRISE Editor-in-Chief Alfred A. Edmond Jr. on the Doug Banks Morning Show. "He was talking about how to live with the money you have," recalls Denkins, who called 1-877-WEALTHY for a Wealth Building Kit soon after the radio program ended. "Before, you would say [of me], 'She is very frivolous with her money.' But after I listened to Alfred and started getting the magazine, I had to say to myself, 'I'm not building any wealth here. I'm living paycheck to paycheck,'" says Denkins, who now lives faithfully by the principles of the Declaration of Financial Empowerment.

Denkins, 27, is just one of the 94,000-plus people who have received the DOFE principles in the Wealth Building Kit over the last five years. In addition to publishing the principles in the magazine every month, BE conducts wealth-building seminars where editors discuss the DOFE principles and ways to incorporate them into one's life. On this fifth anniversary, BE celebrates some of the people who have been empowered by the magazine's wealth-building initiative and changed their attitude toward money management.

A former Limited clothing store employee, Denkins shopped as a regular pastime. "Don't let me find a sale. I viewed that as a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity," says Denkins. Less than a year ago, the University of North Carolina graduate got a full-time job as a data analyst at New Hanover Regional Medical Center in Wilmington. She had moved back home with her parents in Kelly a year prior. "When I first moved in with my parents, I really thought I had it made," says the mother of a 2-year-old named Sterling. Denkins' retired parents don't charge her rent and they babysit Sterling free of charge while she works. "With one paycheck, I could set aside money for my car payment and other bills. The other paychecks were mine," says Denkins. And with that disposable income, she would eat out a lot, treat her nieces to the movies, and buy brand-name boots and clothing for herself and her son. "Now I ask myself, 'Does he really need those Timberlands?' He is much happier with those Blues Clues cheap shoes. That was just pure ignorance to spend money like that," realizes Denkins, who now writes down her financial goals and carries her DOFE principles reference card in her wallet.

"The Wealth Building Kit has made me take an honest look at my finances and make necessary changes in my spending habits," says Denkins. "For about a month, I would sit down and write every dime I spent, and I realized that all of my money was going to food and clothes." With the kit as a guide, Denkins stopped all unnecessary shopping and is now focusing on DOFE principle No. 1: to use homeownership to build wealth, and DOFE principle No. 6: to be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues. She contributes 5% of her income toward a 401(k) plan and her company matches tip to 5%. She also researched college savings plans by reading magazine articles on the subject, speaking with her human resources department, and calling North Carolina's National College Savings Program office. She now contributes $50 a month to an aggressive portfolio since her son is 16 years away from needing the money.

"I'm in the planning process to buy a home in 2007," explains Denkins, who is currently paying down her debt. "If all goes well, I can be debt-free by next year. Then I would like to save 25% of my salary toward a down payment."

BE conducts approximately 12 Wealth Building Seminars a year for professional organizations such as Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Blacks in Government, and the Magic Johnson Foundation. David Johns, 22, is a Magic Johnson scholar who has attended the seminar two years in a row. What has stuck with him the most is DOFE principle No. 2: to save and invest 10% to 15% of my after-tax income. "I've always tried to pay myself first, but what I got out of the first year I went to the Wealth Building Seminar was to have direct deposit," explains Johns, who made a small income modeling while in high school. "If you plan to write yourself a check, something else will always happen or come up," says the 2004 Columbia College graduate who now works as a kindergarten teacher in New York City.

Johns managed to win scholarships that covered just about all of his undergraduate studies, including books and flights between Los Angeles and New York "One year I took out a loan for $5,000. But because I'm a teacher, I'm applying to have that loan forgiven by the government," he explains. With only $5,000 in student loan debt and nearly $5,000 in savings, Johns sets aside money for emergencies-but more so for play. "I take 20% of my income and put it into a savings account and then I set a goal reward. I want to go to Malaysia this summer, so I know that 30% of what I pay myself will go toward Malaysia," he says.

Johns is not a typical debt-laden twentysomething. Because of his association with groups like the Magic Johnson Foundation, Jack and Jill, and the Links, Johns had learned that debt was a dangerous road and that you should always prepare for retirement. So, practicing DOFE principle No. 3: to commit to a program of retirement planning and investing came rather naturally to him.

Johns contributes to his employer's TIAA-CBEF retirement plan, although he doesn't plan to retire until 40 years from now. "I'm young. I can afford not to have $200 dollars more in my pocket right now. I chose a highly aggressive account because I'm young and I can take the risk now," he explains.

Also adhering to DOFE principle No. 3 is Bahim Mahdi, who has worked as an engineer technician for the Department of Veterans Affairs in Birmingham, Alabama, for 15 years. But it wasn't until five years ago, when he planned and attended a Wealth Building Seminar, that he started to get serious about his finances. "I really didn't start planning for the unknown and for my children's future until after hearing [Personal Finance Editor] Matthew S. Scott at that seminar," remembers Mahdi, 38. Prior to receiving the DOFE principles, Mahdi thought he had sufficient coverage with the government's retirement package. He's been contributing up to 5% of his salary into the Thrift Savings Plan, but now he also has a separate life insurance policy and a supplemental retirement account. "When I went into a separate retirement account and got supplemental insurance, people laughed at me," explains Mahdi, who has two children, ages 11 and 13. "Some feel that the government has all of these 'giftuities,' and that our insurance pays for everything, and that everything is already laid out for you and yours. But government employees are just like every other employee."

Mahdi is the conference planner for Blacks in Government and he says that African American government employees often overlook supplemental insurance and retirement packages. That's why he has asked the Wealth Building Seminar to come back to the organization's national conference every year for the last five years. He says the attendance continues to grow. "You have people that are financial investors that are part of our conference, and they look forward to it every year as well," says Mahdi of the diversity of the audience.

Mahdi says the seminar's emphasis on credit is also a big draw and has made him take action regarding his own credit report. "I got my reports and I saw two things on there that were wrong. I had to be persistent to get them off, but it didn't take long," says Mahdi, who says that more government employees should do the same.

Like Mahdi, Johns and Denkins are both more conscientious of their credit because of DOFE. They are also more concerned about passing their wealth on to future generations. "It all boils down to my children's well-being. If something happens to me, what will happen to them?" asks Mahdi. Likewise, Johns says that he does not want his children to struggle.

Denkins isn't waiting for something to happen to her for her child to reap the benefits. She says, "I want to teach him the principles to build wealth that I didn't know." In the meantime, Denkins has started buying savings bonds for Sterling and has asked her family to do the same instead of buying toys. "Before I just knew that I wanted a home and that I wanted my son to have a good life, but I didn't have a plan as to how I could make that happen," says Denkins. "But then I read those principles and I said, 'I'm going to sign this (declaration).' Then I started to take control of my spending and now I'm taking control of my financial destiny."

To download the Wealth Building Kit, log on to

Declaration Of Financial Empowerment

From this day forward, I declare my vigilant and lifelong commitment to financial empowerment. I pledge the following:

1] To use homeownership to build wealth

2] To save and invest 10% to 15% of my after-tax income

3] To commit to a program of retirement planning and investing

4] To engage in sound budget, credit, and tax management practices

5] To measure my personal wealth by net worth, not income

6] To be proactive and knowledgeable about investing, money management, and consumer issues

7] To provide access to programs that will educate my children about business and finance

8] To support the creation and growth of profitable, competitive black-owned enterprises

9] To use a portion of my wealth to strengthen my community

10] To ensure that my wealth is passed on to future generations
COPYRIGHT 2005 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2005, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:black Wealth Initiative
Author:Spruell, Sakina P.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Jan 1, 2005
Previous Article:Inspiring black investors: John Rogers' slow and steady strategy has enriched millions of African Americans.
Next Article:Staying ahead of the game: the Lewis family is changing its spending habits to make it through a temporary loss of income.

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