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PAY YOURSELF FIRST.

Just as you allocate dollars to pay your bills and support your lifestyle, sock away a portion of your income for investments

MARILYN GRIPPER LEARNED A VALUABLE LESSON EARLY on in life: Her parents taught her to earmark a portion of whatever money she earned for savings. "As early as age 6, I remember getting a dollar and putting 25 cents in the bank," she recalls. In fact, the Detroit native and her siblings always put something aside from their allowances into individual bank accounts.

Gripper continued to practice this philosophy in her teens, saving money from part-time jobs to help offset the cost of college. When she entered the workforce after graduation, she sought avenues beyond traditional savings accounts. So when she went to work in 1979 as an accounting clerk for General Motors, she took an interest in the company's employee stock purchase program. "It wasn't until a year later, after paying off some student loans, that I started withholding about 5% of my salary to purchase GM stock," says Gripper, who had previously worked at the company as a summer student and an intern.

GM eventually spun off its employee stock option program into a 401(k) plan. The company match and the tax-deferral were aspects of the plan that Gripper says appealed most to her. She started out contributing 10% of her pretax salary, but gradually increased that amount to 15%. Some 20 years later, Gripper, now a financial analyst at GM, has watched her 401(k) portfolio grow into the mid-six figures.

"I have learned on my own, through personal growth and development, to prepare financially for my future," says Gripper, who also invests in several mutual funds outside of the 401(k). At 45 years of age, Gripper can say with confidence that for decades she has adhered to BLACK ENTERPRISE Declaration of Financial Empowerment Principle No. 1: "To save and invest 10% to 15% of my after-tax income." If you, like Gripper, want to develop a sound savings and investment plan, here are some steps you should take.

* Pay yourself first. This is the rock-solid foundation of every wealth-building strategy. When you are paying your bills on the first and 15th of every month, write a check to yourself earmarked for savings. Socking away 10% to 15% of your income may sound ambitious. but look at it this way. If your take-home pay rounds out to $20,000 a year or $384.50 a week, at 10%, you're saving $2,000 a year. Break it down even further; you're talking about setting aside $5.50 a day.

* Deduct money automatically from your paycheck. The best way to build up substantial sums is to have the money automatically deducted every pay period and deposited into your savings or retirement account. This way you won't even miss it and the money won't slip through your hands because you're allocating critical funds before dividing up your paycheck for bills and other living expenses.

* Build an emergency fund. It isn't enough to sock away money in your 401(k) or some other retirement plan. Take into account short-term as well as long-term objectives. You should have three to six months' worth of living expenses in reserve. If your monthly expenses add up to $2,500, save up to $15,000 in a money market account in the event of an emergency, such as job loss or medical tragedy.

* Reduce credit card debt. Paying off your expensive debts promises one of the highest returns, and it's the safest investment you can make. Are you still buying unnecessary items using credit cards and have yet to pony up a single cent for investments of any kind? James A. Anderson, author of Black Enterprise Guide to Investing (John Wiley & Sons, $19.95), says consider this: Suppose you put $50 worth of groceries each week for a year on a credit card with an 18% rate. Make the minimum monthly payment, and you'll spend a little more than 12 years paying off your bill. In the end, you'll have paid $2,600 for the groceries plus $2,525 in interest.

* Live within your means. A big part of paying yourself first requires that you don't get into the bad habit of spending more than you earn--"champagne taste on a beer budget." Don't misallocate your funds so that you are "livin' large" today, but end up with small change when you really need it--during your nonworking years.

* Seek out professional help. As you map out your financial goals and identify vehicles to help yourself achieve them, you don't have to go it alone. It's a good idea to consult a financial planner. This person can assist you in taking an objective look at your financial position and help you develop a comprehensive plan to reach your goals.
DECLARATION OF
FINANCIAL EMPOWERMENT

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

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

 2 To be a proactive and informed investor

 3 To be a disciplined and knowledgeable consumer

 4 To measure my personal wealth by net worth, not income

 5 To engage in sound budget, credit and tax management practices

 6 To teach business and financial principles to my children

 7 To use a portion of my personal wealth to strengthen
 my community

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

 9 To maximize my earning power through a commitment to career
 development, technological literacy and professional excellence

10 To ensure that my wealth is passed on to future generations
COPYRIGHT 2001 Earl G. Graves Publishing Co., Inc.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 2001, Gale Group. All rights reserved. Gale Group is a Thomson Corporation Company.

Article Details
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Title Annotation:planning your future
Author:BROWN, CAROLYN M.
Publication:Black Enterprise
Article Type:Brief Article
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Aug 1, 2001
Words:942
Previous Article:The great suit switchback.
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