Black Enterprise Magazine - Money Management Lessons For Black America

David Banner’s 4 Money Management Lessons for Black America

The proper management of money has proven to be a difficult task for many in the Black community. According to recent data by the Pew Research Center, the typical Black household has about $5,600 in wealth (assets minus debts) compared to the typical White household, which has about $113,000 in wealth. This 20-to-1 wealth-gap is even more striking during periods of economic downturns.

There are several key factors that contribute to this vast disparity in wealth. The most prominent of factors is past (and on-going) discrimination that continues to plague our economic advancement. Two studies summarizing this fact show that up to 80% of an individual’s wealth can be accounted for by intergeneration material transfers, and that three-fourths of where a person winds up—in terms of wealth—is determined solely by the wealth status of their parents. The Black community—due to the long history of racism, employment discrimination, block busting, red lining, etc.—has not experienced the same economic opportunities that have allowed Whites to amass the substantial wealth that they transfer from generation to generation. But, while the history is clear, there are current obstacles that impede the economic growth of our community.

The culture of spending within the Black community has been one of our greatest economic Achilles heels. Simply put, money isn’t staying in our community. For example, the Asian, Jewish and White communities tend to spend money within their own communities first. These various cultures help and support themselves socioeconomically, in part, by spending money this way.

Another factor is that when members of our community achieve wealth, a dependency often develops between friends, family members and even our neighborhoods on the recipient. Here, the wealth of one is now expected to take care of the wishes, needs and desires of mothers, fathers, friends, cousins, nephews, community organizers and church leaders. This is, of course, in addition to the needs and desires of the one who originally achieved the economic success. As an entertainer, myself, I can personally tell you this phenomenon can reach astronomical levels.

But what is not realized is that in the entertainment industry, earning money is far less straightforward than in other industries. A rapper/producer such as myself may have a multi-platinum record or single out, but it can be months or even years before we see our share of the money. Managers, agents, attorneys, and other such professionals, can easily earn a combined 50% off the top, and that’s before we can even start to think about taxes. Since fewer and fewer musicians are working with major labels these days, we often have to pay for our own studio time, engineering, mixing, mastering and more before releasing our music. We have public relations people, producers, collaborators, and other such professionals, all of whom are depending on us to make their living. Beyond that, if every single number isn’t properly accounted for, an artist can end up in a tax situation with the government that can take years to clear up, despite his or her best intentions.

For many, receiving a $1 million is a holy grail of sorts. In the music industry, however, that doesn’t go very far. Allow me to show you how, for an artist, seven-figure payday actually works out to be far less:

+$1,000,000 in income:
-$150,000 for talent managers (standard 15% fee)
-$100,000 for agents (standard 10% fee)
-$50,000 for business managers (standard 5% fee)
-$50,000 for entertainment attorneys (standard 5% fee)
-$200,000 for various production expenses (20% fee)

Once you total these basic deductions, you’re left with $450,000. Subtract taxes (running anywhere from 30-40%) from this and you quickly see the further erosion of that initial $1 million, which now nets you about $50-150,000. That’s still a decent sum of money, but nowhere near the amount we started with; virtually $850,000 evaporates off the top.

Over three-quarters of that $1 million is gone before we purchase the cars and homes for moms, the clothes for friends, our own personal items (luxury and otherwise) and even the “10%” tithe to the church. This example shows why it is so important to watch our spending and make every dollar count, no matter how much we’re earning. The question for many is how? Well, here are a few of my personal suggestions:

Be smart and live for yourself and your family. Don’t to live to show-off and live up to the expectations of what an artist is “supposed” to be. I’m a rapper, actor, and producer, and I like to lead a nice lifestyle, help my family, and enjoy myself, but you’re not going to see me buying a new car every time I have a hit single or movie. People are counting on me to stay on top now that I’ve been blessed enough to make it, and I’m never going to let them, or myself down.
Hire a top business manager. You need someone that makes sure every cent you earn actually finds its way into your account; and that every one of those cents is accounted for correctly. I know that doing things properly now—with the help of my business manager Adam Yorkshire—is what is going to ensure my financial independence for the rest of my life.
Educate yourself on your financial matters. Just as important as having a good business manager, is having the knowledge to stay on top of your financial matters. No one should care more about or know more about your finances than you.
Have a financial mentor. There’s nothing more empowering than being around those who are more experienced than you. Toward this goal, having a mentor—someone detached from your financial success—is crucial in order to “watch those who watch your money.”

In the end, I know who I am. I thank God for the ability to make an amazing living doing what I love, and I know myself enough to know that I need not fall into the common cycle of living beyond my means. Too many young artists—and people of color in general—get their shot, and feel they need to conform to the lifestyles they see portrayed in music videos and on TV. They spend their money on buying an image, instead of hiring the right people, and stashing some away for a rainy day. When you really think about, someone in the entertainment industry is really no different than anyone else working a regular 9-to-5 or running their own business aside from the numbers being be a bit bigger. It’s important for any business owner, or worker, to make smart decisions and spend their money in the right places and on the right people