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It’s Not Too Late: You, Too, Can Be a Financial Success

Maggie Lena Walker, born in 1864 in Richmond, Va., grew up helping her formerly enslaved mother wash clothes for others to make a living. Thirty-nine years later, on April 27, 1903, Maggie Walker became America’s first black woman to establish and head a bank.

Imagine the discipline, the wisdom, but most of all the money management skills that it took to found and become president of Richmond’s St. Luke Penny Bank and Trust Co., which eventually expanded into seven branches.

Maggie L. Walker
Maggie Lena Walker

Maggie Walker is among thousands of African Americans with incredible financial aptitude — whether their finances are big or small. There’s John H. Johnson and his multimillion-dollar Johnson Publishing Co., which started with a $500 loan using his mom’s furniture as collateral. And then there’s Cathy Hughes, who worked her way up from poverty to establish Radio One, the largest black-owned and -operated broadcast company in America.

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No, we won’t all become millionaires. But with proper training, you, too, can become a financial success story — even in retirement. In other words, financial success can mean simply getting rid of debt, becoming financially stable and able to help our families and save money for emergencies. reports that a “debt-burdened retirement may feel inevitable” for African Americans — especially since a Demos study says 42 percent of our households are using credit cards for basic living expenses.

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Here are five tips from writer Stacey Tisdale for people concerned about debt as they approach retirement age:

1. Come up with a debt reduction plan by sitting down with a financial planner or debt reduction counselor you trust. There are banks and community-based organizations that can help you with this.
2. If you’re saddled with credit card debt, “consolidate your debt to a lower interest rate card” or “get a better rate through a personal loan from a bank or a credit union.”
3. Consider putting in a few more years at your job with a goal of reducing debt.
4. Think about a possible part-time job to eliminate debt or phase into retirement.
5. Avoid using money from your retirement savings to pay off debt. This may cause tax consequences that could increase the financial burden. Here again is where a good financial adviser can help.

It's not too late. There is still hope for your financial success.

AARP helps people turn their goals and dreams into real possibilities, strengthens communities and fights for and equips Americans 50 and older to live their best lives. Discover all the ways AARP can help you, your family and your community at AARP Black Community, and connect with us on Facebook and Twitter.

Photo: National Park Service

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