It’s Time to Take Control of Your Financial Health

It’s Time to Take Control of Your Financial Health

Recently, a co-worker shared something that enlightened me. They always used a financial counselor to advise them on various decisions that they needed to make regarding their finances and investments. However, they didn’t seem to be satisfied with the outcome of their investments.

They shared with me that, after talking in detail with their spouse, they decided to learn more about investments and the stock market. They signed up for classes and realized they could actually manage their own financial portfolio. They took charge of their investments and began to see a positive turnaround within the first few months of releasing their financial counselor.

They seemed confident about what they had learned and we’re looking forward to managing their financial portfolio in the months and years to come.

The biggest fear that many people have, is the fear of not knowing what you don’t know. That sounds odd but it is true. What you do not know about your finances, or financial health, may seem scary to some to the point of denying its existence or choosing to deal with it when things get really tough.

God desires for us to have balance in everything we do. Having the confidence to handle your finances is a commitment you have to make to yourself. Hosea 4:6 states “My people are destroyed for a lack of knowledge” KJV.

If people are bold enough to admit they do not know, they take the time to educate themselves in the areas that matter to them. So, why not us, children of the faith?

There are so many resources on finances. The question you need to ask yourself is, “What is my area of struggle when dealing with money?”

  • Is it a saving problem? Most likely you have not established boundaries and self-control, and you may need to set up a budget to stick to it.
  • Do you have unrealistic goals and expectations that leave you disheartened each month when you review your finances? Set goals for yourself that will boost your confidence because you are able to achieve them. This will result in becoming a better steward of your money because you have established a level of faith in yourself that you are capable of meeting goals when you set them.
  • Are you drowning in debt? Find out the exact amount that you owe so that you can establish a precise plan of tackling it.

When it comes to money, you have to be bold and face the issues head on. If you are tremendously blessed financially and have no issues with money, find ways to educate others to live in that liberty that you have been blessed to experience.

I learned a great lesson from that co-worker. What you don’t know, you can learn, and what you learn can enlighten you to make better and sound decisions that can position you financially to be in a stable place.

Are you ready to face what you don’t know about your finances? Start today. Learn something. It could serve as the trigger of change to a great financial future for you in the years to come.

When Women Strike: A Closer Look at ‘A Day Without A Woman’

When Women Strike: A Closer Look at ‘A Day Without A Woman’

March, in many ways, has become the month of women. Each year, the month is set aside to pay homage to women who have been world changers throughout history and acknowledge the impact of women on present-day society.

Within Women’s History Month is International Women’s Day, a yearly campaign that encourages solidarity on issues related to women and girls. This year’s theme is #BeBoldForChange: “a call on the masses to help forge a better working world—a more gender-inclusive world,” according to the International Women’s Day website. In the spirit of this year’s theme, women and men across the United States are encouraged to #BeBoldForChange by staying home from work.

On the heels of the inauguration of President Donald J. Trump, women, men, and children came out by the millions to protest a man who has been criticized for being misogynistic, sexist, and hostile toward women and immigrants during the Women’s March in January. On February 16, a nationwide Day Without Immigrants was organized to stand in solidarity with those who are often mischaracterized as criminals, “illegals,” and over-consumers of the United States’ economic resources. This year’s “A Day Without A Woman” protest intentionally overlaps with the global International Women’s Strike and International Women’s Day during Women’s History Month.

“A Day Without A Woman” protest is a one-day international strike from paid and unpaid work and a one-day freeze on spending at non-women or minority owned businesses. Women make up nearly half of the United States’ workforce but continue to earn less than their male counterparts. The goal of the strike is “to highlight the economic power and significance that women have in the U.S. and global economies, while calling attention to the economic injustices women and gender nonconforming people continue to face.” Women and men were encouraged to wear red as a symbol of “revolutionary love and sacrifice” and participate in any way that they can.

“I have taken the day off from my 8-to-5 office career but I am also a business owner,” said Ronisha Sanders, who participated in the strike. “I have orders to fulfill and brides to meet for cake tastings as well as speaking to a young group of ladies about what it means to be a black female business owner. That is all today! I am also wearing my red in solidarity.”

“I will be participating by not buying anything and wearing red,” said Alanah Dillard, a youth and family therapist. “I am not able to stay home from work today, ­but I will be having a staff meeting and spending time addressing the importance of recognizing this month and this day.”

Like Dillard, all women and men across the country are not able to take off from work to show their support. Organizers have recognized that some workers do not have the option of refraining from work for a day, particularly those with jobs that “provide essential services” like the medical field, as well as women and men who face “economic insecurity” and literally cannot afford to lose a day of pay.

A Day Without A Woman is a testament to the major contributions of women in paid, unpaid, and unnoticed labor capacities. According to the Center for American Progress projections, a total of $21 billion (in GDP) could be lost if all women took off work for one day. Although the idea of all working women in the country staying home from work is improbable, the potential impact of the strike is not only economic.

“I work in a predominantly woman-dominated profession [mental health counseling and social services] so to have women not show up to work would make a huge difference,” Dillard said.

Education—a field typically dominated by women—has already been affected. Some public school systems such as Prince George’s County, Maryland, have closed after hundreds of teachers and school staff members requested the day off.

As young professional women, both Dillard and Sanders acknowledge the importance of A Day Without A Woman through the perspective of their livelihoods.

As a resident manager for the YMCA, Dillard works closely with young adults and has noticed the need to continue to empower women and fight for female equality and respect.

“I was told by two African American male residents, ‘I don’t have to respect you. You are a woman and you can’t get me a job unless you are a white male, so I don’t have to do anything for you.’ This is why these strikes are important. In this day, these comments are made with no hesitation—and by kids born in the 2000s.”

For Sanders, the strike and call to support women and minority businesses strike a personal chord.

“For me, this strike is a solidified push against Mr. Trump, [and a call] to be bold in pushing for change when it comes to women inequality. As a young, minority, female business owner, I pray and hope that other women know their worth and that their purpose collided with destiny,” she said. “I hope we women never question who we are. The sky is the limit. I hope that supporting women-owned business continues even after this International Women’s Day.”

 

 

 

 

 

4 Tips for Fearless Witnessing at Work

4 Tips for Fearless Witnessing at Work

As most Christians earn a living in secular careers, we often struggle with knowing how to best operate in and share our faith at work. We tend to play it safe—some might even say we compromise—by keeping our faith to ourselves and reserving the Gospel for church, where most believe it belongs.

Yet, the Great Commission is the #1 job of every Christian (Mark 16:14-16). We are called to preach the Word in and out of season (2 Timothy 4:2).

So why do we seem to forfeit the Lord’s work the second we clock in at our 9-to-5? FEAR!

Fear of losing our jobs. Fear of offending. Fear of looking insane. The list goes on. But God has not given us the spirit of fear (2 Timothy 1:7).

So here are four tips for fearless witnessing for Christ in the workplace.

Put Your Job in Its Proper Perspective

Truth is, most of us base our identity around our professions. But our careers are not our life’s purpose. Our purpose, according to the Word of God, is to glorify God (Isaiah 43:7). Our jobs, in the grand scheme of things, are merely a means to an end. We each have talents, gifts, and skills we can tap into to earn a living. But whatever we do is to ultimately bring God glory (Colossians 3:23-24; Proverbs 3:6, 16:3; Ecclesiastes 9:10). Paul was a tentmaker, Peter was a fisherman, and Jesus was a carpenter. Yet, each man is known not for his vocation, but for the great things he did for God’s kingdom.

Embrace Being Peculiar

No one wants to be that religious weirdo in the office, and no one is saying that you have to be. But Christians are called to be a “peculiar people” (1 Peter 2:9). We are set apart by God so it’s only natural that we stand out – even at work. Our renewed minds and non-conformance to the patterns of this world should cause our conduct and attitude to greatly differ from the status quo (Romans 12:2). Most employees might arrive late or slack off when the supervisor is out of the office, gossip about colleagues and leadership, or do the bare minimum when they’re not satisfied with their positions or supervisor. But Jesus is ultimately our Boss and He calls us to lead with integrity, avoid gossip, and go the extra mile (Titus 3:2; Proverbs 11:3, 20:7, 21:23; Matthew 5:14, 41). Our work ethic testifies of Him before we ever utter a word.

Know What You Believe and Why

Witnessing can be challenging when we’re not convinced of the truth of the Gospel in our own hearts. To be an effective witness for Christ, especially in a secular setting, we must be deeply rooted in our faith. When we are deeply rooted in Christ, witnessing becomes second nature. We won’t be overly anxious or hesitant about the best way to pray with a colleague or share our testimony. By the grace of the Holy Spirit, we’ll do it organically! And when we encounter that radical colleague who asks, “Why Jesus and not Muhammad or Buddha?”, we’ll have the confidence and conviction to graciously, yet boldly respond (1 Peter 3:15; 2 Timothy 4:2).

Remember that God is Your Source

As some companies ban religious symbols in the workplace, witnessing at work can seem like risky business. Job loss is an especially valid concern. But God, not man, ultimately controls our employment status. It is He who gives us the ability to get wealth (Deuteronomy 8:18). Some ways to share Christ shouldn’t conflict with workplace policies, such as

hosting a daily prayer call before work hours (using a personal conference line), facilitating a lunchtime prayer group, or inviting someone to church or an in-home Bible study. The wisdom of the Holy Spirit also guides us in how, to whom, and when to witness. But if there are consequences to be endured for sharing Christ, know that we are blessed for righteousness’ sake (Matthew 5:10). We needn’t be ashamed of suffering for Christ’s name (1 Peter 4:6). God is our Source, Protector and Provider. He has the power to restore.

 

Have you ever witnessed at work? Share your story below.

Is a gig economy job right for you?

Is a gig economy job right for you?

Ronald West starts his day at 3 a.m., picking up passengers who are trying to catch early morning flights from Chicago’s downtown to its two busy, international airports. Around 6:30 a.m., the former retail salesman turned Uber driver, takes a break to avoid the frustrations of the morning rush hour traffic.

At 8:30 a.m., West resumes his day, shuttling passengers across the Second City and its suburbs until 3:00 p.m. West loves his work, and at the beginning of this year, turned down what many people would call a “good job”— medical benefits and a retirement package included—for the freedom and independence that the fast-growing “gig economy” offers.

Gigs, freelance projects, short-term assignments, on-demand jobs, or single task opportunities have been around for ages. The difference today is that technology is allowing people who need a service to quickly and easily connect with someone who wants to deliver it. Apps from companies such as Uber, Instacart, TaskRabbit, and Dogvacay, have given birth a whole new way of finding work that has its pros and its cons, depending on what you want out of work and life.

“The mindset of someone who wants to have a gig economy job has to be the belief that success comes from within,” says West whose gig is his full-time job. “Most people want a guaranteed job, but I want to guarantee my success by knowing that if I go out and do the work, the income will come in. I have to pay my bills like everyone else, but I also want time to do things that I enjoy by having the flexibility this work allows.”

West, who is a spoken word performer most weekends, opted to give a gig job a try because the job he had and the ones he was researching didn’t allow the kind of time he needed for practicing, writing, and lending support to fellow partners in rhyme, all of whom are committed to following their passion.

Pros and cons

Freedom, flexibility, and independence are the big plusses often cited by those taking advantage of a gig economy job. But other folks see some big drawbacks, even West recognizes. “There’s no medical insurance or retirement plan,” notes West, who is single with no kids, “so you will have to do some homework to find affordable and adequate health insurance, and you’ll want to talk to an accountant to make sure you’re taking care of your taxes and putting something away for retirement. But if you’re willing to take a calculated risk and step out on faith, a gig economy job could work for you.”

A TIME article from January of this year reports that 55 percent of Americans who offer services from a gig economy platform are racial and ethnic minorities. It’s a whole new frontier of immediate income opportunities that many say has to be balanced against long-term career goals.

Before deciding to take a gig economy job, you’ll want to ask yourself:

  • Can I deal with an inconsistent income? There might be high and low-income months and you’ll need to develop a budget that accounts for irregular income.
  • Am I a people person? You might be called on to engage with a wide variety of people and provide them with a customer experience that they’ll want you or others to provide again.
  • Am I self-motivated? No one will be telling you what to do, how many hours to work or setting deadlines; but you still need to set a work schedule for yourself and stick to it.
  • Do I like administrative tasks? If not, accounting, project, and time management apps can take some of the clerical work out of your day so that you can spend more time on the core activity of your work and life, knowing that important financial and administrative details are being taken care of.
  • What service do I want offer? The range of services being offered via gig economy platforms is growing by the minute. You’ll want to research several companies to determine what their services are; if you have the skills and tools—such as a car—to do the work; and whether this is a service you’d like to provide.
  • What’s my long-term goal? If the service you provide can be a stepping-stone or provide experience for what you want to do in the future, a gig economy job might be right for you. It may also be a good place to start if you’re not sure what you want to do and you want to test out a few options. In either case, you’ll want to take some time to think about where you want to go and how this gig will help you get there.

“I love offering transportation services,” says West. “And sometimes, if my passengers are open to it, I’ll try out a few of my spoken word lyrics on them. Being able to bring all of who I am to all I do is what I believe life and work is about.”

 

Have you decided to join the gig economy? Share your thoughts below.

 

Be sure to download the UMI Connection app to explore how your faith and work intersect.

 

Resources:

The Rise and Nature of Alternative Work Arrangements in the United States, 1995-2015

http://krueger.princeton.edu/sites/default/files/akrueger/files/katz_krueger_cws_-_march_29_20165.pdf

20 Surprising Stats About the Gig Economy

http://smallbiztrends.com/2016/07/20-surprising-stats-freelance-economy.html

The gig economy is coming. You probably won’t like it

https://www.bostonglobe.com/magazine/2016/04/20/the-gig-economy-coming-you-probably-won-like/i2F6Yicao9OQVL4dbX6QGI/story.html

 

Female Entrepreneurs: The Rise of the Girl Boss

Female Entrepreneurs: The Rise of the Girl Boss

Women’s History Month may be over but there’s one thing we can’t deny. Women all over the world, specifically minority women, are taking the world by storm in more ways than one.

Though we still face challenges, such as equal pay for equal work, it hasn’t hindered us from dominating in politics, education, sciences, law enforcement, and even entrepreneurship.

Over the past several decades, women have broken glass ceilings, taken their rightful place in seats of power, gained independence, and continue to make incredible contributions to all sectors of this nation and the world, particularly in business and entrepreneurship.

In fact, there are more women starting businesses now than ever before. According to the American Express State of Women-owned Business Report, the number of women-owned businesses has increased 74 percent, 1 ½ times the national average of only 51 percent, since 1997.

This growth has been seen in nearly every sector of the economy, including health care and social assistance, social and educational services, professional and technical services, administrative support, retail and more. These studies also show the fastest growth in women-owned businesses is among women of color, specifically African Americans.

To some, these statistics are simply numbers on a page. But to others, these numbers translate into real-life experiences, where individual women can see their stories among the data.

The Life of an Entrepreneur

Kela Hall

Kela Hall (Photo Credit: LinkedIn)

Kakela Hall is no stranger to hard work but is new to the entrepreneur life.

“I always knew I had the spirit of a trendsetter and I always colored outside the lines [for] as long as I can remember,” Hall says. “However, in 2012, I became certain I had to own my own business and do good work in the community that would help people.”

As CEO and Co-founder of K.D.Hall Communications and the K.D.Hall Foundation, Kela has made the transition from the corporate sector to running her own business with her husband and business partner David E Hall. However, it was Kela’s past working experiences and early collegiate projects that were pivotal in the development of her drive to be a trendsetter and ultimately go into business for herself.

“Our non–profit is a piggyback off of my women’s organization in college that was about empowerment, laws to support women in the workforce and fair wages,” she says.

Building an Empire

Girl SmilingThere are various factors that have contributed in the rise of women–owned businesses in general, but also specifically within the African American community. One important factor to note is education.

Since 1999, African American women have earned over 60 percent of all degrees awarded to African American students. It is no mistake that as more degrees are being earned, more businesses are being created.

With 5 years under her belt, Erica has moved into the expansion phase of her self-owned business.

“I’m building my mini empire,” she says. “I am venturing into web design for small businesses. I am [also] marrying my talent as a photographer and graphic design. I now create simple mobile-friendly websites for small businesses that have no web presence. I manage their websites so they can manage their business.”

While most women-owned firms remain small in terms of employment, it should be pointed out that the number of women-owned employer firms (which now numbers over one million) has increased by 13% between 2002 and 2012, while overall the number of U.S. employer firms has declined by 1.8% over the same period.”

So who really runs the world? In the world of entrepreneurs, it would seem that African American women specifically, but women in general, are the leading forces these days. The influences of women in business will only continue to expand as the data has shown.

Beyond the month of March, all year long, we honor Icons such as Michele Obama, Melinda Gates, Loretta Lynch, and the millions of local business women that are transforming our economy.

Have you ever thought about starting your own business? Share your thoughts below.

Get Fit with These Black-Owned Businesses

Get Fit with These Black-Owned Businesses

Here we are at the end of first month in the new year. Most people have put their New Year’s resolution into action and some are just flying by the seat of their pants, but all are working toward some change in 2015. Regardless of where you are in the resolution keeping process, there’s always room for an addendum and improvements especially in regard to one of the top resolutions on everyone’s list: losing weight/fitness. Working out can be no fun at all, but over the last few years people have created dynamic fitness programs that are fun and effective. Below is a list of not only the most fun and effective fitness programs but they are all black-owned businesses.

 KTX Fitness

workoutblackktx-resizeIf you spend enough time on social media you have most likely come across YouTube clips of Keith Thompson’s high-energy cycling classes. Thompson is the lead instructor at Atlanta-based KTX Fitness, an enterprise that specializes in helping people meet their fitness goals in a fun atmosphere. It is not uncommon to see Thompson dancing alongside cyclers as some of today’s top urban and hip-hop songs blast from the speakers. His cycling classes blend calisthenics with cycling to create a high-impact aerobic workout in which individuals burn approximately 1000 calories and ride approximately 15 miles, but cycling isn’t all that KTX Fitness does. They also have step classes, total body workout classes and a bootcamp. The majority of KTX Fitness class are held in Atlanta but Thompson also travels to bring the cycling classes to different cities such as DC, NY,  Cincinnati, Toronto most recently and more. For more about KTX Fitness click here.

Mr. Shut Up and Train

workoutblackmrsut-resizeAnother Atlanta-based fitness expert who you may have seen on social media is Rahman Grayson aka Mr. Shut Up and Train. The Mr. Shut Up and Train moniker might be familiar to you because of your  friends who participated in his free fitness challenges. Through his fitness challenges, Grayson crafts a workout plan that forces people out of their comfort zones and into the training zone. Yet he seeks not only to whip people into physical shape but he trains minds to pursue and accomplish goals that seem impossible. The free workout plans are but a small portion of Grayson’s work toward creating fit and healthy people. He also offers personal training services everyday people and athletes and celebrities alike. For more information about Mr. Shut Up and Train click here.

Black Girls Run

workoutblackbgr-resizeBlack Girls not only Rock but they Run too and they have been running under the Black Girls Run banner since 2009. Founders Toni Carey and Ashley Hicks created BGR in an effort to tackle the growing obesity epidemic in the African-American community as well as to provide encouragement to novice and veteran runners. Six years later, BGR has expanded to 69 running groups in 30 states across the United States with over 52,860 African-American women running. The organization commits itself as much to its veteran runners as it does to new runners. On any given run they suggest that novice runners find a “running crush”  and pace themselves with that person as a way to establish goals. As you can imagine, BGR fosters a sisterhood among women who begin as strangers and transform them into sojourners on the journey to optimum physical fitness. To find out about BGR runs in your city, click here.

Brukwine

workoutblackbw-resizeBrukwine is not for the faint of heart nor is it for those scared of the four-letter word “sexy” as it pertains to the female body. With that out of the way we can get into the grit of what Brukwine is. Created by dancers Tavia and Tamara, Brukwine is a Reggae/Dancehall-based fitness class that provides women with a total body workout while teaching them the latest moves from popular Caribbean culture. Tavia and Tamara are both trained dancers who, among other dance disciplines, studied dancehall in its birthplace of Jamaica and have toured the world and served as dancers for artists such as Sean Paul, Rihanna, Beyonce, Jennifer Lopez, and many others. Brukwine is currently only holding classes in New York. For more information on Brukwine click here.

Shaun T

workoutblackst-resizeNo list of this nature would be complete without Shaun T. Among the aforementioned black-owned fitness enterprises, Shaun T’s is the largest. But, to be fair, he partnered with Beachbody–a large company owned by two white men–to sell his workout programs. Nevertheless, he remains one of the most well-known fitness entrepreneurs in the business and his brand is constantly expanding. He is the man behind Insanity, T25, Hip Hop Abs, and Rockin’ Body and he has been taking the world by storm with his fitness infomercials for a little over a decade. Those infomercials have managed to be number one seven years in a row resulting in 10 million DVDs sold and $350 million in DVD sales since 2009. Shaun T’s workout programs are about working out smart more than they are about working hard. With him there can be no excuses because he tailors his program to fit all types of people and dispositions–even for those who dread working out. Programs such as Insanity and T25 are short workouts with high-intensity levels and no-nonsense whereas his Hip Hop Abs and Rockin’ Body program allow users to have a little bit more fun without compromising results. All in all, while Shaun T may not be a black-owned business in the traditional sense, but he is his own brand that manages to eclipse even the company he’s partnered with. For more information on Shaun T, click here.

So who will you workout with this year?

This list is far from comprehensive so if you know of any other black-owned business fitness please leave them in the comments.