Generational Wealth – Why It’s Not Just About Economics

It feels good to hear so many conversations taking place about generational wealth in the Black community. There are over 119 thousand posts on Instagram under the generational wealth hashtag. The vast majority of these posts were made by Black folks interested in breaking the systematic curse of poverty that has haunted Black families since the day we stepped off of the first slave ship. This is a good thing.

When our ancestors were “freed” from slave plantations Black people accounted for approximately 1% of the wealth in America. Today, believe it or not, we still only account for about 1% of the wealth in this country. Our focus must definitely remain on building an economy to secure the future for generations to come. If I said it once, I have said it one thousand times. “Ain’t nobody coming to save us y’all. We are all we got.”

However, when we hear the term generational wealth we tend to think about economics exclusively. Assets like land, trusts, businesses, real estate, stocks, bonds, life insurance and large sums of money come to mind. While economics is a very necessary component of generational wealth, it is not the only thing that will determine riches versus poverty for coming generations. Money is a form of wealth, but it is not the only form of wealth. Everything you pass down matters. What else should we be passing down to ensure the enrichment of the lives of our children?

Let’s start with Family Values. Every family has a culture based on its values. Along with these aforementioned assets, we must pass down unconditional love and respect for family. We must value our elders and teach our children, through our example, to honor those who paved the way for them. If you pass down money without family values the money will only destroy the family. No divided family can truly claim to be wealthy. Be clear about what your family values are, set a high standard and pass this down to your children. Every family has its own set of habits and routines. Make sure they are good ones, because more than likely they will be passed down to the next generation.

I hear lots of people using the phrase, “Health is the new wealth.” I like this saying. Most of our poor health conditions are the result of unhealthy eating habits passed down from the previous generation. We tend to use the terminology “it runs in the family.” Today you have the ability to break many generational health disparities by setting a new standard for healthy eating, exercise and positive thinking. Once you’ve set a new standard pass it down to the next generation. Anything that runs in your family can be “run out of your family” if you make up your mind to do better. We have the power to, not only, create generational wealth, we can also create generational health. In truth, you cannot have one without the other.

Malcolm X used to say: “Just as a tree without roots is dead, people without history or cultural roots also becomes a dead people.” Family history is a key component of its wealth. Without it, our youth lack identity and are easily manipulated. We must gather every bit and piece of our family history that can be found. We must organize, archive and prepare it to be passed down to the next generation. We must sit down with our elders and video record the oral history of our family before they take that wisdom to their graves. Make the grandchildren sit at their feet and learn. The wealth of knowledge found in our family history is essential to our liberation in every generation.

Generational wealth encompasses everything that you pass on that will empower the next generation to be better than the previous generation. For those who may not have an abundance of money to hand down to your people, know that you are still responsible for the example you set for those coming behind you. Generational wealth is also about passing on spirituality, dignity, wisdom, healing, unconditional love and unity within the village. Everybody is responsible for passing on something of substance. Nobody is exempt.

Don’t get me wrong. Generational wealth is very much about economics. I encourage every last one of us (especially men) to go out and build something that can be passed on to your children. However, we are such a beautiful, spiritual, unique and dynamic people that our wealth cannot be defined by one category. We must also see generational wealth from a holistic perspective and take the necessary steps to ensure that the next generation is rich and wealthy on every level. Ain’t nobody coming to save us yall. We are all we got.