The Rev. DeForest B. Soaries is more than the senior pastor of the First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens in Somerset, New Jersey. He shares a personal financial curriculum with black churches nationwide, believing that a way to solve poverty in black communities involves taking into account personal values.
"The culture really has induced this idea that you can spend more," Soaries said during a recent episode of "Salon Talks. "I lived that way for years; for 13 years I was paying last month's bills with next week’s check. For 13 years I was getting calls from bill collectors."
Added Soaries: "Then I realized that I had to start tracking my spending; I had to live within means. I had to have a budget. I couldn't live as if I made $30,000 just because I had a $25,000 job and a $5,000 credit limit on my credit card."
Soaries shared his "catalytic moment," a realization he had after his grandmother, a sixth-grade graduate who had raised six children and served as a caregiver to her invalid husband, passed away:
"The first house I owned, I inherited from my grandmother, and at her grave I said . . . if she could accrue enough wealth to leave three houses debt free and leave one to me, shame on me with all of my civil rights and my college degrees and my big church if all I have to leave when I die is credit card bills," Soaries said.
Black Enterprise contributor John Burnett added, "We have to change the mindset of the people now and also create a sort of like a ecosystem for our youth so that way we can really shape future outcomes."
Encouraging people to make wise financial choices, Soaries asked: "What are we doing with the money that we have?" He said, "The check-cashing joints are there but they don’t force us to use them," adding that many "black people either have no bank account . . . which means we still use payday loans."
Declared Soaries: "African Americans who will spend $1.2 trillion this year — we have within our hands the means to do better."
Catch more of our conversation about how to raise financial outcomes in the black community on Salon.