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Corporate Boardrooms Need Age Diversity

Corporate Boardrooms Need Age Diversity

During the last decade, significant changes in Corporate America have been attributed to what has been dubbed “disruption.” The fact that so many iconic brands have either been reduced in size or have completely disappeared is quite unsettling for every sector of the economy, and technology has been the driver for much of the disruption. The retail industry has been reeling with the emergence of online shopping; the banking industry has been impacted by FinTechs; communications and entertainment have been permanently altered by consumers converting from cable and broadcast to streaming, and mainstream media has been upstaged by social media.

Ever since the VCR (video cassette recorder) proved that older users required the assistance of younger people to successfully use the new technology, there has been a growing consciousness that younger people are more likely to grasp the potential and functionality of emerging technologies. However, corporate governance has not kept pace with this reality. Despite the fact that cybersecurity is widely perceived to be a greater threat than terrorism, and transitioning to cloud solutions is common, corporate boards are slow to embrace younger directors in boardrooms.

 

KPMG’s essay Age Diversity Within Boards of Directors of the S&P Companies, published in 2017, noted that research shows the average age of corporate directors is 62.4. This data confirms that change is necessary.

 

“If corporations do not embrace age diversity and recruit younger directors, they will be targets for disruption.”

 

And when it happens, they will never understand what hit them. Most of our emerging technologies are actually being created by people under 35 years of age. The challenges and opportunities of the future will require people to become more familiar with fast changing technologies; it will also require people to have a mindset capable of developing policies prospectively rather than retroactively. Currently, those policies are made in corporate boardrooms where there are few people 35 and under. If there is a lack of age diversity, C Suite recruitment will not be sufficient to address this need. There will have to be outreach to bright, young talent to fill seats in board rooms if we are going to remain competitive in the global economy.

Corporate Board Opportunities: A New Field of Service

Corporate Board Opportunities: A New Field of Service

I was invited to serve on the board of directors of a small, community bank twenty-five years ago. The bank was located around the corner from my church. Although I had no experience in banking, I felt this opportunity would put me in a position to help my church members and community residents develop a strong working relationship with the institution. It was a relationship I wanted to bring together because the bank had the resources we needed to increase access to home mortgages, business loans, educational financing and convenient savings. I didn’t go into this work to accomplish my personal goals. My first impulse was to treat this board appointment as a goal for community accomplishment. In fact, when I officially became a director, I asked the bank to host a reception for my members and community residents to attend. They did just that. More than 200 people jammed in the lobby of this small bank to celebrate the first African-American bank director they had ever had, and the first African-American bank director they had ever known.

 

Being a director at the bank did put me in a good position to build stronger ties between the community and the bank. We started a micro business loan program for small businesses that needed working capital; we offered mortgages for first time home buyers, and we provided other financial products to the local neighborhood. Not only did my relationship with the bank help a lot of people build banking relationships, but it also helped the bank improve its Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) rating with the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC). My serving on this bank’s board of directors was a win/win situation.

 

The success stories don’t end there. At one of my first meetings, the vice president of the bank asked me to complete paperwork that included the same form a working employee would complete. When I asked why they needed me to complete those forms, she informed me that they were necessary in order to process my director fees. I had no idea that the bank was going to pay me to attend meetings and to help the bank help my community.  Besides, I had served on boards of directors previously, and all of them were non-profit organizations that expected me to donate money to them in order to secure a seat on their board. I had no idea there were boards that paid their directors to serve. This made my bank directorship a win/win/win situation!

 

This new insight prompted me to study the world of corporate governance and paid directorships. I quickly learned that many people I knew were serving on boards of major corporations and being paid more money as part-time directors than I was getting paid  as a full-time pastor. That was the year I decided to learn everything there was to know about being a paid corporate director, and then pursue corporate directorship opportunities for the rest of my life.  Since that time, I have served as a paid director on five corporate boards. The experience and expertise I have gained caused me to commit myself to helping others accomplish the goal of becoming paid corporate directors.

 

The free enterprise system is the most successful economic model in the world. The strength of that system depends on strong, integral corporate governance that protects investors, owners, lenders and customers by holding executives and managers accountable to sound business practices. When corporations have such governance, investors, employees and consumers enjoy prosperity that yields benefits for current and future generations.

 

Diversity, mobility and technology have combined impact on markets today like never before. We live in the fastest changing time in human history. Corporate leadership is facing the pressure of having to expand the types of individuals that oversee corporate planning, innovation and execution. Increasingly, companies need directors with backgrounds in technology, cultural diversity, international business and cyber security. The days when company leaders can sit on each other’s boards and function as rubber stamps for their management decisions are long gone. New legal requirements have opened the door to more directors who are independent of all company executives and businesses, and major corporate disruptions have forced corporate leaders to be more adaptable and flexible than ever before.

 

Now is the time to create a new pipeline of talented people who will be available for corporate director service. I intend to play a role in developing that pipeline.

 

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DeForest B. Soaries, Jr. is an independent director at three companies: Federal Home Loan Bank of New York; Ocwen Financial Corporation (OCN:NYSE); Independence Realty Trust (IRT:NYSE).

 

Join Dr. Soaries as he teaches you some of his secrets from inside of the board room. Enroll TODAY for the DBS Solutions Master Class: How to Become a (Paid) Corporate Director Online Course. Through this course, he will teach individuals how to become candidates and how to position themselves for board service. Click here for more information.

Ignite dfree® Living: Draw Others to the Movement

Ignite dfree® Living: Draw Others to the Movement

Once, a young lady in Ghana was so passionate about her dfree® journey that she gave her copy of Say Yes to No Debt: 12 Steps to Financial Freedom to a friend of hers. A year later, she found out that the friend had taken the book and started a dfree® club in Accra, where people meet monthly to build upon the principles of financial freedom. Now that’s the spirit of igniting dfree® living.

I was in a church in another country and a woman bought 10 copies of the book, one for herself and one each for nine other family members. Last year, I received a letter from a gentleman who wanted to buy 150 copies of the book to give as gifts at his family reunion that summer. It’s wonderful when the financial freedom message resonates with people so deeply that they want to spread the message. It’s important for you to promote dfree® too.

Groups around the world are using the dfree® strategy because they realize the need for an accessible, culturally-relevant strategy and curriculum that helps people understand not just how to handle money but the emotional, psychological and spiritual drivers that pull us into financial problems rather than lifting us out of financial problems – and that’s what dfree® is.

dfree® addresses the root causes of spending more money than we make. dfree® helps us analyze the messages that we receive that are often deceptive and not very helpful to our financial future. dfree® promotes the principle of owning instead of renting, of spending less than you earn, of using legitimate financial institutions instead of alternative financial services. It is much more than reading a book; dfree® is a movement. Movements connect people.

No matter how much you’ve learned about financial freedom to date, you’ll learn more when you teach. No matter how focused you are on debt relief, your focus will magnify when you bring others into your dfree® circle or family. Not only have studies shown that it is easier to do difficult challenges in groups, but groups are just more fun. You have leadership, gatherings, structure, accountability and celebrations in groups.

So if you are part of the dfree® movement but not part of a group – it’s time. Either join a group or start one. Most of us are part of a group – a school group, a fraternity or sorority, a parent group, a block association, a tenant group, a church group, a sports team, a book club, etc. If you are not part of a group, start one. dfree® offers ample resources, most of which are free, to help and train group leaders and members. You may not think so but, you have the time and you have the influence.

There are 168 hours in every week. What I’ve discovered is that if you spend eight hours a day sleeping, if you spend eight hours a day working, if you spend two or three hours a day showering, eating and commuting, most people still have two or three hours left. That is two or three hours each day that could be used to do something redemptive and contribute to someone’s life. Suppose you gave only 10 percent of your discretionary time, suppose you gave two to three hours per week to an organization or individual to help them teach dfree® living? Any activity that teaches financial freedom would be time well spent. There are people who need you.

There are people who make decisions in their lives based upon you. You may be surprised to learn that someone bought a pair of shoes because you wear those shoes. Someone does their hair the way they do because they saw you doing your hair that way. Someone drives the kind of car I drive because they assume, if I am driving the car, it must be a good car to drive. Each one of us has a sphere of influence and all I’m asking you to do is to use your personal influence to lead people to a point where their financial freedom now appears to be possible to them and they commit to paying down their debt. That’s powerful. It helps remove stress from people’s lives. And, it gives you a chance to join a national movement without leaving your bedroom! You can connect with people and spread the word through social media.

In her day, my grandmother believed that segregation would end because nameless, faceless people marched down the dusty roads of the South to bring about a change. I believe we need today the kind of movement that addresses itself to financial challenges and injustices the same way, and at the same level, we had a movement to address the social and political injustices facing our people in this country.

We’re living in a culture where it’s normal to be drowning in debt. Debt is like a cancer that eats away at what would otherwise be a healthy body. Debt is like termites that eat away at the foundation of your home. This is a movement of people serving people. We need everyone who understands the severity of financial incapacity, everyone who understands the plight of people who are minorities yet represent the majority in negative statistics, to embrace and promote dfree® living today.

The Joy of Financial Discipline: Giving Back

The Joy of Financial Discipline: Giving Back

Many years ago, during travel to Jamaica, I stayed in the home of a gentleman who was 65 years old. This man’s major focus at the time was saving coins to give to his child to buy a mule. His son needed $175 in Jamaican dollars to buy a mule to expand his $700 annual income to $1,400. The father’s dream was to save enough coins so that one day his grandson could buy the mule! 

Five of us chipped in $7 each and gave him 35 U.S. dollars, which was enough in Jamaican dollars to buy the mule. We saved that man two generations of work and all we gave was $7 a piece. I’ve never missed that $7. That $7 would have bought me a burger at a fast-food joint. But the joy I know from helping that man is immeasurable. And that’s not where the story ends.

I shared this story as I was speaking at an event in New York. After, a woman walked up to me and asked if the man’s name was McCain. I said that was his name. She said, “I’m his granddaughter!” You can’t imagine how good I felt knowing that this young woman was the beneficiary of the blessings received from a $7 gift to a man in Jamaica. It truly is better to give than to receive.

Before I took my journey toward financial freedom, I wondered how I would increase my income. I had dreams. I had plans. I had activities. My income did not begin to increase the way it has until my giving also increased the way it has. I believe God blesses us to be a blessing to others. When we invest in others, God trusts us and invests in us.

Knowing we’re going to support someone else’s efforts with our personal resources is one of the most powerful acts we can perform. Yet, even after all of the hard work is done to get on the right financial track, it’s easy to slip off. That’s where focus and discipline enter. It’s not enough to invest in others. You have to make the commitment to stay healthy enough, strong enough and fit enough to be a blessing to others. You have to make sure you don’t lose all of the work you’ve put in, all of your steps toward financial freedom.

First, you have to make a commitment to yourself to spend time on your financial health daily. Second, you have to identify someone you trust and admire who can help guide you in your times of need. Third, you need to identify what you’re determined to do in the way of giving.

Spending time on your financial health daily doesn’t mean just spending the seven minutes per day that I recommend spending on reviewing your investments, bank accounts, etc. It also means: learning about new opportunities; taking time to pray so you’ll make sound decisions and stay on track; and, having financial conversations with others so that making finances a priority becomes ingrained in you.

Finding a financial mentor is important because not only will this person advise you but this is someone who will hold you accountable to your own commitments. Don’t just think of someone you can go to if you need advice. It’s specificity that brings success in this area. Pick someone before you have a need because then it will be more likely that you’ll pick the right someone. When I was going through this process, I talked to a fellow in my neighborhood who I had greatly admired for his success. You can find someone by joining the Billion Dollar Challenge.

Also be specific in determining, in advance, your giving strategy. Will you focus on individuals, organizations, giving through church? Once you have picked someone or some avenue or organization, reach out to them and let them know your future plan so they will come back to you in time to hold you accountable.

This is a marvelous stage in our development because it has less to do with how we treat money and more to do with how we treat people, including ourselves. It’s critical that we understand that dfree® is not really about money management. We don’t manage money; we manage our lives and we use money strategically to reach our life goals. Our life goals should always be inclusive of helping others reach their life goals, because it is truly better to give than to receive.

Celebrate Your Success Along the Journey

Celebrate Your Success Along the Journey

One of the most powerful ways to maintain focus and resist the cultural snares of greed and celebrity is to celebrate your victories along your journey of becoming debt free. Soon after I made helping members achieve financial freedom as a church priority, we began public celebrations of individual successes.

Every fourth Sunday of the month, we started pausing during worship to give parishioners the opportunity to share testimonials – bills they had paid on time, loans fulfilled, and credit cards paid off. 

At first, people were reluctant to tell their business in front of an entire church full of people. But when individuals experienced hundreds of people cheering after hearing their news of a student loan, car loan, or even mortgage paid in full, others began looking forward to giving their own testimonies. I’ll never forget our celebration when one woman testified that she had finished paying off eleven credit cards!

Even when you’ve made great strides, there are so many temptations and distractions to suck you back into poor habits. Celebrating with others helps them hold you accountable to press on toward your ultimate goal. It reminds you that you have a support network or community and it reminds you of the many reasons to keep moving forward.

When you’re struggling, feeling down or feeling like you just want to give up, you can refocus your mind and change your attitude by planning for your celebration. Get creative!

One church member used to hold a potluck dinner every time she paid off a credit card. Others enjoyed taking supporters out for ice cream or dessert – as long as they stayed within budget. Still others chose to celebrate by engaging in acts of service and giving back to others, like organizing children’s parties or events.

Celebrations don’t have to be fancy and they don’t have to be time consuming. They should, however, be motivating. Research shows it takes six positive affirmations for every negative. If printing out a certificate and hanging it on your wall will inspire you, every time you look at it, to stick to your mission – make the certificate! If posting a message to social media and receiving likes and congrats from your friends is the motivation you need – post often! Getting rid of debt in a culture that promotes credit is a huge accomplishment. Shout it from the rooftops!

It’s important to celebrate so you will stay positive and courageous. Just when we think we’ve learned about all the advertising gimmicks designed to get us to part with our money, marketers come out with new ones. For every friend who encourages us to stick to our budget, we’ll have a few more that tell us what a good job we’ve done so it’s okay to blow the budget. It is not!
In a country that has more than $1 trillion in outstanding credit card debt yet embraces celebrity worship, chances are you’ve spent much of your life in debt. It’s difficult to stick to a path that goes against the grain and can often feel lonely. Yet the rewards are great.
So, find ways, like joining the Billion Dollar Challenge, to connect with others who are also on the path to financial freedom. Celebrate proudly and celebrate each milestone. The investment you make now benefits you, your family and future generations.

Black Freedom

Black Freedom

Nearly three-quarters of all African Americans and a substantial portion of the rest of the population plan to see the Black Panther movie that marks the theatrical debut of the first black superhero in mainstream comics. Of course we want to see a beautiful black cast in an utopian paradise that can infuse us all with great energy and pride. Who doesn’t want to live in Wakanda?
So whether you’re a Black Panther, Black Lightning, Blade, Spawn, Luke Cage or Misty Knight fan or whether you still remember Eartha Kitt slinking across your small television screen as Catwoman, escapism has its purpose — as long as we don’t get lost there.

More than anything else, what needs to be on our minds as black people is Black Freedom. What we need to be reminded is that it doesn’t take super powers to change our state of mind and change our lifestyles. It takes super commitment. It takes the willingness to focus on our problems and take the first steps on a journey to end them.
Financial struggles remain one of the greatest challenges of our time. Yet it is entirely within our power to change our financial status. We can become disciplined enough to budget and pay our bills on time. We can become focused enough to take our God-given talents and skills and turn them into lucrative businesses. 

Yes, we continue to face racism, discrimination and other injustices – but we must control what we can control. We can’t wait for a hero on a white horse or in a black, vibranium-laced outfit to swoop in and save us. 

While you are riding the hope and hype of the Black Panther high, take a minute to find the real super hero inside. Take even longer to connect or reconnect with the true power of this universe and learn more about how God intends for your life to be lived in freedom. Let’s put in the effort now to create Black Freedom so that our joy doesn’t have to live in fantasy.

Live a Richer Life Planning for Death

Live a Richer Life Planning for Death

Many of the stresses we have in life we bring upon ourselves – not by what we do but often by what we fail to do. We fail to consider the possibility that life will take a turn we hadn’t anticipated. We fail to recognize that we’re more likely to have a disability before we turn 65 than to die before age 65.
I have a personal experience that’s an exception to that rule. When my dad was 47 years-old he was admitted to the hospital for minor tests. My dad was a school teacher full-time and a minister part-time. When he went to the hospital, they basically had to do what today would require putting a tube down your nose to look inside. But, back in that day, they would literally cut you open to look inside, and they did that. 

They cut my dad open. They looked inside. They were trying to see if he had polyps in his colon. After the procedure, I went to the hospital to see him. He was in a private room and he was fine. The test went fine, and I went back to my house. I told him I’d stop by to see him the next morning on my way to the airport. I had to go to Chicago. The next morning, while I was getting dressed, my brother called me and said, “Daddy’s gone.” I thought he meant that he had been moved to a different room, but what my brother was informing me was that my dad had died.
In the process of doing this minor procedure, of course, they gave him anesthesia. The anesthesia was stronger than it should have been and, as a result, it induced a heart attack and, at 47, my dad died. My mother was 44. We had a sister who was 8 years-old. My brother was four years younger than me. And it was just the shock of my life. 
However, a week before my father died, he took me to the bank, opened his safe deposit box and he showed me all of his important papers. After 42 years of having lost my dad, I miss him every day. But, I also think about the fact that I’m grateful to have had a dad who had insurance so that my mother was not left destitute and homeless; a dad who had insurance on his bills – the mortgage on our house was literally paid because my dad had insurance on the mortgage.
 
Although I miss him personally and emotionally, at least I have the comfort of knowing that my dad had prepared for the future in a way that many people don’t.
Insurance helps people get past grief. Insurance helps families get over bumps. Insurance protects people from being devastated completely when they lose a loved one. Also, the reality is that, insurance is one of the best strategies we can employ to close the wealth gap between our children and other children.

So many of us believe we can’t afford insurance. Life insurance is not optional; it should be mandatory. And the sooner you buy life insurance, the cheaper it is. Talk to a trusted and licensed life insurance professional to figure out what will work for you. Any insurance professional worth his or her salt will not charge you for this conversation.

It doesn’t make sense to go through all of the strategies and steps I’ve suggested to save money, to earn money, to invest in assets – only to come to the end of your life and have all of the money go to sources which you don’t approve! Or to have all of your money eaten up by bills that you don’t have to pay, or to have all of your money go to a nursing home because you didn’t have long-term care insurance. So, protect yourself and eliminate stress before it comes. Nothing is more stressful to a family than to lose a loved one, or to have a loved one be incapacitated, without proper planning having been made.

Now that you’re focused, not only do you need life insurance, you need: health insurance, short- and long-term disability insurance, a health directive or a living will, auto and home insurance, power of attorney and a will. It sounds like a lot, but an insurance premium is always cheaper than a medical bill. Estate planners report that as many as 70 percent of Americans each year die without having a will in place. Let’s change those statistics.

We all know we’re going to die someday. Let’s protect our families and remove the extra stress. You not only want to leave your loved ones with a legacy of integrity, love and faith but you want to leave them financially secure enough to pursue their own dreams and adjust to life without you. Plan appropriately and you’ll also live a richer, more worry-free life knowing that you did everything you possibly could do to build a safety net for your loved ones.

Get Ahead With Financially by Starting with End in Mind

Get Ahead With Financially by Starting with End in Mind

Before I started talking about financial freedom to members of First Baptist Church of Lincoln Gardens, so many were struggling because of debt. I remember one woman whose trouble started with a parking ticket that was less than $20. 

Because she did not pay the ticket, a warrant was issued for her arrest and her driver’s license and car registration were suspended. One day, she was stopped by police, her car was towed and she was given a new summons to appear in court. By the time this comedy of errors completely unfolded, along with a few more infractions of the motor vehicle laws, this woman had no car, no license and no transportation to get to her job. Not surprising she then lost her job and her apartment, and ended up homeless. It took us more than five years to help her get back on track – all for something that could have been resolved with $20.

For many of us, the trouble begins with something unavoidable – divorce, a death in the family, a disease or job loss. Which is why the new year is the right time to strategize and plan so that you can stay on track, even if and when disaster strikes. You have to stay focused and take care of financial details seen and unseen.
How would you feel about yourself if you not only became financially free but you actually started accumulating wealth? Accept that this will become your reality and anticipate how to maintain focus, so that you won’t backslide. 

By now, you should be using the money you’ve saved from paying off smaller debts to regularly pay down larger debts. If you’ve resisted the temptation to return to old habits or celebrate with a splurge purchase, soon you’ll be ready to invest in yourself and your future. Believe me, I know how difficult it is to resist those temptations. As you experience better health in your finances you may feel that going off budget every now and then won’t hurt, especially if you’re better off financially than most of your friends and family.
Even when you seem determined to stay in your new mindset, today’s advertising has been designed to undermine your savings efforts. Advertising went from marketing function to marketing feelings. The temptation is powerful unless we’re equipped economically and emotionally. One of the best weapons is to imagine your end years – retirement – and plan now to create the type of retirement you desire.

Have you ever imagined what you’d like to do in your retirement?

Many people have fanciful notions of retiring after they win the lottery or put in enough years at a caring company. Sadly, these options are not reality for most of us. You must plan for the future as if your life depends upon it. Because it does – no one else is going to take care of you the way you take care of you.
Most experts recommend that you should assume needing at least 80 percent of your current income to live on when you retire. If you plan well, retirement is best thought of as a season when you have more choices of how to spend your time because you have the security of enough money to live on comfortably. Yet in the past decade the number of bankruptcies declared by people 65 and older increased by more than 150 percent! If you don’t plan well, you may never be able to retire.
So, how do you start now in order to have a successful retirement? First, create a retirement fund to which you contribute monthly. Next, have a specific goal – an actual dollar amount – that you have set as your retirement target. Finally, imagine what you want your later years in life to look like and take the necessary steps now to begin making it happen.
There will be plenty of things that pop up in 2018 to distract you from your goals. If you haven’t yet, you need to form a support group of people who can help keep you focused on investing in yourself and your future. There’s no reason to take this difficult journey alone. If you don’t have anyone with whom to connect, your local church may be a good place to start or find other participants in the financial freedom movement at mydfree.org.

Saving money and getting out of debt is always one of the top new year’s resolutions. Let’s make 2018 the year when you not only keep these resolutions but you put yourself on a solid path to a blessed retirement.