Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.’s Advice on Money 

Omari Hall of GreenPath Wellness.   

Photo courtesy of GreenPath Wellness   


What would Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. say about your spending habits?   

Many know the Civil Rights-era giant to be one who spoke about peace, justice, fairness and love amidst unspeakable hate and threats made against Black people and other disenfranchised groups.  

Dr. King, however, had a penchant for pennies, too.  

With Martin Luther King Jr. Day coming up soon, it’s time to travel back to recap some of the wise words from Dr. King while making his vision a continued practical reality with millennial and financial expert Omari Hall of Southfield-based GreenPath Wellness, a financial consulting, credit and debt service.  

EBONY Magazine reported some of Dr. King’s sage advice when it came to finances. Some of his past lessons include:  

Create Economic Growth Opportunities  

  • Make strategic boss moves and don’t complain about social and economic injustices by doing something about it in your realm, which creates lanes and pathways for others. Turned down for a traditional loan for a business? Find an alternative route. It’s not always so black and white but with the right mindset and financial guidance, levelling up economically is possible with whatever venture you take. 
  •  How did Dr. King act out his feelings toward injustice? He protested, lobbied and even was jailed for his beliefs. Dr. King wrote: “There is nothing in all the world greater than freedom. It is worth paying for; it is worth losing a job for; it is worth going to jail for. I would rather be a free pauper than a rich slave. I would rather die in abject poverty with my convictions than live in inordinate riches with the lack of self-respect.”   

A Bold Step of Faith  

Dr. King was also quoted saying, “Faith is taking the first step even when you can’t see the whole staircase.”  

EBONY reported that being driven by a materialistic consumer culture is not the pathway toward true wealth. Rather being intentional about creating wealth through future investments is always key.  

It’s time to step up as a community to invest and be educated about doing so – if you’re ready.  

Just 44 percent of Black Americans have retirement savings accounts, with an average balance of around $20,000, compared to 65 percent of white Americans, who have an average balance of $50,000, according to the Federal Reserve. Also, only 34 percent of African Americans own any stocks or mutual funds, compared to over half of white people https://money.usnews.com/ reported.   

EBONY reported that for Blacks who do invest through company retirement plans, six in 10 have less than $50,000 saved from the plans, and just 23 percent have more than $100,000 in these plans, according to a Prudential study called The African-American Financial Experience. Similarly, 34 percent of Americans overall have $100,000 in company retirement plans, Prudential discovered.  

Hall, a native Detroiter, said that there is a clear need for easier access to clear and concise information around financial wellness so economic equity can thrive.    

Hall said that despite financial inequities especially in the Black community understanding finances is possible by taking small steps, which include debt management so investing is possible:  

  • Know how much you owe. Write down the total amount of all your debts, monthly payments, interest rates and due dates.  
  • Pay bills on time. Schedule your bill payments by when you get paid. Pay as much above your minimums as you can.  
  • Take a hard look at your spending. Track your expenses to ensure you spend less than you earn. Limit credit card use and reduce discretionary spending like eating out, cable/streaming, subscriptions and memberships until you lower debt levels.  
  • Build an emergency fund so that you don’t go into debt to cover an emergency expense.  
  • Choose a debt payoff strategy that works for your situation. Consider the Snowball method (paying off smallest debts first) or the Avalanche method (paying more on debt with the highest interest rate). Or consider a Debt Management Plan which helps you pay off the unsecured debt in 3-5 years. 

A Priceless Legacy 

In the wake of COVID-19, the world has turned topsy turvy as layoffs, furloughs and early retirements (even business closures and reductions) caused the business world and employees to question what’s next.  

Throughout time, history has proven one thing to be reliable: that job continuity and the economy are not stable in the face of crisis.  

Yet, Dr. King has said in the past that economic-related issues shouldn’t shake a person.  

Dr. King was quoted saying, “Everybody can be great … because anybody can serve. You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and verb agree to serve. You only need a heart full of grace. A soul generated by love.”  

While love is priceless and vital to make the world go round, Hall adds that it’s equally wise to find resources in common and unexpected places.  

“As the pandemic continues to linger and various forms of COVID relief such as stimulus, unemployment benefits, housing forbearance and Advanced Child Tax Credits, [which have just] ended, this can become stressful and unnerving,” Hall said, adding that taking care of the necessities always comes first.  

“Make sure you take care of essentials such as housing, medicine, food, utilities, childcare and transportation first,” Hall said. “If there has been a change in income resulting from the pandemic, it’s important to look closely at monthly expenses, debt payments and other bills. Redesign your financial habits and adjust as needed.”  

Other tips include leveraging all available federal, state and local assistance.   

“The Biden administration has extended the student loan payment pause until May 1, 2022. Most states have received or are receiving American Rescue Plan Act funds that will be used to provide housing assistance, employment and wraparound services. Check your local housing authority and related websites for more information,” he said adding to contact lenders, creditors and landlords. “Have an honest conversation about hardship options as soon as possible. … With a firmer understanding of your immediate, personal financial situation, I believe you will be better equipped to more confidently navigate the world of investments and retirement planning,”  

For more information on debt and finances, contact GreenPath at 1-800-550-1961 or www.Greenpath.org. 


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