Titans of Industry — a wealth and wisdom speaker series — came to Chicago on Wednesday, bringing out the city’s great business minds for a discussion on building and maintaining long-term wealth in the Black community.

Powered by Real Times Media and sponsored by Prudential, the event featured Prudential vice president of financial reporting Maurice Kuykendoll, Global Automotive Alliance chairman and CEO William F. Pickard, financial strategist and Xerox corporate controller Ingrid L. Morris, McLaurin Development Partners owner Zeb McLaurin, and Chicago Urban League president and CEO Shari Runner. The series came to Chicago after having much success in Detroit, Charlotte, Houston, Atlanta, and at Prudential’s headquarters in Newark.

Emmy award-winning journalist Ed Gordon moderated the discussion ranging from success in corporate America, entrepreneurial endeavors, community support, personal and business financial goals, and mentorship. A common thread throughout discussion topics was the importance of making financial planning a priority.

Studies show that poor planning can be a serious detriment to a family’s financial position. A recent Prudential study shows that although African-Americans are optimistic about their finances, failure to consistently plan for the future can come into play. Not taking advantage of financial and investment tools that help with retirement planning negatively affects long-term wealth creation.

Some of this avoidance comes from not having adequate knowledge of how to plan. One in five survey respondents gave themselves a grade of “F” on their knowledge of investing, planning for wealth transfer or leaving money to the next generation, and saving or investing for a child’s education.

That kind of knowledge is key to financial wealth, experts say, but is not always passed on when parents don’t have a strong hold on financial planning concepts, leaving future generations to make similar mistakes.

A Change in Mindset

“Not all of the bad decisions are because people want to be broke,” Kuykendoll said. “I don’t know a lot of people that just want to be broke, but sometimes those tools aren’t there naturally.”

Pickard said that the greatest change to the Black community will come from a change in mindset, making finances a priority.

“Our greatest challenge is our mindset. We must understand that the business of America is business,” Pickard said. “We’re buying what we want and begging for what we need.”

Another discussion topic surrounded the importance of supporting Black businesses to build up community economies. Kuykendoll suggested Black Americans institute an economic policy that countries use to become more financially dependent.

“One of the ways that lots of countries develop is called import substitution: You take something that you used to have to spend a lot of money for and they start developing it themselves internally,” Kuykendoll said. “We all have that opportunity in the decisions that we make and in the purchases that we do to support Black business.”

For those who are or will become business owners, handling debt is an important skill for longevity in business.

“If you’re going to become an entrepreneur, you have to learn how to manage debt,” McLaurin said. “You are not in business if you don’t have some of it, so you can’t be afraid of it. It’s how you deal with it.”

Once you reach a level of success, Morris said keeping your proverbial seat at the table comes from knowing the numbers in business.

“Know the numbers, understand the risk, quantify it,” Morris said. “So that when you are in a position where you get access, you know your numbers because that is what’s going to keep you in the room, once you get in there.”

Although the road to wealth varies, Runner said that the methodology to get there remains the same.

“Wealth creation takes on many forms,” Runner said. “And we have to focus on that as a community. We’re not all entrepreneurs, we’re not all corporate citizens, we’re not all in government business, but we all have a passion and the ability to lift our community up. We have to be conscious of it so we can pass it along to the next generation and stop the cycle of poverty.”

To get started on your road to building financial wealth, contact a Prudential representative at www.prudential.com.

Craving more? View videos from the event below.

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