Sunday, February 3, 2008

Jazz Music, Winery and Good Company

Late Septemeber, one Friday afternoon I got a call from a friend who had a few tickets to see Herbie Hancock at Vila Montalvo Winery. Well, I thought to myself why couldn't she had asked me sooner. I would have come to work prepared to go to a concert. I was very tired and had a miserable week. Again, I though to myself," Oh what the hell. When was the last time I had gone to a jazz concert. Oh bullocks, I told her, "Count me in, damn it. Tired or not. I am going."
So she picked me up and we sped over the Bay bridge to San Franciso to pick up to other passengers and drove south bound 280 to Villa Montalvo. It had been dreary and cloudy all day until we made it beyond South San Francisco down 280. It was a beautigul drive. Afterall, I for once could sit back and be a passenger. I had never been to this venue and I was very tired but suddenly came alive as we entered into the town of Saratoga. Greenery and abundant tree lined streets through the town and passed the entry gates leading into the Vila Montalvo Estate. Down into a narrow winding path we drove into a designated area for parking. We hiked through a rustic rocky dirt path up to the Villa. Once inside, we were met with a reception table complete with a variety of wine from the surrounding area. Then the music began. It was a wonderful trio of melodies dominated by the rhythmic piano mastery of Herbie Hancock who was accompanyied by Nathan East a third musician and piano player. Herbie played his old standards fused with some new ones.
Once the event was over, the musicians and guest were invited for a reception in the Phelan Mansion. That's were I ran into Mayor Dellums of Oakland, CA paling around with Herbie, who was so amazed by his new I phone with pictures of his grandchildren. Eventually I grabbed Marcus (brother of guitarist Nathan East) Herbie and Mayor Dellums for a photo op.

Creating Generaltional Wealth

Many individuals are uninformed, misinformed or unskilled on the basics of financial and money management. While it is true that a large percent of Americans own a basic financial portfolio consisting of saving accounts, retirement plans, mutual funds and real estate; however many more do not. Those who manage a basic investment portfolio may also have a very good credit history; yet, there remains a larger percent of Americans that represent millions of people between the ages of 22 and 55 who live at ground zero that do not have a basic savings account. They are concentrated in urban cities and surrounding areas with conviences of check cashing centers, fast foods, super marts and corner liquor stores. These groups of individuals are also in dire financial crisis with severe credit issues. Few households pay a monthly mortgage and many struggle to make the payments, however most are paying monthly rents. Many individuals do not have checking accounts and are also unaware about the value credit worthiness and lack debt management skills that every citizen should know about. Too many urbanites are simply surviving living pay check to pay check. Are we missing the true picture? For generations, too many Americans have existed in the survival mode, but did we fail to learn a greater and more practical lesson: How to build generational and sustainable wealth?

Generational wealth building begins with information and strategic planning to break the cycles of ignorance plaguing previous generations. Every American from grade school to adulthood can benefit from basic financial literacy. Savvy parents have the impetus to begin educating their children early and continue throughout high school. By the time a child is ready for college, he or she will understand how to avoid the pit falls of debt. They should understand how to use a student loan to maximize the benefits and work toward their first investment in real estate or other securities. Additional understanding of wealth building ideally can be integrated into curriculm to educate adults and children alike; such as financial programs in public schools offered through local banks or first-time home buyer programs offered through the city community based organizations. It behooves the home buyer to have a thorough understanding about home ownership. It is the first and largest investment that can be leveraged into building a financial portfolio that can be used later to finance a child's college education or help to finance a new business or just provide comfort in later years.

Steps to begin with:

Make sure your households to develop a financial organizing system to centralize all confidential information on paper and electronically. This information should be stored in three ways: 1 on a computer with a protected password; 2. On a USB drive for portability and 3. In a notebook. I suggest using the Emergency Financial First Aid Kit (EFFAK) and Personal Disaster Preparedness Guide (PDPG) which can be downloaded for free at

As a leader or co-head of household, create a list a set of personal and business goals and objectives for your self and then with your household. Sit down with family-team members monthly and begin creating accountability systems to measure and review performances.

It is essential to create and maintain a budget for the household. Minimize wastefulness and reduce spending on fast foods. Get your children involved with specific responsibilities. Once established, periodically review the budget with the family. This is a great teaching method and a good starting tool to begin developing financial awareness.

Obtain credit reports for everyone who has one and make a list totaling the amounts of assets and debts. Create a plan to reduce the debt emphasizing discipline. Review credit frequently. Credit reports can be obtained for free at and for a small fee; you can receive a FICO score.

Write out a plan to eliminate debt in order of priority. Determine the cost of borrowing and rate of interest paid, then the size of the debt. Ideally the debt with the greater rate of interest is the first to focus on illuminating.

Capitalize on combine resources with family members. Open a team savings account along with an investment account that yields interest like a mutual fund for the family that pools a monthly contribution from each member.

Talk to a financial counselor at a lending institution or a broker about obtaining bonds and making stock purchases. Your investments should be based on your availability of funds, the term of investment, and the rate of return.

Once you purchase a home and begin a successful business, obtain life insurance policy and seek out a tax advisor and estate planner or software to create will and trusts. This is to protect assets and determine how remaining assets are distributed upon the termination of an individual and to prevent loss to state probate agencies.

Obtain auto, house, and medical insurance and review your policies. Be sure to protect your family from losses.

Everyone should obtain financial literacy education through school or a community program. Check your schools and local community organization or contact Operation Hope 1-877-592-HOPE.

Sonja Brooks is a Business, Commercial and Residential Loan Officer at Operation Hope in partnership with Bank of the West in Oakland, CA. Email: