Kimbro taps inner secrets of African-American millionaires and wealth

Author Dennis Kimbro has spent the past seven years interviewing people many of us probably wish we could be.

Millionaires.

Kimbro, a professor of business at Clark Atlanta University, interviewed 1,000 of the African-American community’s wealthiest individuals for his new — and fifth — book, “The Wealth Choice: Success Secrets of Black Millionaires.”

Kimbro pored over census and federal research data and sent out 118-question surveys to identify and interview the rich in a variety of fields. As people heard about his project, they steered him to successful business owners and corporate executives.

They included filmmaker Spike Lee; Bishop T.D. Jakes, the head of a multimillion-dollar ministry; Cathy Hughes, an entrepreneur and television and radio personality; and Gregory B. Levett, the owner of four funeral homes in metro Atlanta.

“Years ago I had a conversation with Andy Young,” Kimbro said. “He said, ‘40 or 50 years ago, Dr. King and I integrated the lunch counter, but we failed to integrate the dollar.’ ”

Kimbro said there are several guidelines that these successful people have followed. They include attaining knowledge, making decisions, having faith in themselves when no one else did and making their money grow.

Kimbro will discuss and sign copies of his book Friday and Saturday at the Global Women’s Summit at the Georgia World Congress Center.

He recently talked about how millionaires are made and how they stay that way.

On what the millionaires have in common:

They made a conscious decision not to be poor, and at one point in their lives they could have all been classified as poor. I can tell you unequivocally that wealth is not a function of gender, it’s not a function of race, it’s not a function of conditions or circumstances, and it’s not a function of how the cards were dealt. Wealth is a function of choice. It’s a function of decisions. It’s a function of effort. It’s a function of faith. That’s the bottom line. … T.D. Jakes said people told him that he would never make it in the ministry because he had a heavy lisp. Now he has a $45 million megachurch. … (He said,) “I didn’t care whether I had to spit, stutter or stammer. I had something to say and I was going to say it.”

On whether anyone can build wealth:

Well, it depends on your definition of wealth. Not everyone who works hard is going to find himself standing in a pool of gold.

On what makes them different from the rest of us?

They want to make sure their savings and investing makes them comfortable in life. There’s no beating on the chest for these men and women. They’re so thrifty and frugal. The average black millionaire has less than $2,500 in credit card debt. When I asked, “Outside of your mortgage, how much do you owe?” The answers came back less than $10,000. Twenty-five percent use coupons. The lesson here is that you can’t build wealth if you’re spending. Money isn’t what you earn, but what you keep.

On whether he is a millionaire — or close to being one:

I’m blessed and it’s approaching close to a million copies of all my books in print.

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