By Reginald Stuart

There are myriad ways to help fix the so-called ‘racial wealth gap’ in America, says financial journalist Rodney Brooks, a Washington-area writer for USA Today, The Washington Post, the U.S. News and World Report and other outstanding publications.

Author Rodney A. Brooks

Brooks, author of the recently published book by the same name, “Fixing the Racial Wealth Gap,” has spent much of the past year talking with audiences around the country about what his reporting found to give credence to the claims of a racial wealth gap. He discovered how many gaps are based on government policies and local and state rules, and some self-inflected by what a person does or has not done to help themselves. 

As the renowned Staples Singers sang, and Books echoed, it’s time to take a deep breath as people try to shake off this COVID-19 trauma and elections drama, and Respect yourself!  

Brooks details in his 200 plus pages book his findings and shared some thoughts in a recent question and answer session, offering 10 tips for the new year on helping fix the racial wealth gap. He suggests his findings are quite timely in the robust job market today when jobs appear abundant, and people are ready to give a little to take a little.

Q. How important is a high school diploma? A high school diploma is important in any job search, Brooks says. A GED is an acceptable alternative. But some professional recruiters won’t even talk to people with a high school diploma, whether its blue collar, clerical or professional.

Based on numerous studies of formal education, fewer than half the nation’s high school graduates go on to college. 

Q. How important is a college degree? A college degree is required for many professional jobs. But many young people are looking for alternatives because of the high cost of higher education and they don’t want to be saddled with student loan debt, said Brooks. He and others spoken with have frequently mentioned ‘stop outs’ and ‘dropouts’ causing many people to drop college plans, som etimes for good.

“It depends a lot on what kind of career you are looking at,” said Brooks. “There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. You need to know what you want to do, and what the educational requirements are for that position. There are many professions and vocations that do not require a higher education,” he said. “But you need to know what they are and if that’s something you want to do for the rest of your life.” 

Q. What good is a part time job? “A good part-time job will be one that provides flexibility, and more importantly, health insurance and other benefits,” said Books. “Insurance is expensive when you pay for it yourself. And it is too dangerous financially to try to live without health insurance. A 401(k) plan is also important, especially if your employer contributes. But even if you have a plan in which your employer doesn’t contribute, you should still c

ontribute. You’ll regret it later if you don’t”

Q. Is it important to get a job? “I’m not sure at what point in the lifecycle this is referring to,” said Brooks. “After retiring it is important to do something with your time, but that should be planned out before you retire,” he said.  “Volunteer at a non-profit or church. Some people need to work. Some people prefer to work.

If you need income, a job is important at any age. Also, many people have social networks that revolve around their work lives. That is what most people find difficult about retirement – the loss of that social network

Q. Is a part time job good? Part-time work may work for you. There are advantages and disadvantages. You generally have more flexibility to do more of the things that you like. You may have the option of working when you want. But you will likely not have health care or other benefits, like a retirement account. Very few companies offer benefits to part-time workers. That trend is changing with the tight labor market, but it is changing very slowly.

Q. Is a full-time job better, why? How do I get one? Networking is key. The more people in your network, the wider your possibilities. Go to networking social events. Join Linked-In. Find people who are in your chosen profession who can give you advice and serve as mentors. And you should always have an updated resume and bio available.

Q. Once you are in the job market looking for employment, what are the important elements of a resume? Do all parts have to be real?

“The most important parts of a resume are your education, work experience and your activities,” said Brooks. “Employers are turned off by job-hopping candidates. They don’t want to invest money and training in someone only to have them quit after a year. They want to know that you have the experience to do the job that they are hiring you for.”

Q. How important is it to be on time for work? “Punctuality is important,” said Brooks. “You need to make sure you have plenty of time to make the commute. If you have a difficult commute, then you need to plan to be to work early to make up for the heavy traffic. Timeliness says something about your work ethic and commitment,” he said, echoing other recruiters and hiring managers.

Q. How important are receipts? What are they and when are they useful?

Receipts are most important at tax time, especially if you have a small business or work as a freelancer,” said Brooks. “You need to keep track of your business expenses. The best ways are to keep them on one credit card, or if you accumulate receipts, keep them in a folder and make notes to remind you what those expenses are for. 

Q. What are the most important words to use when speaking with someone, disagreeing with someone, and challenging some person’s opinion? “I’d say words aren’t as important as a tone,’ said Brooks.

“Some people are by their very nature argumentative. That may not work in all work situations. There is a difference between being self-assured an overbearing. You must be able to not just disagree but offer solutions and alternatives. And you must make it more of conversation in which you are offering input rather than it being a lecture.”