If all the hubbub these days about the state of the economy -- soaring interest rates, double-digit inflation, the threat of a depression -- has you reeling in confusion, and the only thing you know for sure is that your wallet is empty, then financial consultant Pat Plant has some advice.
Keep track of what's happening in the business world if you want to prosper, says Plant, a San Francisco investment specialist. Believing strongly that "knowledge is power" and "money is power," she set out to obtain both.
"Money management is no longer for the wealthy alone," she says. "It's for everyone."
That means, as she points out in "Inflation/Recession Survival" courses and other financial-planning lectures and seminars she presents around the country, that you've got to spend time with your nose buried in the financial pages or other money publications.
While admitting that not everyone shares her fascination with the ups and downs of the stock market, she still advises that you"
Read your newspaper's business section and "read it consistently." If you don't understand all of the terms, "invest in a glossary."
Study the Wall Street Journal and Barron's. They should be available at your library.
Look through magazines, also at the library: Business Week, Forbes, Fortune, Financial World, U.S. News and World Report, Time, Newsweek. f
Check your TV log for programs on financial matters.
Attend money-management seminars offered frequently in most urban areas, many at no cost.
Buy or borrow such guides to personal finances as "Sylvia Porter's Money Book." Soon, she says, "they ought to look dogeared."
The days of an investor "being able to put his money to work and forgetting about it are over," says Plant, 31, who is making a name for herself in San Francisco's money world with a weekly TV show and a daily and weekly radio program, "Inside Today's Economy."
Plant, who estimates she is one of only 15 black women out of about 500 women (and a total of 49,000) stockbrokers in the country, was in Washington as a delegate to the White House Conference on Small Business, where she addressed the problems of women and minorities in business.
"There are large groups of people who have not had access to capital and have not had the management and technical assistance to perform in the small business area," she says.
Her blackness, she writes in an upcoming book, "Build a Better You -- ystarting Now," to which she contributed, "is a daily consideration. Even when it doesn't lead to a negative experience, it enters deeply in my consciousness. I prefer to think that my consciousness is aware of my race because I'm enjoying it. I do enjoy myself."
"I'm a new face on the block," she says. She senses people asking themselves, "What does a black woman know about making money?" She hopes she's getting across the message, "Hey, I'm doing it. It's working for me. Maybe it can work for you."
Raised in Connecticut and first educated at the University of Rochester, she has gone about her life "trying to make what you dream about a reality."
She early on decided she wanted a career in business. Figuring Japan would be "a major mover" in the world's economy, she learned Japanese at the University of Hawaii and worked in Tokyo as a travel consultant and translator for a Japanese organization.
She decided to become a stockbroker after she had spent a year studying how to invest $1,500 she had in a savings account. She turned up a winner with a sugar investment and went on to pursue formal studies in finance.
"I've been successful with my own money. I could be with others'," she told herself.
Then she shopped around for a city that pleased her, passing up Boston ("too cold"), New York ("unmanageable"), Atlanta ("too political") and Los Angeles ("a three-hour drive to visit friends") for the city by the bay.
Such self-motivation is what she writes about in the book. "The most basic motivator is you," she tells the reader. "Why not use you to motivate yourself? I do."
At Sutro and Co., an establishment dating from 1958, she works mostly with clients who have incomes of $200,000 a year, with thousands to invest. But in her radio and TV shows and with her lectures, she believes she is reaching the small investors with incomes beginning from $7,000-$8,000.
These families, she says, should:
Construct a very detailed income and expense statement. List even the cost of dog food. "It takes time and energy," she says, but it will give you an idea of where your money is going.
Draw up a balance sheet of assets and liabilities "to tell you your worth" and "whether you should deploy them differently."
Maintain an emergency fund or readily accessible money of from $1,000 to $10,000 -- "what you feel comfortable with."
As for investments, she suggests staying away now from gold, silver and diamonds because they've already appreciated so significantly. Instead, she suggests, consider investments in such developing areas as:
Oil and gas.
And one last caution:
"You must have patience to be an investor."