African Americans are faced with two fiscal cliffs in this recovering financial environment. African Americans have decades of civil rights laws and federal anti-discriminating lending statutes and the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) that should protect them from getting the short end of the stick with financial related products.

Studies have indicated that African Americans are steered towards bankruptcy (chapter 13) at a higher rate than others.

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A leading African American attorney who promotes chapter 13 bankruptcies daily on his nationally syndicated talk show to African American listeners who have no clue that he is part owner of the organization that he promotes.

A report entitled “National Survey on Unbanked and Underbanked Households,” examined the number of households in the United States that do not have checking or savings accounts (unbanked) as well as the number of households that have a checking or savings account but use different financial services, such as check chasing services, payday loans, pawn shops and non-bank money orders (underbanked).

The report  founded that across the nation, 7.7 percent of all Americans are unbanked and 17.9 percent are underbanked. Within those numbers, more than one in five African-American households are unbanked (21.7 percent), compared to 19.3 percent of Hispanics, 15.6 percent of American Indians/Alaska Natives, 3.5 percent of Asian and 3.3 percent of Caucasian households.

The National Black Caucus of State Legislators (NBCSL) has released the disturbing results of a study conducted by the University of Denver Center for African American Policy demonstrating that credit scores are being used to deny African-Americans and other minorities access to credit and financial services. A copy of the report is available at the University of Denver’s website.

As we approach Jan. 1, 2013, and if Congress fails to act, there are a number of laws that would, if not changed substantially, affect taxes and budgetary spending cuts in the United States. These cuts will have a huge impact on African Americans.

Marginal Tax Rates Will Rise

Unemployment Will Also Rise

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Extended Unemployment Benefits Will Expire

Investments Will Be Taxed at a Higher Rate

Estate and Gift Tax Exemptions Will Drop

Social Security Payroll Tax Rates Will Increase

Already vulnerable, African Americans will now find themselves in an economic catastrophe. Considering the fore mention facts and the combination of financial illiteracy, African American struggles will multiply.

If Congress does act and avoid this fiscal cliff, the story is still the same for most African Americans. They are still faced with an embedded fiscal cliff that seems to continue to grow. The pre-paid cards industry that is highly promoted to African Americans by celebrities (many of whom are African American) is one of the fastest growing markets in the African American community.

These types of cards almost completely remove African Americans out of the financial arena. Yes, the cards are widely accepted, can help you avoid banking fees and overdrafts, but, the cost of not providing you with a credit history or the ability to improve your credit scores and limiting you to be able to build financial freedom is far greater than what it provides.

African Americans must begin to pursue financial literacy like we fought for civil rights. We must stand up and demand more from our celebrity and social leaders. Our pastors and churches should not allow financial institutions to water down the Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) in order to receive a check.

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The fight for financial freedom is more relevant in this environment for African Americans then at any times that we have faced. We must become bankable, we must create a household budget, we must begin to save and invest.