Russell Simmons’ Hip-Hop Summit Action Network hit Toronto this weekend with the “Get Your Money Right” forum. I wrote a while back about my own struggle to get financially empowered, so I figured I’d head down there and see if I could pick anything up.
The red carpet was a bit of a zoo, and the auditorium was packed with kids (half of whom seemed to have shown up to demonstrate their undying love for Chris Brown by screeching at the top of their lungs). Forums like this always run the risk of being an exercise in celebrity worship, as opposed to offering any useful information. But as it turned out, panelists Russell Simmons, Dr. Benjamin Chavis, Remy Ma, Lil Mo, Chris Brown, Melyssa Ford, Lil X, Hi-Tek, Kardinal Offishal, Saukrates, MC Lyte, as well as a financial expert from Chrysler, had quite a bit to say. Here’s ten tips from HHSAN on getting your money in order. 
1. Set goals. It’s important to have a plan when it comes to managing your money. Get financially literate by reading books, talking to people you respect, visiting your bank manager and doing research on the Internet. Dedicate time every month to reviewing your finances. Keep on top of your progress. Be patient, don’t let setbacks get you down.
2. Track your day-to-day spending and come up with a realistic monthly budget. Get a handle on your spending. The best way to do this is by carrying a little notebook and recording all of your daily expenses. Once you know exactly where your cash is going, you can begin to look for simple, painless ways to cut spending.
3. Live within your means. Make sure that your income and expenses balance. You shouldn’t be spending more than you make each month. Limit your use of credit, particularly high interest credit cards and department store cards. Reduce your spending on things like fast food that aren’t particularly pleasurable or healthy. (The Automatic Millionaire calls this the Latte Factor. In the book, author David Bach details how you can accumulate millions over the course of a lifetime if you skip your morning latte and invest the money instead.) Work at reducing your debt load.
4. Stop trying to keep up with the Jones. Wearing all your money doesn’t make sense. Plain and simple.
5. Save a percentage of your income. Invest your savings. Saving small amounts will add up to a fortune over a couple of decades.
6. Establish a prudent reserve. Set aside some money to ensure that you aren’t living from paycheck to paycheck and can handle unforeseen emergencies without incurring new debt.
7. Work towards purchasing a home. A home is an ideal investment because it normally appreciates in value over time.
8. Harness the power of visualization. MC Lyte suggested that audience members stop focusing on deprivation and start focusing on prosperity. If you know you want to own a condo but can’t afford one, she said, go to the open house anyway. Walk around that apartment and visualize yourself living there. You would be surprised how things that you visualize start to manifest in your life.
9. Don’t hoard money. Keep the flow moving. Be generous, support good causes, donate time and money to community projects.
10. Focus on service. Simmons said the key to success is to identify what you have that the world needs. Get up every morning thinking about what you can contribute to the world as opposed to what you can get out of it.
 HHSAN has put together a handy workbook on personal finance. You can download it at: http://www.hsan.org/