The triple-threat actor, author and community activist believes in sharing the life lessons he has learned along his journey, in hopes of helping others to live their best lives. In his latest book,The Wealth Cure, he fuses the lessons with wealth, bringing awareness to our personal and somewhat dysfunctional relationship with money.
BET.com recently sat down with Harper in a conversation that included his new book, the Tyler Perry−Spike Lee feud and his college buddy, President Barack Obama.
In your opinion, what is the best course of treatment to get people and their bank accounts on the road to recovery?
The first step is diagnosis. Most people aren’t honest with themselves about money. It’s interesting, there was a study that came out that said people are more apt to talk about infidelity than how much they earn! Money is almost a taboo subject. We have to be honest with ourselves about what money we have, what we are earning and what are we spending it on. It’s really a transparent process.
In the book, you pointed out that ESPN sounds more like CNBC with the stories being more focused on the million dollar contracts versus the game’s final score. How much of a role does the media play in our society’s hyper consumerism?
Huge! The media is convincing people that if you have that “next thing," that diamond, the right car, then you’d be happier. We’ve been taught the wrong things about money from the beginning. We use money to try to replicate happiness. The media realized if they can make an emotional connection to you around purchasing something they can get your money.
Let’s talk politics, which controls our wealth. Do you think any of the criticism President Barack Obama has received on his handling of the debt ceiling has been fair?
The criticisms levied at the president around the debt issue has so much more to do with political maneuvering and politics than the actual accuracy around who is handling what correctly. The president, in my opinion, wants to do what I call in my book, “smart money” versus “dumb money.” He is attempting to refocus government expenditures and activities on things that actually are investments in the country.
You were in Spike Lee's Get on the Bus and Tyler Perry's For Colored Girls. What do you think about the back and forth the two have gone through in the media — Spike saying Perry's work is similar to minstrel shows and Perry telling Spike to go to hell?
I don’t pay much attention to that, but it is very hurtful when I hear it because I don’t want wonderful people that I really respect, love and care about fighting. There is plenty of room for everyone to tell their stories, to be dynamic, creative and work hard to tell the types of stories they want to tell. When stuff becomes more personal, a lot of times that comes out of a different place than the artistic mindset and that may have to do with issues that could be ego. I like tolerance and taking the Rodney King approach, “Can’t we all just get along.” [Laughs]
You were on last season’s Real Housewives of Atlanta counseling Cynthia and Peter. What are your thoughts on reality television?
I believe that reality TV should be called “not reality” TV, it's fiction. I’ve known Cynthia for years, she asked if I could come over and work through the questions for couples that were in my book The Conversation. She felt that if they attempted to answer these questions on their own they may argue and Peter did not want to go to some relationship counselor he didn’t know. Now, [Pause] I am not a relationship counselor. “Relationship Expert” was written under my name, which I didn’t approve! [Laughs] It’s fake! I just went over there to work through the questions with two friends.
Kim Kardashian married Kris Humphries this past weekend. What would be the perfect wedding gift for Kim and her new hubby?
Kim guest starred on CSI: NY once and she was such a sweet girl. I would give them his and her copies of The Wealth Cure because most pro athletes are broke five years after they retire. Why? Most never really learned the skills that involve keeping and maintaining money, they just learn the skills of what they do on the court or on the field. Kim should learn these lessons as well because she can do a lot of different things with the money she is making. Maybe if they start having problems I’d send them The Conversation, but it sounds like they don’t need it. [Laughs]
Why should the BET.com audience run out and buy a copy of The Wealth Cure?
One of the worst and most disheartening data points that I came across when doing research for The Wealth Cure was that African-Americans passed on the least amount of cross generational wealth of any distinct group. We don’t save, we don’t take out life insurance policies, we don’t invest and we don’t pass wealth on to successive generations. Hopefully our financial literacy will be raised because we need to raise it in our community, we just have to!
The Wealth Cure is available now.
(Photo: Nikki Nelson/WENN.com)