Gofaone Nina Tladi
In airplanes there is always a safety protocol were they insist that in case of emergency, we should ensure that we place the oxygen masks on ourselves first before attempting to place the mask on anyone else. We are simply of better use to others when we are in a good position. The principle that we cannot give what we cannot have is one that we constantly ignore, but continue to see the ramifications of in our daily lives. Sacrificing ourselves for others seems noble but it only breeds perpetual resentment and cycles of financial setbacks. I’ve always maintained that money is emotional, we make the worst financial decisions when we are happy, when we are sad and especially when we are guilted by family members. Saying no to family is one of the hardest things and if we all take a moment we can all recount a personal story of being emotionally blackmailed into giving money we often times did not budget for. It is human nature to want to give, but the heart with which we give is far more important than the amount we give. We need to be honest with our families about our financial goals and be very clear as to how far we can provide aid financially. Black tax has made a lot of headlines lately and with good reason, we simply cannot avoid the subject and must address it as it is one of the major causes of financial stress among those who work.
Black tax can be simply defined as the unspoken rule of financial assistance of family or as a friend of mine calls it, pay back for being born or purchasing affections. Family can bring out the best and worst in us, because they know just the right buttons to push; and if we can master anything, it is getting a handle on our emotions and saying no. Saying no is a form of putting the mask on yourself first before you can assist someone else. From the moment they receive their first paycheck some people are faced with assuming the role of provider for their families. In a twitter thread about black tax, one South African recalled how when he started working, his white counterparts often asked him when he would buy a car and how he had to explain to them that he had a mother and siblings to take care of and that a car would simply have to wait. Many other African echoed his sentiments of black tax and its impact on the financial starting point of life. We simply have to pay back before we can pay ourselves, which is evident in our lack of savings. Black tax is not just an African issue but all over the world, America is no exception. I watch Being Mary Jane reruns to make myself feel better about my life, then I remember that I don’t have her house, Porsche or wardrobe; even she is not immune to black tax and gives the term “charity begins at home” a very glamorous spin.
The legacy of financial illiteracy is evident in this phenomena of black tax, it is a vicious cycle and I believe is one of the deterrents of building generational wealth. Our generation unfortunately has to deal with black tax and I hope we will be the ones to bring an end to it for our children’s sakes. Our children will not have to take care of us in our old age, thus repeating the cycle, but they can have a real start for their futures. One of my greatest examples of this are my white friends. Financial well-being is etched into their culture and when my friend got her first job her parents bought her a second hand car, paid 6 months rent and fully furnished her small apartment.
Black tax has a bad rep but I believe that everything builds character and many of us have been beneficiaries of it without our knowledge. If we can simply get our financial acts together, we can be a very generous people and black tax is one way I choose to see as practice for giving. Re bana ba Batswana (we are Batswana children) and on our road to financial freedom, let us always remember to be firm but very respectful to our parents and relatives when having the hard conversations.
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent. Next week we discuss love in the time of e-wallets.