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Let's Talk About Black Tax

Because we will not sweep things under the carpet anymore

BY Agnes Amondi

Sep 02, 2021, 08:17 AM

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Last week, I took time and attended an hour-long session of a talk that was hosted two floors down from where I sit in the office. The talk focused on the topic of black tax. By now, most of you will know what that means or if I am making the assumption, then here’s an explanation.

Black tax is basically financial upkeep that African men and women are expected to give to their families, immediate and extended, once they complete their studies and start earning a salary. You actually know this only that it has been dressed in a fancy term, black tax. 

The talk was chaired by financial coach Amos Ngahu. At the start of the session, the audience was reluctant to share whether they provide this financial assistance to their families. It’s as if there was some shame in admitting that this happens. It's the elephant in the room as they say. 

So the Brown Bag Lunch as the session is referred to, lifted the lid on the matter. Here's what was said.

Give Because You Mean It

Raise your hand if you distribute your income because you are under pressure from family members to do so. Let’s be honest, there is a silent majority of black professionals who observe this just to avoid family drama; because it can lead to one. They feel like they are being coerced and have no option to decide how they can spend their own salary. But, can you have an option?

Two possibilities the session inspired. One, do it if you actually mean it. Here, you are basically making a conscious decision to part with a specified amount for purposes of helping your kin. The second is placing a time limit on this black tax affair. With this, you let your people know that you will not give them money until Jesus Christ comes back. You prepare them ahead of time and when the period lapses, you cut off. This is not to say that you will abandon them and never chip in on family issues. It’s communicating that you also have a life to build and take care of. 

Future Proof Yourself

It goes without saying that one of the biggest impacts of black tax is the failure to secure your financial future. You’ve spent most of your twenties, thirties, forties and even fifties, having early mornings and late evenings, only to wrap up your career and have almost nothing saved, because you had to take care of everyone else’s needs.

My brown bag lunch meeting offered the following suggestion. You have to think about your future seriously. Possibly, put yourself first. I know when you dare do this, your people will call you selfish, proud and ungrateful but the harsh reality is this; no one cares for you as much as you care for yourself. It’s a tough decision to make but in time, you will be grateful that you set aside some of that money and invested it in your post-work future.

Children Aren’t A Retirement Plan

We are the ones saying it now, loud and proud but we will also have to remember this when we cross to the other side of life. In African homes, children are viewed as investments. You go through the education system with the expectation of getting a job. Once that happens, it’s time to pay back your dues.

Back to the brown bag lunch. If you have children or are planning to have some, don’t look at them as your retirement package. Invest in your children because you desire the best for them. Don’t take advantage, as some families do, by guilt-tripping them into covering your financial needs. It’s rather unfortunate how some of your kin will not care when they are making you broke with their inflated entitlement toward your earnings. 

Don’t be this person. Secure yourself and when your child’s turn comes, help them secure theirs.

Account For Black Tax

As the meeting pointed out, most people don’t look at black tax as an expense. They in fact do not account for that money and can’t really tell the amount they’ve given. Financial coach Ngahu insisted on the need to track this. In fact, he advised that this should be drafted in your budget, whether you do it on a monthly basis or occasionally. The same way you plan for any kind of shopping and commute expenses is the same way you should track black tax.