When the tax is black

Our country’s history of segregation and economic exclusion has led us to this point. Many young people who now have tertiary education and the many who have moved out of the homes and townships they grew up in are usually the first to do so in their families. This comes with a lot of pressure and expectation to support and assist their siblings, ageing parents and often, extended families as well. This, and quite obviously so, comes at a great price and has often meant that individuals end up living way above their means and seldom have any funds left for saving and investing.

When black tax is spoken of, it is almost always in a negative light and it seems to me that our conversations around it don’t seem to progress beyond the financial burden it places on the provider. The reality is that a bulk of the country’s population is living below the poverty line and the vast majority of those people are black. That means, invariably, that black tax is here to stay. At least for the foreseeable future.

I think we need to try to elevate our conversations about family support beyond the cash contributions. Conversations need to be had about the benefits of personal financial management, regardless of the quantum in question. There is almost always a more optimal way to allocate money and maybe it’s time we recognised that we need help and for us to seek the services of a professional. Preferably, someone who understands the nuances and complexities of being upwardly mobile while black. I think we need financial literacy programmes specifically designed for families in these situations. Parents, siblings, children and extended families all need to be in the same room together and for money to be spoken of and how it affects every single individual. There needs to be an understanding that the provider has finite resources and that the recipients also need to be conscientious about their demands and spending habits.

It need not be a burdensome task. Giving back and helping those less fortunate than yourself should be celebrated and encouraged. Because at the end of the day, when one person succeeds, we all do.

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