We’ve grown up knowing that after school, the responsibility to take care of our parents would fall on us. No questions asked or conversations held — we just knew that once we got jobs, we’d automatically have to bear our parent’s financial burdens. This has become so inculcated in our society that many young professionals are living paycheck to paycheck and even getting into serious debt, all in the name of taking care of their families. This is what’s known as the black tax. Black tax is worse for first-borns (or older children) or those who have succeeded more in the family as most of them have to cater for the remaining siblings, sometimes even paying their fees (responsibility for the parents) and take care of the parents.
If you do not pay any form of black tax, you are lucky. If you do, you need to deal with it so that you can break the cycle and not penalize your children. It would probably be illogical for you to stop paying the tax, but here are a few things you can do to deal with it:
Don’t tell your family what you earn
Let them guess what and how much you earn. This is because they will use this figure against you. “You earn over Ksh 100,000 but you can’t even give your mum Ksh. 5,000” Your family will always use this figure to guilt you into giving them money without caring whether you have other responsibilities or not.
Set a budget and stick to it
If you’ve just realized that you are a victim of black tax, you just can’t stop giving or supporting your family abruptly. You, therefore, need to set a budget and in the budget, set a certain amount that you can afford to give out in a month. When and if this money is exhausted, you should not give any more, unless it is an emergency.
Set a deadline
In some instances, you need to set a deadline on how long you will offer support. If for example, you are catering for the needs of a jobless family member, let it be known that you will do it for a certain time, so as to motivate them in their job search. You do not want a situation where someone becomes lazy because they know all their needs are met. It is up to your discretion, when the deadline comes, whether you will continue supporting or not. You could make a judgement call based on how hardworking they have been in their job search to either continue supporting but set a new deadline, reduce the amount or do away with the support altogether.
Plan for the Unexpected
Invest in financial vehicles such as funeral covers, medical covers (even if it is NHIF) that can help you smooth out financial stress related to helping when there are family funerals or illnesses.
Decline When You Can’t Afford to
Saying no to your family is hard but sometimes, it’s essential. If you cannot afford a certain expense, politely say no and stand your ground. Running into debt in a bid to support your family is a bad idea.
It’s advisable to put your immediate family first when considering your expenses. Decide who needs your help the most and allocate some amount of money to them.
Put Money Aside For Yourself
Give what is left after you’ve saved for retirement and investment. Ensure that you will retain independence in your old age, otherwise, you will perpetuate the cycle of black tax.