What you need to know:
- You left the village with only a dream, toiled hard, survived on air burgers for years, but to your village mates all, they see you as is a walking ATM
When Kimani got a call the other day from his brother, to send some emergency money, he was irritated but not shocked. The older brother who lives in the village was asking for Sh10,000 for a long and winded need.
"It always the same. He will call me demanding urgent money for a very needy issue. Initially, I would send, but with time I learnt that he was taking advantage," Kimani says. He sent his brother Sh500 and refused to pick his calls thereafter. "I only send what I can afford to lose," he says.
Kimani is not alone. Thousands of people especially in urban areas, have to regularly send money to their relatives, something that is now termed as 'black tax.'
Generally speaking, the so-called "black tax" is income professionals give to their families to support them. It impacts the ability of many to be able to save and build generational wealth.
The difficulty is felt no harder than men who are faced with black tax. You left the village with only a dream, toiled hard, survived on air burgers for years, but to your village mates all, they see you as is a walking ATM.
Yet, in many cases, you are trying to stay afloat because Nairobi is a den of concrete, which is adept at making toast out of you.
To many of us, black tax is almost inescapable. As soon as you start working you have the responsibility to support your extended family. It's a cultural expectation, that comes at the most inconvenient of times and despite it drowning you, there is no escape.
The Covid-19 pandemic exacerbated it because with massive job losses many people suddenly had three more people, by extension to support.
Of course, not everything about black tax is negative. It's a form of societal support and as a way of redistribution of wealth so everyone has a safety net and everyone has a higher chance of getting out of tough financial situations. Which is a very crucial thing. It's also heavily felt by firstborns, especially the worse the economy gets.
While it started as a good thing, the issue today is in the abuse of the goodwill. Men are caught between black tax feeling like an obligation they happily offer and a deterrent to their development. It's a mixed feeling which many don't speak against at the risk of sounding spoilt and ungrateful.
In a group discussion, many vented on how the black tax slowed their economic growth while giving privilege to people who acted entitled in most cases. The truth is, you could be earning the same income but leading a completely different lifestyle depending on how your family situation is. That's a reality that many people realise when they get into the working world where you're earning a decent amount of money but struggling to live at your income level.
So what is there to do for many men sitting and reading this, not wanting to look ungrateful but also trying to navigate their way through life? There's no cut-and-paste solution, but a lot of black tax management gets round to boundaries and priorities. Figure out where you are financially, where you want to go and factor the black tax into your budget and set a limit. That way it's a part of your life. You'll also need to set boundaries which you might have to verbalise especially with sneaky family members who will always have an emergency. They'll be racing to see who will get the most out of you because they think that since you're in the city, you are rolling high on quid.
All this while you're trying to stay afloat, love your people and hopefully make enough money to be able to raise your own family one day. I look back to the fact that my parents supported their parents for decades and still managed to keep afloat and I wonder what miracles they pulled. I sometimes wonder whether our parents felt the pressure.
Help, yes, but don't let it drown you. And by all means, don't feel guilty for saying NO.
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