Black Tax: Don’t Become The Family ATM

Black Tax

You have worked hard to get to where you are and it feels good to be reaching your goals. However, you might not be alone in enjoying your success – many young professionals today feel pressurised to ‘pay back’ and support extended family members who may not be as fortunate.

Your opportunities could have been the result of great sacrifices made by some family members, and with your success comes good money and the expectation that you will share your wealth, and take care of others as well.

This so called “black tax” can be a real burden as you carry the pride of a new generation, but also the responsibility that goes with it. You want to help other family members, but you also have your own needs, and this is a tough juggling act. Where do you place the priority in terms of your own needs?

This expectation of financial support is commonly ascribed to a new generation who is rising above the inequalities of the past, but it applies in many other situations as well – some people are caught up in the “sandwitch generation” – supporting aging parents who have not made adequate provision for old age, while still supporting their own minor children.


So what are some of the implications of this on your own financial planning? Quite simply, you are not just earning for yourself, but for your family as well. This means that you don’t have sole power in deciding how to spend your money and this could seriously impact on your lifestyle, and on your ability to accumulate wealth long term.

It’s perfectly natural to want nice material things – a good car, comfortable accommodation and quality furnishings – but this may not be affordable with the money that you are left after taking care of others. It’s an easy temptation to fall into debt to get the lifestyle that you want but this will come at a great long term cost.

Secondly, you will be unable to save or even invest long term, and this inability to build up wealth will mean you are perpetuating a cycle – your children will have to support you one day in old age, whereas if you can accumulate wealth, you leave a legacy for the next generation.

Overcoming this delicate balance between family expectations and your own needs is not always easy, but here are some pointers:

  • Don’t tell people what you earn – your income is your business and you don’t have to share this information with anyone.
  • Avoid becoming the family’s ATM – set ground rules for what you will pay for and stick to that.
  • Learn to say no, particularly if you cannot afford it. It is a very bad idea to go into debt to help family members. If you cannot help them, say so, and stick to your guns.
  • Don’t live beyond your means and go into debt because you want to play catch up.
  • Don’t neglect your own financial needs by placing yourself last on the priority list. Draw up a monthly budget, pay yourself first each month and be realistic in terms of what you can afford. Never put yourself in debt for others or because you don’t have enough money for the lifestyle that you desire.

At the end of the day it’s about choices and setting boundaries. It’s your money and you need to be firm around that. If you don’t set these boundaries, you might reach the point of feeling resentful towards those very family members that helped you on your journey to success. Be true to yourself and your needs, and place yourself in control. It may be tough at first, but long term, will earn respect, and you will feel a sense of achievement in your own life, and in the life of your family. Never be a victim – only you can place yourself in control.

Never feel like a victim of others This will only earn you respect and  – never be a victim.

Sylvia Walker
Sylvia Walker is a financial expert, author of ‘smartwoman’ and a financial speaker. As a financial planner, she provides holistic financial solutions for her clients. She writes articles for various online publications and conducts workshops and keynotes on various aspects of money. She has a long history of working with major media in South Africa and is has been the resident financial guru on the Cape Talk Early Breakfast Show since 2016., on  is on air every Friday morning around 5.10am.