Financial Death Traps: 10 Easy Ways for a Black Man to Go Broke
by Dr. Boyce Watkins
I’m not here to preach unless someone is interested in making this into a sermon. I’m just here to admit that I am three things: 1) A black man, 2) an educator and 3) a Finance Professor, in that order. I’ve watched a lot of brothers with serious potential throw it all away because they’ve gotten bad advice. So, although I am not perfect and don’t consider myself to be someone who’s “made it,” I will still share advice under the assumption that I’ve achieved some things that might be considered noteworthy.
With that being said, here’s the blueprint for any brother seeking to elevate his game and find a better life. These are 10 easy ways for a black man to go broke:
1) Having too many kids out of wedlock: An excessive number of baby’s mamas is one of the fastest ways to lose all of your money and have it constantly being sucked out of you like a high-powered vacuum cleaner pulling blood out of your neck. The child support courts don’t care if you can’t find a job. They don’t care if you see your child. They don’t care if your kids understand how hard you’re working to provide for them.
They are only concerned about you paying your support on time, even if that means going to jail. I had a child at the age of 18, and I paid a lot of money in child support without having any say in where that money was going, only to turn around and see that there were other things my child needed that I was expected to pay for as well. It wasn’t easy, because after writing that massive check, I then had to explain to my daughter why I didn’t have enough money to pay for her next field trip. If you have a second family in addition to your first, it’s even more of a nightmare. It’s brutal and we all make mistakes. But the key is to not keep making the same mistakes over and over and over again. Be thoughtful about how you plan your family.
2) Not getting a good education: Walking away from education is the biggest mistake any black man can make in America. When you walk away from education, you are walking right toward slavery. Education can make the difference between living the life you want or living in your mama’s basement until you are 40 years old. Your choice.
3) Not learning a professional skill that makes you employable: Getting an education is not the same as having true skill and experience. When I hire people to work for me, I am looking for skill, not just education. Find something you’re good at that is marketable and use that skill to get the opportunities you’d like to have. And no, I’m not just talking about things related to sports and hip-hop. Giving up all of your other hopes and dreams to try to make it to the NFL is not only a risky strategy, but it’s one that has produced a lot of black men who lose their identity when their sports dream doesn’t work out. Many of the guys I know who make it to the NFL have so much brain and body damage that they can barely remember their names or walk to visit their drug dealer (Pain killer addiction is very, very real – the NFL sees you as a piece of meat, not a human being). Oh yea, most of them spend up that money in a couple of years. There isn’t anything sadder than a 30-something year old former superstar athlete who now spends every afternoon in a liquor bottle. In most cases, this brother has lost his sense of purpose because he’s been convinced from an early age that he’s meant to dribble a basketball or throw a football for the rest of his life. Brothers, you are better than that.
4) Trying to impress random women: Impressing the right woman can be a profitable move. Impressing every pretty girl you meet can leave your pockets empty. Save your financial swag for a decent woman you respect, not the next Evelyn Lozada you meet at the club. She ain’t worth it, and when your money runs out, she’ll move on to the next guy. Try to avoid the temptation to spend all of your resources constantly on the prowl for sexxx. It’s draining, counter productive, and keeps you from doing things that are far more important with your life.
5) Getting caught up in the liquor/weed culture or any other form of costly addiction: Whether it’s drugs, alcohol or gambling, addictions are a very easy way to empty your bank account. Just ask Allen Iverson, who I consider to be the greatest pound-for-pound athlete other than the great Bo Jackson. Allen had more money than he could count, but he wasn’t exactly frugal with it. I could probably sell one piece of his jewelry and buy a house. When I wrote an article about Iverson, people thought I was being hard on him. But the truth is that I had to speak honestly about his experience because I want the next Allen Iverson to know how great he can be if he doesn’t get sucked into a self-destructive culture. I spoke about Iverson because I wish I could have been his father or older brother.
6) Being overly materialistic: Always needing name brand clothes, fancy cars, and other status symbols can put unnecessary pressure on you to impress people who don’t even matter. To be honest, most billionaires I know wear regular clothes and drive cars that cost less than $30,000. I’m not joking. Most of the self-made billionaire’s energy is focused on the internal things that make them feel good and the decisions that need to be made for them to make their next billion. You can get nice stuff, but don’t let that bullsh*t define you. You’re a man, even when you’re not wearing Gucci (or some other European brand that black people love to give our money away to).
7) Always working for the white man (or really any man for that matter): I point out working for the white man not to be racist, but to make a simple point: Black males have the highest rate of unemployment of all groups in the United States. This is mainly because WHITE PEOPLE DO NOT WANT TO HIRE US. I understand this first hand: I was at the top of my class in college, had a triple major with a 3.9 GPA and was the only African American in the world to earn a PhD in Finance in the year 2002. I was in school from the age of 5 until 31, all so I could ensure that my mind was fully equipped to get whatever job I wanted. All the same, as soon as Syracuse University saw that I was a radical black man, people were working to get rid of me. I don’t fault them for their racism, since I didn’t expect much from a business school that had not hired a black finance professor in over 100 years of existence. The point is that we have to get rid of the lie which says that going to school will guarantee a black man a good job. The right kind of education is valuable, but you’re still going to be black.
The same racial struggles exist in corporate America and nearly every other institution in this country. So, if you want to make money without suffering the psychological damage that comes from severe and consistent emasculation, I encourage you to a) start your own business and/or b) at least have side streams of income. When I had my own business and was earning several hundred thousand dollars per year outside of my job at Syracuse, I didn’t care if they liked me or not. I didn’t care that they never gave me a promotion. I didn’t care if they ever gave me a raise or ignored the last 10 times I was on CNN. In contrast, had I looked to my
overseer employer as my only source of financial and psychological validation, I’d be on a psychiatrist’s chair by now and probably drinking myself to sleep just to make it through the night. Racism makes us crazy, and that’s why so many brothers act out. As Tupac once said in the song, Only God can Judge Me: “No more hesitation, each and every black male’s trapped. And they wonder why we’re suicidal running around strapped.”
The pressure is real, but you can overcome it by being disciplined and strategic. If you do not, it can kill you.
8) Getting caught up in the criminal justice system: Let’s be clear, black men are considered food for the criminal justice system, the same way a whale feeds itself on small fish. You are at the bottom of the food chain and most people in that system profit when you are stopped, frisked, arrested, tried, and incarcerated. The prison industrial complex is a multi-billion dollar industry, and there are billions more earned when you enter through the judicial system. Don’t waste your time believing that people don’t want you in prison, the fact is that they can’t survive unless we keep allowing ourselves to get arrested.
As Malcolm X once said, “The white man will sell you the liquor bottle so he can lock you up for being drunk.” So, you know all that music on the radio encouraging young black men to get high and drunk, carry guns, sling dope, and shoot each other in the street? Many of the same companies that produce this music have also invested in private prisons. They are the Pied Pipers for the ghetto and are leading little black boys right down the path toward self-destruction. You’ve been trained to sing and dance to the beat of your own genocide.
If you’re naive enough to fall for all the brainwashing that leads black men to go to prison, then there is nothing I can do to help you. But if you are looking for a way out of this matrix of pain, then you’ d be wise to avoid police, courts, etc by doing what you can to live within the boundaries of the law. Sometimes, things happen and we can’t help that: We know that laws are unfair and thousands of studies show that we get longer sentences for the same crimes. But then, there are situations that are avoidable, and these are the ones you can control. Don’t ruin your life over something stupid.
9) Choosing the wrong person to marry: I’ve seen men lose everything in divorce. I’ve seen men marry women that they can’t afford. I’ve seen men brought into situations where they were expected to be the financial savior of the entire extended family, dealing with intense pressure from a pile of financial parasites who see them as a chance to live a better life. The best path is to choose a woman who is an asset to your financial situation, not a liability. If she helps put money in your pocket, then that can be a plus. If she’s always taking money out of your pocket, then be careful. It’s hard to come back from a messy divorce that has ripped through your bank account.
10) Not working hard every day and setting goals for your life: Laziness is a disease. The worst thing to hear when you ask a young brother what he’s doing with his time are the words, “Nuthin, chillin” (watch The Boondocks episode where Hughey watches 24 hours of BET to see the effect it has on his brain. It’s funny, but you’ll get the point). Laziness keeps a man from being a man and going out to get what he wants. Don’t let the world demoralize or defeat you. Grab life by the testicles and get what’s yours, never, ever giving up. Also, don’t let anyone make you feel bad about grinding day and night for your dream.
When I was in college, I studied weekends, holidays and whenever I could because I was obsessed with my future. Getting out of my situation was more important than any drunken campus party or being friends with dumbazz dudes who didn’t want anything better for themselves. Because I made those sacrifices, I now get to do whatever I want, whenever I want; I can’t put a price on that kind of freedom. Malcolm X once said that “The future belongs to those of us who prepare for it today.” So, make the sacrifices now, and the future will be yours. If anybody tells you any different, just walk away, because they might be stuck on the plantation.