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Black Conscious

Can We Talk About Money And Mental Health?

The first time I encountered financial hardships and its impact on mental health I was observing how my parents dealt with their money issues.  “It was like the less money we come across the more problems we see”.

    via GIPHY

From conversation, activity, and mood swings my parents shut off when they faced financial hardships. In my understanding of their experiences today, their struggles mirrored a financial stress-induced depression. However, they never referred to the struggle as such or made the connection to how the stresses of money could shape our mental health. They simply were trying to survive.

Depression, like many other mental illnesses, is caused by varying factors including physical, biological and environmental factors. As research suggest when it comes to money, psychologists agree that personal finance is a contributing factor of depression.” For many of us we may carry a heavy anxiety tied to our finances.

As a result we stress over how we may be able  to pay our bills, maximize our income to make ends meet or to eat and sleep with ease. If anyone knows how it feels being broke and stressed they understand when your pockets are low they feel like the heaviest pockets in the world.

And to be honest, it’s a conversation many of us have in the back of our mind but don’t know how to bring it to the table. Whether it’s because  “the struggle” is not something we happily want to address or the perceptions of people regarding what it means to be broke is a sensitive subject. There exists many articles telling people why they are broke and blaming individuals for their economic hardships without factoring in the multitude of reasons people experience financial challenges.

They skip over the anxiety people have surrounding money and how their upbringing plays a part in the relationship individuals have with the dollar. If anything that should be addressed.
When you factor in the systemic challenges babyyyyyyy we’ll be talking for days about how race and gender factors in to your coins and social mobility.

For Black women and men money and finances play an integral role in their stress and mental health disorders.

Now, I feel like my observations of money and mental health have become more apparent within my circle. When you grow up poor in a low-socioeconomic household, weigh your options and become inspired to go down a path that is seemingly able to provide you social mobility, you ask yourself why the hell does it seem like you are a broke Millennial even when you “did everything right” to climb that ladder of success? Perhaps it takes time.

Nevertheless, I know a number of individuals who I spoke with in the past few months that in some way, shape or form their mental health has been impacted by the dolla dolla dolla bill y’all.

1. The person pouring from a half empty cup, trying to support their family and can’t afford
2. The fresh college graduate struggling to find a good entry level paying job
3. The individual battling STUDENT LOAN DEBT
4. The hustler milking three jobs to keep their head above water

We know of them because they exist in our everyday lives, they each have a story and chasing the bag is a topic that is universal no matter where you are from. The thing is sometimes that bag may have a hole, the emptiness may blow you to another dimension, and it may feel like you’re walking with a ton of bricks on your shoulder.

Here, there is room for discussion. While we highlight the importance of mental illness we must address how financial hardships can induce depression and provide solutions and resources to assist those through their hardships.

We must remove the barriers that prevent us to talk comfortable about money and be willing to understand that the struggle is real but like any struggle it is possible to make it through.

When it comes to money we don’t just want to keep our head above water, we want to build a damn boat that doesn’t sink.

Steps to Building an Emergency Fund When You Are Broke

Media: Stocksy 

Why should you have an emergency fund? Because when the going gets tough, you’re going to wish you had something to protect you. It’s no fun being unprepared when an emergency hits. It's crucial to get prepared for the unknown. When I got fired, I was left with the “I just got fired” shock, and had no emergency fund to help me through my rainy days. It was the most depressing time for me because I kept beating myself down about how I could have better prepared for an emergency. I now know better and am here to help you.

Here are a few things to assist you in developing an emergency fund.

Media: GIPHY

How Much Should I Save?

The amount of money in your emergency fund varies. Although experts recommend savings of three to six months worth of basic living expenses, the reality is it’s hard for most people to accumulate a fund of the size. Starting with smaller fixed amounts between the ranges of $1,000 to $4,000 can suffice. However, what you need depends on your budget and where you are currently in your life. Some of us are single and broke, some of us have families and are broke, the list can go on.  When you are deciding to build an emergency fund you should include these factors:

  1. Who do you need to support? The more people you are support — the larger your emergency fund should be.
  2. How easy will it be for you to bounce back if you were to suddenly lose your job position? 
  3. In looking at your emergency fund right now, if an emergency were to arise, would you be covered? What does a comfortable cushion look like yo you?

To make things easier, it may be helpful to brainstorm what may count as an emergency to you and what you’d be able to afford. Some examples include losing a job, being evicted, or having a natural disaster impact your home. List how much in each situation it may cost you to bounce back.

How Do I Build A Cushion?

Once you set an amount that you’re comfortable with. It’s time to prepare your savings.
After you’ve met your necessary living expenses in your budget, you should allocate extra money towards an your cushion. You can begin with small amounts like $20 or $40.

  1. If you are having difficulty finding spare change try to find areas in your budget you can cut back. Going out every weekend, pampering yourself even though you are bad and bougie is not cute when your cushion is struggling. Once you commit to building an emergency fund, you can make room for these expenses later. 
  2. You may be interested in opening an account that you use to build your Emergency Fund.
  3. Did you receive a big bag? A tax return? A financial Gift? No, it’s not party. This money can be used as an excellent boost toward building an emergency fund.

Reexamine your emergency fund size periodically It’s always best to have a fund’s size that correlates to your current situation in life. You may need to increase or decrease your how much you’re allocating to your fund overtime. Remember that an emergency fund is only to be used in an emergency. Go without one, and you’ll risk playing catch up.

Broke And Apartment Hunting? Here Are Some Things To Consider

Awwww, the time has come for you to move out. Kudos to you.

Moving out is a big step in adulthood. Not only is it exciting because you can live freely and on your own but, you do so by your rules.
Media: GIPHY

The first piece of advice I can give to someone who feels they’re ready to move out is PREPARE. PREPARE. PREPARE. The better prepared you are, the smoother your transition to living on your own will be. The second piece of advice I can give to young adults who are ready to move is if you can stay and save as much as possible at home, do that before leaving.

Although I understand for some that may not be ideal, everyone grows up in a different  environment. Before making a move, it is essential to realize that when you are living away from home, it carries a price tag.  I have compiled a list of things that can be helpful for “new independents” who will embark on the journey of moving out.

Pre-Move Out

Where to and what’s the Cost of living?

Great, you now know that you want to move out. Where to? And how much does it typically cost to live there? It’s important to have these answers because it will provide you with an overview of the cost of living and the expenses that will need to be accounted for BEFORE you embark on your journey. If you don’t have the answer to this question, you should check out Cost of Living Calculators  online. If you are relocating its a MUST you factor in the expenses of relocating.

How much do you have saved for the move? 

Now that you have an estimate for the living expenses, do you have enough saved to move out? Remember most rental spaces require a security deposit and first-month rent. For example, let’s say if your security deposit is $995.00 and the first-month rent is $995.00 you’d be required to pay $1990 upfront before receiving your keys. In this case, you want to make sure you enough saved to account for other expenses you will need (more on that later).

Do you know your credit score?

Your credit score plays a vital role in the apartment hunting process. Property managers and landlords use credit scores to examine how “trustworthy” of a prospective tenant you are. If you have a low credit score, it can potentially prevent you from getting a good apartment and slow the apartment rental process down. You may also be required to provide a co-signer. Not to mention you dodge having to deal with slumlords who appear  “willing to work with your credit” but don’t provide the best living facilities. In other words, make sure you have a good credit score. Anything less than stellar may require a co-signer and headaches.

Will you be living on your own or with a roommate?

As I said before independence comes with a hefty price tag. If you can’t afford to live on your own, you may want to consider splitting the price. However, living with a roommate should not be taken lightly. I remember living with three undergraduates on campus in my first year of graduate school, and it was an experience you couldn’t PAY ME to do again.

Moving Out

Who will help you? 

Alright so now that you have decided to move out out (the second out reflects you're serious). How will you be leaving and who will assist you? Will it be one of your family members or friends? How much will it cost you to transfer your belongings from you current spot to your new home?

Do you have a budget in place to get settled?

When you first move into a place, you will need to clean and organize your home to your liking. Germs of past tenants and whoever else are real? You will need to clean before you settle in, checking out the Dollar Tree or your local discount store is a great place to start for cleaning supplies and organization tools.

Where will you purchase your apartment furniture? 

Shopping around is key. And no, whoever told you you are required to shop at this name brand store they are WRONG. Thrift stores offer a lot of hidden gems and flexibility for those looking to save a penny. Don’t ever, ever, ever, ever sleep on a discount. Besides, you can always purchase your furniture piece by piece.

Who doesn’t love food?  

What’s a new home and an empty stomach? A match made in hell. You must have food in your new place. Food sustains you. Whether you decide to purchase groceries and have them come to you, or go out and shop for your necessities on a budget, nutrition is a must. However, the budget part of this shopping experience is non-negotiable.

Be attentive and cautious about your food shopping. Just because you can afford to buy a lot of produce, remember that produce often comes with a quick expiration date.

Draft a list of the items you need and prioritize your shopping items. Also, don’t forget to shop at different stores because it may save you more money than purchasing all your items in one place.

Are you happy? 

Media: GIPHY

Your happiness sets the tone for your experience in your apartment. While I’m sure everything won’t be peaches and cream you have the opportunity to start your journey on a positive note. Welcome to adulting.

Broke Narratives: The Spin Cycle of Family Financial Burdens

Man being broke, is annoying.

But you want to know what's worse? Being broke and carrying the financial burdens of other people.

Perhaps, it's lending a helping hand to a friend or family or being trapped in the spin cycle someone saying "hey, can I hold something for XYZ?" I often wonder how many people are like me, feeling stuck in the same cycle of being financially drained by supporting others.

Over the years, I felt I had been trapped in the same spin cycle; somehow I've managed to maneuver my way through life. I don't say this proudly.

Media: GIPHY

My experience of carrying the financial burden of my family members started a the age of 18. It was like my life was predestined to help others and it has hindered my ability to focus on my needs, dreams, and desires solely. I've lived for everyone but myself, inside, I am deteriorating.

Statements like these hunt me:

"Niece, can I have $5.00."
"You, don't want to look out for the family?"
"I need to borrow a couple of dollars to take care of some things?"
"My account is running on empty, can you please save me?"

That's not because I don't want to help out, but I don't have the funds to give. I do so, anyway in the name of family and when I have nothing, there is no one to help me.

In my head, I'm screaming FUCK!!!!!!!! I can’t keep living like this.

I was recently having a conversation with a close coworker of mine; we were discussing the stress of overextending ourselves to help others.

It gets to the point where you feel that you have overextended yourself to and after a while, some people think that are entitled to your assistance. I mean it's only "lending a helping hand."

The reality is, I can't do any more than what I have, and sometimes that means I can't help at all. Some of our friends and relatives keep coming to us for assistance not realizing how much their dependence is inhibiting our personal growth.

I would much rather have my shit on point, to be frank, being able to do what I want without my account saying "okay you better not look at me because "I.CAN’T. HELP. YOU." I guess that makes sense when you've put everyone else above your own needs. It's crippling!

Although, its ok to say No! (That’s a complete sentence just in case you're wondering ).Sometimes I have to admit when saying no, I feel guilty. You begin to feel like you're not trying to help or you don’t care, even when that's not the case.

Then, you begin to take a step a back, if you were not there to the break fall of a loved one, how else they would get the help they need?

Media: GIPHY

Then IT hits.

I have failed to realize is that  I can’t help every time someone needs something. How can you help someone when you can barely keep your head above water?

What I have learned is that it's time to make sure my bank account can sustain ME not anyone else.  Being broke is temporary! It's time that I make sacrifices for me and my future, and that starts with me putting myself first.

Black At Work: Stop Asking Me How Bad Do I Need The Hours?

Black At Work provides real world narratives of Black bodies in the work place. 
Each story shares the experiences, challenges and triumphs of our identity. 
To share your story email info@brokeblackbougie.com with 
the subject line Black At Work Submission.

Working in the not-for-profit sector is nothing short of intriguing. It’s excellent when you work in advocacy but, it requires tough skin. Back in the day, I was often told, "when you are starting in a non-for-profit don’t work for the money."

The money will come, maybe just not with an entry-level position. That’s okay if you are lucky enough to land an entry-level job with a good salary, kudos to you! However, for those who do start at the entry level, serve as interns or fellows they may be working with a limited number of hours, benefits, vacation time, etc. In these scenarios, I can almost bet someone is stretchhhhhhhhhhhing their paycheck.

So, when the office closes early for the holidays or the head boss tells folks to “close up shop” your face may scream NOOOOOOOOOOO.

Media: GIPHY

Whether your hours are cut, or the only time you may be allowed to stay in the office is when a full-time staffer is present (yes these rules exist at some establishments) your livelihood is impacted.

For the full-time employee who is eager to go home early instead of ensuring their “insert non-exempt position” can get their hours in, they may ask the cringe-worthy, but a straightforward question: Hey, how bad do you need the hours?

Media: GIPHY

I remember when this happened to me. It was the month of December, holiday season and I was trying to get my coins in order not to begin the New Year BROOOOOOOOOOOOOOKE. I was not in the holiday spirit, nor was I feeling geeked about going on vacation because I was in grind mode. If I remember correctly that December was rough because the office was consistently closing down and as a student employee I wasn’t a full-time staffer.

I also was only allowed to work a maximum number of hours each week. So let’s say if I maxed my hours working Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, the rest of the week I was off. Miss a day or two because the office was closed, I couldn’t go over that maximum number of hours the following week to make up time.

Media: GIPHY
On one gloomy Tuesday when it was just one full-time staffer and me in the office, I was popped the question. My co-worker was interested in leaving work early and wanted to see how bad I "needed" the hours to decide whether or not he would leave early.

I wanted to tell him:

"As bad as you need to breathe."

"It must be nice to make $140,000 a year and not be a broke grad student."

"My rent is due on Friday, I’ll have about $0.10 until then." (My sarcasm is crazy.)

"Ohhhhh, you don’t want to stay an extra hour to support the intern in the office, FINNNNNNNE."

"Black women make $0.67 on the dollar to White men, you as a White man asking me how bad do I need the hours is the perfect example of the intersectionality between race, gender, and socio-economic status. Not to mention this goes against the diversity and inclusion our not-for-profit prides itself on."

Media: GIPHY

Instead, I remained cool and said “I need them. Is there a time you’re looking to leave?”

He turns with guilt and says “Well, you know, it’s just that I’m looking to leave early….how about 4:00 pm?”

At this moment I realized it was clear my plight and needs to him didn’t matter. On that note, I was ready to go, irritated and frustrated simply because if someone were to ask him, “how bad do you need the hours?” I’m sure he wouldn’t want food taken out of his mouth.

That day I left work early with an important note to self. Questions like how bad do I need the hours, only exacerbate the challenges of Black bodies in the workplace. As collectively in the workplace we work on issues relevant to the masses, we must assess how our individual behavior in the workplace may contribute the exact disparities we are seeking to disrupt. 

Nevertheless, the moment someone asks you "how bad do you need the hours?" remind them what needing it means.

Why Black Women Don’t Trust You

Media: PEXEL

It wasn’t uncommon to hear R. Kelly labeled as a “freak” or “pedophile” as a youngster. Even for those who knew of his rumored predatory nature and jammed along to his 90s classics. And that was the thing; we never stopped listening to him. 

I’ll admit, as a 90s R&B fan, R. Kelly songs were frequently played in rotation in my household. I remember my local radio station at the time 103.9 WDKX would have his songs playing in the Quiet Storm segment. At college parties, we jammed the night away to some of Kelly’s biggest hits. 

It was the typical relationship, most of us had regarding his artistry. Amongst the legacy that Kelly has had as a musician, conversations in my community would often highlight his talent first, over his predatory behavior.

We knew some shit wasn't right but we didn’t realize how DEEP that shit was or maybe it’s because, for some, we strategically chose to ignore it.

It was like many things we pick and choose to ignore. 

Perhaps it's the father or mother who is manipulative and abusive. 

The creepy brother, uncle or cousin who molested a family member or makes an individual feel uncomfortable — the aunt who doesn’t know the meaning of boundaries.

Although many are cognizant of their behavior, we still invite them to the cookout, force their victims to show their family some love and give hugs.  

This is precisely what watching Surviving R. Kelly reminded me of.

Surviving R. Kelly was an in-depth reminder of the sick twisted fantasy, of a man who continues to prey on and abuss Black women. He has never faced the demons of his past. No justice (not “settlements”) has been served for his victims. The abuse of R. Kelly and his victims is encompassed with money, power, and manipulation. With Black women the primary targets of Kelly’s behavior, no one cares to reprimand him. I guess that's a preference *insert eye roll here.

Media: GIPHY

After watching the series, I had many emotions, as a sexual assault survivor and Black woman examining the commentary many viewers had to offer. I realized that because of the conversations held, and the perception surrounding Black women, and their plights, this is why Black Women lack so much trust in our community. This Is Why Black Women Don’t Trust You. 

If the shoe fits YOU, wear it accordingly. 

You believe Black women can only be sexually assaulted unless we are aesthetically attractive. Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, was speaking in the docu-series, from her experience as a Sexual Assault Survivor. She provided commentary about how manipulative abusers operate and what R. Kelly as an artist represents in Black Culture. A Black man screenshotted footage of Burke speaking with the caption alluding to that Burke was too ugly to be touch by R.Kelly, unfortunately it went viral. It was one of the most dehumanizing to witness. Burke was speaking on behalf of her experience as a survivor, and it was torn to shreds because she was labeled as too ugly to be touched by Kelly. We don’t trust you because our pain and struggle are only valid if we look appealing to you. #DISPICABLEYOU

You think it’s the survivor's fault. You blame the women for the experience instead of the predator. “Well, they should have known.” “Their young ass had no business being around him.” “You know young girls, like old men.” This is precisely why we can’t come to you and be open about our experiences; you blame us.

You think Surviving R.Kelly merely is about people trying to Bring the Black man down. Yes. Black people and their narratives are treated differently in the lens of the media in comparison to Whites. In this case, the truth is bitter. Have you not assessed the validity of the stories shared in the docu-series? Or is that you can’t separate the artistry from the Monster? I mean, if it was your family would you still be stepping in the name of the predator. If you want to say bring him down we bring them all down, hell, Robert Kelly, every other predator like him can all burn. 

Black women are devalued, and you’re a part of the problem. Black women go to the bat for Black Lives periodt. The moment a Black woman says “this experienced happened to me, there is EVIDENCE and you don’t care about it, stop claiming you give a fuck about Black people until you have more remorse for the women who bring life into your community. Black boy dies, and Black girls scream HELP. US. Black girls dies, and Black boys and some “sistas” say WHAT. DID. YOU. DO? I’m honestly scared for your family.

This conversation has left a big ass spotlight on the work we need to do within to strengthen our community, love and support our Black women survivors and most importantly listen to them. Our liberation depends on it.