Brokeland Rule #4080 You Can't Give What You Don't Have

It’s hard to build a financial foundation when you are giving more than you are investing in yourself.

The reality is you can’t give what you don’t have.

In sixth grade I was posed with this question:

If you were stranded on a desert with a relative and there was only one cup of water for the both of you what would you do?

At the time my response was: “That’s easy. I would split the water between my relative and I”.

However I learned the correct answer would be to drink the water, go to seek help and return to your relative.

This was one of the most valuable lessons in sacrifice I learned. As it pertains to finance, you better believe you can apply this analogy, because when it comes to building a financial cushion you must save yourself first before helping others.

For many of us we learn this lesson a little too late. We learn it in the middle of being a crux for others and sacrificing what we simply don’t have.

Growing up, this was a story my sister and I learned too well. When my sister was 18 she started her first job, finished with secondary schooling and was balancing entering her next phase of #ADULTHOOD. She also served as a caregiver to my mother who was fighting cancer.

As a teenager she was required to be "the shoulder" of our immediate family. She not only grew up fast but contributed an excessive amount of her first year earnings to sh*t in my eyes that never made sense.

Developing a savings for herself was non-existent because her sacrifices for the family were long and wide. Whatever my father was unable to cover and provide my sissy had to foot the bill. The gag is she could never afford it. She was giving way more than she had, leaving no room for her to focus on her financial future. And when it was time do to the things she wanted, to expand her skill set and experiences, she had nothing.

At the time because of my lack of financial literacy and understanding of generational wealth, I believed that this was normal.

Media:  GIPHY

Media: GIPHY

The behavior of carrying people for the sake of carrying and appearing to “keep it together” was normal and ideal. Going without was regular. Believing we had money just because we had a consistent “income” but no savings was okay. Now, I understand that what she experienced was one of the most problematic behaviors and harmful things a Black family can do to their children.

In fact, I had more of an understanding of this when my journey started to begin as the shoulder.

I would be starting my first year of college at one of the most prestigious research institutions in the country. Somehow, someway my association with being a student there would equate to a rise in net worth and financial stability.

As a first generation student, this was a traumatic experience. What I once witnessed with my sister, I now too fell into the same cycle.

I want to be very clear, through our family matters in Brokeland it was not that we as children didn’t want to contribute to the household. It was that our household wanted us to place a bandaid on wounds too deep and we didn’t have the proper tools to clean them.

So, when I found myself using credit cards and at times my own student meal plan (my school was 15 minutes away from home) to provide for my family I knew there was a deeper issue out of my control.

Unfortunately, the issues my family has faced in Brokeland has trickled down to us as children and the current financial struggles we’ve encountered as adults.

What my sister and I both learned is that in this stage of financial horrors, depleting savings, and no protections from our sacrifices-it’s better to take care of yourself before others.

It’s better to have your own foundation than to be be ass out with no cushion to protect yourself. Cycles can’t be broken when the same behaviors and bad habits continue to persist.

In an article published last year Dear Black Parents, You Need To Stop Doing These 13 Things, the number one thing listed that Black Parents needed to stop was requiring their children to contribute financially while they are still in their teens and early twenties.

Given my experiences growing up I couldn’t agree more. If anything children should be required to build a financial cushion and contribute in a way that doesn’t hinder our ability to have a healthy relationship with money. That way it gives us a level up so that we in return can help our family level up.


Ideally I think it would be nice for children to set themselves up first instead of being setback financially due to cycles and behaviors that have been proven inadequate. When you rob your children of the opportunity to build a foundation and force them to just get by they can become trapped in the cycle of poverty.

What advice do you have for those who are the “shoulder” of their family?