Teach self-denial and make its practice pleasure, and you can create for the world a destiny more sublime that ever issued from the brain of the wildest dreamer. – Sir Walter Scott
So you are a man now you say? You have graduated from your HBCU with degree in hand and maybe you have your dream job, maybe you are still looking, and maybe you are contemplating going to graduate school. Regardless of where you are in life, there is a strong chance that you have a desire to be in love. Before you give someone the world, make sure you have taken care of a few things before you embrace the responsibility that comes with a serious relationship.
Societal norms put the financial burden of courtship on men in heterosexual relationships. Historically, this makes sense because it has only been in very recent decades that women have earned the right to their own financial independence within many societies and in more than a few still have limited financial rights. However, this presents a bit complicated in the United States for African America where the women have surpassed men by leaps and bounds in almost every major category. It also does not help that African American men have the highest unemployment rate among all groups in the country, which creates a courtship complexity of sorts within the community. African American men who are 20-24 years old as of December 2018 had a 11.8 percent unemployment rate, while their European American men peers were at 5.9 percent and African American women peers were 7.5 percent. That being said, for African American men who are part of the LGBTQ community, the instability can be even more pronounced since both parties are part of the most vulnerable economic population and will be facing additional discrimination.
A relationship can be an expensive endeavor, according to a USA Today study the average date cost $102.32 and if you assume one date a week in a relationship that comes out to a total of $5,320.64 per year. This of course is not including special dates or holidays where the purchase of gifts, etc. can drive that cost even higher. The problem of course is that African American median income, last among all ethnic groups, is at $40,258 according to the 2017 Census. In other words, over 13 percent of African American income can be used up in dating, while no other groups even spend 10 percent.
To say the calculus is complicated would be an understatement. Do African Americans simply not date? This of course would be problematic since one of the fundamental ways of building wealth is through the scalability of marriage. Instead, get a strong financial foundation under you by adhering to these six principles and objectives:
BE HONEST. BE HONEST. BE HONEST.
This honestly could be the whole article, but it is certainly worth leaning into. Being honest about your finances up front with the person you are dating can take a lot of pressure off them and yourselves. This does not mean you have to tell them everything right away, but if you can not afford to do something tell them and do not feel ashamed of it. If you want to share with them that you have certain financial goals you want to meet, then do so and let them be part of what you are trying to accomplish not an adversary to it.
HAVE AN EMERGENCY FUND – NO, SERIOUSLY.
African American men are the most vulnerable population as it relates to employment as the numbers bear out. As such, if you are a recent graduate and happen to have employment you can not save fast enough. Most personal finance experts will say as a general rule 3-6 months of expenses is a healthy emergency fund, but for African American men 9-12 months is much more imperative. An emergency fund can take the edge off of dating because you know that you and your date are not spending your potential car note or rent payment. Do NOT touch it except for an emergency. Also, do not base your emergency fund off expenses, but instead use gross income. You want to have 9-12months of gross incomes saved. Saving based on your income instead of expenses will allow you to maintain some semblance of a normal life should an emergency arise.
SET EXPECTATIONS AND A BUDGET.
Once you decide to send someone flowers every Monday, fine dining every Friday, and a trip every other month you have set an expectation. Now, this is not to say you can not do those things, but they need to be within the confines of your budget. You should have an amount that you are going to spend every month on dating activities. If you want to save for something a bit more costly, spend a bit less each month and set it aside until you can afford that moment. Should your finances change and you need to alter the budget and expectations, remember – be honest.
Contrary to popular belief, you do not have to spend a lot on someone to let them know you care about them. The internet is full of helpful resources that can help you create low to no cost dates. Feel free to also use your social media networks for ideas.
DO NOT CONFUSE INCOME WITH WEALTH.
Income is not wealth. Again, income is NOT wealth. Assets build wealth and you have to use your income to acquire assets. Beyond your emergency fund, you should be thinking about saving to invest in stocks, bonds, real estate, etc. Find a financial/investment adviser as soon as you have a job. You do not have to wait until you have “money” to start investing. The earlier you start, the greater chance you will have of creating wealth over the long-term. Passive income, money earned from not having to work, should be a central focus of what you use your income for. Do no squander away the opportunity to set up yourself and future family while you have the opportunity.
LEAVE THE MATERIALISM FOR SOMEONE ELSE.
We have all seen that friend or friends who gets a job after college and decides to go on a spending spree for the nice car, clothes, and showing off for Instagram. This is not the man you want to be. Becoming a slave to material possessions and forsaking your financial future while being part of a labor population that is the most vulnerable is not only not smart, but dangerous. Material things lose value and defer from your ability to invest among other things.
Ultimately, if you are a man and are not financially safe or stable, then you are not ready for a serious relationship with anyone. Do not confuse stable for rich. Most of the time financially stability can be achieved in a relatively short period with the proper sacrifices (like having a roommate or two or three) after graduating. Becoming financially literate is vital to helping remove the stresses of finances in African American relationships. A stress that is often noted as being the greatest area of conflict within relationships. After all, love does not cost a thing, but bad financial habits do.