Setting Boundaries: The Ultimate Hack to Handling Black Tax Like a Pro

By Vuyo Khumalo

Vuyo: Thank you Ndumie for your time. I’m so excited to be having this sit down with you. So, let’s get into it. Can you please tell me a little bit about yourself?

Ndumi: I am a Self-leadership coach, a boundaries coach, a speaker and published author. However, my background is actually in Marketing. In terms of my formal work background, I started working at eighteen, which was immediately after I Matriculated. I navigated through various sectors like events management, sports marketing, and project management. So I’ve been in various spaces and I think the reason for that is that I’m just a naturally curious person but I also get bored quickly. The one thing that’s been consistent about me though, is that I’ve always been passionate about personal development. I put myself through tertiary between 2004 and 2008. Upon graduation, I got a job, but I soon realized that working in the formal marketing industry wasn’t for me.

Vuyo: So you quit your job?

Ndumi: Yeah I quit my job

Vuyo: What were you doing at the time?

Ndumi: I was working for a company that I would rather not mention. It was so toxic and so dysfunctional. I worked there for about seven months. It got to a point where I just told myself I needed to quit and I had no desire to be formally employed again. After I quit, I started my own business, consulting within the marketing space.

Vuyo: Let’s talk a little bit about your current coaching roles. You are a self-leadership coach and a boundaries coach. What is a boundaries coach? That’s a first for me.

Ndumi: Let me first clarify that my book is not just about black tax, the book is about boundaries. As I was writing this book it dawned on me that we’ve been sold a scam in not being taught about setting boundaries. We’ve not been taught how not to judge ourselves for the boundaries we’ve set. For the standards that we’ve set for ourselves, for the things that we want. Not knowing that means we also don’t know how to communicate the extent of our boundaries to others, we also don’t know how to communicate our boundaries in a way that is non-threatening to our relationships. We don’t know how to identify what the boundary is. This means we are navigating through life blindly to a certain degree.

Vuyo: True. That is so true.

Ndumi: This is very sad. The other thing is that we don’t know how to communicate our boundaries in a way that builds our relationships. We don’t have the tools to communicate in a way that is loving and compassionate. This is not because we don’t want to, we’ve simply not been taught how to. Bringing it back to the conversation of black tax, for most people, when they want to confront the conversation, the natural progression would be to accuse the recipient of black tax. I’m saying, do not accuse anybody because you are an accomplice to the paying of black tax. You agreed. No one pointed a gun at you but you are doing it every month or so. YOU have not been honest about your true feelings.

Therefore, YOU are partly to blame for all the black tax that you’ve paid. You need to take accountability, in doing that, you learn how to communicate better. If you were my little sister, for instance, I would say, “Vuyo, I realize that I’ve been working for ten years and I’ve been making some incorrect decisions in the way that I’ve been managing my money. I’m now taking accountability. I’ve spoilt you, I have been buying you weaves and so on, and now I realize that this is actually beyond my means. I have now chosen to do things differently. And here is how it’s going to affect you.”

Vuyo: Wow!

Ndumi: And if we put it like that it becomes much simpler, right? So that’s basically what a boundaries coach does. I’m amplifying the teaching of boundaries as an intervention for navigating through life, for effective decision-making, because we are expected to make decisions all day, every day. We decide to be aggressive or peaceful. We decide to be happy or sad. Sometimes we are just not aware that we are making a conscious decision at that moment. Sometimes we decide not to decide. So I’m teaching the A to Z of boundaries because as African people, we need to learn about boundaries. Not in a sense that says we need to build up a wall against our loved ones, but in a way that says “I love you, and I love me too, and as a result, here are my boundaries for this and that”.

Vuyo: I’m excited to delve into your book, “How To Handle Black Tax Like a Pro”. What inspired the book, was it your own experience of black tax? Were you at your wits-end in terms of suffering from black tax?

Ndumi: No, it wasn’t even something like that. It was partly propelled by my own intense experience with a lack of boundaries. In 2019 I found myself in a situation that was so toxic and dysfunctional that I walked away from my own business. I realized that there were things I wasn’t doing right. I was using up all my time, money, and energy working but not accumulating much in return, I didn’t have anything to show for it. That was my light bulb moment. A couple of months later, I came across a long post about black tax on Facebook. Someone was complaining about their aunt. My response to the post was very short, I wrote “I hear you but when all is said and done, at some point you need to set a boundary, full stop.” I left it there. Somebody saw my comment and subsequently invited me to a webinar to speak about boundaries and black tax. I prepared a 10 to 15-minute talk. After that talk, someone who would later become my writing coach, Lauren Shapiro, reached out and told me that my webinar talk sounded like a book. That’s how the book came about.

Vuyo: Yeah. Another question I always get is ‘where do you draw the line between giving and then feeling “okay now this feels like a burden, like tax”?

Ndumi: It goes back to your truth. By personal truth, I mean your needs, your wants, your thoughts, your feelings, your future expectations, etc. If you feel strongly about saving X amount per month but you’re not because you are feeding a relationship with somebody else, you are killing your relationship with yourself. You, therefore, need to be honest with yourself about what your truth is. It’s irrelevant what the other person thinks. Remember as well that the other person doesn’t know what your monthly bills and savings are. The other component to it is that, and you will know this as a money coach, when you don’t have savings it’s destructive for the entire family. So when you allow other people to deplete your savings because you feel sorry for them, it is dysfunctional for you, your family, and those around you.

Vuyo: How do I now start the conversation, because we have been doing this for years now? I’ve been supporting them for years, they’ve been beneficiaries and they have expectations. So how do I now sit down and have the conversation?

Ndumi: The first principle is not to have the black tax conversation during a black tax request. So if every month you give your parents money on the 25th, don’t have the conversation on that day when they are expecting something from you. You give and let it pass. It must also not be during a time when there is a pending request, whether there is a text that has come through or a call. You need to fulfill what you’ve established because you’ve set the trend right? Fulfill that request and then maybe let a week pass before proposing a meeting.

Propose a discussion. You call the parents or whoever else gets affected by the decisions that you make around black tax. Be prepared to have the candid conversation I mentioned earlier. So if it’s just your mother, it would be “Mommy, I’ve sat down and looked at my finances, and I realize that I have been going about things the wrong way. I’ve made some decisions that are going against my financial goals. I take responsibility. I apologize for doing that. Going forward, I have decided I need to reduce debt by doing A and B and not doing Y and Z.” If you don’t have debt, you explain to them that you need to start saving or investing and thinking about your future. Now tell me if there’s a parent who would not understand such a discussion other than a toxic parent.

Vuyo: No, not really. And that’s profound.

Ndumi: The one thing that I would like to add is that the book is not advocating FOR black tax. Neither is it advocating AGAINST black tax.  It is simply communicating; how can we do black tax responsibly. How can we do black tax in a way that does not perpetuate the cycle of black tax for our children. So, that is the point that the book is trying to communicate. Number two, the book is assuming. I’ve written it with the assumption that people DO want financial freedom, they DO want a financial legacy, they DO want to leave their kids with a surplus instead of a deficit, right? These two understandings led me to write the book in the way that I’ve written it, with the assumption that this is what we want as black people.

Vuyo. Beautiful! Thank you so much for your time Ndumie.

Ndumie: It’s been an absolute joy chatting to you. Hope your readers get the book and understand it for what it is. Thank you Vuyo.

About the book:

After outlining her own experiences with black tax and boundaries, self-leadership coach Ndumi Hadebe presents ten stories based on real situations – from family members’ expectations to fear of jeopardizing relationships by saying ‘no’ and being judged for wanting a lifestyle different from those around you. Each story explores different themes and complexities on the black tax spectrum, followed by reflections on how each situation could have been handled in a way that is peaceful and non-threatening to your relationships with loved ones. Handle Black Tax Like a Pro is an engaging and practical guide that will provide you with a roadmap to stronger relationships, better finances, and overall well-being.

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