top of page

“It’s Me, Not You, America” (the break-up): Financial Freedom (part #2)

I have toiled. I have earned. I have saved. I have invested. I have lost.  

For decades, I have been in this unhealthy relationship. Ironically, I have spent so much time and money trying to mend this relationship. 

The thought of financial fidelity with money is delusional. Money gets around, so of course I shouldn’t stay faithful or dependent upon it. However, I am…wedded to paper by the power vested in my officiant, capitalism

These are the confessions of a financially literate teacher in a taxing, toxic turbulent economic system. I am writing this piece not to complain, compete, compare, commiserate, or complement (compliment) capitalism but to connect and communicate. 

Small call to action: to make this read entertaining and educational, take the time to research the bold terms

Parasocial. I know money, but money don’t know me. I care about money but money don’t care about me. I have to live up to the money but the money don’t have to measure up to me. In rapper terms, I wish I could say the days were as long as my paper (pronounced “pay-pah”). As the direct deposits roll in, I become more and more withdrawn (and expensive and so expendable). 

I have consciously calculated every dollar--past, present, and future. I know exactly where every dollar goes. I have invested my life into my investments, yet I will never know how much time God has budgeted for me. Honestly, maybe God's "loud budgeting" has kept me safe and sound. And maybe that's the "quiet luxury."

As someone who has touched over $100k in a year while knowing his life is worth a few dollars on the streets and millions to the prison system (or sports entertainment industry), let me tell you, I’ve learned that life’s cheap and poverty’s expensive in America. 

To my momma in Texas, her middle child has made it, making what she thinks is good money in Cali. I AM SPOILED, from the weather, the wealth, to the white liberalism…awe, that white liberalism is intoxicating and insoluble. Actually, American individualism will label me a “cry baby”  or make me the poster child for the American Dream, while white liberalism will condescendingly  play “pity” back on my head and my back to affirm virtue-signaling (and quietly white supremacy) and render me a political chew toy. Speaking of smug pug-looking politicians pandering, I understand one political party bites me directly in the face and the other sneakily bites me in the ass. We’ll cover that later “for all the dogs.”

To the government, I AM just a number, one of many on a screen, and remember, those numbers do not equate to the number of days I have spent, have given, or have left. For the money, it is easy to crash out while trying to cash out. Ask any hopeful streamer or social media influencer, those who unknowingly pay to play, meaning those who indirectly p(l)ay with their lives, their livelihoods, and their legacies…all for the clicks, clout, and content. Sex sells. Ignorance will cost you. And people, especially young people, avoid filing for (moral) bankruptcy.  

I have earned. I have saved. I have invested. I have lost. I have toiled.

Working in the San Francisco Bay Area since 2007, I have crossed a six-figure net worth in recent years, as a teacher, especially as a Black male educator. Let me reiterate:  I AM SPOILED ROTTEN here in California, hence the deepening cavity in my soul. The sporadic combination of heavy darkness and light-headedness are the products of the cognitive dissonance I feel knowing that my monetary wealth came primarily from my work at a PWI. 

And for the record, no one living outside of California quite understands (or experiences) the rising taxation, the home affordability crisis, and the BIPPING epidemic on the streets—just a few of the environmental factors that provoke my financial coping mechanisms disguised as a thinly-veiled scarcity mindset and hyper-saver habits. For others of us, the same risk factors alongside social media FOMO trigger irrational hyper-consumption or “doom-spending.” America as a business shares a similar unrealistic (financial) abundance mindset when it comes to its own expenditures and labor market. In other words, I find it difficult to have an asset-based mindset while our government shows time and time again its crippling social deficit-thinking through its deficit-spending, thus I am not surprised how our country and our citizens think less and think even more less of one another. Irregardless of how overworked, underpaid, and priced-out my fellow Americans have been for some time now, I know this "great" country will always find and feed on hungry, starved people, locally and globally. Check the books, boats, borders, and burial grounds if you don’t believe me.

1.I have saved. 2. I have invested. 3. I have lost. 4. I have toiled. 5. I have earned.

After paying off student debt and saving up for a decade or so, I looked into buying a house in the Bay (a privilege and luxury in itself, I know) and somewhat felt like the overpriced housing market was a hostile egosystem, I mean “ecosystem,” created by poor policies, rising inflation, low wages, opaque housing disclosures, and a nasty symbiotic relationship among sellers, buyers, landlords, and renters writhing in economic quicksand while looking out above for corporate vultures. If the markets are not free, then I know I’m not free. Financial freedom seems like an illusion, so realistically all I can get is the illusion of choice. Yes, I have the choice to buy a house and mortgage my life away to "share" ownership with the bank. Big bank always takes little bank. It just feels more fun to be fungible, right?

Not to mention, in this self-cannabalizing system, I fear that my own hyper-saver habits and decent financial stewardship--the result of a working-class upbringing and the commonly-associated (historical) financial trauma that many Black folx in the South know all too well--contribute to the physical displacement of native Oaklanders if not Native folx altogether. Out of habit from my childhood, I still shop at discount stores (i.e. Ross, Dollar Store, etc.), and so I grapple with "being priced out" and "pricing out" others. As we have seen in history and even today, tariffs, embargoes, and gentrification have been effective means to displace, replace, and erase communities. Is my hoarding of cash a part of the inequitable (re)distribution of peoples and resources? While Cardi B told us that she "makes money moves," some everyday people have to move when the money moves. Others can’t move up because the money don’t move down. Maybe for my own benefit and protection, I should learn a bit more about micro and macro-economics and actually vote locally (and advocate "glocally*").

Why does economic opportunism in this country seem to lead to the exploitation of those in survival mode? Does it not register the fact that America has no real fiduciary responsibility to most people, just fiduciary interests? From debt slavery to golden handcuffs, people out here are strapped in more ways than one. "Gimme the loot! Gimme the loot!"

Moreover, I also attribute my financial frustration to my relationship with the men whom people would consider “father.” George Washington. Benjamin Franklin. Abraham Lincoln. I have found that I have spent more time with these men than I have with my own birth father. Unfortunately from the bank to the bing, I am used to seeing fathers framed and locked in a box. 

I hope my kids do not inherit daddy issues, those of my own and those of this country. Side bar: the government can’t and shouldn't be trusted to play father. Careful, social welfare programs do come at a cost. Oh what fines do we find with the fine print!

Formerly a nerdy Black prep-school kid with a roller backpack (uncool), and now an English teacher rocking old-man Brooks shoes with worn dress pants, I am self-admittedly a square, working in a box, living in a box, trying to actively steer youth away from a box. I wonder which RICH DAD or POOR DAD to credit for my quadrant placement. 

  1. I have invested. 2. I have lost. 3. I have toiled. 4. I have earned. 5. I have saved.

I have studied stocks like they were my own students. Dozens. Hundreds. Almost 20 years of low-brow personal finance scholarship. I have forgotten how to spell simple words like “Apple” and “Nike” from deciphering ticker symbols. I have lost my ability to look to the sky from all my time watching the market bounce up and down. 

I keep telling myself: I just need to survive the accumulation phase. I just need to keep stacking. I just need to earn more. I struggle to say: I just need to accumulate more life experience, for what parts of me have I lost while accumulating assets? I just need to keep sustaining healthy relationships, for the money couldn’t be my best man at my wedding or the mother of my child. I just need to learn (and love) more, for the money will never obtain, maintain, explain, or sustain unconditional love. 

In regards to my actual investment style, I am pretty risk-averse, so I want to subscribe to the “set it and forget it” method, yet I know systems were set for me to forget myself and my history. In regards to my faith investment style, I have mistakenly diversified across a broad market of currencies, countries, and corruptions when I should have put all my faith into one higher power. 

How could a person in such a social profession like teaching become so anti-social? 

I am writing this piece because I have reached a point of detection, inflection, and reflection. I worry about my physical, mental, and spiritual well-being because the paper chase can be unimaginably endless. The hurdles, unpredictable. My vision, unclear. My creativity, embezzled. 

For example, I have taught some form of summer school since I was 16 years old. I am grateful for the year-round work, my work ethic, and the hard money lessons learned. Nonetheless, I have been beside myself, side-gigging most nights and most weekends. From tutor to college essay advisor to social media copy editor to crossing guard to unsuccessful antique-pawn shop flipper to the thought of Uber-ing around millionaires in the San Francisco Bay Area, I wonder and worry if I ever left the trap. Even frugal geeks like me paid heed to the words of famous street economists, Clifford Harris, Radric Davis, and Jay Wayne Jenkins. America loves “trap” for a reason. 

  1. I have lost. 2. I have toiled. 3. I have earned. 4. I have saved. 5. I have invested.

“FXXX you! Pay me”  “FXXX BXXXXES! Get Money” “F-You Money”

Ostensibly American, these phrases take me further away from you, from my community, from my love, and from myself. I don’t want to be around certain people, just for the money. I don’t want to be around the money, just for certain people. I don’t want to make money just to get away from people. I don’t want to move up, just to be let down by the mirages of money. I don’t want to make enemies to make money. I don’t want to make money to make enemies. I don’t want a big bank to replace a big mind. I don’t want to earn just to burn (internally and relationally). I don’t want our bond to end once the government bonds mature. I don’t want to deposit money into empty causes and empty people. I don’t want commas if my soul is in a coma. I don’t want to see green if it means frequently feeling the blues. I want us to know the difference between assurance and insurance.

It's not "her loss" or their loss; it's mine. The future is accountability, healing, and connection. I ain’t gotta lie about my liabilities. Given the reality of powerful ideologies, individuals, and institutions upholding white supremacy, capitalism, and white patriarchy, I still believe I AM my biggest asset as well as my biggest liability. So, Mother forgive them for the big three, "it's just big me!"

I can’t care about reparations if I don’t care to repair (and own) my spirit, my relationships, and my poor work-life balance. "Is you like that?"

  1. I have toiled. 2. I have earned. 3. I have saved. 4. I have invested. 5. I have lost.

I am learning.

As I aim to break this cycle, I have learned that I need to put my faith in God, my faith in action, and have faith in my actions as I restructure and wean myself from both a (self)destructive economic system and a self-defeating money narrative--both of which base themselves on the constant consumption (and perception) of imports, ignorance, and individuals.  

People say, “Money is the root of all evil.” And Pusha T reminds me that "all it is paper," so I'm just pruning and then setting roots elsewhere to get a peace of mind (piece of mine). 

 "If you like that…”


For my non-Black allies and homies:

For my Black Teachers and Black Scholars:

For my fellow Black Male Educators:

Fair Use Disclaimer. I do not own the rights to the copyrighted content such as album titles, song titles or lyrics mentioned in this piece. The following copyrighted content is cited or mentioned:


© 2023 by Just Black Thoughts. Proudly created with

bottom of page