Pay Yourself First

It’s alarming how many people are not prepared for old age, and a study by Aka, Hervani, and Arnott-Hill (2016) highlighted just how distressingly bad this situation is for African Americans.  In this in-depth study, the authors explain that we are “retirement ready” when we can maintain (or believe that we can maintain) the same standard of living in retirement as when we were working.

Did you know that compared to White households, Black households (in general):

  • ... are less likely to receive Social Security benefits (or receive less SS benefits due to lower earnings);
  • ... are less likely to be covered by pension plans; and
  • ... have less assets and financial net worth?

To work all of your life, and then not be financially secure as a senior citizen means that WE are not doing something right.

In a discussion with my accountant the other day, I was pondering about how to plan for taxes next year.  Her main advice to me was, “Faye, you need to pay yourself first!”  The reality is that we pay others (e.g., this bill, that bill, services for this thing, or that thing), and oftentimes don’t pay ourselves first with the money that we have worked so hard for.  The truth is, I was not contributing enough to my retirement plan…and I needed to reprioritize for my family and myself.

Despite the statistics, this article serves as a Call to Action.  Planning for our elderly years is something that we can control.  Where are our financial specialists that can reach out and educate?  Who is offering free or affordable workshops on retirement and investment options?  Additionally, let’s assume more personal responsibility.  If you are currently working and have not yet spoken to your HR representative and/or retirement consultants, what are you waiting for?  For those who are successfully planning their retirement, share that knowledge with family and friends who might not know.  Many will say that they don’t make enough (and the article suggests that this may be true), and while I understand the struggle, we must agree that any amount saved is better than nothing at all.  Take it one day at a time – and even if it’s just a small amount - pay yourself first!

If you would like to know more about the micro and macro steps that Aka et al. (2016) recommend for closing the gap in retirement security, the direct link to the study is provided below for your reference.  Black Research Matters!


Aka, P. C., Hervani, A. A., Arnott-Hill, E. (2016). Protection against the economic fears of old age:  Six micro and macro steps for bridging the gap in retirement security between Blacks and Whites.  Vermont Law Review 40(1), 1-68.
Retrieved from


By Faye Jones, Ph.D.
Research Analyst, Black News Channel
Faculty Researcher, Florida State University

Black Research Matters is about empowering our readers with research about themselves, and specifically to inspire and educate our communities with information about the latest innovations and research related to, and developed by, African Americans. As a community, we must know about research that is about us, for us, and from us. Black Research Matters provides an opportunity for both academicians to share information and for the Black community to ask questions and share their experiences. Together we will explore and dissect issues from all angles, but most importantly address how these issues impact Black America. Future themes will be based on your suggestions, and include research topics in health, politics, the economy, finance, education, religion, sports and so much more. BNC welcomes your suggestions, so please send research topics that you are interested in to Dr. Jones.

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