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Define The Bag You're Chasing Before It Defines You

Secure the bag, yes, but what bag are you really chasing?

Finance

I remember feeling like I won the lottery after receiving a job offer about two years ago.

Accepting it would mean I would be making well over $10,000 more than I was making at that moment, receiving bomb ass benefits including tuition reimbursement for my dream graduate school, and working for an institution that would give credibility out here in these corporate skreets. I thought the universe had heard my cries and prayers over the years where I worked jobs that I admit were pretty fun, purposeful, and life-altering but left me straining in the finance department.

Three months in, struggling to get out of bed in the morning and waking up with the anxiety that comes with a demanding corporate environment, I was facing a reality that comes from the failure to read the fine print. I realized God had indeed blessed me with a lesson early on in life that some have to wait a lifetime to learn:

Money is not the root of your happiness because nothing...I mean NOTHING outside of yourself can make you happy.

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I admit I played deaf during my interview when they proudly exclaimed, "We have a high turnover rate at around 1-2 years," because as a recent graduate with more credit card debt and loans to pay off than I anticipated having, securing a job that would pay me the most money regardless of my role within it, seemed like the best option for me at the time.

I come to you humbled, urging you to be more specific with your prayers and to really determine what it is that you value the most in your everyday life. Is more money worth it at the expense of your work-life balance? Is pursuing a position with a generous vacation package really worth it if the demands of your job will basically prohibit you from reaping the fruits of your labor? Do amazing health benefits seem as attractive when you know that the stress of your position will weigh heavily on your health?

Before you chase the bag, define it.

I know that the bag that I am chasing is full of purpose, peace of mind, and the ability to use my natural talents to bring joy and hope to many while affording a comfortable lifestyle.

I propose that while carefully planning your next move to bigger and better career opportunities, that you learn how to find the value in your life and income now, so that when you receive career offers that seemingly will add to the bag, you can look at them with a clear-eyed view in reference to your purpose and your visions. Here are some questions to ask yourself for further clarity:

Does Money Burn In My Pocket?

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When Kanye had some sense left, he uttered, "I have a problem with spending before I get it", and that is an issue that will lead to misfortune no matter how much you make. Overspending is more mental than derived out of actual necessity because most of the time after you run up your credit cards or burn through your check, you will find that you have little to show for it.

A great remedy to this is affirming that you see the value in your every day life, which means that you take a hard look of all that you have been blessed with presently and find the use of it. You have a fridge, a stove, a place to lay your head, and two working hands?! Instead of dining out, stay in and cook with friends or family. Instead of happy hour with the girls, invite them back for some homemade margaritas and mimosas. Fill your life with experiences that will create long-lasting positive feelings and memories more often, and you will learn the best things in life are free or at least super affordable!

Am I Spending Out Of Habit Or Out Of Necessity?

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Does the thought of leaving your debit card at home on a mundane Tuesday sound like a nightmare? That can be a sign that you are doing more swiping during your downtime than what is healthy for your budget. 'No spend days' are the days of the week where outside of emergencies, your debit card should be safely tucked into your wallet. This is a great way to be intentional about your spending.

Just as social media fasts help clear your mind from the constant notifications of the virtual world, designating at least two days of no spending will show you how many times you reach for your card when it is plain old unnecessary. Just because it's on sale does not mean it's a sign from the universe for you to buy it. Just because you have a few bucks left from your paycheck from last week does not mean you need to spend it.

Is There A Way I Can Pay Myself Back?

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When you change your attitude towards money from, "I can never have enough" to, "I have money everywhere, and it comes to me easily," just watch your circumstances change. There is actually a microsavings app called Digit, that will show you that even when you think you do not have a whole lot coming in, there is enough to stash away for something special. By looking at your spending habits, the app tucks away small increments as low as $.50 to as high as $10 at a time in a way that is painless and goes into a savings account that is out of sight and out of mind. If that is not your style, there are plenty of cards with a cash back bonus or a point system that allow you to accumulate air miles. Unfortunately, the freedom of adulthood comes with many expenses, so if you are going to spend it anyway, it is great to have some added perks.

Taking a serious look at your habits and thoughts about money will lead you to make better decisions when you get that raise or that higher paying position, and will remind you that there are parts of your life that are more valuable than how much you make. Let's start focusing on what we make of it.

Feature image by Getty Images.

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ACLU By ACLUSponsored

Over the past four years, we grew accustomed to a regular barrage of blatant, segregationist-style racism from the White House. Donald Trump tweeted that “the Squad," four Democratic Congresswomen who are Black, Latinx, and South Asian, should “go back" to the “corrupt" countries they came from; that same year, he called Elizabeth Warren “Pocahontas," mocking her belief that she might be descended from Native American ancestors.

But as outrageous as the racist comments Trump regularly spewed were, the racially unjust governmental actions his administration took and, in the case of COVID-19, didn't take, impacted millions more — especially Black and Brown people.

To begin to heal and move toward real racial justice, we must address not only the harms of the past four years, but also the harms tracing back to this country's origins. Racism has played an active role in the creation of our systems of education, health care, ownership, and employment, and virtually every other facet of life since this nation's founding.

Our history has shown us that it's not enough to take racist policies off the books if we are going to achieve true justice. Those past policies have structured our society and created deeply-rooted patterns and practices that can only be disrupted and reformed with new policies of similar strength and efficacy. In short, a systemic problem requires a systemic solution. To combat systemic racism, we must pursue systemic equality.

What is Systemic Racism?

A system is a collection of elements that are organized for a common purpose. Racism in America is a system that combines economic, political, and social components. That system specifically disempowers and disenfranchises Black people, while maintaining and expanding implicit and explicit advantages for white people, leading to better opportunities in jobs, education, and housing, and discrimination in the criminal legal system. For example, the country's voting systems empower white voters at the expense of voters of color, resulting in an unequal system of governance in which those communities have little voice and representation, even in policies that directly impact them.

Systemic Equality is a Systemic Solution

In the years ahead, the ACLU will pursue administrative and legislative campaigns targeting the Biden-Harris administration and Congress. We will leverage legal advocacy to dismantle systemic barriers, and will work with our affiliates to change policies nearer to the communities most harmed by these legacies. The goal is to build a nation where every person can achieve their highest potential, unhampered by structural and institutional racism.

To begin, in 2021, we believe the Biden administration and Congress should take the following crucial steps to advance systemic equality:

Voting Rights

The administration must issue an executive order creating a Justice Department lead staff position on voting rights violations in every U.S. Attorney office. We are seeing a flood of unlawful restrictions on voting across the country, and at every level of state and local government. This nationwide problem requires nationwide investigatory and enforcement resources. Even if it requires new training and approval protocols, a new voting rights enforcement program with the participation of all 93 U.S. Attorney offices is the best way to help ensure nationwide enforcement of voting rights laws.

These assistant U.S. attorneys should begin by ensuring that every American in the custody of the Bureau of Prisons who is eligible to vote can vote, and monitor the Census and redistricting process to fight the dilution of voting power in communities of color.

We are also calling on Congress to pass the John Lewis Voting Rights Advancement Act to finally create a fair and equal national voting system, the cause for which John Lewis devoted his life.

Student Debt

Black borrowers pay more than other students for the same degrees, and graduate with an average of $7,400 more in debt than their white peers. In the years following graduation, the debt gap more than triples. Nearly half of Black borrowers will default within 12 years. In other words, for Black Americans, the American dream costs more. Last week, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, along with House Reps. Ayanna Pressley, Maxine Waters, and others, called on President Biden to cancel up to $50,000 in federal student loan debt per borrower.

We couldn't agree more. By forgiving $50,000 of student debt, President Biden can unleash pent up economic potential in Black communities, while relieving them of a burden that forestalls so many hopes and dreams. Black women in particular will benefit from this executive action, as they are proportionately the most indebted group of all Americans.

Postal Banking

In both low and high income majority-Black communities, traditional bank branches are 50 percent more likely to close than in white communities. The result is that nearly 50 percent of Black Americans are unbanked or underbanked, and many pay more than $2,000 in fees associated with subprime financial institutions. Over their lifetime, those fees can add up to as much as two years of annual income for the average Black family.

The U.S. Postal Service can and should meet this crisis by providing competitive, low-cost financial services to help advance economic equality. We call on President Biden to appoint new members to the Postal Board of Governors so that the Post Office can do the work of providing essential services to every American.

Fair Housing

Across the country, millions of people are living in communities of concentrated poverty, including 26 percent of all Black children. The Biden administration should again implement the 2015 Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing rule, which required localities that receive federal funds for housing to investigate and address barriers to fair housing and patterns or practices that promote bias. In 1980, the average Black person lived in a neighborhood that was 62 percent Black and 31 percent white. By 2010, the average Black person's neighborhood was 48 percent Black and 34 percent white. Reinstating the Obama-era Fair Housing Rule will combat this ongoing segregation and set us on a path to true integration.

Congress should also pass the American Housing and Economic Mobility Act, or a similar measure, to finally redress the legacy of redlining and break down the walls of segregation once and for all.

Broadband Access

To realize broadband's potential to benefit our democracy and connect us to one another, all people in the United States must have equal access and broadband must be made affordable for the most vulnerable. Yet today, 15 percent of American households with school-age children do not have subscriptions to any form of broadband, including one-quarter of Black households (an additional 23 percent of African Americans are “smartphone-only" internet users, meaning they lack traditional home broadband service but do own a smartphone, which is insufficient to attend class, do homework, or apply for a job). The Biden administration, Federal Communications Commission, and Congress must develop and implement plans to increase funding for broadband to expand universal access.

Enhanced, Refundable Child Tax Credits

The United States faces a crisis of child poverty. Seventeen percent of all American children are impoverished — a rate higher than not just peer nations like Canada and the U.K., but Mexico and Russia as well. Currently, more than 50 percent of Black and Latinx children in the U.S. do not qualify for the full benefit, compared to 23 percent of white children, and nearly one in five Black children do not receive any credit at all.

To combat this crisis, President Biden and Congress should enhance the child tax credit and make it fully refundable. If we enhance the child tax credit, we can cut child poverty by 40 percent and instantly lift over 50 percent of Black children out of poverty.

Reparations

We cannot repair harms that we have not fully diagnosed. We must commit to a thorough examination of the impact of the legacy of chattel slavery on racial inequality today. In 2021, Congress must pass H.R. 40, which would establish a commission to study reparations and make recommendations for Black Americans.

The Long View

For the past century, the ACLU has fought for racial justice in legislatures and in courts, including through several landmark Supreme Court cases. While the court has not always ruled in favor of racial justice, incremental wins throughout history have helped to chip away at different forms of racism such as school segregation ( Brown v. Board), racial bias in the criminal legal system (Powell v. Alabama, i.e. the Scottsboro Boys), and marriage inequality (Loving v. Virginia). While these landmark victories initiated necessary reforms, they were only a starting point.

Systemic racism continues to pervade the lives of Black people through voter suppression, lack of financial services, housing discrimination, and other areas. More than anything, doing this work has taught the ACLU that we must fight on every front in order to overcome our country's legacies of racism. That is what our Systemic Equality agenda is all about.

In the weeks ahead, we will both expand on our views of why these campaigns are crucial to systemic equality and signal the path this country must take. We will also dive into our work to build organizing, advocacy, and legal power in the South — a region with a unique history of racial oppression and violence alongside a rich history of antiracist organizing and advocacy. We are committed to four principles throughout this campaign: reconciliation, access, prosperity, and empowerment. We hope that our actions can meet our ambition to, as Dr. King said, lead this nation to live out the true meaning of its creed.

What you can do:
Take the pledge: Systemic Equality Agenda
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Featured image by Shutterstock

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