Letter to Middle Class Black America

Photo Credit: Phyllis Iller

Dear Middle Class Black America,

Do you remember the talk? No, not the one about keeping your hands on the steering wheel when you get pulled over and not the one about the birds and the bees. 

The other one. The work talk. The one where you’re told you’ll have to work twice as hard to get half the credit.  Well, by now you know it’s true. 

If you’re in mid-level management, you’ve likely had to earn a set of credentials before you were even considered for the role. If you’re in upper-level management, you’re likely accustomed to being the only one in the room. Either way, you’ve mastered the art of code switching and your endurance has served you well.

You know what it’s like to be convinced the playing field is level on one day, but the next day, be reminded of how limited your access is. You’ve been encouraged to “be yourself” in one setting and told your “blaccent” is distracting in another. You know what it feels like when grooming decisions like switching up your hair, or letting your beard grow a little bushier somehow morph into questions about your professionalism.

You’re not imagining things and it’s ok to be angry sometimes. It’s real, and there is plenty of data to prove it’s systemic. Our parents, elders and mentors told us from experience this would happen. The advice has always been to work harder, have faith and you’ll get what you deserve. And well, by now, you know that’s not always true.

Black excellence is exhausting. We’re tired because the effects of a work-obsessed culture coupled with the fatigue from climbing a rigged corporate ladder are starting to take hold. We’ve been given all the tools to get on the hamster wheel, but none of the tools to get off. Now, the golden handcuffs are starting to feel less like bracelets and more like a shiny trap.

We would never dispute or discredit the value in earning a good living to take care of your family or as a means to pursuing your dreams.  But…

so many of our best and brightest are spending precious years making corporations richer with no exit plan in sight. Click To Tweet

This is why we’re fans of the Financial Independence, Retire Early (FIRE) movement.  Have you ever heard the phrase, one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?  Well with FIRE,

one man's life-optimization strategy is another man's blueprint to economic freedom. Click To Tweet

FIRE gave us the playbook we needed. The principles for FI (Financial Independence) are simple: spend drastically less than you earn, invest more than you ever have and repeat until you reach a point where your investment income covers your expenses.

When it comes to RE (Retire Early), we like to use a marathon/sprint analogy. Instead of running the career marathon where you consistently save 10-15% of your income over 50 years, we’re choosing to sprint uphill and save upwards of 50% of our income over a shorter period of time.

We know, it sounds radical, selfish and counter to everything you’ve ever been taught or told, but this movement is picking up steam and you’re no less deserving of this type of freedom than anyone else.

Work isn’t a 4-letter word.

We would never discredit the value of work itself…but jobs, as we know them, are killing us. The evidence is all around us. Modern management principles create workplaces that are breeding grounds for depression, obesity and other stress induced ailments. Not to mention, if you are a woman, on average, you earn less. If you are a person of color, you not only earn less, you sleep less and you are promoted less frequently.

It’s incredible how much evidence there can be and people still aren’t convinced. Before cigarette companies put labels on their products, the list of evidence was just as long.

It takes a confident person, supported by a vocal community to decide to trust themselves and not stay on the traditional path. That’s why we’re writing this to you, the most talented, well-resourced, well-traveled and educated generation. Now is the time for more Black and Brown courageous, bold thinkers and practitioners with a zest for life to free themselves from their desks and start solving problems for our community.

Just imagine how many of our health problems would be eradicated or lessened if just 10% of the Black middle class opted out of the traditional workforce.  Given the free time this would create, might we see more of us devoting time to consistent exercise, better nutrition and mental wellness?

Just imagine how many marriages could be saved if just 10% of the Black middle class decided to spend more time with their children and partners instead of earning miles and points on the company dime. 

Just imagine how vastly improved our local church drives, home associations, city council meetings, fraternities, sororities,non-profits, public parks and schools would be if suddenly there were more talented and capable bodies ready to help outside of the holiday season and work-sponsored team-building activities.

Wouldn’t it be amazing to leave a positive legacy behind instead of spending our lives treading shark infested middle management waters?  Doesn’t the freedom to be self-sufficient sound better than being chained to the office and saddled with debt?

We’ve been on this path a few years now and the results have been liberating.  To us, a few years of living well below our means is a price worth paying if the reward is a lifetime of freedom.

But we’re just two people.  We need more of YOU to take the same energy you give to your jobs and re-direct it to debt elimination, investments and ownership.

We know many of you need to “see it to believe it”, but we hope at least 10% of you can find the courage and grit to dig deep, buckle down and adopt this lifestyle today. Whether it’s the FI that intrigues you or it’s the RE, we have everything we need to get started right now.

It's time to get on the FIRE train. Are you with us? Click To Tweet

Mr. and Mrs. r&R



  1. Compelling message. Hope it inspires many in our community to get out of debt, create wealth and improve our overall health and well being. Thanks for the invitation to the FIRE movement!

  2. Thanks for the sharing of a strong message. The post contains important points that many in our community, unfortunately, don’t come across. I’m there with you, though.

    Keep doing your thing.

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