Who does not want to be a successful person? Indeed, success is on the wish-list of everyone – all of us all. No one sets out, usually, to fail. Failure could be hard to avoid but can be avoided still. How? Careful implementation of well-thought-out plans helps to give us a good chance to avoid failure.
Is Life Hard?
Many years ago, when everyone commonly said (even then), “Life is hard”, young men and women looked forward to ‘payday’ just as we do today. For a few days at least, the parlance, “Life is hard” would be lost. That was when the queues at check-out in discount shops would be long and winding. The restaurants would be full of guys with their girls, desirous of showing the ladies they were willing and able. That was when credit sales done a few weeks earlier would be settled. The lady who sold clothing would frequently be seen going from one office to the other, collecting cash for earlier sales and showing new wares. Somehow, she would get more credit sales done, with the promise of payment on the next payday.
Selorm had started work after school in a small consulting firm. She was employed as a research assistant and she did a lot of primary data collection and collation. Her boss then, a ‘continuing student of life’ (as she referred to herself), had advised her to figure out a way to prepare for the future every day. Her needs were not that much, though she had so many wants that she still looked forward to receiving her salary each month like it was a ‘life-and-death’ issue. She had gone through three months of work already and it felt like she would continually be broke. She knew she continue on that path. She needed a plan that would work.
Selorm lived with her parents but she supported them by buying and preparing food for the household and paying for utilities. She didn’t have a rent expense but she had feeding and utilities expenses which were significant. There were other expenses she had to grapple with each month and many times. Selorm had to forgo getting something she wanted very badly for something she needed to do albeit in the future. Taking a cue from what her boss always advised her to do, she resolved to succeed. She would use each day to prepare for her future. She told herself she was going to make sure of that.
Today, some fifty plus years after, as a mother and a widow, she has no regrets. She only hopes all her children would emulate her examples of planning for a life of financial security. There had been challenges. However, because she had focus, objectives and determination, she had been able to meet many needs without getting into trouble financially.
Back then, she had read about how she could plan her finances. She learned what assets are: things she owned that she could use to make more money. She learned about her liabilities: things that she had to spend money on, which thereby, reduced her money. She decided to be cautious about acquiring things, to constantly ask how what she was going to own would help cut expenses or make her money. Making money wasn’t her sole object but it helped put things in perspective for her. She also decided to be very careful what commitments she made. Many commitments entered into could be a drain without being very beneficial.
A Working Plan
Every month, before she would get paid, she would draw a budget, listing her necessary expenses for the month. Her salary was never enough to cover all these expenses. The only way out was to sacrifice and forgo some. When that happened, she would end up being late on the payment of some bills and would have to depend on an irregular, unexpected inflow, usually a remittance from her brother in the US. She knew her expenses would go up, probably faster than her salary would so she had to do something fast.
First, she cut down her expense list; number of items was reduced. Also, she did an assessment of her use of utilities. She introduced better efficiency of use, asking at home for lights and other electrical devices in empty rooms to go off. The two TVs she had bought on credit (it was costing her both the prices and the electricity cost) would usually stay on for such a long time, even when no one was watching them. The house could do with just one TV. She sold one of the new ones, in addition to an older one, and used the sale proceeds to pay off the debt for the TVs. She also made sure that the security lights outside would be switched on only when it was dark, not at dusk, when there was still a bit of sunlight, and most of them would go off well before the sun’s light first appeared at dawn. A plumber was brought in to check and repair all leakages. She also began to advise the whole household to use the telephone judiciously. After three months, she realized all her utility bills had gone down by a third, on the average. That was money she set aside in her savings account each month, building her savings gradually. Same salary, reduced expenses, little bit of savings generated. Good start!
Selorm had to earn extra money, if she were to succeed. Sadly, the sewing skills she had learned from her mother were employed only when someone asked her for a sewn dress. That had to change. She bought a sewing machine out of her savings and began to speak with a number of companies and schools. Soon, she had orders and was sewing uniforms for companies and schools. After work, she would come home and sit behind the sewing machine to finish a dress on time. On Saturdays, she would invite a friend to come help. A decent and steady inflow of additional cash began for her. This new stream of earnings was added to her savings to grow it.
Selorm remembers how, one day, her boss had introduced a young man to her. He was an investment adviser. He was given the chance to speak with the whole company, where she worked, about investments. She was intrigued that her money could work for her and potentially earn her more money. After asking many probing questions, she set up an investment account with money from her sewing business and watched her investment grow with additions and from interests, dividend and price changes.
At that point, she could say she had done the following to get to where she was:
- Have an intention or strong desire for financial security
- Examine carefully your income and expenses
- Determine what items are most important and are better done without delay
- Determine what items can be delayed till when there are enough funds available
- Evaluate spending items with the view to stopping or cutting down the expenses
- Don’t make commitments that could impoverish you
- Accumulate savings
- Consider additional vocations and use accumulated savings to acquire assets that will help you generate more cash
- Also, consider investments to make your money work for you.
Selorm’s Steps Towards Personal Financial Security
At the time of her marriage, to the young investment adviser, she had begun to build a small fortune for herself. Twins and a ‘Tawiah’ in four years meant quick planning, not just for herself now but for the entire family, was required. The couple had big dreams: a new home, good education for the children and a family car. With each, she applied the same principles she had taught herself. She would, every month, list all the income and expense items and discuss with her husband. Each of the large expense items required extra careful consideration and planning. Her situation was quite different, though from the young single woman she used to be after school. Her needs were bigger and intertwined with her family’s and her wants were even bigger!
For instance, her husband mooted the idea of a number of funds they could set up to meet different needs. They had a savings fund each for the children’s future educational expenses, rent, parents’ upkeep and their future home. They maintained an emergency fund and a medicals fund. Contributions were made to all these funds but there were times when their income was clearly not enough. They decided contributions to both emergency and medicals funds would be suspended in such times. Otherwise, all these funds grew. To ensure their monies worked for them, they set limits which would cause them to move funds from savings to investments. With time, their investments outgrew their savings; they purchased holdings in mutual funds, unit trusts, shares and government treasuries.
There were many times their careful planning received jolts. For one of such, the dent created was significant. Her husband had taken ill and had to undergo surgery. Their medical fund, built and maintained over almost twenty years, got depleted in no time and they fell on investments for their future home. After years of hospital visits, medication and specialized care, he succumbed to ill-health. Though grief-stricken, she and her almost adult children could rely on the fruits of financial planning and investments they had made for their education, housing and livelihood. She had restarted a new home fund and quit her day-time job to concentrate on her blossoming sewing business and other interests. When a good opportunity came to buy land, she found the money to buy for herself and her children. She expanded her business and co-opted one of the children to manage it while she pursued other business ventures. The funds, which had begun as tiny savings, were what they lived off. As the children got ready to leave home and start out on their own, she had parting gifts for each to help them start: two small funds for them to maintain and build.
Fifty years ago, Selorm had been just a young woman who decided to have a plan to help her achieve financial security. It had been tough. She had made many unpleasant choices out of several options. Some had not been good but most had justified her choices. Looking back, she smiled with contentment and heaved a sign. It is well!
About the Writer
Kwadwo is a Senior Investment Analyst, and head of OctaneDC Research. You may contact him on 0244 563 530 or at [email protected]