Ukraine on my mind


Armed conflict is not a pleasant thing at all. It is unfortunate that we have had it ‘since Adam’ – and even more unfortunate that it still persists today. Scores of people become displaced and end up being refugees. I remember meeting students who had almost completed their courses of study in Liberia but had to flee their countries and start a similar programme almost over again. Of course, they were thankful that they were alive, had had the opportunity to flee to another country and were back in school. The wasted years due to war were still regrettable, though.

Back in 1990, I was at the airport to see off my bosom friend. He was setting off to Ukraine to study. Incidentally, it was the same day and time that our own General Arnold Quainoo was emplaning to go to Liberia and take up his post as first commander of the sub-regional force, ECOMOG – The Economic Community of West African States Monitoring Group.

I was happy for him, though sad that he was leaving for a long time. For more than five years we consistently exchanged letters and cards, until he returned home a doctor. Yes, there were nothing like WhatsApp, Facebook or even cellphones then. We would write a few words in a letter, seal it in an envelope and take it to the post office to buy stamps and drop it in the mailbox. Hand-written and lettered addresses were very important, so people had diaries and notebooks to record them in. After a month or so, the letter would be received. Somehow, people successfully maintained long-distance relationships that way during those days.

Being in a foreign land for such a long time as a student can be chancy. Students are vulnerable. They usually don’t have the economic wherewithal to make certain decisions that would ensure their security. The fact, really, is that during times of war wealth may fail. The very rich have often had to join the other fleeing refugees on foot, with just enough of what can be carried on their backs and trekked many miles to safety.

Life’s like that! There are rainy days and sunny days. As time and chance comes to all, we all get our fair share of these days. If we are well-prepared, a rainy day does not seem so ‘rainy’. A sunny day will, in turn, not be just that. We will ‘make hay while the sun shines’ every time it shines. When the rainy day comes, we will be ready. It is a matter of planning for both. The Bible mentions the sons of Issachar as men who understood the times and knew what Israel ought to do. We need to know what we ought to do when things are not stressful, and during stressful times too. It is good to have a plan that shows us how we ought to use every good situation to prepare for less pleasant ones. 

Beyond The War

Since the war in Ukraine began in February this year, shocks have been sent through global markets. Oil prices have shot up – well past a hundred dollars due to fears of supply-side issues. This has translated into high fuel prices all over the world. Governments have had to use reserves built up to subsidise fuel products. This may not be sustainable if the war turns out to be a long-drawn-out one. Ukraine is an important wheat producer. The war has therefore impacted wheat flour supply globally. Our tea-bread with hausa koko, butter for Milo and all pastries have therefore been ‘endangered’ by this war.

Until we have a sure safety net, it would be advisable to treat good times as great opportunities to set aside a few cedis to work for us. We should be conscious of the fact that there is a need and plan toward it. We should have a number of investment destinations or strategies. For instance, we can plan that if we get GH¢20 to GH¢50 above our usual income, we’ll set it aside and invest in a mutual fund at OctaneDC.

Whenever we get money like that, we should add it to the mutual fund investment. If the plan and a good idea of what investment destination we can employ are not there, there is a good chance the money will be squandered. When a bad day occurs, we may have given our investment a chance to be added to and to grow organically with time. At that point, there will be money to meet needs, at least, while we explore a more permanent solution.

When it rains

We must build for a rainy day – it will always rain. Even in the driest parts of our planet, like the Namib or the Atacama, the rain falls – rarely, but it does fall. Usually, when it starts raining there is little that can be done which has not been done already. Shelter and canals have to be built before it rains. In some arid parts of the world, depressions are built in every community to collect run-off water and channel it through underground sewage systems to canals and then to a large reservoir for treatment. This water is actually the source of treated pipe-borne water in such areas. Definitely, engineering a solution can be done in most situations if we decide to apply ourselves to planning and judicious use of what we have.

Likewise, any money we require for a ‘rainy day’ must be prepared and made ready before that rainy day occurs. Insurance probably prepares us best until our investments become equal to the cover the insurance provides. If investments are tucked away well, they could mean the difference between survival and non-survival. There are homes in the Weija vicinity which are prone to danger – flooding and structural weakening of their buildings – whenever the Weija dam is opened. Homeowners there face this perennially. An insurance cover against flooding would come in handy to forestall the loss of property and save lives.

We save money for a rainy day by putting the money in safe places that we can easily have access to whenever we have need of it. If nothing bad happens and we don’t have to take the money, we can add to it and watch it grow. Otherwise, in the event that the undesirable happens, we will have something to help cushion us instead of going after debt we may not be able to pay back.

These Keys

The key to always being prepared for rainy days is to first recognise there will be a number of them. Secondly, we must improve income streams in order to be able to set money aside. There’s no use talking about preparing for funds to see us through an unfortunate event if our expenses outweigh our earnings. Once we are able to reduce our expenses or increase our earnings or do both, we are on the path to preparing. Thirdly, we must have safe avenues to hold monies we shall need it in emergency situations. Usually, a savings account with a direct debit order for the purchase of government Treasury bills (91-day, 182-day bills) would work. Treasury bills can be discounted for cash when there is a need.

An important factor to note is defining what constitutes an emergency for which the funds are being set aside. We have many wants, and many needs too. Aside from distinguishing these two and focusing on needs before we pay attention to our wants, we ought to also categorise the needs. Some needs might, with further analysis, turn out to be frivolous and we may be able to deal with not catering for them. Many guys maintain ‘farms’ as well as ‘backyard gardens’.  Yes, here I speak proverbially. The needs of a farm might be more relevant than those for a garden, though they all may be needs. Maintaining a relationship that seemingly provides some benefits could really turn out to be a liability we would be better off without.

Likewise, constant visits to the pub to hang out with buddies may be a weight if it does not lead to avenues of creating extra revenue streams. People establish good businesses over a bottle of beer or a few sticks of khebabs – that’s granted. However, if nothing is coming out of a few bottles and sticks consumed, then a review could be called for. Associating with the right crowd who can provide opportunities to earn extra income is the aim that should guide us.

As we watch people flee war-torn areas with just their clothes, family and the barest minimum of possessions, it should inform us we could be in similar circumstances – even if not in a war. Preparing for such events may not guarantee survival, but it gives us a much better chance to fare well. Money helps in many situations, so we can give ourselves that chance by starting today. We hope and pray nothing bad happens to us – but since both good and bad times happen to us all, let’s prepare for them all.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR                  

The Head of OctaneDC Research, Kwadwo Acheampong, has over the years garnered experience in fund management and administration, portfolio management, management consulting, operations management and process improvement. For the love of wealth creation and financial freedom for his readers, he writes.

Through his writings Kwadwo has discovered his love and knack to simplify complex theories, spicing them with everyday life experiences for the benefit of all. He was recently the resource person of Metro TV’s business show Bottomline, where he shared thoughts on Goal Setting for 2022 from the perspective of financial planning. Feel free to send him your feedback on his article. Kwadwo at  [email protected] or call him on +233 244 563 530

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