Ghana has just celebrated its 64th independence from British colonial rule. We have heard and followed many nostalgic stories from the past about the vision of our forebears, our culture and heritage – and all these give us a sense of pride. But the question is, how long are we going to remember and celebrate the glory of yesteryears if we do not take practical steps toward our financial independence – the key to a dignified life.
Shall we allow the toils of Pan-Africanist like Osagyefo Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, Marcus Garvey, W.E. Dubois, Uhuru Kenyatta, Thomas Sankara, Samora Machel etc. who pushed for African unity to achieve economic and political independence to go down in vain? Our first president, Dr. Kwame Nkrumah, was seen as the figure who wrote down the need for Pan-Africanism and the need for political liberation – hence the quote “The forces that unite us are intrinsic and greater than the superimposed influences that keep us apart”.
‘The independence of Ghana is meaningless unless it is linked with the total liberation of the African continent! It can be inferred from the quotes above that there was hunger for political freedom and liberation – but can political independence alone be enough to restore the dignity of Africa? The answer is no! This article seeks to discuss the need for financial independence, and then suggest what can be done by individuals at the micro-level to propel financial independence.
Is political independence enough?
The gains from political independence are being eroded away because we are not financially independent. Even though the Western economies are powerful, they are unable to exert their political prowess on the Asian Tigers as they do often to the African countries. Why is that? It is because the Asian Tigers are not only politically independent but also financially/economically independent. If we can dream big like the ‘Big Six’ that fought for our political independence, then we can aggressively set a financial target that will propel our individual financial independence.
Politically, we are independent; but financially/economically we are not. From all that history tells us, our forebears had a beautiful vision of how Africa should be in terms of economic development. Things did not turn out well, since many African countries are still import-dependent while exporting unprocessed commodities, leading to lower than expected revenue. Citizens complain of how poorly their countries are faring; but even in the midst of these challenges, there are many Africans – and Ghanaians for that matter – who are living dignified lives because they have worked toward their financial independence.
I believe government has a role to play in economic development and provision of basic things to support economic growth, but individuals equally have roles to play. If we all play our part and work toward our personal financial independence, cumulatively it can push our governments to do better – since citizens will be well-placed to push government to come up with policies which stimulate economic growth.
What is financial independence?
There is no specific definition to financial independence, but there are certain indicators that show whether or not a person is financially independent. The indicators are: In the short-term, can my family and I survive for at least six months without a monthly salary? In the long-term, can I retire without the need to go back into the 8am to 5pm rat-race? But largely, financial independence is the status of having enough income to pay one’s living expenses for the rest of one’s life without having to be employed or dependent on others.
Why is it difficult to attain financial independence?
No financial plan
Many people find themselves in a dire financial state because they have not paid particular attention to the rudiments of financial independence by having a personal finance plan that would propel them to have a budget that guides their expenditure.
Once there is no budget in place, they find themselves having reckless financial lives, making decisions which makes them impoverished and therefore depend on friends and relatives that are working.
Lack of commitment
Financial independence can be likened to weight-management; every obese and overweight person knows they should check their diet, rest well and exercise to get in shape; but the will-power to do is often the problem.
The same can be said of holiness. Many religions preach the need to be holy and pure, but a few are able to live up to that standard. This means that as far as getting worthwhile things in life is concerned, determination, commitment and consistency are greatly required. To be financially independent, people need to develop positive habits like saving, investment and strict spending habits.
Short-term view of financial independence
Some people have a short-term sense of being financially independent. Once they are in current employment and are entitled to some good employee compensations, they assume they are financially independent. They do this without considering how they would survive in the medium- to long-term if those benefits cease due to job losses.
People have a false sense of financial independence. Some believe that they are financially independent because they are currently earning income and are entitled to other employee benefits. When that source is withdrawn, they become financially naked and vulnerable.
Others have a sense of financial independence because they are single and have little or no family obligations. Their status thus changes when they get married and have to be responsible for physiological needs under Abraham Maslow’s theory of needs: such as shelter, food and security. Financial independence is not only about the short-term. It should be a plan that caters for short-, medium- and long-term needs.
False sense of financial independence
The question to ask is, what is the source of your financial independence? Is it your business or your spouse? Will that status change when the source is no longer there? The same applies to holding political positions; political office-holders are entitled to benefits that the average person is not privileged to have. So, they feel they are financially independent; but in reality that is not the case.
The big question is, if you are financially independent now, what are you doing to protect that source? Can the centre still hold without the same source?
There are also instances when people are deemed to be financially independent while they are single, and that status actually changes when they get married or start bearing children. All this attests to the fact that financial independence is not a destination but a journey which needs to be conquered at all stages through calculated strategies.
Do you crave a life without financial constraints?
Financial independence is not an event but a process that requires commitment. It is important for people to make financial decisions that will make them financially independent for now and the foreseeable future. You cannot work toward your financial independence when you have no financial target. There is a need for a financial target that will take care of short-, medium- and long-term needs of the individual in question; and the next step is to start investing toward that goal. To attain a life without financial constraints, individuals should take investing seriously, manage their spending habits and insure what gives them financial independence.
In order for an individual to become financially independent, they should find a way of protecting the source of their financial independence. If their job is the source of financial independence, they should invest in financial and fixed assets – whether owner-occupied or investment properties. The return from this investment can go a long way to ensure their financial independence.
The decision to invest should be made based on sound judgement fuelled by due diligence on the company they intend to invest with. In order to protect their investments, investors should invest only with licenced financial institutions – those practicing good corporate governance – and also consider the experience and expertise of its senior management.
Investor always crave good returns, which is good. It is however advisable to not to gamble with the money, because safety of the money is as equally important as returns from the investment. What is the point if you make so much return on your investment but cannot access it when you need it, as it might be locked up in some bad investment somewhere? Focus not only on the return on investment, but Return of the Investment!
Investors investing for the purposes of financial independence should track their investments often to ascertain if they are meeting their financial objectives. They can arrange a meeting with their investment service providers if they have concerns. It is always rewarding to be an active investor.
Lifestyle modification – Spending
Individuals pursuing financial independence cannot live their lives just anyhow. They need to plan their expenses by budgeting their money and sticking to the budget. Financial independence in the now and future calls for lifestyle modification in the area of spending. Spending less and investing more is a perfect route to financial independence.
We have all heard of people who were seen as financially independent until a health disaster struck and made them incapacitated, permanently taking them out of their jobs – which is their main source of funding their financial independence. What if they have no life assurance policies in place to cushion them? How about the medical emergencies which require several thousands of cedis? If you have no health insurance to fall on or no employer to take up that bill, you may have to resort to your life savings or investments.
How about businessmen and women whose financial independence gets aborted because of fire outbreaks and other causalities that insurance can perfectly take care of? You cannot seek financial independence without having an insurance policy in place.
Why is financial independence important?
It is dignifying to be financially independent. It affords the individual the opportunity to take care of his or her personal expenses, both needs and wants; and it also means they are in an even better position to help others.
It makes retirement fun and calm. When a retiree is financially sound and has good health, life becomes very peaceful and calm.
You are the captain in your life’s ship. Take charge of your finances. There are things no can do for you except yourself, and financial independence is one. How many times have you not complained how unfairly people in authority have treated you? I want to ask, are those people in charge of your finances too? How is your financial standing now? Don’t you think it is time to drop the excuses and develop positive habits which facilitate your financial independence?
Even the Bible says money answers all things and there is no dignity in poverty. For liquidity and stability, choose financial independence. It is imperative for the people to be financially independent, as it will collectively affect the natio’sn financial independence. As politically independent as we are, if we are not financially independent our freedom is limited. Remember, you have the freedom to acquire many assets, travel the world and even do philanthropic projects; but without financial independence, they are mere wishes that will remain on the drawing board for a long time.
Sophia Kafui Teye (BSc, MBA, GSE Cert. and CA Ghana (Student Member)) is the author of the underlisted books;
- Start Right: A Guide to Financial Investments in Ghana
- Overcoming Infertility: What to do When Childbirth Delays
- Contemporary Parenting
- Stepping up Your Life
Email Address: [email protected]
Disclaimer: Views expressed in this article are the personal views of the author and do not reflect the views of the organisation she works for.