“Financial peace isn’t in the acquisition of stuff. It’s learning to live on less than you make, so you can give and have more money to invest. You can’t win until you do this.” -Dave Ramsey
In this short piece, I shall make attempt at identifying ways to developing strong savings culture, and more importantly on ways to building something tangible out of your stream(s) of income however little it is. I assume that you earn income either in form of salary and/or from your personal business hustles. For a starter, I do believe that even as an entrepreneur or business owner, you’re supposed to put yourself on regular salary. Your business is an economic entity, separate from you, and it should be treated as such.
To drive home my point, I’m proposing a concept and you should kindly take up the task that comes with it. The concept is called Investment-Income Coefficient. This requires that you come up with an estimate of your income from all sources in the last 10 years or less. And you collate all the ‘Investments’ (landed properties, car(s), cash savings, shares, bonds, amount spent on self-sponsored training and certifications or degrees etc. within the same period). Then, you divide the latter by the former. By a rule of thumb, I posit that if your Investment-Income Coefficient (IIC) is less than 15%, your immediate future might be at risk. This is purely my postulation. It hasn’t been subjected to any scientific review or critique.
Nonetheless, I challenge you to take up the task and assess yourself using the Investment-Income Coefficient concept, imperfect as it might be.
You see, many of us are living in bubbles. If you genuinely carried out the task as requested, you would see that you perhaps had been living a lie until now. No, don’t tell me it’s family bills. Everyone has got family bills to pay. The question should be, what you would have done differently had you the chance to go back in time, and more importantly, what you can do better, moving forward. Generally, I don’t support lamentations over the past. But then, having a clear sense of history gives us a better peep into the future.
Now let’s be honest here. Saving does not guarantee you riches and wealth, but it does come handy in times of troubles and crises. Most smart people I have ever seen engage in intentional savings, even from their ‘little’ income. And let me clarify; I’m not here to teach you how to be rich. I don’t do motivational stuff.
Before going into the specifics, I need to make these few points and I’m sorry if they don’t sit well with anyone.
First. We all should do our best to spend massively on our parents and families. But this is some brutally honest advice. Don’t build your own future or expected old age around hope of children being your pension plan. Given the sophistication of the millennial times, you may not enjoy the same level of privilege our own parents currently enjoy.
Despite the current rat race of professional life, we still struggle to meet our parent and sort out family issues every now and then. Wait for the next 20 to 30 years. Every man shall be for himself. This shall have little to do with home training. Talk about demands of the job. The key point here is, everyone should plan for his/her old age.
Second. It’s myopic to put mind only on a pension plan in old age. Pension in the ordinary sense of it is only meant to cater for your basic need after retirement. It’s not designed to cater for critical family and health emergencies that might arise, except you have a separate comprehensive family health plan or life assurance policy. Smart people take account of all these realities.
Now having said all these, let’s make attempt at identifying ways you can save effectively to cater for the future, notwithstanding your income levels. No, this is not some textbook theory. Few of the points herein have worked for me.
Here we go:
Save x% of your income before spending
No matter how small you earn from your stream(s) of income, save a given percentage of that income. Consistently. This requires extreme discipline, I must admit. When it comes to savings, you must be intentional and stubborn about it. You decide what your ‘x’ is.
Your savings should be kept sacrosanct. It’s not what you dip hands into at will. Now let’s get this. Every smart fellow should save in at least two baskets (One, towards a specific project, and the other, towards emergencies).
By saving, I don’t mean holding cash endlessly in bank accounts. You can be investing the funds in liquid or other physical assets as you move along. The Emergency Savings are advised to be kept in cash or other easily convertible forms (say shares, TBills, bonds etc.).
When you save towards to a particular purpose, let it be one ‘project’ at a time. It can be savings towards obtaining a new degree or certification, or buying a car, or building a housing project. Make it one project at a time. That’s what smart people do. That way, it’s easy to measure progress.
Know your expenses
It is no brainer. Everyone should have a full idea of his/her monthly cost lines. I mean all expenses you incur monthly. People get frustrated easily over mounting bills largely because they seem have no control over their expense profile. You can’t measure what you don’t know. And you can’t you control it ether. To stay off monthly frustration and complaint on easily-zapped earnings, sit back to have clarity around your spending.
Some mental strains are completely avoidable. For emphasis, you need to create that time to deeply look at you bills and set yourself free.
Have a personal finance budget
Everyone should have a documented personal budget. No, keeping such details in your head will not work. You need a well-documented schedule (maybe an Excel file) that speaks to your income expectations over a period of twelve months and how such income is to be spent. What smart people do is, they ensure that any bill outside the schedule will have to wait for other unplanned income too. You may want to ask, “what if it’s medical emergency?” Well, everyone should save towards emergencies anyway. And that should be part of your monthly cost line. I can send you a template, if you need one.
Keep tab of your spending
Benjamin Franklin said, “Beware of little expenses; a small leak sinks a great ship”. As you spend, be sure you track things. Be wary of impulse purchases. Buy only what you need. You can only plan towards a sustainable future when you embrace the concept of deferred gratification. Be visionary. Look brightly into your desired future and save towards it. Be willing to bear the pain of ‘NOW’ in exchange of the glory of the future.
Don’t borrow to fund a lifestyle
Well, this is a matter of choice. Everyone should choose what works him/her. But it’s never the practice of people who are bullish about their future to live bogus life funded by credit cards and soft loans. If you are blessed with more, it’s fine to live up to your standard. Very fine!
Don’t incur expenses over a futuristic income. Don’t commit yourself to certain spending or donation over an expected income. It is a stupid thing to do. Even Dangote once noted this fact in one interview.
Stay off relationship that drains you
If all you do with people in your circle of influence is planning on the next party attires and birthday parties etc., I’m sorry, you need a new set of friends. You should have friends that encourage you with cooperatives and other investment opportunities. You should have friends whose investment adventure provoke you to take positive action about your future. Friends help each other grow in wealth, career and exposure. It is not a bad idea if you belong to cooperative society with colleagues and friend that commits you to regular saving.
Final point. Financial literacy is not the preserve of only the Finance people. Please make effort to learn few things about investment opportunities and options around you and make a difference about your future.