I met Lucia through her sister Maryanne who was in campus with me. Lucia was pursuing a diploma in Business Management at the Kenya Polytechnic in Nairobi.
Lucia was outgoing, pretty and fun loving. Unlike her sister Maryanne who was rather a serious kind of girl, was very studious and was an official of the Christian Union, Lucia believed in enjoying life to the fullest. She played hard and partied hard.
My friendship with the two sisters has survived over the years and we still keep in touch. Maryanne pursued an academic path and she is a lecturer in a local university. She is married with 4 kids.
Lucia’s story is the one that makes me ask lots of questions that have no answers. She got married to a young man whom I found rather a poor match for her when she introduced him to me. He was rather serious while Lucia has always been fun loving.
Joe had a good job with a multinational company; a company car, well paying job, living in an upmarket part of the city… When he and Lucia got married, the latter was employed in a school in the city.
Career Cut Short
I was uneasy when Lucia told me that she quit her job because Joe would not let her work. She told me that any time she brought up the issue, he would ask her what she was lacking.
It has been over 20 years since Lucia quit her job as demanded of her by her husband. Life has been ok for the family. Their 5 children have attended good schools, the family has always lived quite well with Lucia and Joe each having their own small car and they have lived in upmarket Nairobi all these years.
Everything came crashing down when the multinational company Joe has been working with for the past 5 years or so closed shop in Kenya and he found himself rendered redundant. That was over 3 years ago.
It was like the world came crashing down on the family, literary. They have been living in a rental apartment and they do not own a home either in the city or in the rural area.
The first one to go down was Joe’s mother. She had been battling health complications for years and Joe was the one taking care of her bills. She did not last even a year after Joe lost his job. She died because Joe could no longer afford her medical treatment.
The second born daughter of Joe and Lucia was diagnosed with a chronic health condition 2 years ago and they drained all their savings on medical treatments for her.
I listened to them recently and almost shed tears. Joe says that he has applied for jobs everywhere, talked to everyone he knows and still nothing has come out of his efforts. This is understandable because in his early 50s, he is not the most ideal new employee. The family is sinking in debt.
The family has been evicted from their rental house and are housed by a relative. They have no source of income but are dependent on handouts from family and well wishers.
It is so many years since Lucia left the job market so efforts to get a job have proven futile. She has started a small business of making detergent and selling among her family and friends but so far that can barely provide 3 meals a day for the family.
Family Finances in Today’s Economy
I look at the situation in today’s economy and ask myself really tough questions. Can a family afford to kill the productivity of one of their members and still achieve their long term goals? If a couple does not set goals and make decisions jointly, how will they stay afloat over the years?
Half the Kenyan population live in abject poverty, cannot afford 3 meals a day for their families. The job market is constantly shrinking leaving more and more people jobless.
There is no form of government social security to cushion those who are out of job so they are dependent on people around them mainly family members. Times are difficult and one thing that will make families stay afloat is working together as a team.
Husband and wife would do well to set goals for the family right from the beginning of their journey as a couple. “I am 28 years old and my salary is Kshs. 32,000. My wife is 24 and her salary is Kshs. 18,000.
We plan to get children at some time in our lives. How many children do we want? When? What sort of lifestyle will we want for our children?
Does either of us have responsibilities outside the immediate family such as providing for parents or siblings? Is there possibility that some family members will become dependent on us in future? If we rely on our jobs only, can our salaries grow at the same pace as our expenses?”
One year is a very short time so I do not work with one year goals when it comes to planning. A decade is realistic if we intend to bring about real change into our lives. I therefore always begin with 10 years segments when I work on goal setting, and then break it down into manageable portions.
I always prefer that couples work on goal setting jointly so that they are both reading from the same page. One spouse blocking the career of the other makes zero sense to me.
Many families in Kenya live from hand to mouth, get into debt and still fail to evaluate their lives and plan ahead. So, why do some people become rich despite having come from disadvantaged backgrounds and having no real advantages over their peers?
The power of decision
The no. 1 reason is the power of decision. They simply decide to change their lives. They evaluate their lives, take stock of the resources they have and plan ahead.
They don’t just live from day to day hoping to get lucky (to win a lottery or receive some handout or inheritance from some wealthy person). They make concrete plans and follow them. And they rely on cooperation from other people in order to achieve their goals.
If a couple cannot even rely on the cooperation of each other, how likely are they to achieve long term goals?
Thinking small and operating alone is the sure way to settle for mediocrity. If you can trust someone with your life such that you lock the door at night and fall asleep with that person in the same room and you trust that he or she will not harm you in your sleep, then you better learn to trust that person as your life partner in all things.
Begin by understanding what you would like to achieve in the long run, probably by retirement. Set family goals and work on them jointly. How can the two of you utilize the skills and expertise you already possess, to improve the lives of your family? What about gifts and talents?
How can the husband/wife team monetize their combined skills, expertise, gifts and talents for the good of the family? What can they create that is unique to them? Do they have people who are dependent on them (parents, siblings, etc.)? How can they put their heads together and empower the dependents?
I believe that anyone who is not either a minor, the aged, critically ill or severely handicapped can be taught how to fish rather than being given fish (handouts) every day. Even parents can be empowered and become financially independent.
No one knows the future so no one should be dependent on another unless it cannot be avoided at all such as in cases of someone who is incapacitated by serious health conditions.
Technology has made it possible to build successful careers from home so even mothers who quit formal employment in order to take care of their children can still work from home.
How can a mother earn income from home?
1. Identify something you are good at. It could be cooking, baking, taking care of little ones, playing a sport, etc.
2. Look for ways that you can get paid to do what you love. You can do it for people and charge such as cooking for busy people. You can get paid to teach people how to do it. You can turn the teachings into an online course and sell it online.
Being dependent on anyone is a huge risk. There are no guarantees that the adult child who provides for the parents cannot die before the parents, leaving them with no bread winner.
The more streams of income a family has, the more solid their financial foundation will be. The more family members earn their own income and are independent, the more financially secure the family is.
The curtains will soon fall on the year 2016 and it will go the way the dinosaurs went. As we prepare to welcome the year 2017, make a decision to secure the future of your family.
Begin with the end in mind as a family. Work together as a team, not as separate individuals. Do not pursue different road maps if you intend to end up at the same destination.
If you have adult children, involve them in planning for the family too. Learn to work together as a team or be ready to perish together as fools.
At the individual level, take a few minutes to visualize your life 10 years from now (your family’s lifestyle, your intimate relationship, your circles, your self-image, your standing in society, etc.)
Bring your visions together as a family and harmonize them. You are both building the same home, not two separate homes.
What will your family be like 10 years from now? Describe that life as vividly as possible. Use sketches/illustrations/images in your journal/notebook/scrapbooks, as much as possible.
* Are you married? If not, do you plan to get married some day?
* Do you have children and if not, do you plan to? How many? When?
* Are your children in school? With your current level of income, are you able to provide quality education for your children until they are ready to leave home?
* Is your family cushioned against eventualities such as serious illness or even death?
* Do you have savings? Investments?
* What sort of home do you want for your family? Will you buy it or build?
* What car will you drive? Will you have only one car in the family or more than one?
* What schools/universities do you want for your children?
* How do you want to impact society?
* What legacy do you want to leave behind when your time on earth is up? Think of that moment when you will be breathing your last. Will you close your eyes and be at peace because you will be proud of the way you lived your life?
Do not live your life without a vision. The Bible tells us that where there is no vision, people perish. If you don’t plan for your family’s future, who will?
“Whatever the mind of man can conceive and believe, it can achieve.” – Napoleon Hill
If you have no destination you are heading to, you can end up anywhere. If you have no goals, anything can do. So, begin by setting very clear goals. Then work on a road map to take you to those goals and keep going until you get to your destination.
You can achieve a lot in 10 years if you have clear goals and are focused. What you need is:
Keep going no matter what it costs you or how long it takes. Life does not owe you anything; you have to fight for your territory every day, but you must begin by knowing what territory you are fighting for.
Would you want help to set and achieve your goals? You can get a free chapter on goal setting here.
This article is written by Susan Catherine Keter, a personal development mentor and blogger.
Financial Independence Africa
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Small business Accountant Melbourne
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