I see so many young men working hard just to ensure a future for themselves and being a young adult (at heart) I felt the need to spread this word. My boss once told me, “you might working hard, but hardly working”. If after working hard for so many years and at the end of the day you don’t have anything to show for it. That’s a loss you don’t recover from.
Unfortunately, personal finance has not yet become a required subject in secondary schools or universities, so you might be fairly clueless about how to manage your money when you’re out in the real world for the first time. No Dad or Mum to restrict your spending by limiting your allowance. No trust fund to fall back on during emergencies. If you think that understanding personal finance is way above your head, you’re wrong. All it takes to get started on the right path is the willingness to do a little reading and a pint of motivation – remember the winning boxer is the most motivated boxer.
To help you get started, we’ll take a look at few of the most important things to understand about money if you want to live a comfortable and prosperous life irrespective of whether the Nigerian government has you in mind.
1. Learn Self Control
If you’re lucky, your parents taught you this skill when you were a kid. If not, keep in mind that the sooner you learn the fine art of delaying gratification, the sooner you’ll find it easy to keep your finances to yourself. Although you can effortlessly purchase an item on credit the minute you want it, it’s better to wait until you’ve actually saved up the money. Banks don’t tell you all the truth involved in mortgage payments. I mean the hidden charges and non compliance policy.
If you make a habit of putting all your purchases on credit, regardless of whether you can pay, you might still be paying for those items in 10 years. It is better to pay in full 5 things you can afford now than pay in part 10 things you can’t afford. In an economic meltdown, you might loose all 10.
2. Take Control of Your Own Financial Future
If you don’t learn to manage your own money, other people will find ways to (mis)manage it for you. Some of these people may be ill-intentioned, like unscrupulous commission-based financial planners. Others may be well-meaning, but may not know what they’re doing, like Aunty Sola or Grandma who really wants you to buy a house even though you can only afford a treacherous adjustable-rate mortgage.
Instead of relying on others for advice, take charge and read a few basic books on personal finance. It is also easier to bear when the mistake was made by you. Once you’re armed with personal finance knowledge, don’t let anyone catch you off guard – whether it’s a significant other that slowly siphons your bank account or friends who want you to go out and blow tons of money with them every weekend. Understanding how money works is the first step toward making your money work for you. (If you’re new check out our investment 101.)
3. Know Where Your Money Goes
Once you’ve gone through a few personal finance books, you’ll realize how important it is to make sure your expenses aren’t exceeding your income. The best way to do this is by budgeting. Once you see how your evening bottles of small stout adds up over the course of a month, you’ll realize that making small, manageable changes in your everyday expenses can have just as big of an impact on your financial situation as getting a raise. In addition, keeping your recurring monthly expenses as low as possible will also save you big bucks over time. If you don’t waste your money on a posh apartment now, you might be able to afford a nice house of your own before you know it.
4. Start an Emergency Fund
One of personal finance’s oft-repeated mantras is “pay yourself first”. No matter how much you owe auto-loans or house mortgage debt and no matter how low your salary may seem, it’s wise to find some amount – any amount – of money in your budget to save in an emergency fund every month.
If you’re my kind with no inheritance to fall back on or rich parents to run to, having money in savings to use for emergencies can really keep you out of trouble financially and help you sleep better at night. Also, if you get into the habit of saving money and treating it as a non-negotiable monthly “expense”, pretty soon you’ll have more than just emergency money saved up: you’ll have retirement money, vacation money and even money for a home down payment.
Don’t just bury these cash inside your grandfather’s grave because you feel it will be safer there; put it in a high-interest savings account or a money market account. Otherwise, inflation will erode the value of your savings.
5. Start Saving for Retirement Now
Just as you headed off to nursery school with your parents’ hope to prepare you for success in a world that you are yet to fully encounter, you need to prepare for your retirement well in advance. Because of the way compound interest works, the sooner you start saving, the less principal you’ll have to invest to end up with the amount you need to retire and the sooner you’ll be able to call working an “option” rather than a “necessity”.
Company-sponsored retirement plans, compulsory pension funds are a particularly great choice but what if you don’t like the fund manager used. Most companies even start a retirement plan just to abide by government polices. But to retire early and comfortable, you need to choose your own fun manager (if you don’t like your employers choice) and also start a more aggressive contribution that meets your old age aspiration without adverse effects on your present age needs
6. Guard Your Health
If meeting monthly health insurance premiums seems impossible, what will you do if you have to go to the emergency room, where a single visit for a minor injury like a broken bone can cost thousands of naira? If you’re uninsured from your work place, don’t wait another day to apply for health insurance with an HMO; it’s easier than you think to wind up in a car accident or trip down the stairs. You can save money by getting quotes from different insurance providers to find the lowest rates, and try having a conversation with any of their clients. Also, by taking daily steps now to keep yourself healthy, like eating fruits and vegetables, maintaining a healthy weight, exercising, not smoking, not consuming alcohol in excess, and even driving defensively, you’ll thank yourself down the road when you aren’t paying exorbitant medical bills.
7. Guard Your Wealth
If you want to make sure that all of your hard-earned money doesn’t vanish, you’ll need to take steps to protect it. If you rent, get renter’s insurance to protect the contents of your place from events like burglary or fire. Disability insurance protects your greatest asset – the ability to earn an income – by providing you with a steady income if you ever become unable to work for an extended period of time due to illness or injury.
I had a friend whose boutique was burnt down in Port-Harcourt, southern Nigeria, when I saw him, he wasn’t perturbed as I expected. But later found out that the whole complex was insured. So you get my point
A Financial Basis for Life
Remember, you don’t need any fancy degrees or special background to become an expert at managing your finances and ensuring a future for you and your family. If you follow these financial rules for your life, you can be as personally prosperous as the guy with the hard-won MBA.