It Always Seems Impossible Until It Is Done*

Do you remember Mike Tyson? The unbeatable and undisputed boxing heavyweight champion? For a while he held that title. He won his matches with frequent knock-outs making him the darling of his fans. However, at some point, he became so notorious that nobody wanted to fight him. Then one day he got knocked out by Buster Douglas.

It was unbelievable. Where did this unknown come from and how did he manage to beat the unbeatable champion? On the flipside, after Buster Douglas, everybody wanted to fight Mike Tyson and make a name for themselves. The same happens in athletics and other sports. You have a record that everybody believes to be unbreakable until one person decides to take a chance and breaks it. From then onwards, everybody wants a go at it and the record gets broken over and over again.

I got these stories from Les Brown but I find this repeated in all areas of life. An insurmountable mountain that gets crested by one crazy guy and suddenly everyone is summiting the mountain like it is the norm. As social beings, we tend to follow what is done. If you are cautioned against going one way for a logical or illogical reason, we tend to listen. Some people go against the grain. It is tough to be a pioneer but the rewards of being an early adopter are priceless.

Probably you have been told that people from your area, people like you or nobody in your family has ever been successful. So what? Be the trail blazer. How many millionaire stories have you heard or read about that describe the individual as being broke or bankrupt at some point? This means if you are struggling now, you are in good company. Several people have been where you are now and proceeded to become millionaires.

What is stopping you from following their example? Go on beat the ‘Mike Tyson’ of poverty and indebtedness. Many people have done it before you and left a smoother trail for you to follow.

*Quote attributed to Nelson Mandela

HOW TO MAKE MONEY

I Cannot Get A Job 🙁

I whined this way to a friend of mine immediately I completed campus. She gave me a schedule to follow that has never failed me and I will share it with you here.

1. Job seeking is your new full time job. Work at it from 8am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, to obtain results. Surfing the net for kitten videos and latest episode of your favourite series should be done outside of working hours.

2. Update your CV and tailor it to match each application. Do not use the same CV to apply for different positions. For every vacancy announcement, emphasise your corresponding qualifications.

3. Make at least 100 applications. Where will you get them from?

  • Start with blind applications to companies you have always dreamed of working in
  • Next get in touch with your network and let them know you are looking
  • Respond to all vacancy advertisements that you are 50% qualified for. Most adverts look for the ideal candidate and not finding them, they go for the next best candidate that may just be you
  • Check job websites for vacancies. Register on LinkedIn, Brighter Monday and other sites where employers and employees interact
  • Go office to office to check for vacancies especially in the industrial area. Old is gold. It is time consuming and labour intensive but what else do you have to do?

4. Remember to file a copy of the advert, your application and corresponding CV for each application. It is good for keeping a tally of the number of applications made but also for reference when you get called in for an interview.

Before you get to 100, you will have received interview invitations. Try it. It works for me every time.

 

Time Is More Valuable Than Money

Ever heard the saying time is money? This weekend I discovered its enhancement. Arnold Bennet claims that if you have time, you can have money. Whether you beg, steal, borrow or work for it, with time you can get money. On the flip side, with all the money in the world, you cannot buy time. We all have 24 hours a day. We cannot even take an advance on tomorrow. We have to wait patiently with the rest of the world to be allocated our next 24 hours.

One of the first motivation videos I ever watched in my life was by Les Brown. I was fresh out of college newly released to the unsuspecting public. He raised a question I am yet to address satisfactorily to this day.

How many hours a day did Martin Luther King, Mother Teresa, Nelson Mandela, Mahatma Gandhi and your favourite idol, hero or person you admire have, in order to achieve what they achieved in their lifetime?

And how many hours a day do you have? So what have you achieved?

Where am I going with this? Think of your day – 24 hours. The medical experts advice we should sleep 8 hours a night. For some reason, most of us claim we do not have the time to waste sleeping so when a deadline approaches, sleep is the first casualty. However, if we slept 8 hours a night, we still have 16 to play around with. 8 hours I believe is consumed by our work day but where does the remaining 8 hours go?

I am hunting for my missing 8 hours because clearly, I could hold another full time job and still sleep the recommended 8 hours! Never thought of it that way before. Please do not tell me about your daily commute. If you are commuting 8 hours a day, working 8 hours a day and sleeping 8 hours a day, you probably should be working in the transport industry.

Once you find the elusive 8 hours, think about investing the time in developing yourself. Be it physically, mentally, spiritually, academically and all other -allys you can think about. Do not waste the non-renewable resource that is time.

 

What Are You Doing?

A story is told of 3 men at a building site. They each had a large boulder that they were cutting/chiselling to smaller stones to be used in construction. A passer-by was curious about the work these people were involved in and decided to engage them in conversation.

  • Traveller: What are you doing, my friend?
  • Worker 1: I am splitting rocks. Can’t you see? Back breaking work for peanut pay.

The traveller moved to the second guy with the same question

  • Traveller: What are you doing, my friend?
  • Worker 2: I am working to earn a living so I can provide for my family.

And to the third guy the traveller posed the same question

  • Traveller: What are you doing, my friend?
  • Worker 3: I am building a cathedral. People will come from far and wide to worship and receive consolation.

And you, what are you doing? Are you splitting rocks or building a cathedral. The mindset is different even though the task is the same. What is your attitude towards the work? Do you think you should change it?

A more complete version of this story can be found at this link.

 

Washing Dishes

As a little girl, one of my chores was dish washing. We were many kids so we would take turns hence the honour would fall on me every other day and not daily. The best days would be when aunts or older cousins would visit then they would volunteer to do the dishes while the little ones played. Was I glad to be little then!

I had a system to get through dish washing. When it was my turn, I would finish eating first then go to the kitchen and wash all the dishes in the sink before the rest of the family was done with the meal. At least I would try. Triumphantly, I would walk out of the kitchen mission accomplished; feeling quite satisfied with myself, I would disappear to play.

Then I would hear my mum’s voice, “Susanna,” There is something about your mother calling you by your given name instead of a pet name like sweetie, baby, mummy, Suziema etc. You dare not ignore. I would reluctantly walk back to the kitchen where there would be more dishes in the sink because everyone had finished eating. One look at mum and I would go to the sink. She would collect all the dirty dishes and put them either in the sink or somewhere close that I could not possibly ignore them.

Then along comes the worst thing of all. She would put all the leftover food from the cooking pans into dishes to store in the fridge leaving the pans ready for cleaning. Scrubbing pans is not fun. Mum required her pans to be shiny silver like they were when she bought them and it was the responsibility of the dishwasher to get them that way. By the time everything was washed, she would remind me that all the kitchen surfaces needed to be wiped down including the cooker. And finally wash out the sink so there is no oil or food particles remaining. Wash the table cloth you wiped the surfaces with and hang it out to dry. Now you are done dish washing.

Switch to the workplace. How do you carry out your tasks? Do you stay within the instructions given you by the boss or do you read your job description and do what it states? How committed are you to your job? Do you “wash the sink and table cloth and hang it out?” Or does your supervisor come to remind you about what is still outstanding after you declare you have completed your task?

Remember it is your source of income for now. This is where all the money you intend to save and invest comes from. Do you think you need to give it more effort to ensure a constant supply until you are able to do without it?

HOW TO BURN THROUGH MONEY

It Is The Eyes Of Others That Ruin Us Not Our Own

If all the world were blind except myself, I should not care for fine clothes or furniture. It is the fear of what “people” will say that makes most of us work so hard.

Mr. Smith may say, I have Kshs.1,000 a month while Mr. Doe has Kshs.50,000. I knew him when he was poor like myself and now he is rich and thinks he is better than I am. I will show him that I am as good as he is. I will go and hire an expensive car and ride on the same road as he does and thus prove to him that I am as good as he is.

On her part, Mrs. Smith might say, “Jane married John Doe for his money and everybody says so.” Jane has a nice $1,000 Chanel suit, and Mrs Smith will make Mr. Smith buy her an imitation one and sit next to Jane Doe in church in order to prove that they are equals.

The Smiths need not put on airs to convince anyone that they are better than Mr & Mrs. Doe. They can easily prove their worth by behaving as well as the Does. Keep away from vanity and envy. Oh and by the way “people” do not care about what you do or do not do. They are too busy buried in their own business.

 

I Have Been Broke Many Times But I Have Never Been Poor

This quote is from Mike Todd. At first glance it looks like an oxymoron but the second part of the quote is “Being poor is a frame of mind. Being broke is only a temporary situation”

Did you ever meet someone who complained of being poor even though they had everything going for them? And vice versa for a poor person who you can clearly see they have nothing but they are so generous? A story is told of Rockefeller going to a jewellers to buy a watch. He checked many watches, compared the prices, asked for a discount and basically did to the poor salesman what we all do when we want to buy something of the highest quality at the lowest price. Finally in frustration the salesman said,

“Why do you always quibble over price when you come to my shop? Your son never does. In fact, he goes for the most expensive watch and pays the stated price.”

Rockefeller replied, “He has a rich father, I don’t.”

As you go about receiving and enjoying your February salary, think about this anecdote. Recognise your money mindset and always be aware of it when you are budgeting or reviewing your budget. Are you Rockefeller or his son? Neither is right or wrong as long as you can sustain the lifestyle you choose for yourself.

What Does Success Look Like To You?

When you think of being successful, the fire that burns in your stomach that makes you get out of bed every morning come hail or high water, what do ou see?

Most of the time we have a preconceived idea of what success should be. We get it either from our parents, the social media or conversations we have had or overheard. I know my idea of success for the longest time had been to get a degree, get a job, buy land/a house and buy a car. In fact the highest mark of a wealthy person in my village is one who has a car.

If music videos are anything to go by, the rappers and celebrities in holywood think a big house and big car are marks of wealth too. Today, I would like you to pause and think about what wealth means for you. Not your neighbours, not your parents and relatives, just you. This will help you decide what is important enough to be included in the budget and what will not.

Try not to be like someone I was told about recently. A lady who lived in a huge house all alone since the children had all left home to go to start their own lives. To reduce the loneliness, she hired several workers who lived in the servants’ quarters. Eventually she opted to have the workers live inside the house with her to keep her company and help her sleep better since large houses creak and bang scarily at night.

So are you looking to buy a huge house and an expensive car so everyone else can see that you are able to do so? Or will you buy a practical home that you will be happy to retire to with no worries of climbing stairs in your old arthritic age?

Once you figure this out for yourself, you will be able to draw yourself a roadmap to your own financial success. Not one that is dictated by anybody else that is not assisting you along that road.

HOW TO SPEND MONEY

5. Seven Cures For A Lean Purse

  1. Keep (save) a tenth of all you earn.
  2. Control your expenditure – always spend less than you earn
  3. Multiply your money – Select some form of investment
  4. Guard your treasure from loss – identify all the risks your investment could face and mitigate against them
  5. Make your house a profitable investment – owning your house means you never worry about being thrown out of your rented house
  6. Insure a future income for when you will not be able to earn a living
  7. Increase your ability to earn

George S. Clason

 

What is your mission statement

I bet you can recite your company’s mission statement without making reference to the employee brochure.

So what is your personal mission statement? You probably have one but it is all in your head. Get out your notebook and write it down. The usual ones I have come across include:

  • Retire at 50/60/70/100 years old
  • Save my first million
  • Go on holiday to the North Pole or Hawaii depending on your temperature tolerance
  • Buy a home
  • Save 6 months of my salary for emergency
  • Buy medical insurance
  • Raise a rainy day fund
  • Pay off all my debt by Christmas
  • Resign from employment and start my own business in 5 years

Now we are getting somewhere. With your mission or goals, you can work backwards and figure out how much you need to raise to enable you achieve your ambition. Ken Boyd says “When setting financial goals, be realistic, consider your values and consider your time frame.” from his Course of setting your financial goals on LinkedIn.

Most personal financial advice starts with “Pay yourself first”. I love this. So I made sure I put aside a certain amount to splurge every month. That was until I read the book Richest Man in Babylon by George S. Clason. According to him, the amount you pay yourself is not the amount you pay to the baker, tailor, shoemaker or grocer. It is the amount that you save or invest to improve your state in life or to cater for your needs when you are no longer able to earn a living.

Next, always have plans for the money you are saving. If you do not, your friends, relatives and tradesmen all have plans for your ‘gold’ says George S. Clason (clearly this is my reference book for personal financial management). Have you noticed how there are always emergencies just when you receive some money? I do not advocate for you to be a miser or not to help when needed. However, some emergencies need to be put through the 7 day test (or 48 hour test). The shoes you see on the street on your way home that are not in your budget, will they seem urgent in 48 hours or 7 days? Most likely not.

Ask. Always ask. Ask for discounts, ask how you can get cheaper service or goods. Never accept anything at face value. When I started using online banking, I was so excited by the convenience, that it did not occur to me to ask or check about the online banking charges. Turns out my bank would charge me Kshs.500 for every bank transfer I made.

Whenever I needed to change currency, I would use the automatic rate in the system. Each time the system would ask whether I had negotiated a rate with an agent of the bank and I would click no and proceed with my transaction. One day, I decided to call the bank and negotiate a rate. The negotiated rate was way better. I will not forget the difference between the negotiated and the system rate gave me Kshs.6,000 extra! I have never looked back.

Whenever you go to the bank, take the time to chat with the customer service or retail bankers. Ask them about various saving and investing products they have. Negotiate an increase on the interest rate on your savings account, find out what investment services they have that could be convenient for you. Do not take anything at face value.

How To Train Yourself To Love Saving

It is not easy or fun to delay gratification of your wants by saving. But we know it is good for us, like fruits and vegetables. My advice, buy yourself a piggy bank (which makes saving fun and will always bring a smile to your face) and secondly acquire love for routine using any one of the strategies below:

  • The 52 week money challenge with whatever adaptation suits you – start with Kshs.50 per week or 100 or higher or lower. Click here for more details
  • Start small with gradual increments – start by depositing the smallest denomination of your currency into your piggy bank. Day 2 you double day 1’s deposit, Day 3 you double day 2’s deposit. Click here to get a clearer picture
  • Keep 10% of every amount you get as savings George Clason’s rule no.1 to fattening your purse

Please note that the point here is NOT to raise a huge amount of money but to get into the habit of saving.

Action Points

  1. Select a savings plan from the list above and stick to it for the next 30 days
  2. Get a piggy bank – It does not have to be store bought. You could use a former jar of sugar or jam that was headed to the dustbin. What to do with the piggy bank? Start by reading an article I wrote a few weeks ago by following this link Pigs are fun animals

HOW TO GROW MONEY

Save The Date!

Gotcha!

What I mean is that to build your saving habit, you can save by the date of the month.

  1. During a dry month, you can save Kshs.1 on the 1st of the month, Kshs.2 on the 2nd and so on.
  2. On a month that you are tightening your belt, you can save Kshs.10 on the 1st of the month, Kshs.20 on the 2nd etc
  3. On a good month, you can save Kshs.100 on the 1st of the month, Kshs.200 on the 2nd etc
  4. In a month of plenty, you can save Kshs.1,000 on the 1st, Kshs.2,000 on the 2nd etc

At the end of the month, bank or invest the total amount. Simple and practical. 

What do you say?  Send me your ideas at susan@suziema.com

 

If It Is Painful, You Are Doing It Wrong

How is your financial plan going?

If the answer is bad, not good, given up, dreary, stressing me out, cannot remember, what financial plan? or any other negative adjectives, then you are doing it wrong. It should be fun not painful!

The plan is meant to align with your life goals, not be written down and stored safely until further notice. It is supposed to inspire you. Every time you say no to something, think of it as saying yes to something else. For instance, it is easier to forego a hearty meal at an expensive restaurant if you think of the saving as the purchase of a bag of cement for your dream house.

To date, the most fun I have had with my finances is saving in a piggy bank. The sound of the coins as they noisily clink into the empty box until the point where it is a dull clink because the piggy bank is full and requires emptying. And the grand reveal at emptying after counting all the money to discover I have actually saved a potful of good money.

  • Do you have a piggy bank? It does not have to be store bought. You can repurpose an empty can or jar in the house.
  • Have a goal or purpose for the saving. It could be for your phone upgrade or a pair of shoes that are not in your budget or a dream vacation or a visit to an expensive restaurant.
  • You can deposit notes as well. Just because it is a piggy ban does not mean you have to feed it coins alone.
  • Make it part of your routine. For example, every evening, empty your pockets, wallet or purse of any loose change and piggy bank it.
  • When it is full, count out your stash and bank the whole of your collection.
  • When you reach your target, celebrate! The celebration does not have to be costly. You could sleep in on Saturday as a reward to yourself, or you can visit a friend or family, or treat yourself to something that costs a tiny fraction of what you have saved.

Author; Susan Nyakiema. @tantosuziema on Twitter

Write and tell me how you save best at susan@suziema.com

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