"In the beginning it was easier to blame the economy, the government, bad sales, the weather, people paying school fees, every other thing than myself. In fact I thought the universe conspired with some people in my village to strike me with this undeserved wickedness. I was worse than the millions of people I see everyday who were going through one financial struggle or the other. The sleepless nights, wondering where the next meal will come from. The insurmountable debts, that turned a free man into a slave. When a certain friend, an accountant, someone trained to account for the last cent he spent, how he spent it and the color of the spent cent, started crying about how bad his finances were... I was convinced that I'm not alone in this dilemma and told myself that it's the signs of the time.. Things are generally bad for everyone and there's absolutely nothing anyone can do about it. Unless, of course, if you will be inclined to make a dishonest living or stealing or better still rob a bank!.. I had to comfort myself somehow you know" he said.
I sat there listening and hoping that I'm about to finally learn the secrets of the rich and financially successful. But like all secrets in life, there wasn't any secret. Everything he said was just common practice and strong financial discipline.. Vision, planning and being organised.
He told me about his decision to seek financial help. The first thing the financial adviser told him was to keep track of his expenses. Every transaction must be traceable and recorded. At first this was very difficult for him because he was an impulsive spender and never really paid attention to the "little" money he spends and after the first month he began to notice how what he thought was little money affected him. He realized that he was spending a lot of "little" money on lifestyle expenses and habits that never gave him any returns or contribute to his financial goals.
The second step was to cut down the unnecessary expense and map his spending pattern and after so many months, with the knowledge of knowing what triggers his spending habits, he was able to be more disciplined in his spending and expenditure. He came up with a scheme to achieve his short term, Mid term and long term goals. He was able to organise, after a long struggle with himself and so many starts and stops, his finances and with a little diligence and discipline, he managed to get out of debts. And the extra cash cut from his former expensive habits now firmly secured as savings.
He was now able to build his capital and expand his business empire. He's still goal oriented and still follow those habits that saved him from his financial doldrums. I was just listening and because he is an influential man, I didn't want to tell him that his story was not the type of thing that I needed to hear. I wanted something more simple and easy. Something that doesn't need much discipline... This method is not for me, I quietly whispered to myself.
Fast forward to 2016, I'm grown up now and often think about that man and my encounter with him. This is a guy that owns 22 blocks of flats in a prime location in the city. He doesn't go to work, he plays golf during the week and he pretty much have money to send his kids to one of the best schools in town. And from a distance, seems to have it all. I've never heard him complain like me and everyone around me how bad the economy is and how things have gone from worse to worst. I always think to myself after that encounter, "this guy is not Bill Gates but surely, he's more successful than I am, what lessons can i learn from his story?"
Then I remembered what I read somewhere on the Internet that says, "it's not how much you earn that will make you rich, it's how you spend it that determines everything."
Indeed times are hard, the economy is bad globally, things are not working well for most people and some of us are unfortunate or not as financially intelligent or prudent like others. But money and finances are like tools or better still, like maps that guides us and enables or facility to make our life easier. And like tools and maps, they work in a certain way and follow certain principles. Learn the principles of money, discipline yourself to follow those basic principles, set your priorities right and sooner or later, you'll find yourself in abundance even in the midst of scarcity.