By THOMAS HUKAHU
DO you realise something?
People need education on money matters.
And that is about learning and controlling habits more than pursuing a diploma or degree in business or finance.
You need that education, and your relatives and friends also need that education.
Reading the tips offered in my articles over the past couple of weeks is a good way to start working on your own education.
You can learn from other sources as well, and in the future educate your people, your relatives and friends, on this most important topic.
Why educate your people on money matters?
If you want to save money and then use that money to start something or go back to school, you must ensure that your people are aware of some basics on money matters as well.
You will not be able to achieve your financial goal if your friends and relatives walk into your office every payday and ask for K100 to buy some food or K200 to sort some customary obligation.
I have tried to impress on some of my relatives that you cannot just walk into my workplace and ask me for K100. You have to inform me weeks ahead.
The simple reason is money is earned, it does not just drop down from the sky.
And, it should not be that easy to just give away K100 on the spot to people who ask for it, unless it is an emergency.
To highlight this more, let us consider the case where you are a father of a family with four children and you are the only one who is working.
If you have a savings goal in mind, it is highly unlikely that you will achieve that goal if your four children are always asking you for some money every other day for sweets or flex cards.
You have to teach them that they have to make-do with what little is given them.
Better yet, you can teach them to earn money by planting peanuts in your backyard garden and selling them to earn some money.
Or, they can make ice blocks and sell them by the roadside.
I will later give you an example of how a father teaches his children about money and business.
Our people knew how to save
Two years ago, I was in a workshop with other educators in New Ireland when a facilitator stated that “Papua New Guineans do not have a savings culture”. Now, that phrase is very common, but is incorrect.
I raised my hand during that workshop and said that phrase is not true.
We in PNG did have a savings culture.
I explained that when I was growing up in a small hamlet in Wewak, in East Sepik, I noticed that my grandmother and grandfather had juicy looking yams kept in and around their kitchen area.
We, the kids, were informed not to touch any of those yams (including the prized purple yam).
They were keeping them as tubers for the next planting season.
During harvest time, they did not eat everything that was harvested, they saved some of the best tubers for the next planting season.
The coastal and island people of PNG who were involved in any trading expedition were also great managers.
I have studied the Hiri Trade with a mother and uncle from Vabukori village, in Central, as well as instructed by my maternal uncles on the Wonkau Trade of the islands and mainland people of Wewak.
From these studies, it was clear that those trade expeditions involved hundreds and thousands of people and they all needed to be informed and educated on when to start on different aspects of the trade, whether it is the felling of trees to make canoes, collecting of shells for trade, or gathering and packing galip nuts as items to be traded.
The trade expedition can, in the beginning, often be an enterprise that involves two or more villages, but in the long run involve several ethnic groups.
In the case of islanders, the message has to be passed along to all other islands and villages on the mainland where the canoes would be passing through as the main vehicles used in the transportation of items.
When I was a child, I also noticed that my grandfather’s room was a storehouse and a traditional bank.
You could find art as well as shell money in abundance.
Whenever there was a customary event occurring and there was a need for precious items to be exchanged, he would take some of those in his room for the trade.
So, our traditional people did save items, including traditional money.
So, why the problem these days?
Despite having a savings culture in the past, the majority of people today do have a problem when dealing with cash, or currency. And that to most people is a challenge.
Some have adopted bad habits of spending money too, including spending them on alcohol and cigarettes.
But does that mean that it is impossible to save money? No, it is not.
Just like any other habit, you can train yourself to be wiser when it comes to dealing with money.
You don’t have to spend all your hard-earned money one weekend and then live on borrowed money for the next two weeks.
If you are serious in saving, you have to also give up those habits that cause you to spend money unnecessarily.
You should also stay away from people and places that will cause you to waste your money.
And like all new habits, it may take you a while to live differently and be focused on saving more and spending less.
If you stop drinking alcohol or smoking cigarettes, you can save much more than those who indulge in those.
Furthermore, after you have stopped taking those items, you can also tell your relatives and friends that you cannot buy them alcohol and cigarettes because you don’t believe that is good for them. (For some of us, it is a spiritual matter. You will also one day give an account to your Maker on why you spent money on unnecessary items like alcohol and cigarettes.)
It is these bad habits that prevent millions of people from saving what they have earned.
A PNG story with a bad ending
Ten years ago, while I was working as a contracted teacher abroad, a PNG lecturer who was assisting in another project in the same nation I was in told us a story of a highly-educated highlands woman.
The academic told my colleagues and I about how her friend had worked her way up one of the nation’s top public institutions but died while she was still young.
The academic said the pressure placed on her by her relatives may also have been the cause of her falling ill and eventually passing away.
“While she was earning money in Port Moresby, his relatives back at home would continuously ask for money and other items. She even bought a vehicle for her brother to operate back at home, while she was living very simply in the city and excelling in her career,” the academic said.
It was as if her climb in her career was becoming a conduit for her relatives who never really worked hard themselves but relied on her to provide for their needs.
It was a sad story but it highlights the importance of you, as a worker, not to allow other people, whether they are relatives or friends, to take advantage of you.
You must learn to say no. It is your life.
And if you have a family, your family must come first. Inform your friends and relatives about that too. To you, your family is priority number one, and must always remain as such.
As a parent, have you taught your children about money?
This is a challenge to all parents or guardians reading this article.
Have you spoken to your children about money?
If you have not, you are not doing a good job in raising them.
A decade ago, I watched a video where entrepreneur Cameron Herold spoke on the topic Let’s Raise Kids to be Entrepreneurs. (You can find that video on YouTube as well as ted.com.)
Even though Herold spoke about teaching his children on entrepreneurship, the same principles can be applied to saving money as well.
“Parents must teach children to fish rather than giving them a fish,” Herold said.
Related to the parable, he said, if you give a man a fish, you feed him for a day. But if you teach him how to fish, you feed him for a lifetime.
One of the main points Herold made in his talk was about encouraging his children to save money.
They were never given allowances, they were challenged to do tasks around their yard to get paid for those.
Two pigg banks
Whatever they got went into two piggy banks.
One piggy bank was for their spending money, while the other was what they would take to the bank after six months to deposit into their savings account.
Herold was fortunate because both his grandfathers and father were entrepreneurs.
Today, Herold as well as both his siblings own businesses.
They employ people to work for them, they don’t work for other people.
If you are a parent and are teaching your children about money and finance, you are setting them up for a bright future.
Some of the best habits are learned at home, not in business school.
Learn from others, but refine your own methods
Over the past few weeks and this week, I have shared some basic rules or principles on how to save as part of your goal to achieve something.
I have suggested tactics or methods, as well as mentioned tips given by others, including successful people.
However, at the end of the day, you must come up with your own book of rules because you and your situation may be different from others.
But by having something in mind and to work on that is a great start, and that is what my articles are about, to help you move in the right direction and start saving.
It will be fulfilling to look back on a goal that you set a year ago and have achieved (or working towards achieving it) because you had a strategy on how to go about doing that.
That is not something that everyone can talk about.
And whatever you have achieved, may it become a lesson to people you are in charge of, including your children.
Like I have said, some of your best habits are learned at home, not in university or college.
- Thomas Hukahu is an Australia Awards student in Adelaide.