By THOMAS HUKAHU
IT is still the first few days in the New Year so it is a good time to talk about goals for the year.
Do you have some goals?
If you don’t have goals, you will not achieve much at the end of the year.
Some people post lines on social media like: “Oh 2021, be good to me.”
And they do not talk about goals. How then can they expect good things to happen to them?
Good things are like apples on a tree 20 metres away. The apples will not grow legs and walk to you. You should make a plan to move towards them and place yourself under the tree when they fall.
Better yet, get a long stick to pick them off the tree.
Don’t ask the year to be good to you, make plans to appropriately utilise the time ahead to advance yourself, or your family.
Like coaching a football team, you must have a game plan
You will not get the best of 2021 if you do not have a plan, or goal, just like a football team going out to play against a competitive side will most likely lose their game if they do not have a well-thought-out game plan.
Take the time to plan on what you will work towards achieving this year.
They could be your academic goals, if you are a student, or wanting to do a short course.
They could be career goals, as in moving up the ladder in your workplace, or getting inspected for possible promotion.
They could be related to your hobbies, as in music, writing or photography.
Your goals can also include setting up a small business for you and your family.
This goal requires another important goal, particularly to do with finance.
Start saving money this year
Some of the goals you set will need money. You must set a financial goal, a personal one.
If you want to enrol in a short course or diploma programme, you will need money.
(I plan to enrol in a foreign language course soon, something that is different from the courses I am doing as a student studying abroad. Another business course also looks appealing. I have money saved and will not ask anyone to pay for such courses offered by WEA, an adult learning institute here in Adelaide, South Australia.)
Saved money will also help in times of emergencies, as when assisting a loved one who needs medical attention immediately. Saved money can help in our cultural obligations too, as in helping pay a bride price or contributing to a relative’s funeral costs.
If you are planning to start a business, you need seed money, or capital.
Often, this is very difficult to obtain loans from commercial banks, or from well-off relatives. The alternative is to save this year so you can start your business next year.
Ants are known to make granaries for themselves in summer and use these supplies as food in winter months. (See Proverbs 6:6-8.) Be wise like the ants and start saving. Don’t consume everything today.
What I will share in this article and others in the coming weeks may not be the perfect plan for you, but I am sure they can give you tips to use in your goal to save money this year.
The concepts shared come from my own studies, as well as from my experiences of dealing with commercial banks, a money-lending firm and saving some good amount of money in the past.
I hope you learn from these articles and be a better person in not just saving but also dealing with money.
You don’t need a business degree to save
Before I go further into this topic, let me clarify that you don’t need a business certificate or degree to learn to save.
You don’t even have to complete Grade 10 to save.
Anybody can learn to save, and save a lot of money.
You may have heard of mothers in our country who sit beside the road daily selling ice blocks or scones to save money for their children’s education. If they can do it, anyone can do it.
Often we also find illiterate people mastering the art of saving more than those who graduated from the top institutions in the country.
That should encourage you to start saving today.
A savings example
I learned about savings in two main instances, one in a weird way.
The second way, the weird one, was when I was working as a contract teacher in Nauru, the tiny island nation in Micronesia.
The nation chose to use the Australian dollar as its currency and when it gained independence in 1968 it was very rich with the phosphate mining that was going on there.
Back then, 12 years ago, the nation was coming out of a crisis where their politicians ran the country into the pits and that drained their billion-dollar investments in Australia.
There was then only one bank in Nauru, and it was their national bank, the Bank of Nauru.
That financial institution was bankrupt and not operating as a normal bank. The only main function it served was making payments for government workers or transferring funds for the government.
People who had savings there lost them when the bank went out of business. A local pastor once told me that many people had a piece of paper that stated they had millions of dollars with the Bank of Nauru, but it was just a piece of paper. There was no money in the bank.
So, here is the weird thing.
As a contract teacher, and being abroad for the first time, where do you save your money, if you are paid in cash?
Firstly, you can send it back to your account by telegraphic transfer (TT), which was operated by the government.
Secondly, you can also send the money back home by Western Union and tell your family back in Papua New Guinea to deposit that in your bank account.
Thirdly, you can put your savings in a small envelope and keep it in a small safe place in your home.
I used the TT method once, but stopped. I used the Western Union service often to send money home to my relatives. But for my own savings, I kept that in a small envelope.
I am of the view that other expatriates living there were also stashing their cash somewhere in their house.
At the end of their contracted term, of one or two years, they travelled back to their country with their savings in an envelope.
It is a weird way, but it can be done. And one must be disciplined to do that, not touching the money that they have saved in their house.
Open a savings account
To help you on your journey to save money, open a savings account, an account which is separate from your day-to-day transaction account.
Do it in such a way so that you cannot easily access money from that account.
More than a decade ago, I learned that the commercial bank I usually deal with allowed clients to access their savings account as well as their transaction account by using the same card.
In other words, you use the same card to access funds in both accounts. That was weird, as well as tempting.
In the past, the use of passbooks were better in that you cannot easily access funds from your savings account.
But good people learn to grow with changes. So, if you were a client of such a bank, what is in your savings account must not be touched, even though you use the card almost every other day to buy things using your other account.
Check with your bank to see if you can take out a standing order too, where you can have money (K50 or K100) transferred automatically every payday from your transaction account into your savings account.
An even better option is to save your money with a savings and loans society.
You can check with a society to see if money from your pay can be deducted on payday straight into your savings account.
Nasfund has its contributors’ savings and loans society that its contributors can save with. (I just checked online and I have K248.78 in my account with them.)
The good thing about all savings accounts is that they can be used as collateral when you want to take out a loan.
Check with your bank or a savings and loans society on the different services they provide to help you with your savings plan.
Change bad habits and adopt others to save
Start saving a small amount each fortnight. It may be K50 or K100.
But be disciplined and remain focused on the plan.
To save more, we need to change our habits as well, stop the bad habits and adopt better ones.
I am of the view that you will save more if you:
- Do not smoke cigarettes
- Do not chew betel nut
- Do not drink alcohol
- Do not visit nightclubs
- Do not play pokies or visit other gambling venues
- Have one spouse (or are single)
- Support your children or other relatives in school or college
- Support your church
- Volunteer for tasks where you are not paid
- Are willing to help people, often not necessarily to be paid
- Live on very little
I think you realise that people who aren’t disciplined and possess bad habits, as those listed above, will struggle to save. Their lifestyle prevents them from achieving any financial goals that they dream about.
If you are single and working, try to save a lot at this stage of your life. You may not get that opportunity again once you get married.
Don’t spend your money on drinking alcohol and partying. That is what foolish people do. Save as much as you can.
Set targets: Do the calculation game
If you want to achieve your financial goals, do some calculations.
If you want to save K5,000 in a year for school fees, divide that amount by 26 and you will get about K193. That is how much you will save each fortnight to reach the target.
(If you don’t have a calculator, buy one and do the maths.)
And do similar calculations each fortnight to see if you are staying on target. Like:
Fortnight 1: K193 (you should have this in your bank account);
Fortnight 2: K386 (you should have this in your account);
Fortnight 3: K579 (you should have this in your account);
And so on.
If for some reason you were not able to save the K193 in one fortnight, make an adjustment and save a bit more in the next fortnight and a few more afterwards to eventually reach your K5,000 target at the end of the year.
If you were gifted with K500 by your uncle, don’t blow it up by giving all your friends free lunch. Put it into your savings account.
Do those calculations above regularly to keep yourself on track. Remember, it is your goal and you must check regularly to stay on track.
An American businessman who offers tips to his clients always talks with such simple mathematics of addition, multiplication or division written on his whiteboard.
It is a numbers game. Do the maths with a calculator.
Remember: It is your goal
The savings plan is a financial goal. It is yours.
It is not your brother’s. It is yours.
But you cannot reach that goal if you do not do the things listed in this article (and others I will share in the future).
Think about this: You do not have to go to the bank to borrow money to pay school fees if you save money in this manner, by saving K193 every fortnight.
Next article: Getting other things right in your savings plan