Spread your financial wings

22 September 2020 | Columns

Irene-Mari van der Walt

I don’t know much about money but I know that they say it can’t buy happiness. I also know that people who say money can’t buy happiness are generally in a financial position to afford three meals a day and a roof over their heads – a luxury many Namibians don’t have.

Once I started earning a salary my mind went wild trying to figure out the best way to make it work. After all, the earliest financial advice I ever got was to “make money work for me”. I still don’t know what that means, but I spent countless nights pondering the best way to follow advice I didn’t understand.

Some financial advice that I actually understood was that nothing is ever too expensive.

Think of something you want that you can’t afford. Do you want to visit the Bahamas? Own a home? Start a business? Think about how great it would be to have that. Allow yourself to daydream about it for just a moment and then tell me exactly what it will cost you to make it a reality. If your answer was “too much” or you just couldn’t give an answer, you won’t get there.

Find out what it will cost you to go on that vacation or what your dream home will cost you. I can promise you that once you see the price tag, the gears in your mind will already start shifting and turning to make that amount possible. Your brain is far better at drafting savings plans than you give it credit for and when given the opportunity, you’ll be surprised by how quickly your mind can add it all up.

You are not incapable of having what you want, you are just inhibiting yourself by telling yourself that you are incapable.

Another conscious decision you need to make is to buy quality over quantity. Stop being afraid to spend those few extra pennies on the better option. Contrary to what you may believe, you will not be saving those pennies you are so desperately clinging to.

Economist Terry Prachett made an analogy that changed my personal views on money completely.

He explained that a man who earned 38 dollars in weekly wages and needed a pair of boots would be put before the option of a good pair of leather boots that would last for years at the price of 50 dollars, or an affordable pair of boots that would be okay for a season or two would cost 10 dollars.

Due to his financial capabilities, the man would buy the $10 pair of boots and wear them until they are old and he could feel the cobblestones under his feet. His feet would be cold, but at least not wet.

The rich man could wear his $50 boots for 10 years, while the poor man would have spent $100 on boots in this same time – all while his feet were cold.

Stop buying cheap boots now and start investing in expensive boots, but know that a high number on the price tag doesn’t guarantee value. Know what value looks like and feels like. Start buying for value.

Start looking to buy for forever, but at the same time don’t let life pass you by. In my opinion, you should be buying a ‘for now’ pair of boots and a ‘forever’ pair of boots.

If we say that a season is three months long and the poor man had his affordable boots for two seasons (six months), he could have saved $50 in six months at $4.80 out of his weekly wages. After wearing out his first pair of boots that cost him $10, he could have bought a ‘forever’ pair at $50 and have those to wear for ten years. Now the poor man has good boots and warm feet and only needs to save 10 cents of his weekly wages for 10 years to make up the $50 for his next pair of good boots.

This is true for far more than just boots. As you grow into adulthood and must start investing in things you need to use for a lifetime, like appliances and a good pair of boots, you will have to start applying Pratchett’s rule.

If you want to grow financially, you will need to start with a first pair of boots, a first stove, a first refrigerator etc. to give yourself the opportunity to save for your forever items.

Some are fortunate enough to have parents who can give them the $50 to invest in their forever items, but if you don’t, I want you to know that this is a delay in owning forever things, but whether you will have a good pair of leather boots is up to you, not your financial background.

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