By John Kariuki
Peter Macharia’s employment with an international organisation epitomised the money-dreams of many youths. As a senior official, Macharia was entitled to a free car, medicare, children’s education and a hefty allowance for a domestic worker and a gardener.
He also enjoyed a round-the-clock guard at his official house. The organisation that he worked for provided free air tickets for him and his family whenever he would travel on holiday, and paid part of the expenses at exclusive destinations. And so life for Macharia and his family ran like a modern fairy tale until his contract with the international organisation was suddenly terminated.
Macharia was given a send off package of a whopping Sh2 million. But because he was unused to any form of frugality and due to the denial of his changing fortunes, he continued with his old high-end spending habits as he sought for the perfect investment options.
He would take his family to pricey hospitals and frequent his old socialising circles, believing an opportunity for another high flying job might unfold.
His finances dwindled fast as his family made greater demands for the good life that they were used to. And to keep everybody happy, Macharia began selling off his assets like land and car.
Three years down the line, none of his grand investment schemes had borne fruits. Macharia became a recluse, avoiding his family. He hit the bottle hard and was picked dead from a drainage trench one morning. With no fall back plan, his family had to relocate to their rural home in utter penury.
Macharia’s case illustrates a worrying scenario where many people form a careless attitude towards money while at work. But this approach follows them into retirement, or when they go it alone. In fact, many employees are not averse to inflating their claims for official perks like lunch, travel and other expenses when they are out of their workstations.
But few of them see this as an extra income and make good use of it. Instead, many people simply squander it.
Witness some frequent statements like: “Mimi si mtu wa lunch ya mia tatu na huwa napewa mia tano (I cannot take lunch worth only Sh300 while my lunch allowance is actually Sh500).” And to crown the cavalier attitude towards such perks: “Mimi sinywi mshahara nakunywa allowances tu (I don’t normally touch my salary but only spend the allowance I earn at my job for alcohol).”
Other people often go into business and give themselves a salary and full perk that are equivalent to their last pay package. And this is often regardless of whether or not their businesses have picked up.