Dear Dr Pesa,
I'm a 30-year-old husband and father of two, working at a tech firm. My boss just announced that we should expect a 30 per cent pay cut following work disruptions caused by the coronavirus pandemic. This will take effect at the end of the month. I'm the sole bread winner in my family and I earn Sh60,000 per month (gross salary). I did not see this coming, and I'm in no way prepared. What can I do to ensure sustainability?
I am sorry about the financial situation that is facing you and your family, especially during these tough economic times. The rapidness with which the coronavirus has spread is alarming, presenting a health crisis that the whole world is grappling to contain. Many firms are feeling the pinch of the pandemic and have been forced to take extraordinary measures in order to maintain their operations while waiting for normalcy to return. One such measure is employee pay cuts.
You say that you are in no way prepared for the 30 percent pay cut, but asking for advice is a commendable step in preparing to face this unfortunate set of circumstances. The first thing to do is to take advantage of the various measures announced by the Central Bank of Kenya (CBK) to help cushion Kenyans from the economic effects of the coronavirus pandemic. On 15th March 2020, CBK Governor Dr Patrick Njoroge announced that banks will provide a personal relief on loan repayments for up to one year to individuals affected by circumstances arising from coronavirus on a case-to- case basis.
If you have a running loan facility, you should negotiate with your bank to have your payments deferred until the situation normalizes. This will free up much needed cash to sustain your family. You should also stay informed of the various relief packages your company, the government, NGOs and well-wishers are offering.
Sustainability also needs proper financial planning. Start by creating a budget, which will help you to determine in advance whether the money available is enough to pay for the things you would like. Write a list of your monthly expenses and then scrutinize it to see where you can cut back, separate urgent bills from those that can be deferred, only keep the bare necessities and set aside some emergency cash. Cancel or downgrade non-essential subscriptions like TV packages and club or gym memberships.
To ensure you have a supply of food and household essentials during this period, make a shopping list of items you will need for the next few weeks and buy them from a wholesaler. Not only will this ensure you get your essentials affordably, but it will also prevent you from making too many trips to the supermarket, which is discouraged during social distancing.
You will also need to adjust your spending habits indefinitely. Reduce as many of your expenses as you can. If, for instance, you order take-out, it would be prudent to cook your meals because it is cheaper. To save what you would ordinarily spend on transport to and from work, take advantage of the work from home provision if your employer has offered it. This has the added advantage of reducing your family’s risk of getting ill because you will have much less contact with others.
In conclusion, a change in lifestyle and spending habits will go a long way in helping you to weather the storm. Many sacrifices will be made during this time. Understand your spending habits and adjust them accordingly, advertently the funds recovered will be able to boost you and your family. Tracking your spending habits has been made easier with tech and you can simply download an app to help you with this. When all is said and done and the threat eventually fades, take away lessons and good habits learnt from the pandemic, for instance, having emergency money tucked away.
Dr Pesa is Sheilla Otieno, who is part of the investments team at Cytonn Investments.