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Mind the cost of your pride

By JOHN KARIUKI | October 15th 2014

A popular Kiswahili saying goes that: aliye juu mngoje chini. This loosely translates that pride comes before a fall. And there are examples galore of people who get a little wealthy, become too proud and eventually fizzle away in financial falls like shooting stars in the sky. When lady luck smiles at them, they often forget other less privileged people and equate their wealth with their intelligence.

Often they look down at other people as lazy and deficient of ideas. And to cap their pride, they often don't save or invest in anything but go a consumerism spree that shocks and awes everybody. Witness the many geeks earning six figure salaries who insist on designers clothes while boutiques sell the same designs at a fraction of what they pay! Others host parties at a whim and in which everything from drinks to sausages and fruits are imported, at a high fee of course.

To quicken their free fall, such proud people are often members of many exclusive clubs whose subscription fees exceed the salaries of many people. But rather than swallow their pride and adapt to the current hard times, they obstinately choose to live in their warped world! Thus they maintain their social standing and status at all costs that include credit card debt and other loans. When they can no longer wiggle out of this debt cycle, creditors of all sorts descend on them exposing their fundamental money flaws to everybody's shock.

Morphat Kagema, a businessman, was a proud man before seeing financial sense and reforming. "I used to work with a Non Governmental Organisation and earned a good six digit salary which enabled me to have all the good things in life," he admits. His children had an elitist education in the most expensive schools around and he would regularly go on holiday overseas.

"My family could never eat ugali made from unsifted maize flour and considered it fit only for dog food," says Kagema.

They could also not eat arrow roots and sweet potatoes which to them were sods and clods. Often he and his family would wonder aloud why people chose to be poor when their kin would visit them soliciting for help.

Kagema's turning point came five years ago when he was sacked from his job. "Overnight, I had to move my family from my rented house in an up market Nairobi estate to my rural home because I had no house of my own," he says. Not used to the village life, his children were especially hard hit by this change.

When he was at his lowest moment possible, Kagema says a miracle happened. Uncharacteristically, his former employer gave him a severance payment equivalent to a month's salary and benefits. "I invested this money in a business and has never looked back since," he says.

Learning from his earlier mistakes, Kagema has down sized all of his expenses in the five years he has been going it alone. "I have invested in a little farming on the side and we get all our food from the farm," he says. Admitting that he has since mended fences with his kin over his earlier poverty remarks, Kagema says that he approaches every day at his business as if it his last. "I listen to my customers' needs and advice. You cannot prosper without other people," he says.

Rosaline Njeri, a Nakuru based personal banker, says that one's work and investment can go wrong and it is wise to leave a social bridge in which to escape across. "Often loss of work or business entails making life changes," she says. And when one has been in good books with his or her colleagues, kin and neighbours, they can easily support him or her in standing up again, she says.

In her course of duty, Njeri has seen some brothers taking credit to rescue one of their own whose business had burned down. Strangely, the borrowers, all business people in their own right, owed their startup to the man whom they were now helping. "This shows that they had a good relationship based on trust and not the hypocrisy and pride that some wealthy people adopt," she says.

Blinded by their apparent wealth, some proud people often lose a lot of money by taking every small issue to the highest authority. They will take the dispute of a shamba boundary to the county government officials or principal secretaries in Nairobi. Often they are referred downwards to the sub county officers and chiefs and their councils of elders who solve the matters in a matter of hours!

Others go for consultants of all sorts, and pay exorbitantly, for all manner of services. Thus the cheaper and readily available and more experienced midwife nurse is not enough to deliver their babies but consultant gynecologist suffice!

They buy their building plans expensively from listed architects instead of the cheaper but equally competent county works officers. And often they contract mainstream contractors to build them their houses whereas cheaper village masons and carpenters would suffice.

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