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Should I? Expert answers your key money questions

Florence Bett's personal finance book 'Should I?' [File]

Should I take a loan to buy a car? Should I save or invest? Should I borrow money from my partner? How much should I send my parents? What should I know before joining a Sacco? Should I engage a financial planner to manage my money? How much do I need to retire? These are some of the pertinent questions that 37-year-old personal finance expert Florence Bett-Kinyatti answers in her three-part book, Should I?

What makes you believe you should school people on money?

As a small business owner, a certified accountant and a former financial auditor (I worked with PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) for five years). I have practical money experience.

That, plus my readers identify with what I write about money and even email me questions about their personal finance challenges. It is these questions, plus a host of others – and my responses – that I capture in this book.

With so many personal finance books to pick from, why should I (see what I did there?) pick Should I??

For one, the book’s structure is different. It’s a Question and Answer format in three parts. That way you can go to the book map (the table of contents), select a chapter you’re feeling and run with it. This isn’t a novel or a love letter. This isn’t a book you start reading from the beginning.

For another, I have largely drawn from my personal experiences and from engagements with my readers. I am honest with you in this book. Embarrassingly honest.

I have also, together with the stories, crunched numbers. I am writing about money; after all, decisions about money are weighed against the number-emotions scale. All the stories will be for nought if I don’t show you what I mean by crunching the numbers.

If not a novel or a love letter, what then would you liken it to?

A Bible. Keep it close, return to it whenever you need guidance, master its wisdom and never finish reading it.

You mentioned three parts. Please elaborate?

The first section deals with questions around personal money management. The second, aptly titled The Dynamics of Love, Sex and Money, deals with money in relationships – within the family and in relationships. The third, How and Where to Grow Your Money, is on savings and investments.

What unconventional advice do you offer in the book?    

Florence Bett [File]

When faced with the decision to make on whether to take a loan to buy furniture, maybe go on vacation or borrow money from a mobile app to tide you over until your next payday, the financial pundits will tell you in a stern voice, index fingers raised in the air admonishing: “Don’t do it. Stay away from bad debt.”

Good debt, they say, is when you put your money into something that will return an income or which you can liquidate to get your money back.

I no longer think along these simplistic lines of good and bad debt, neither as a personal finance expert nor as an individual. For me, debt is either manageable or unmanageable. If you can manage the financial and emotional cost of the debt, take the loan.

The financial cost is the measurable cost — the shillings and cents you will pay back in principal and interest.

The emotional cost is the immeasurable seesaw of negative and positive emotions stirred by the debt. The positive emotional response is when you have money in the bank to pay back your debt when you are supposed to or the stewing pot of negative emotions when there’s not enough money in the account when the loan is due.

I am all for loans. My personal mantra is that I should always be servicing a loan. Always. My first thought when I think of a project is to take a loan. And another. A loan on top of another loan. A loan within a loan. Loan for all loans, the mother of loans.

Save for retirement. What’s the essence of that?

Retirement may seem a long way from now as it has long been associated with old age. But that’s a mistake because it negatively influences how we approach our finances when thinking about and planning for retirement.

Let’s first unlearn some misconceptions, which will then inform your investment decisions for retirement.

First, you don’t have to get to sixty years — Kenya’s legal pensionable age — to retire. At sixty, how much living can you do? Lord forbid if you are battling poor health.

Secondly, retirement doesn’t mean you stop working. You can retire from your job and start a new work life in a different industry like I did leave financial auditing to retire into creative writing.

Retirement doesn’t mean you stop saving and investing either.

You can retire at any place you like, it doesn’t have to be upcountry.

Should I take a loan to buy a car?

You’d have to read the book to find out. It retails for Sh1,399.