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How to prepare for the unexpected

A friend's husband started behaving strangely early last year. He forsook all his financial obligations. Talking to him to get to the bottom of the problem was futile as the man suddenly became mute.

My friend, let's call her Rosemary, went into a panic mode. What if the man had lost his job? What if he had gambled all his salary? What if he just decides to vanish into thin air?

She started imagining the worst scenario. That included schools fees, house mortgage and other huge financial undertakings her husband took care of falling on her shoulders. How was she going to handle that?

One evening, she sat down at the dining table as everyone went to bed. With pen and paper, she drew a list of her total income, benefits and liabilities.

She went through her list of where she would get money to pay school fees for their three children, two of who were in secondary school. In one column she listed her investments. Land she had bought through her Sacco at work long before she got married was the greatest asset she personally had as it had unbelievably appreciated.

When she was done with her new financial outlook, she discovered that if pushed to a corner she could actually manage to take care of the family financially. Just that piece of land she bought so early in the day could fetch enough money to see her children through university. Other assets could be offloaded to clear the mortgage balance. Daily expenses were no headache for her, she reasoned.

That night Rosemary slept soundly, having had a solution to a problem that had gnawed on her nerves for days.

There are lessons to learn from Rosemary's experience:

· It is important to have a record of all you own and update the value added to the property annually.

· Like a scout, you must always be prepared. Do not put all your hopes and plans on the head of your spouse. You know, the people who die every day are spouses, sons, daughters. . . the same can happen to you or yours. How prepared are you for such an eventuality?

· Don't heap all responsibilities on your spouse. Talk about finances and agree on how to help each other. It is unwise to reason that it is "a man's responsibility to do ABC". Think of it as a partnership; the two of you driving the family towards the same direction of prosperity.

· Invest in areas that can give you quick returns in case of an emergency. Join an investment club or a chama where you can easily borrow money to take care of immediate financial commitments in case things suddenly change at home.

· Know timelines of your commitment. For example, how long it will take for the mortgage to be fully paid. Also find smart ways of reducing the payment duration.

For Rosemary, she did not have to effect her new plans of stepping in as her husband found himself and everything went back to normal. The most important thing that happened for her during that short 'awakening period', as she calls it, is that she became a financial 'expert' of sorts.

"Now, I keep encouraging my husband to look for extra jobs on the side to help us clear the mortgage especially. When we are done with this and at least have a home to call our own, I can push him to take another mortgage because a man's money must be engaged otherwise he can be tempted to spend it lavishly."

That is the gems she picked. You don't have to wait to go through your own 'experience' to learn but you can pick from her lessons that will make you financially wiser this year.

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Don't be helpless when it comes to your family's financial well being. This is your year to go out there and find ways of making your home better than last year.

The easiest way to do this is by being open to ideas, take risks and gain.

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