In past weeks, I have received a lot of e-mail enquiring about various issues regarding personal finance. While most of them were from readers who want ideas on how to invest and make it before their retirement, two of them stood out.
The first one was about a lady in her mid-30s who is so scared of an impending retrenchment at her work place that she is almost immobilized by fear of the unknown. "What do I do if I get the sack? Where do I start?" she cried.
The second one was from a gentleman who felt my advice to ladies about saying no to a joint account with their partners unless it is opened for a particular project was uncalled for.
I feel that it is important to share their stories and my views about their concerns for the sake of others battling the same uncertainties.
Let me start with the lady in distress. It is true you must think about your retirement with the very first salary whether it comes at age 18, 22 or 34.
The law stipulates that every employer must deduct a percentage of their workers' pay and contribute a similar amount towards the employee's retirement. The law also says that the full amount can only be accessed after one reaches retirement age.
So when you start working, you should bear in mind that the formal employment can be terminated any time. If you are clear about this in your mind, it relieves you the fear of job loss.
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When you have this frame of mind and your company parts ways with you, you receive that termination letter with, "Well, this is the day," and move on to that nest you have been nurturing on the side.
That nest comes in different forms. Farming, consultancies, gaining another skill and the like. Farming is on fashion these days. When you read about powerful Kenyans and their children, you will discover that they are serious farmers.
An example is Raila Odinga's daughter, Rosemary, who was featured in The Standard on Saturday recently for farming snails.
In farming, there are opportunities...and lots of money. It does not matter the size of farm you have, you can make money even on an eighth of an acre. You can squeeze in a green house and along the wall you can build chicken coops, rabbit cages, milk goat pens and grow mushrooms.
There are no vast farms in this country any more, but there are swathes of 'land' into space. Your cages and coops must be built going up; in storeys. These structures should also be portable so that in case you move houses, you can carry them along to the next place you pitch tent.
The initial capital should come from your salary, chama earnings, dividends, savings and any other bonuses. It is time to start thinking about your 'after-job' now.
My neighbor, a full-time civil servant, has two dairy cows. Above their structure, she has put two levels of coops teeming with more than 100 chicken.
A ladder leads to the chickens and neighbours, including myself, queue to buy eggs, sometimes chickens and vegetables. The cow dung and chicken droppings ensure the small farm is also thriving with fresh vegetables. His total land acreage: An eighth. If she is sacked today, she has something to fall back on.
Now to the man who strongly feels a woman and her man must have a joint account. There is no problem with this if the two are in agreement and are open with each other financially. My argument was about those who are not faithful about money matters and enslave another who would like to spend her salary on a shoe here, a dress there.
She cannot spend a cent because everything is tied up in the joint account and her lack makes her go to work with 'laughing' shoes because buying a new pair demands that she writes pages explaining why she needs Sh2,000 for a new pair.
If spouses agree to open a joint account for a specific project, that is a brilliant idea that should be encouraged. But for regular income, let everyone manage their own accounts.
Advice of marriage or relationship counsellors will help guide spouses on how to distribute income for family expenditure, investment and savings to avoid conflict.