All of us are getting older abroad, whether we accept it or not. In the next few decades the obituary pages overseas will sadly contain more Nigerian names from the 1970s to 1990s tidal wave of immigrants. Nigerians are no longer migrating in the numbers they did in the aforementioned era. Also, our children born and/or raised here are not about to adopt any foreign culture hook, line, and sinker. The new culture of wake-keeping in Diaspora might well crumble under the immense weight of our stressful lifestyle and life expectancy and cultural shift. There could become too many funeral fund-raising events chasing very few dollars. If the scarce funds are spent “befittingly” transporting and burying the dead, then what happens to their survivors and dependents and financial obligations? The establishment and expansion of viable social clubs abroad, such as the People’s Club of Nigeria, may be an option. Personal responsibility in form of prudent financial planning and realistic expectations (of life and death overseas) may be better alternatives. Hopefully, we will soon wake up to the importance of preparing for the eventuality of getting old and dying overseas while being able to leave reasonable estates for survivors, after funerals and taxes are paid in full. Focusing on the survivors is something our Nigerian culture should emphasize but neglects. Are we the ones who will break the jinx of wealth being intra-generational instead of inter-generational?
Studies show the last few years of life are usually emotionally and financially quite expensive not just for the dying but more importantly, for those left behind. To add insult to injury (or add salt to injury), some people started having children and buying homes rather late, for various reasons. These issues could leave the survivors with huge financial responsibilities (young children to educate and large mortgages) on depleted reserves. Spouses with wide age differences, or any couple for that matter, should REALLY be mindful of the financial implications of caring “for better or worse” for their aging mates and of the cost of living after those mates and their financial contributions are no more. One’s assets should be invested where the dependent(s) and the spouse can access them when needed. This is a frightening reality to face, in deed. This is one more reason why every savable dollar (earned during healthy working years) should be wisely invested and not wasted.
Part Two’s objective is to spur profound saving habits to prevent both acute and chronic desperation – the kind that leads too many to attempt unthinkable acts with dire consequences. When one manages one’s finances well, one minimizes one’s likelihood of doing anything and paying dearly (for it) to become rich over night. As Confucius stated,”He who does not economize will have to agonize.”It could be the desperation for money that “is the root of all evil” after all.
Proactive financial planning is like any insurance: you better have the coverage before you need it. Some have misinterpreted money as the “root of all evil”. When it’s “the LOVE of money” that is “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The more desperate or greedy one is, the greater the likelihood one will attempt anything to get that money. Wealthy people are just as prone to avarice as poor persons; kleptomania is the bane of the rich. However, it’s rather difficult to turn a content person into a desperate person. Sound savings habits breed contentment ethics.
It is sad but true to admit, some aspects of our Nigerian (old and new) culture breed disastrous consequences by pushing too many people to jump off the edge. Several Nigerians in Diaspora allow cut-throat rivalry and events in Nigeria to pressure them into living above their means and taking unspeakable risks to compensate or “meet up”. Be yourself by being all you can be, not what others want you to be. For instance, a reader’s relatives in Nigeria demanded that he cash-in his 401K retirement plan in America and send them the proceeds to build a mansion for them because his mates overseas have raised the bar. Obviously, “these so called”relatives did not care that this man has children to educate, mortgage and other bills to pay and that he needs every penny in that 401K account (and some) for his own retirement.
Some have gone into criminal activities to get rich-quick and show off cars, homes, and flashy living. They have created more problems for themselves than they bargained for and have tarnished the reputation of innocent Nigerians everywhere in the blind ambition.
Others are pressured into failed business ventures that claim their scant resources while saddling them with huge HELOC, mortgages and credit card bills where just two missed payments could have them and their own children thrown out into the harsh streets of Diaspora.
Granted some of our relatives in Nigeria have no clue of the reality of life over here. Many of us don’t tell them the truth either for fear of losing respect or often misplaced glamor of living overseas. People don’t realize (in most cases) if one honestly works as hard in Nigeria as one does abroad and God blesses one, one will accomplish more in Nigeria. To paraphrase the Hot Chocolate musical group, heaven could be in the back seat of the Cadillac but that vehicle is not available abroad. We all know the richest Nigerians reside in Nigeria, not overseas.
I am not knocking life abroad because it has been great to multitudes of us. Personally, I am quite grateful for the opportunities America has continued to avail my family. Majority of us have worked our butts off to attain any degree of success, no doubt. Also, it’s true thatwe’ve done so with the help of friends, families, countless strangers and supporters. However, I am yet to meet any successful sojourner (who all things being equal) would not prefer to return to the sojourner’s motherland and contribute there.
Thesetested recommendations are applicable in these United States and could be helpful in other countries. If the reader has other functional ideas,email them to me so I can include them in future updates for the good of all of us. Credit will be given where due.
Consider going grocery or food shopping on a full stomach. If you must take your children with you, be sure to feed them before you head to the food store; otherwise you will end up spending more on junk food you don’t need. Studies show people who shop on an empty stomach and/ or shop with children spend a lot more. Clipping coupons are helpful but I have not had consistent success with coupons. Higher priced items are placed at eye-levels; so look for bargain priced items above or below the eye level on store shelves. Make a list of what you want to buy before you leave for the store. Those who follow their list spend less and only buy items they really need.
Take mental note of the prices of items you buy as you put them in the shopping cart. Don’t be distracted at check out time; keep your eyes on the register as your purchases are scanned. You will be surprised how much you will save just by catching the errors and overcharges by the store computer system.
Checking and Saving Accounts: If your financial institution is not paying you (over and above standard interest) to bank with them, ask to be paid for your business and if they bark, find another bank that will pay you. Some banks pay between $25 and $150 incentive just to open an account with them. Chase Bank pays up to $150, check your mailbox for a Chase flyer. BBVA Compass Bank pays $25 each to both new customer and the referring customer. And ING Direct pays $50. While you are at it, ask for free check books and a safe deposit box. Before you agree to sign up, ask the bank to also waive any monthly fees regardless of your balance. Insist on this and talk to the branch manager in a friendly but assertive way to get what you want. This will save you another $5 per month or $60 every year. To be taken seriously, you must have a good credit score. And you must keep the account open for a period of time.
With investment accounts, you can garner even more incentives. Deal with only insured brokers. First, call your broker’s competitors and ask how much money they would give you to move your account from your current institution to theirs. Once they tell you the dollar amount, ask them for more and see what they say. Then call your broker and tell them what its competitors are offering you to come to them. Ask for the amount to be topped, not just matched, to keep your business. If they say no, move your account and take the incentive you were offered by the competition. Moving accounts between insured brokerages are easy and your money is safe. A few weeks or months down the road your former broker will come calling with incentives of their own, and you can then go for what is best for you again. You can make a minimum of $1,000 every year, depending on the size of your portfolio.
Take your lunch to work starting with just three days a week. At $8 per lunch and working 50 weeks a year, you will save $1,200 annually. Even when grocery costs are taken into account you should save more, because an $8 lunch is quite conservative, not to mention the fuel and time cost of going to buy lunch from work. Moreover, homemade food is more delicious and healthy for you. A working couple could save $2,400 by making this one simple change.
Go to http://missingmoney.com/ and search for free if you have any unclaimed money in America. These are funds from forgotten deposits, refunds, from business dealings in the places you have lived or worked or patronized in the States. You have to have proof you are the rightful owner of the money. Don’t pay any company to reclaim your money, do it yourself. Enter the last names of people you know and see if they have unclaimed funds and inform them if you find anything for them. In researching this article for you, I found a couple of my relatives have funds waiting for them and I have alerted them to reclaim the assets.
Call your cable and Internet provider and let them know you’re thinking about switching to their competition without giving them any reason. Watch them spring to action to know why you are leaving them. Calmly let them know the economy is tough and you are trying to reduce your expenses. With your calm and calculated and patient voice, let them be the first to make you an offer to stay. If you do this correctly, you could get your service provider to shave, at least, $20 per month off your bill or $240 yearly. Just recently, I successfully accomplished this savings concept. Had I not obtained the concession, I would have switched to the competition. So it was a win-win for me and them.
Change oil in your vehicle oil per the manufacturer’s specifications, not every 3,000 miles as oil companies have conditioned many of us to do to their benefit. Most car makers recommend oil changes every 5,000 to 12,000 miles. Change the oil plug too. Some vehicles alert you when you need oil change based on your driving habits and the internally monitored condition of the oil in your engine. If you drive 10,000 each year and change your oil twice instead of every 3,000 miles, and you pay $30 per oil change, you will save at least $30 per year, based on changing oil every 5,000 miles.
Re-shop your automobile and homeowners or rental property insurance every year. The keys to saving on insurance premiums are being a good driver and having minimal claims. It is not always true that bundling your insurance (auto, home, rental, life) policies with one insurance company saves you the most money.
The joy of parenthood is immeasurable, just ask most parents. True, if our parents solely focused on the costs of having children, most of us would not have been born at all. However, children cost lots of money; so have as few kids as you can afford to raise to productive citizens. Remember you still need to save for your own retirement. In U.S.A., the estimated cost of rearing a child from birth to age 18 is $289,380, excluding the cost of college education which could be another $200,000, for middle income families. The fact we come from large families in Africa does not mean we can afford multiple children in Diaspora. Too many offspring could leave you financially strapped. Also, it could cause your children to develop that nasty permanent taste of deprivation some of us experienced growing up.
Are you a renter? Ask the property owner to give you a $50 per month discount for paying one month ahead during the lease. Chances are you will receive it. Good tenants are priceless as any landlord or landlady would tell you. If you pay on time and take good care of the property and get along with your neighbors, you become a jewel of a tenant. Moreover, if you consider what banks are paying in interest these days, you will reap huge profits by paying your rent one month in advance rather having that amount in the bank. Rents are always negotiable!
It’s beneficial to tip: Tipping people you have business relationship with can save you lots of money. I learned this from a high school mate. Although he is a penny pincher, he tips generously. I never understood why he did that until I started being more generous with tipping and watched the benefits flood in. Tipping is a wise thrifty move! Just to give you an example, the service representative of the dealership where I service our car has saved me thousands of dollars because I treat him with respect and dignity and tip him well. One time, he told me about a catalyst converter problem a few months before the manufacturer’s warranty expiration. That alone saved me almost $1,200, and there are other instances as well.
The most appreciated tips are the ones given when no services are being rendered. When you are in the area where your favorite service provider is, just drop off a $10 Starbucks Coffee card or a $25 back-to-school gift card to his or her child or a T-shirt from your last vacation.
If you can’t trulytip monetarily for any reasons, be generous with your words and commendations.Ask to speak with the manager of the person who had just assisted you and tell that manager how delighted you are for the superior service you’ve received. Find the name of the CEO or president of the company and send a hand-written note stating your satisfaction and name the employee that provided you the great service. These people would reward the employee, and your gesture would bring them joy as they too are not used to receiving compliments from happy customers. Make people you want to reward feel good about themselves. You may not be able to please the whole world but do try to be kind to people you who provided you superior service so they would do more for you in the future. You can use these positive reinforcement methods to turn an average service provider into an over-achiever. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
It is best to tip well in addition to being lavish in your praise. While on a Southern Californian vacation recently, my family did just that and reaped monumental benefits. We first spent a few days in Anaheim before going on a Mexican Cruise only to return to Disneyland for more memorable times. As we checked out to go on the cruise,we generously and genuinely praised the hotel staff for the great service they rendered to us, making sure some guests checking in over-heard how happy we are with Desert Palms Suites at 631 W. Katella Avenue, Anaheim. We did it to express appreciation, not for any other benefits. One of the hotel checkout worker who overheard us confided in us that if we go on-line to Tripadvisor.com.com and register our satisfaction, the hotel would give us 10% on our next stay.
Our next stay was just 9 days away after the cruise and Lego-land legs of our vacation. When we returned they staff remembered us and found us a large suite in a fairly full hotel (without reservation) at a lower price PLUS a cascading 10 percent discount for next 7 days of our vacation (just for that positive reviewon Tripadvisor.com). The cumulative 10% savings alone were several times more than the tips we gladly left.
Avoid wasteful spenders (unless you are providing goods and services to them) and make friends with savers. Some people think the way to have friends is to spend their money to keep the friendship going. Any one can have those hangers-on as long as one is spending on them, once the money stops; they drop one like a hot potato. The friends you keep can influence your spending habits.
Finance experts would tell you when it comes to saving large sum of money, you have to pay attention to the pennies or cents, not the dollars or pounds or Euros. Just like any great palm-wine tapper would tell you, the palm trees that produce the best tasting wine drip ever so slowly, they don’t gush or stream.Conversely, “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship”, according to Benjamin Franklin.
If you minimize the rich-at-all-cost mentality, and blaze your own trails at your pace, chances are you will NOT be lured into regrettable dragnets. Be thy self! Saving is like good driving, it’s not how fast you get to the next traffic light that counts; it is how safely you arrive at your destination.
Money saving habits are better acquired and used pro-actively. If you start saving before you are desperate, you are likely to make sound decisions that will propel you to better financial standing. On the other hand, if you exist paycheck to paycheck thinking “you only live once and better live it up now since no one knows tomorrow,” then when you go down in financial flames, you will be so desperate that you will sell your soul to the devil just to obtain a drop of water on your thirsty tongue. You become prone to making decisions you will regret, not just today but forever.
If you read the devil-made-me-do-it excuses illicit drug carriers give after they are caught at Nigerian airports and overseas, you will have an insight into the apex desperate circumstances some of these people operate in. Why else would someone risk it all by ingesting dangerous drugs and getting on an airplane for hours just to make money? Men and women, children and teenagers, old men and old women all have died or been caught in this brazen, life-threatening act; all in the name of making money overnight. They forget creating lasting wealth takes time and patience and dexterity.
Few have stowed away in tire wells of airplanes in dangerous no-win efforts to escape Nigeria for greener pastures overseas with deadly consequences. Some of these people are either too desperate or too naive to know they could not survive hypoxia – lack of oxygen in the bloodstream – even for minutes (if they don’t die of hypothermia) at high altitude where airplanes cruise.
These desperate behaviors indicate the level of economic hardship that Nigerian leaders have been presiding over for decades in a nation that is endowed with natural and human resources. Hopefully, the new administration will help make things better for the average persons. However, acceptance of personal responsibility is in order as aforementioned, people can’t continue blaming circumstances for their own desperation and greediness. Whatever the root causes are, these conditions should be mitigated.
Greed fueled by our culture and other human factors can combine to become lethal concussion that can lead many astray. The need for more money, mo’ money!, and bigger houses and cars “by all means necessary” have continue to blind too many folks. It’s difficult to predict what any desperate and greedy soul would try to do when the heat is on full blast. As William Wilberforce put it in his famous speech against slavery: “interest [fueled by desperation and avarice] can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more”. That statement is true today as it was when Wilberforce first uttered it on Tuesday, May 12, 1789.
Attaining one’s financial goals may first appear as Sisyphean as the abolition of slave trade seemed to the 18th century world, but if one passionately sticks with it, one will break free and realize one’s dreams. Most dreams faithfully worked on, do come true! So go for it!!
To reiterate, true success should not be based on the size of your bank account or your home or the type of vehicle you drive, it should be measured by the positive impact you have on others, including those who are not directly related to you by blood.
In memory of my sister Ugomma who died recently after a courageous battle with cancer.