Its been a long while since we last touched base. I apologize for my long absence.
While I was away I was able to set up my photoblog (www.deji.shutterchance.com). A link to this blog has been placed under my blogroll in the side bar (My Photoblog). I encourage you to visit from time to time to see how we doing, rate the pictures and drop your comments. I would be looking forward to reading from you.
This week I will be sharing with you some financial lesson I learnt while waiting to take a haircut at the barber’s shop. They are simple, practical and true. I believe you have a lot to gain if you keep to them.
Sit back, relax and enjoy.
It was Sunday evening again. I had drawn up my plans and had begun preparing for the new week. All I needed was a hair cut and I would be set to go. I grabbed my barbing set and strolled down to the barber’s shop just down the road.
When I got there, two people were waiting to have their hair cut so I sat on the bench outside the barber’s shop and waited for my turn. Just outside the shop, a group of men probably in their early 50s sat playing a game of draft. As they played they conversed. They talked about the “good old days” when they had more money to throw around. They talked about how they had imported foods for breakfast on weekends and how there was always enough to eat. One remembered when he had his first son; everything used to take care of the boy was imported. The other one boasted of how he purchased all his kids clothing from Mother Care®. One called Papa Dee, popular for his fun loving nature, talked about how he had so much cash then and how he threw large parties every month. He remembered a particular Christmas party where “beer was flowing like water!” he claimed that if you went to the estate where he used to live everyone knew him there. They went on…
Beyond the bragging and noise, I took a closer look at the men. What I saw was conflicting with the past life they claimed to have. One was wearing a brown pair of Khaki Shorts. His singlet which was originally white had turned brown and had some holes in it. I would have mistaken him for garbage collector. The other men were not dressed any better. Papa Dee who made the most noise had on a very old, worn out lace trouser which was almost transparent due to excessive washing. The threads used for its design where sticking out here and there, giving it a wooly look. He was bare-chested and hung his t-shirt over his shoulder. His sandals were worn out and wrinkled. Its sole was in a pretty bad shape. One would never have believed that this man had ever handled substantial money all his life. If I were to judge by appearance I would have refused to believe them, but the English they spoke was refined. From the way they spoke you would know that these men had at least a secondary education! So what must have gone wrong? I asked myself.
As I pondered on this, trying to reconcile the past standard of living they claimed to have had with their present condition, a lady hawking stopped by them to sell Paraga (a local drink made from roots mixed with gin). She poured out a cup for each of the men in the group except for Papa Dee. He begged desperately but the lady remained adamant.
“Unless you clear your N550.00 debt I am not selling to you. Haba! (Local exclamation) This money is going to the third month. I am not selling! At least pay something from the N550… If you can drop N150 I will sell to you.”
As the lady ranted, the other creditworthy customers in the group tried to appease her but she remained adamant. Three of them had to contribute N50 each to make up the N150 before she agreed to pour out a cup of Paraga for Papa Dee. With the little drama I had just witnessed I was convince that there was something fundamentally wrong with these men. I could not understand how and why a man of his standing would owe N550 for Paraga for close to three months. Just about that time, my barber motioned to me to come over. It was my turn to have my hair cut.
When I got into the barbers shop, there were two other men there. One popularly called Baba Landlord was waiting to have his hair cut while the other who was known as Emeka owned a shop along our street. He was charging his phone at the barber’s shop. As I settled into the barber’s chair I asked who the men playing draft outside were. Emeka told me that most of them were either civil servants or had retired from the civil service.
“What about Papa Dee?”
I asked curiously.
“Ah! That one… he was a big man in the federal ministry before he was retired over 5 years ago.”
He paused then went on
“The man had plenty money before but now to eat is a problem. He drives a taxi to keep body and soul together. He normally comes to play draft with the others every evening.”
“Is he married with Children?”
“He has a wife and five children. The eldest child is in University. The next two are waiting to enter university; the last two are still in secondary school.”
“So why is he living a very reckless life?”
I wondered aloud.
“I cannot imagine my father at Papa Dee’s age living such a life”
Emeka interrupted me.
“Pray that the troubles of life do not come knocking at your door. The man was doing very well before the axe of the government fell on him. It can happen to anybody.”
Baba Landlord confirmed
“…but the way you position yourself before the axe falls matters.”
We all nodded in agreement. He went on.
“Remember the proverb as you lay your bed so will you sleep in it?”
He asked. I nodded.
“If this man was investing a certain amount of his salary consistently – say he was investing N5,000.00 every month since he started working. If he started 20 years ago, how much do you think that would be today?”
Doing some quick calculation in my head I responded
“It will be over N1 million naira today”
“Now if this amount is earning a compound interest of say 12% or let’s say he puts it in a high yield investment portfolio, he will be earning close to a hundred thousand naira every month today.”
Emeka responded. My barber nodded in agreement. He continued.
“Instead of doing that he was throwing parties around the neighborhood. Surely people will always be available to eat but when the tables turn they will not be there to assist him.”
“But the man used to help people”
My barber spoke up defensively.
Baba Landlord asked.
“If people have trouble and ran to meet him when he still had money he always ensured he assisted them. He does not joke with helping people.”
My barber clarified.
“Yes it is good to give”
Baba Landlord countered
“but you have to be discerning and purposeful when giving. You don’t just give to any Tom, Dick or Harry that comes crying to you. If you just give to any and everybody who walks up to you claiming to have a problem, you will end up broke.”
“But my religion encourages us to give generously“
Emeka said defensively.
Baba Landlord replied.
“But did you not read one of the passages in the bible where five virgins were referred to as wise because they bought enough oil and extra in the time of convenience and refused to share it with the other five who failed to prepare ahead of time?
This is exactly what that verse was talking about! For people who save up and instead of investing give the money out to those who claim to be in need. They are like people who out of pity and sentiments share their reserved oil. At the end of the day it is not enough for them and the people they give. Both lamps will go out just when the light is needed most. Remember this popular verse –
“There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under heaven… a time to gather and a time to scatter; a time to keep and a time to give out.”
There is time for everything. Of what use is it to gather only to give it out to someone who will, out of inexperience or lack of discipline, squander it. It is advisable to vote a certain amount to be given out to help the poor or people in need. If it finishes, fine! Wait till next month. But ensure that you do not, for any reason, touch that which you have set aside for investment. As far as you are concerned that money no longer exists. If you do this you will not have to struggle to survive when the axe falls or when you retire.”
He paused to let it sink in.
“When I was much younger and I was saving to build my first house, friends and relatives hated me because they felt I was stingy or telling a lie when I told them that I did not have money. Someone once made a comment in Yoruba to my face. He said
“Kosowo! kosowo!! Ile ton ko den lo”
In English it means
“No money! No money!! Yet the house he is building is progressing”
This was because despite the fact I say I do not have money they still see me pay my workers cash at the end of the day. What they failed to realize was that according to my financial plan that money had already been spent. I am glad I did not listen to them then and revert my decision out of sentiments. If I did I would not have built my houses today.”
He concluded with a smile.
I sat there mulling over what I heard just heard when Baba Landlord added as an after thought.
“For you young men, one thing I noticed is that there is always a period in your life where you would have enough for your use and excess to throw around. That is the time to gather, the right time to invest in your future. Nature will always demand an account of what you did with the excess.
He paused to let it sink and continued.
If you have read ancient Egyptian history there was a time when there was a boom in agriculture for 7 years. This was then followed by 7 years of severe famine. Egypt was the only country in the world that had food enough for themselves and to spare. How did this come about?
He asked. Without waiting for a response he went on to answer the question.
They saved 20 percent of everything they made in the 7 years of boom. That 20 percent sustained them for an equal length of time. This is like a law in life. Almost every normal average human being will go through this cycle. It is what you do during your “7 years of boom” that will determine how well you will live during your “7 years of severe famine.”
He paused a while then continued.
That is why you see lots of people suffering at mid life and you hear that they were “Big Men” before and had “plenty money” . You can prevent Papa Dee’s situation from happening to you by simple obeying the two rules we talked about.
1. Be discerning and purposeful in your giving. Rather then giving a man a fish to eat for the day. Give him something that contributes to teaching him how to fish. This way, he would not be a bother to you and other by always asking for his daily bread.
2. Invest a fixed percentage of you income on consistent basis and be sure to increase this amount in time of boom as nature will always demand an accounting. If you do these things you will never grow poor.”
Just about that time my barber finished cutting my hair and was brushing loose hair off my neck. He took off the barbing cloth and invited Baba Landlord to the barbing chair as he quickly packed my barbing kit into its carrier bag.
I was deeply moved by Baba Landlord’s unrehearsed lecture. Deep down I knew that all he said was the truth and had came from experience. At least he had results (income generating houses) to show as evidence. I was determined to work on the lessons. I thanked him and paid for my hair cut and his. He politely refused but I insisted. He eventually agreed and thanked me but I was more grateful for the depth of insight he provided at no cost.
I thanked my barber as he handed me my barbing set. As I stepped out I had a firm resolution to practice what I learnt and to share the new knowledge with as many as possible.
Have a blessed week.
– Deji Olatunde