Wisdom, this is a tricky thing. Some people are wise by default, possibly, after learning from experience. While others repeat the same mistakes over and over again and for one reason or the other never learn the salient lesson from their mistakes. Personally, I have learnt the hard way to live within my means. Days of over spending on credit cards only to find that Loui and Gucci cannot pay my food and light bill. So, today, if I see something I cannot afford, I just say to myself “one day, Glory, one day” and move along. But this was not a lesson I learnt easily. Not at all. There was a time when I would spend all my weekly earning in three days and live the remaining four days feeling miserable, vowing to be smarter the following week only to repeat the same mistake in record time!
So you can image how awkward I feel when I meet people whose financial outlook differs widely from mine. I remember during my previous birthday in Lagos, I was unemployed at the time so I warned all my friends before hand that they would have to pay for their own food. A lot of people thought I was crazy! Someone even suggested that I borrow money to celebrate my birthday in grand style or use the financial gifts I was given to throw some lavish soiree. I couldn’t understand the logic behind their advice, why would someone who is currently unemployed loan money off people just to throw a party, surely if I needed cash it would be for other important things. But apparently ‘keeping up with the joneses’ regardless of your financial standing is the order of the day for most young people today.
It still amazes me how people can pay five, even six or seven times for a pair of shoes or for a weave! Like really, are you kidding me? A friend of mine who sells clothes and hair is constantly complaining about how she has to chase people all round the 37 States (including FCT) of Nigeria to collect her cash. According to her, it is the so called ‘socialites’ that are the worst culprits. She recently told me about a particular customer of hers who is notorious for buying goods and disappearing for months on end. Recently, this customer bought a pair of shoes for N150,000 and told her she would send her driver the next day with the cash. True to her word, the driver arrived the very next day but instead came with a cheque for half the amount post dated for 6 months!
Another friend of mine recently threw her 30th birthday dinner at a popular location on the Island. Endless bottles of champagne and food for all! She must have had over 30 people present and she kept asking everyone to order as they wished on her. I thought nothing of it at the time, after all not all fingers are equal. Two days after the party, this same friend called and asked for a rather huge loan, which she would payback in monthly installments. I assumed she must have bankrupted herself after her lavish party and willing obliged her without asking many questions. Only to later learn that she had borrowed similar amounts from mutual friends’ months before and was yet to repay. When I approached her on the issue, she explained that she was trying to gather shopping money for her regular summer trip overseas and would repay all debts on her return. To say I was perplexed, would be an understatement. This is a girl, who has what I imagine to be a well paid job, and constantly has some designer gear straddled on her limbs. I couldn’t understand why she would need to live a life that was clearly well beyond her means.
It does seem that the average young Nigerian is more into appearances than anything else. Off course there is absolutely nothing wrong in looking good and enjoying the finer things of life. After all, why do we all break our backs seeking gainful means of employment? But I really do think some of us need to draw a finer balance between our priorities and the weight of our wallets. Our parents have the houses and cars we see today because they employed the simple rule of savings and investing, not because they spent the last dime of their pay cheque on a new car, and ate garri for the remaining 3 weeks. They managed to send us to good schools because many times they themselves went without the so called finer things in life. However, I think that despite the many sacrifices of the previous generations, our generation is more interested in ‘looking’ the part without doing the necessary work to get there. We, myself included, need to begin to review our priorities. How much are we saving? What is the proportion of our assets to liabilities? Are we living within our means or struggling to live in someone else’s contrived notion of how we should be living? Maybe its time we started thinking about buying land, stocks or investing our hard earned cash in places where we can draw some form of honest return. Adopting such principles not only ensure that we covered for the rainy day, but also help in securing our future. After all, being and remaining fabulous also involves thinking about the future as well as the present.
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