It’s not always about how much you make
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Everyone has their own money rule that they swear by. My one is: “It’s not about how much you make; it’s about how much you keep and where you keep it.”
Back in my corporate days, I was highly paid. It was probably a bribe to keep me in the job, as I had made myself somewhat valuable to the business. I had very little investment knowledge, and most of my money was neatly tucked in a notice account. I was very proud of myself for saving so much money each month, but my money wasn’t growing at the rate I would have liked. I was getting one part of my rule right: I was not allowing lifestyle creep to catch me off guard. However, my money wasn’t doing its part – it was just not growing.
Fast forward to the early days of my owning my business and working in the gig economy. I made far less than I did in the corporate world. I needed a fast plan to live by my second money rule of “live below your means”, and I started writing down what I was getting and what I needed to pay monthly. Each month I would shave off some allocations to luxuries and redirect the money to paying off short-term debt.
I was in control of how I was spending my money. I only realised then the importance of budgeting. I had no surprises. I knew exactly where my money was going and how much.
After a couple of months, I was getting back to saving 30% of my income. I was pretty chuffed with myself. However, I still needed a way to get my money to work for me. Where I was keeping it was just not cutting it for me. This was the “where I was keeping it” part of my money rule. Inflation was my biggest enemy, and I was not about to lose the war. I sat down with my financial adviser, detailed my dilemma, and, to my surprise, he presented me with a buffet of options: unit trusts, money market funds, the stock market, the bond market, and the like. I was overwhelmed at first, but a quick conversation about my financial goals quickly put my options into perspective.
You see, whether you subscribe to George Clason’s The Richest Man in Babylon or Robert Kiyosaki’s Rich Dad, Poor Dad money rules, the basics of money management stay the same. In fact, I dare say they transcend years and years. The first step to managing your money is actually to know your money, to become intimate with your financial status.
I may have boarded the budgeting bus a little late, but, once I was on it, what once seemed impossible became my reality. I no longer had “more month than money”, the nasty surprises of bounced debit orders, or a cashier screaming “declined” at the top of her voice. (Why do they do that?)
Many of us think we don’t earn enough, but that’s not true for all. Let’s be fair – will your income ever be enough? Learning to work with what we have is a good step in the right direction. I believe these three things are the backbone of wealth-building; budgeting, financial goals, and an overall financial plan.
* Budgeting: This is the action of drafting a plan on managing your money; it is planning how your monthly expenses will match your current and future income. Budgeting is important because it helps you keep track of your spending so that you never end up in unexpected situations.
* Financial goals: Knowing your financial goals helps you to plan how much you need to save every month and for how long. Are you saving for a car deposit, an expensive bag, or to go on a family holiday trip? Perhaps you want to get out of debt, or you want to start your own business. Retirement? What are you going to do when you stop working? These are the types of questions you need to ask yourself to know how to invest your money.
* Financial plan: A financial plan is a blueprint for your money situation: how you make money, where you spend it, how you plan to grow it, and how you plan to achieve your overall goals. Remember that your financial goals need to align with your lifestyle goals.
The reality is that you could be making a million a month, but what are you doing with it? Where are you keeping it? Money management is a skill we ought to have. Are you a good money manager?
* Nicolette Mashile is the co-host of the SABC1 talk show Daily Thetha, an actress on Generations and the founder of Financial Bunny, a financial literacy platform. She has recently written a book, What’s Your Move? A collection of ordinary financial lessons.