As I grow up and as I learn more on wealth creation, some of the things my grandmum told me when I was young are making more sense to me now. She constantly told me “if you don’t let people see what you have, they won’t envy you”. Her simple message was “be simple”; don’t do things so flamboyant for everyone to know you’re rich.
Most of the world’s richest people do not flaunt their billions for the world to see. They do not change houses frequently, drive uncountable flashy cars and wear expensive designer clothes. It is funny for me to see Floyd Mayweather post pictures of his money and cars even though he is a millionaire whereas most billionaires live simple lives. Sometimes it makes me wonder whether it’s a black lifestyle to show off our riches or pretend to be rich for others to see.
Proverbs 13:7 says “One pretends to be rich, yet has nothing; another pretends to be poor, yet has great wealth”. It seems we Africans will do everything to appear rich; borrow, rent and some even steal or defraud others.
It is not uncommon to see a young couple who may not be coming from affluent homes do weddings that can buy a plot of land and even finish a single bedroom on the plot. Also they go on to rent a three bedroom apartment in the best part of town even though what they really need is a single bedroom for the start. Those who make these large expenses with their savings may not be at a financial risk compared to those who do that with loans. They may live the next decade of their marital lives paying back.
Loans should be used for things that bring a payback larger than the interest on the loan and preferably in the shortest possible time. LOANS ARE NOT USED FOR LUXURIES unless you’re investing in them for a good and quick payback.
In addition, I have seen educated men in their 40s and 50s still renting a house and struggling to complete their own houses. They should have done that earlier when their children were in basic school because when children start entering senior high school and tertiary level, it is almost impossible to combine rent, fees and general upkeep of the home with building a house.
Better a single bedroom that belongs to you than renting a 3 bedroom apartment.
Similarly the money saved from doing a simple marriage ceremony can be used to start a business which can an extra source of income.
Also the reason why Africans must learn to differentiate between “Need to have/do” and “Nice to have/do” is that we Africans normally do not start life with a seed fund from parents but rather we are mandated to pay black tax. For those of you who are new to the term, it means having to come and take care of parents, younger siblings and even other family members. The Akan proverb says, we do those things that are necessary before the ones that give a facelift.
So I entreat all young people to save a part of their income quickly and use it very wisely. Don’t spend to boost your self esteem or to appear to be rich to people. On the day of your marriage all you want is your spouse and not 200 people you may not even be so close with singing the chorus of the expensive wedding you had. For you to spend a lifetime regretting that unnecessary expenses you made.
If possible invite core family members and friends and let your pastor or Imam bless your marriage. Our misconception that the customary marriage is just an engagement is making us lose money. That’s the real marriage and once your pastor or Imam blesses it, you’re good to go. Wedding is just the black man trying to copy his colonial master’s way of marriage. Mind you the white man doesn’t invite people as large as 3000 as the Nigerians do and those invited don’t come to loot food home like some Africans do.
In conclusion, live within your means as a young person, live simple and don’t spend because of people’s feelings and opinions. Save to build a future for yourself and your children. Make it a point to give them a seed fund to start life even if you were not privileged to receive one from your parents.
I think probably my grandma’s advice will help some young people.
By Kwaku Obeng Opoku Agyemang (Motivational Speaker/Writer)