Some time back, one man from Chilinde Township in Lilongwe came foaming at me. He believed my advice in this column is meant for the rich. He told me in the face that I am totally not concerned about minimum wage earners.
He challenged me to explain how one could save when they earn less than K15 000 (about $60) a month with a family of seven to feed (not to mention the extended family members) and staying in a rented house. For a moment, he almost succeeded in making me feel guilty. This is the kind of guilt that covers you when you buy pizza for your child from a shop assistant who has always known the aroma of pizza, but has never tasted it herself.
So, I went back home rocking my head really hard. I had to provide some advice for the minimum wage earner.
I grew up in a household with a far below average income myself, and while we may have comparatively done alright for ourselves, I grew up around people who existed in true poverty. Thankfully, with Godâ€™s help, I was able to take advantage of the great opportunities that life offered meâ€”and the great foundation that my parents gave me as a personâ€”and was later able to find a relatively better, financially healthy life in which I could raise my children.
But what can a person do if they are in minimum wage situation? I will provide some few steps I consider salient.
First, take every opportunity for making additional money. There are all sorts of little opportunities to make more money if you pay attention. Doing small things like off-work jobs, depending on your skills: Talking talents and skills which can make you master/mistress of ceremony elsewhere. Skills in writing books and articles. Talent in playing football. Yes, using the carpentry, plumbing, general fitting skills off-work hours. Use these skills and talents to make additional money. Free meal offers from friends? Take them. Some K1 000 (about $4) offer by the landlord for keeping his lawn green? Do it. Ask around for odd jobs and other small-scale moneymaking opportunities.
Second, minimise your possessions. There are a lot of reasons for doing this. The biggest one is that the more stuff you have, the more money youâ€™ve wasted. Also, fewer possessions mean that you need less room to live. If you recall, when you were just starting work, you could live in a guest wing because you didnâ€™t have much, but now with all your accumulated possessions you need a bigger and, hence, more expensive house.
Third, educate yourself. While youâ€™re putting yourself in a better financial position, spend your spare time educating yourself. Take classes at the nearest college and work towards some kind of certificate or degree. The key is getting startedâ€”go around and see what the colleges have to offer and make your choice.
Fourth, save automatically. You will never have enough to save. But just tell yourself you will be saving something. Go to your bank and set up an automatic savings plan. Tell them to be deducting say K1 000 every month from your account towards a savings or fixed deposit account.
So if you earn MK15 000 (about $750), then just tell yourself that in effect you only earn K13 000 (about $52) because the MK2 000 (about $8) goes to the savings account. What will happen? After a year, youâ€™ll have more than K24 000 (about $96) in the account (remember you will be earning interest). If youâ€™ve put in more monthly, youâ€™ll have even more. Then you can eventually withdraw and buy a â€˜kabazaâ€™ bicycle for hiring out, or you can pay for your education upgrade, or invest in shares.
It is not easy to save at any level of income, but you can do it with determination.
Have a blessed weekend!
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