“I don’t want to be poor,” I whined.
“Then stop acting like you want to be,” Mrs Ibe, my mentor replied, taking a sip out of her teacup.
How was I acting like I wanted to poor when I made the opposite clear to her or so I thought?
Seeing my confusion, she smiled and took a more patient approach, of that of a teacher willing to take their student by the hand and teach them the ropes.
“Look,” she said giving me her sincerest look and ensuring she maintained eye contact with me as her hands gently but firmly clasped mine.
“When I was your age, I thought to look fancy and be spendthrifty was being rich or better still, the road to being rich. I succeeded in looking the part, but my constantly empty pockets and flat bank accounts mocked me each time I looked at them. It was as though I was allergic to being rich—”
“Allergic to being rich?” I interrupted.
She looked pleased to be interrupted; relaxed her grip on my hands, and reclined backwards as she let her last words slide in.
I couldn’t imagine how anyone would be allergic to being rich.
“Oh well,” I pondered, “there are some who preach having enough against having a surplus and yeah, that kind would seem allergic to wealth. I have not understood their philosophy, and used to think that if they didn’t want to have too much or any at all, that’s okay. I will be generous enough to share when I become as wealthy as I want to be, after all, some have to be rich and some poor to have a balanced world.”
When she noticed my perplexity giving way, she continued from where she left off.
“Most times, people say things or set goals and act a completely 360 degrees from what they said or set. How do I mean? You see a student who admires greatness but won’t put in the necessary effort of staying up a little longer and going the extra mile to attain it. Or in this case, a person who says they want to be rich, but rather than saving to invest in something that would create more money later, spending every kobo that gets into their purse and relishing being broke than having a small saving. That person doesn’t want to be rich. As a matter of fact, they are setting up themselves to be beggars.”
“Tell me,” she added, “How you feel when you have a little money to spare versus how you feel when you are struggling to make ends meet without having to ask the next person for a loan or assistance?”
“Of course,” I replied. “Nobody feels good having to always ask their friend for one form of assistance or the other. And I feel fantastic when I can foot some bills for my friends and I without them asking.”
“Exactly!” she exclaimed like a tutor whose student had understood what she had been trying to explain a long time. “You do not get more money by spending on what you cannot afford. A good way to assess what you can or cannot afford, someone said, is to ask yourself if you can comfortably purchase two of the items you are looking at. If you can, by all means, go ahead. If you cannot, it will be wiser to look for something less expensive you can afford at the moment. A little tidbit: creativity and the ability to look outside a self-designed mental box are keys to being more efficient with your resources. Not all great things are grand and ostentatious. Some come in more modest apparels, and the greatness you seek are locked on their inside. Like most great things, becoming rich requires a measure of discipline, delay of immediate gratification and patience. Ask anyone who attained such great wealth and fortune.”
By this time, my confusion had been completely replaced by understanding and I asked myself if I wanted to be rich or poor.
She could see me reaching a conclusion and smiled as satisfaction flooded her whole body.
“Let me drop you off,” she said as she picked up her keys and stood to make exit out of the shop that had become our rendezvous.
I wrote this story a year ago and first published it on my Facebook page. I thought to bring it forward today.
Did you enjoy it? What lessons did you learn about personal finance, saving, and spending? Can you share your current/past challenges on the subject and lessons you are learning/have learnt?