Are you living a borrowed lifestyle?

THE 2004 movie Seat Filler may never be listed as a life changing movie or even worthy of an Oscar but it sure does reflect a real life story. The character, Derrick, played by Duane martin, is an ambitious law student trying to stay afloat during hard financial times.  In the midst of his ‘hustles’ he falls for a rich pretty musician, Jhnelle, played by Kelly Rowland.  Jhnelle thinks Duane is well off. To fit in this frame, Duane tries all means to keep up appearances and spends over and above his means.  Eventually, it drives him to the edge. You may not have watched the movie but we all know a real life “Duane”, or have at least heard of one. Duane’s story is familiar with many of today’s youth. 

THE 2004 movie Seat Filler may never be listed as a life changing movie or even worthy of an Oscar but it sure does reflect a real life story. The character, Derrick, played by Duane martin, is an ambitious law student trying to stay afloat during hard financial times.  In the midst of his ‘hustles’ he falls for a rich pretty musician, Jhnelle, played by Kelly Rowland. 

Jhnelle thinks Duane is well off. To fit in this frame, Duane tries all means to keep up appearances and spends over and above his means.  Eventually, it drives him to the edge. You may not have watched the movie but we all know a real life “Duane”, or have at least heard of one.

Duane’s story is familiar with many of today’s youth. 

When a fresh graduate gets his or her first job, the first thing they do is to look out for a nice apartment in an affluent suburb of the city, they run to the bank for a car loan; they want to try out designer outfits. They purchase the latest expensive electronics and gadgets for their homes.

Weekend outings are also a must to fit the new acquired corporate image.  This life style comes with not less than Rwf 700,000 monthly expenditure.  

But the job pays just Rwf300,000. So where does the extra money to finance such a life style come from?

Within months on the job, living e on salary advances, over drafts and bank loan top ups from month to month becomes the norm. With this kind of life style, many of the youth can hardly save or invest for the future. 

 It’s not too late to adjust 

During the 21st Imbuto Foundation Youth Forum held recently, the First Lady, Jeanette Kagame tipped the youth on the need to ensure financial discipline.  Her counsel is timely as many youth are indeed living on borrowed lifestyle.  

The First Lady noted that financial fitness and literacy was a challenge amongst the youth noting that it was necessary to improve on skills if they wanted a secure a financial future.

The First Lady posed food for thought questions for the participants as they planned their financial future;

•What components of our culture hinder us from managing our finances better?  

•How can we become better investors, consumers and producers?  

•How can we remain confident and comfortable with who we are?”

Where do we go wrong?

After graduating from the then National University of Rwanda four years ago, Leonard Kalisa got his first job as a real estate agent. It was fairly a new field and there was nothing fancy about the pay.

You can’t walk up to someone to sell them a piece of land or sell it on their behalf when you’re not dressed in the befitting attire; you have to fit society’s expectations of a real estate agent. 

So Kalisa had to look the part by dressing up in suits with a fancy phone in hand whenever he was meeting clients.

“It was a commission job; there was a relationship between how much I worked and how much I made. Most months I didn’t make much but looked like I was doing well. Over the weekends, I joined friends over drinks and followed most English Premier League games from fancy bars over drinks.  We would dress well, buy gadgets and celebrate life. My friends were doing well and to an outsider I looked like I was,” Kalisa remembers.

He cites social pressure as a reason why most people have wanting financial discipline. When everybody around you is spending on things that you do not have, it is human to feel left out and want to be part of the trend, he says.

“All around you, there is influence and pressure to spend, from the media who cite what is ‘cool’ to your colleagues who directly or indirectly show you how much your life would improve if you spent more on certain luxuries. It can be hard for most people to keep their head up when they do not have what all their friends have. Even when most of us say that we do not care what people say of us, deep down we really care.”

Kalisa says that most of the youth would want to save and invest in meaningful ways but the peer pressure and the urge of fitting in the corporate status pushes them to live on hand to mouth.

Moussa Kayonga has been living in Nyamirambo since his family moved back from Burundi in 2000. The 26-year-old knows everything about events management. That is how he earns a living.

He prefers Nyamirambo because people seem happy there and life is affordable without much ‘hustle’.  From where he stands, he sees the youth’s spending habits messed up and without foresight but he doesn’t say he is any better. Around where he lives, he says there is huge potential to minimise on expenses but few care to.

Whose fault is it?

“It is partly our own fault because of the income bracket and partly because of the lack of examples to go by and skills.

 Most young people only know that they want to be rich business owners in future but do not know how to get there. We have few role models or examples around us to learn from. We also have excuses of low income and a high cost of living,” Kayonga says.

Kayonga partly blames our education system for not incorporating financial education in the curriculum.

 “Most grownups learnt proper money handling when they began to earn, it is therefore understandable when they are not able to properly manage their finances.”

It puzzles Amina Tuyisegye, a mother of one, how the young generation is educated, learned and travelled but has poor financial choices and discipline.

“It is surprising that members of our generation have masters’ degrees before the age 30, they earn more than their fathers used to but can hardly manage their finances,” she wonders.

As for Tuyisegye’s son, she vows to begin imparting financial management skills. She plans to begin with a piggy bank for him to develop a savings culture. She also plans to teach him how to prioritise what is important and what is not and how to live within his means. She is yet to figure out how to impart all those lessons but she has a bit of time considering that her son is only two years old.

But what if it is more than youth recklessness that causes the poor financial management? What if people like Duane’s (mentioned earlier) aren’t so solely because of their recklessness? What if they are so because they lack role models and examples to go by? What if they turned out to be who their fathers were?

A financial adviser would propose several ways to exercise your financial fitness; he would begin by asking you, “If you were laid off your job today, how long would you survive on savings before another job comes by? How long?”

What are the causes of poor financial discipline?

The thing is, we ignore our priorities and become materialistic to impress other people. Before you know it, you have to keep borrowing money to be consistent.. 

Sheila Kanzira, Junior communications officer

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They don’t plan well for their money; they have a terrible savings culture and they just live beyond what they earn so at the end of the day they are in debt.  Maybe even the high costs of living today could contribute to that because they have to survive at the end of the day.

Phiona Mbabazi- Student Uganda Christian University

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 We have a very poor saving culture.   Also, low incomes coupled with big spending, high cost of living and lack of basic finance skills contribute to the problem.

Vincent Mutabazi- Physician

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 They are not taught financial discipline as children. Parents support them financially till their mid-20s which is different elsewhere. In other places children start working at 16 so have financial discipline by default. If you start paying your bills at 16, at 24 you’re much more disciplined. Someone does their first internship at 24 after graduating, surely what do you expect?

Usher Komugisha Sports journalist 

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