Written by Agatha

January 23, 2020

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Dave Trott wrote a small book called One Plus One Equals Three. It’s a masterclass in creative thinking that I’d recommend you read.

You can also grab the book on Jumia.

There’s a chapter titled ‘a formula to avoid thinking’. Dave tells a story about a Spanish woman who won about 100 million pounds in the lottery — a crazy amount of money!

When asked how how she picked her winning numbers by the media, she said ‘I’m simply truly blessed!’ Then went ahead to explain.

Each number she used was a product of her family’s birthdays.

What was truly fascinating was her birthday: July 7th. 7 times 7 equals 48 which was one of her winning numbers.

To you and I, 7 times 7 is 49. Which means that if she got it right, she wouldn’t have won. And no matter how much logic people tried to drill into her to prove the fact, her belief remained intact. She was blessed. Period.

I paused at the end of this chapter and stared through the window of the chiller box of a bus I was in. I recalled the many times I have witnessed people’s ignorant beliefs get the better of them. And just as I was about to get all judgemental, it hit me: I’ve been there too! Not that I’ve won the lottery(sobs), but I have benefited financially through my ignorance.

When I got my first job in November 2016, I was earning $500.

Like most fresh graduates, I didn’t negotiate. And I honestly didn’t know if that was a lot of money for a first job or not. I remember calling one of my friend as soon as I got the contract. He assured me that it was A LOT of money for a first job; compared to how much they pay fresh graduates in Kenya.

At the end of that month, I realized there’s a difference between gross and net income.

I had already made a list of things I was going to buy with my $500. It was a humbling moment when received $380 in my account after tax and student loan (Higher Education Loans Board) deductions.

Either way, that didn’t kill the vibe, I still thought I made a lot of money. I can’t recall what I spent my first paycheck on, but I remember it wasn’t enough; without a budget and a plan, it’s never enough.

Talking to friends about money

In December 2016, the same friend who convinced me that I was making a lot of money, introduced me to the concept of saving.

He did it military style. He brought along a friend who works for one of the insurance firms and made me sign up for an investment plan (4 years later, I found out that it wasn’t an investment, it’s a term-life insurance policy!)  that required me to save $30 per month.

I remember looking at him aghast. Save $30 from this salary? At this point, my brain flipped and I started thinking I earn too little to be saving that much.

To make it worse, they added that the cover would mature in 8 years. 8 years??? That sounded like 50 years from then. Like robbery without violence. You know the way we young people always think old age will never catch up with us?

From my point of view, I could save a maximum of $2. I had a long list of stuff I needed to buy, including a list of stuff that missed from my childhood.

So when this guy (yeah, at this point he was no longer my friend if he was getting in the way of me spending my money) confidently suggested that I had to save a whopping $30 every month, it didn’t make sense to me.

I had not yet heard of Warren Buffet’s advice that we should only spend what is left after saving.

I had no intentions to save let alone invest my money since I had already bought into my relative’s mellow advice on saving — I shared that story in my last article on how we live through debt.

I wasn’t going to accept this $30 monthly heist.

I eventually signed up for the ‘investment plan’ simply because this friend has over the years given me very concrete advice. I trusted him.

I didn’t understand the details. They made it worse when they started throwing around concepts like the sum assured, premium, maturity date…wouh! Slow down! I didn’t even ask them to explain these concepts, another deadly mistake we make while investing. All I relied on was my friend’s sweet statement ‘Aggie, you will thank yourself for this a few years from now.’

He also made me pay this $30 monthly through a standing order which meant that as soon as my salary hit my account, the amount was deducted.  And so I learnt to live on $30 less.

I laugh at myself every time I remember that I didn’t understand how standing orders work or where they fall on the animal kingdom but still, I signed up.

I also never dared default on my payment because I had this fear that if I did, I’d get punished (by who? the insurance company that I was giving my hard-earned money? lol).

Sometimes we benefit from our own ignorance just like the Spanish woman. It’s rare, but sometimes luck is in our favour.

No, this particular head start with my second paycheck isn’t what I’d describe as my first step towards financial freedom. I still made a number of financial mistakes such as spending more than I earned, getting caught in the money lending apps disease, filling my home with clutter that could have been money…and more!

It’s been six years since my friend made that first financial decision for me, and I thank him often.

“10 years looking forward feels like an eternity. 10 years looking back feels like yesterday. Make financial decisions today that you can look back on with gratitude instead of remorse. The future is coming faster than you think.” Wealth Theory

However, this step taught me how crucial it is to have friends who teach you about money. Friends who you can genuinely have a conversation about how much you make. Friends with whom you can share the mistakes you made. Friends who show you tough love. Who can give you a practical step by step guide on how to save and invest, even if they have to do it military style!

I met a high school mate on New Year’s day, the first time we’ve met in 10 years! It was such a beautiful way to start my 2020 because she randomly asked ‘Which stocks are you investing in back at home?’ Mahn, I almost cried. I wanted to hug her and declare that from then on she’d be my personal human. And we’d officially start an intellectual society of two. It gives me such a high when I meet people who openly talk about money, especially women.

To start off your financial freedom journey, you don’t need to know everything. However, you will need to have knowledgeable people around you who can temporarily make the decisions for you when you’re basking in your ignorance.

“Investing is one of those things that can only be learnt on the job.” Naval

It doesn’t matter how you start. It only matters that you start.

Start making your own financial waves other than surviving on other people’s ripples.

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