Many of us will have to re-orient ourselves on the way we think about the concept of money. Joshua Kenon (www.thebalance.com) stated that “money can work for you, and the more of it you employ, the faster and larger it can grow over a long time”. Today, I will be taking an unusual approach to achieving financial independence; the level where the returns on your assets (accumulated wealth) equal or exceed your annual salary.
One key to financial independence is to push beyond selling your labor (active income) to making your money work for you (passive income). During your working life, use your income to acquire productive assets often used by your family, friends etc. Look around, go to malls, what do you see people use every day? Invest in the companies which produce those things. We all use Apple, Google, and WhatsApp but how many Ghanaians consider owning shares of those companies. Hmmm? Do your relatives and friends drink milk, milo or eat chocolates, and do you have any investment in Cocoa Bills, Nestle or Barry Callebaut?
Financial independence is a by- product of consistent behavior patterns that allow for long-term wealth creation. You and practically anyone can replicate those behaviors and get wealthy as well. Let’s evaluate the below behaviors:
1. Decide how you want to earn income in your life; active income or passive income? Would have a side hassle? Etc.
2. Adopt a disciplined spending habit and save money.
Make a budget and use it in your everyday spending decisions. You will have to spend less than you earn and pass the excess savings into either paying off debts (if you have some) or investing in financial assets. Brian Tracy quoted W. Clarence as saying “if you cannot save money, the seeds of greatness are not in you”.
3. Keep a long-term perspective.
Robert Marshal Bennin, CFA, Chairman of Axis Pension Plan (the de facto leader in Personal Pensions in Ghana), as part of his remarks at a recent annual open forum stated,” no one can build wealth without consistently investing over a long time”. Small efficiencies everyday can compound in a surprisingly quick succession of years. Start saving and investing little amounts daily and focus on your goal of achieving financial independence. That takes discipline and avoidance of instant gratification, by some measure the two most important character traits leaders possess. As your investable assets grow, do not withdraw to spend but look out for more opportunities to invest.
4. Find a complementary wife or husband.
Marrying a spendthrift or experiencing a divorce are a drag on chances of building wealth and achieving financial independence. If you marry an abusive person, you will have psychological stress which will ensure you can’t focus and progress at work. I want to tell you something, close the door. ‘May be next time you are out looking for a spouse, ditch the vital statistics and include behavior and financial statistics if you consider financial advancement very important to you’.
5. Support your relatives.
Extended family. Surprised huh? Support your productive relatives instead of those not striving to make anything for themselves. George Clason wrote in the Richest Man in Babylon, that “If you desire to help thy friend, do so in a way that will not bring thy friend’s burdens upon yourself”. Whatever support you give should help them become financially stable themselves and not create a cycle of dependence on you. If you do not support them to be financially independent, every funeral, hospitalization etc. will all be on your head. They will go pick fights, get arrested and call you to bail them from cells. But if you have 3 others who can stand on their feet, they will help you spread the burden. Let me stay on this a bit. In Ghana, we make the mistake of providing cash gifts and support to poor relatives who are unable or unwilling to improve and are constantly in financial trouble. Do not neglect your relation who is an accountant because you think she or he does not need your support and channel the support to the drug addict or those who cannot eventually get free from depending on you. Take a moment to ponder what signals you have been sending. Don’t breed underachievers.
Try to rearrange your incentives so that they encourage people to grow up to be financially independent themselves and lessen your burden. The Akans in Ghana have a proverb which says” a child who climbs a good tree is the one we push up”. Heavens must help those who help themselves. Next time, consider providing a scholarship for those who achieve a certain qualification or joining certain professions, create a credit union that finances the launching of certain businesses. Over 20 years’ time, you would have lifted a whole generation above poverty line and acquired space for yourself to achieve your own financial independence.