20170927

Have Your Finances Come Out Of Recession?

Author of ‘Practical Steps to Financial Independence’ and personal finance coach, Usiere Uko, writes about bringing our personal economy out of recession.

I was delighted to hear the announcement that Nigeria officially came out of recession in the second quarter of this year and the fact that the growth was driven by agriculture and solid minerals.

I know there is an ongoing debate as to whether we are really out of recession or not since the man on the street is yet to experience it.

The body that announced that we fell into recession last year was the one that announced that we had emerged from it. I believe the officials have the data before them to make that announcement. I am neither an economist nor inclined to join the argument. I do not argue with data.

If you put your financial house in order, what happens in the economy will not affect your home. You can create your own climate and enjoy sunshine in your house while it is raining outside. Markets boom and crash. Economies go through boom and bust cycles. In the middle of all the commotion, there are companies and individuals that are not affected. There are always winners and losers anytime there is change. It is up to you to decide which side of the divide you want to belong. People are still travelling. Building projects are going on everywhere. The fact that it is not happening to you does not mean it is not happening to others.

How is your economy doing? 
We can argue until we turn blue in the face about the national economy, but what about your own economy? What lessons have you learned from the recent recession? If you come out of this recession the same way you went in, you will suffer the same fate when the next recession comes knocking. There are two ways to change – make up your mind to change or be forced by circumstances to change.

Most of the change I have seen is due to circumstances. That means the changes may not last after the circumstances that drove the change go away. We are holding onto our cars longer. Many have moved their children to cheaper schools. Some parents have discovered that there are world-class universities in Nigeria where the lecturers do not go on strike. Many companies have discovered that they can source for raw materials and software locally. I discovered that fixing my appliance is much cheaper than throwing it away and replacing it with an inferior one.

The reality is that compared to our level of production, we are hyper consumers. We spend as if we are rich. It is very easy to spot a Nigerian at an airport abroad. Simply look at the height of the trolley. If you see anyone arguing at the check-in counter over excess luggage, chances are the person is a Nigerian. Rather than invest in businesses that create wealth, we are busy making other nations richer.

How is your economy?

Have your finances come out of recession?

What lessons has the recession taught you?

Become aware of the consequences of your actions 
School is never out for anyone with a goal. We can choose to live our lives intentionally and decide what we really want. To achieve our goals, including financial goals, we need to know what we are doing wrong that is holding us back from moving forward. If we are taking actions that are sabotaging our efforts, trying to move forward without dealing with that is like trying to accelerate with your brakes on. Most of our financial challenges are self-inflicted. We don’t mean to hurt ourselves. We are just clueless. We keep inflicting financial injury on ourselves without knowing who is doing it. We look for answers outside without realising the culprit is us.

I often share this story of how my hands kept peeling whenever I washed clothes with detergent. When I stopped washing clothes for a week or so, my hands healed. I tried everything – several hand creams; I even prayed. But it went on for more than a decade. Then one day, I was discussing with a group of friends in my sitting room and one of them asked me to bring my hands. After inspection, she asked what soap I was using. I mentioned the name of the detergent. She told me the detergent was too harsh for my hands. She recommended I used a milder detergent or a bar of soap. I heeded her advice and that was the end of the mystery of peeling hands. I was the one ‘killing’ my hands while I was busy looking for solutions outside. Ignorance is a formidable enemy. It can send you on a wild goose chase, looking for what is not lost.

I have never forgotten that lesson. I later read a book on nutrition, titled ‘What you don’t know may be killing you!’ by Dr. Don Colbert. It holds true in other areas of our lives, including finances. What you don’t know may be killing your finances. Ignorance is not bliss. We need to make a conscious effort to know.

What lessons have you learned from the last recession? If you don’t learn from history, you will repeat it over and over again till you get it. Don’t just celebrate the exit from recession. Find out what got you there. What are you going to do differently? Learn the lessons and build on it. Each storm should leave you stronger because of the lessons you learn along the way.

- Usiere Uko