Goal Setting · Loss · Personal Finance

TOUGH times

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I cannot think of a better time to set sound goals than during tough times. This is because the mind is devoid of romantic aspirations and experimental – almost foolish – ideas that usually abound in easier times. Life is no longer seen through red-coloured lenses and the heart is desperate for a way out. “I wish I could win the lotto…” could easily be one of the proclamations but what really is the chance of winning? One in a million? Isn’t it better then to sit with pen and paper in hand and come up with a game plan? And no it doesn’t have to be complex but a simple exercise of completing the sentence…

If I had money, I would:

  1. Pay my overdue rent
  2. Settle my debts with Peter and Paul
  3. Move the kids to a better school
  4. Pay for Loretta’s knee surgery
  5. Invest in building a block of flats

The exercise – which works equally well in easier times – elicits both real needs and real desires. Every good thing possible must be done to meet real needs. If not, you will be thrown out of your home and possibly have your household goods auctioned. The goal then is not just paying the overdue rent but finding tenable ways of surviving tough times. Opting for a cheaper abode, setting up an emergency fund or cashing in on a skill set could be some of those plans.

Real desires will show you where you want or could go in the longer term. The work is in figuring out how to get there. Owning a block of flats is an idea that came through when I had hit rock bottom. I am in a better place now and still wracking my brain on how to get ‘THAT’ parcel of land. Some days I save aggressively, other days I draw out all my savings. Some days I invest aggressively, other days I shudder at my poor decisions. It gets better with time. The savings eventually grow, the investments begin to make sense and the dream is no longer blurry.

That said, financial loss can get to catastrophic magnitudes and throw off even the best of us.  We completely deny the fact that we fell victim to a ponzi scheme. We get extremely angry with cronies who invited us to a costly deal that went sour. We hope against hope that ‘serekali‘ will bring to justice the bank that went under with our hard earned cash. We mourn for days at the destruction of our home by the torrential flooding. Why? Why? Why? If not answered properly, this incessant questioning can have depression hold us hostage.

Moving on may require that help of a professional kind is obtained. Counselors offer a confidential and nonjudgmental space where individuals (and families) can get assistance in managing stress, redirecting disturbing emotions and setting goals afresh. Some countries – like Australia – offer free financial counseling services and have counselors with extensive knowledge in law and policy including consumer credit laws, debt enforcement practices, bankruptcy and insolvency regimes, industry hardship policies and government concession frameworks.

EASY? Definitely not! But isn’t it great to know that there is help for the downtrodden? The internet also offers thousands of personal finance articles that open us to the skills, experiences and ideas of others and could be useful for recovery. We, as well, have the invitation to… approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. Hebrews 4:16

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Debt · Goal Setting · Personal Finance

SMART goals

Ever wondered who developed the SMART criteria of goal setting?

In 1981,  George T. Duran wrote a paper on how to write management goals and objectives. His aim was to guide top executives in helping their teams meet performance targets. The approach has since expanded to individuals who use it for their personal growth.

What areas then should one focus on when developing their goals? In his LifeScore Assessment, Michael Hyatt gives 10 possible areas of focus on i.e. Intellectual, Emotional, Physical, Marital, Parental, Social, Vocational, Avocational, Financial and Spiritual. And if you are honest with the assessment, you will find that the graphical presentation of results display the real areas where goals are needed most.

Financial management – and a key reason for this blog – is one of the areas that I continue to seek growth. It can be overwhelming, however, to work one’s way through graduate school, try knock off (large) debt, and save up for a home deposit all at once. And because of the weighty monetary inputs, the pursuit of one financial goal can easily sabotage the success of another. The best option would be to deal with one goal at a time and preferably the most desperate one.

According to a 2017 USA Today article, paying down debt continues to be one of the top 10 pressing financial goals for Americans. Not much statistic may be available on the stress levels that private debt has on Kenyans but the rising public debt levels could be an indication that the mwananchi could be suffering. The ‘get-out-of-debt‘ goal therefore looks like a good example to broach in this article and the SMART criteria is a good planning tool for this case.

  1. Specificwhat do you want to do? Just saying (better if you can write) that you want to get out of debt is not enough. You must define the exact debt so that it is a visible tackle for the mind e.g. pay off my outstanding 4 year car loan of KES 550,000.
  2. Measurablehow will you know when you’ve achieved it? If there are goals that cannot succeed without measurement, it is financial goals. Using a loan amortization schedule (available for free on MS Excel) is a good place to start. With it, you can plug in figures and find a combination that works best for your pocket e.g. an increase monthly loan repayments from KES 15,000 per month to KES 25,000 will reduce your loan period by 22 months and most importantly save you from paying an extra KES 82,000 in interest.
  3. Achievableis it in your power to accomplish it? Goal setting is a very dreamy process that can result in overly ambitious targets. Achievability will check whether you really can pay the extra ten thousand without getting into liquidity problems i.e. unable to meet other monthly obligations such as rent and utility bills. Achievability will also reveal some extra stashes of cash that could tremendously bring down the debt. Note that an increase in debt repayment by KES 1,000 only (US$10 at the moment and an amount that may be thought to be negligible in light of the loan amount i.e. US$5,500) can make a significant difference to a debt situation.
  4. Realisticcan you realistically achieve it? If the yes, feel free to go ahead with the goal. If no or unsure because of a major restructuring at work, it would be good to have a Plan B such as selling the car. It may not fetch as much as you purchased it for but if the adverse situation does happen, it will save you the huge headache of having an obligation that you can barely manage.
  5. Timelywhen exactly do you want to accomplish it? The loan amortization schedule mentioned above can help you set new deadlines. Not lazy deadlines that drive you downhill but ambitious ones that keeps you pressing on the gas pedal.

The actual goal would then read ‘Pay off my outstanding KES 550,000 car loan by June 25, 2021 through increasing monthly repayments from KES 15,000 to KES 25,000 and checking quarterly progress against the revised loan amortization schedule.’

EASY? Probably not as the process may be a little too detailed but it is much easier to work with a defined money goal. Remember “Suppose one of you wants to build a tower. Won’t you first sit down and estimate the cost to see if you have enough money to complete it? For if you lay the foundation and are not able to finish it, everyone who sees it will ridicule you, saying, ‘This person began to build and wasn’t able to finish.’” Luke 14:28-30

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Goal Setting

2019 goals

Set your 2019 financial goals yet?

Stuck and not too sure where to start?

Why even bother?

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I love setting goals (any kind) and had my 2019 ones ready by 12.15.18. I enjoy the dreaming part most as it allows me to venture into lands my mind would not ordinarily wander. It is in the execution when things may get rough particularly if a goal requires significant change in habit.

Why bother? Every time I sit to map out my dreams, I see exciting possibilities. Possibilities that make my eyes glisten and my heart dance. What if I managed to graduate before my 40th birthday? What if I could travel to Canada for holiday? What if? I self-actualize in some seasons and in others mope about my year-long lazing. Life! The greater truth, however, is we receive more traction when we pursue defined goals.

TRACTION [trak-shuh n] The deliberate and prolonged pulling of a muscle, organ, or the like, as by weights, to correct dislocation or relieve pressure.

Stuck? I too was stuck on money areas to focus on this year and chose to revert to my previous ones. What if, however, we could tailor our goals around the key areas corporate organizations use to measure their performance?

  1. Income: look for ways of increasing our earnings
  2. Expenses: get rid of unnecessary costs that could be surrendered to useful gain
  3. Assets: use these resources to put money in our pockets (read legacy)
  4. Equity: deliberately learn how to invest in the securities exchange market
  5. Liabilities: set a good plan to offset the debt that rob us of a good night’s sleep

EASY? Goal setting is a definitely easier process than execution but… In the same way, faith by itself, if it is not accompanied by action, is dead. James 2:17

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