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What Would Be Your Retirement Reality In Diaspora? How To Prepare For Today And Tomorrow
If this article appears rather edgy, let the reader know that I mean well.
All of us are getting older abroad, whether we accept it or not. In the next few decades the obituary pages overseas will sadly contain more African names from the 1970s to 1990s tidal wave of immigrants. Africans are no longer migrating in the numbers they did in the aforementioned era. Also, our children born and/or raised here are not about to adopt any foreign culture hook, line, and sinker.
The new culture of wake-keeping in Diaspora might well crumble under the immense weight of our stressful lifestyle and life expectancy and cultural shift. There could become too many funeral fund-raising events chasing very few dollars. If the scarce funds are spent “befittingly” transporting and burying the dead, then what happens to their survivors and dependents and financial obligations? The establishment and expansion of viable social clubs abroad, such as the People’s Club of Nigeria, may be an option. Personal responsibility in form of prudent financial planning and realistic expectations (of life and death overseas) may be better alternatives.
Hopefully, we will soon wake up to the importance of preparing for the eventuality of getting old and dying overseas while being able to leave reasonable estates for survivors, after funerals and taxes are paid in full. Focusing on the survivors is something our African culture should emphasize but neglects. Are we the ones who will break the jinx of wealth being intra-generational instead of inter-generational?
Just ask those who are in retirement already or go and volunteer in any retirement home near you abroad to begin to grasp the importance of adequate retirement funding. My brothers and sisters in Diaspora, wake-keepings and loosely funded and often raided 401Ks and blaming politicians (both here and in Africa) will NOT cut it!
Studies show the last few years of life are usually emotionally and financially quite expensive not just for the dying but more importantly, for those left behind. To add insult to injury (or add salt to injury), some people started having children and buying homes rather late, for various reasons. These issues could leave the survivors with huge financial responsibilities (young children to educate and large mortgages) on depleted reserves. Spouses with wide age differences, or any couple for that matter, should REALLY be mindful of the financial implications of caring “for better or worse” for their aging mates and of the cost of living after those mates and their financial contributions are no more.
In my humble opinion, one’s assets should be invested where the dependent(s) and the spouse can access them when needed. This is a frightening reality to face, in deed. This is one more reason why every savable dollar (earned during healthy working years) should be wisely invested and not wasted.
The objective is to spur profound saving habits to prevent both acute and chronic desperation – the kind that leads too many to attempt unthinkable acts with dire consequences. When one manages one’s finances well, one minimizes one’s likelihood of doing anything and paying dearly (for it) to become rich over night. As Confucius stated, “He who does not economize will have to agonize.” It could be the desperation for money that “is the root of all evil” after all.
Proactive financial planning is like any insurance: you better have the coverage before you need it. Some have misinterpreted money as the “root of all evil”. When it’s “the LOVE of money” that is “the root of all evil” (1 Timothy 6:10). The more desperate or greedy one is, the greater the likelihood one will attempt anything to get that money. Wealthy people are just as prone to avarice as poor persons; kleptomania is the bane of the rich. However, it’s rather difficult to turn a content person into a desperate person. Sound savings habits breed contentment ethics.
It is sad but true to admit, some aspects of our Nigerian (old and new) culture breed disastrous consequences by pushing too many people to jump off the edge. Several Africans in Diaspora allow cut-throat rivalry and events in Africa to pressure them into living above their means and taking unspeakable risks to compensate or “meet up”. Be yourself by being all you can be, not what others want you to be. For instance, a reader’s relatives in Africa demanded that he cash-in his 401K retirement plan in America and send them the proceeds to build a mansion for them because his mates overseas have raised the bar. Obviously, “these so called” relatives did not care that this man has children to educate, mortgage and other bills to pay and that he needs every penny in that 401K account (and some) for his own retirement.
Some have gone into criminal activities to get rich-quick and show off cars, homes, and flashy living. They have created more problems for themselves than they bargained for and have tarnished the reputation of innocent Africans everywhere in the blind ambition.
Others are pressured into failed business ventures that claim their scant resources while saddling them with huge HELOC, mortgages and credit card bills where just two missed payments could have them and their own children thrown out into the harsh streets of Diaspora.
Granted some of our relatives in Africa have no clue of the reality of life over here. Many of us don’t tell them the truth either for fear of losing respect or often misplaced glamor of living overseas. People don’t realize (in most cases) if one honestly works as hard in Africa as one does abroad and God blesses one, one will accomplish more in Africa. To paraphrase the Hot Chocolate musical group, heaven could be in the back seat of the Cadillac but that vehicle is not available abroad. We all know the richest Africans reside in Africa, not overseas.
I am not knocking life abroad because it has been great to multitudes of us. Personally, I am quite grateful for the opportunities America has continued to avail my family. Majority of us have worked our butts off to attain any degree of success, no doubt. Also, it’s true that we’ve done so with the help of friends, families, countless strangers and supporters. However, I am yet to meet any successful sojourner (who all things being equal) would not prefer to return to the sojourner’s motherland and contribute there.
These tested recommendations are applicable in these United States and could be helpful in other countries. If the reader has other functional ideas, email them to me so I can include them in future updates for the good of all of us. Credit will be given where due.
Go to missingmoney dot com and search for free if you have any unclaimed money in America. These are funds from forgotten deposits, refunds, from business dealings in the places you have lived or worked or patronized in the States. You have to have proof you are the rightful owner of the money. Don’t pay any company to reclaim your money, do it yourself. Enter the last names of people you know and see if they have unclaimed funds and inform them if you find anything for them. In researching this article for you, I found a couple of my relatives have funds waiting for them and I have alerted them to reclaim the assets.
Change oil in your vehicle oil per the manufacturer’s specifications, not every 3,000 miles as oil companies have conditioned many of us to do to their benefit. Most car makers recommend oil changes every 5,000 to 12,000 miles. Change the oil plug too. Some vehicles alert you when you need oil change based on your driving habits and the internally monitored condition of the oil in your engine. If you drive 10,000 each year and change your oil twice instead of every 3,000 miles, and you pay $30 per oil change, you will save at least $30 per year, based on changing oil every 5,000 miles.
Re-shop your automobile and homeowners or rental property insurance every year. The keys to saving on insurance premiums are being a good driver and having minimal claims. It is not always true that bundling your insurance (auto, home, rental, life) policies with one insurance company saves you the most money.
The joy of parenthood is immeasurable, just ask most parents. True, if our parents solely focused on the costs of having children, most of us would not have been born at all. However, children cost lots of money; so have as few kids as you can afford to raise to productive citizens. Remember you still need to save for your own retirement. In U.S.A., the estimated cost of rearing a child from birth to age 18 is $289,380, excluding the cost of college education which could be another $200,000, for middle income families. The fact we come from large families in Africa does not mean we can afford multiple children in Diaspora. Too many offspring could leave you financially strapped. Also, it could cause your children to develop that nasty permanent taste of deprivation some of us experienced growing up.
Are you a renter? Ask the property owner to give you a $50 per month discount for paying one month ahead during the lease. Chances are you will receive it. Good tenants are priceless as any landlord or landlady would tell you. If you pay on time and take good care of the property and get along with your neighbors, you become a jewel of a tenant. Moreover, if you consider what banks are paying in interest these days, you will reap huge profits by paying your rent one month in advance rather having that amount in the bank. Rents are always negotiable!
It’s beneficial to tip: Tipping people you have business relationship with can save you lots of money. I learned this from a high school mate. Although he is a penny pincher, he tips generously. I never understood why he did that until I started being more generous with tipping and watched the benefits flood in. Tipping is a wise thrifty move! Just to give you an example, the service representative of the dealership where I service our car has saved me thousands of dollars because I treat him with respect and dignity and tip him well. One time, he told me about a catalyst converter problem a few months before the manufacturer’s warranty expiration. That alone saved me almost $1,200, and there are other instances as well.
The most appreciated tips are the ones given when no services are being rendered. When you are in the area where your favorite service provider is, just drop off a $10 Starbucks Coffee card or a $25 back-to-school gift card to his or her child or a T-shirt from your last vacation.
If you can’t truly tip monetarily for any reasons, be generous with your words and commendations. Ask to speak with the manager of the person who had just assisted you and tell that manager how delighted you are for the superior service you’ve received. Find the name of the CEO or president of the company and send a hand-written note stating your satisfaction and name the employee that provided you the great service.
These people would reward the employee, and your gesture would bring them joy as they too are not used to receiving compliments from happy customers. Make people you want to reward feel good about themselves. You may not be able to please the whole world but do try to be kind to people you who provided you superior service so they would do more for you in the future. You can use these positive reinforcement methods to turn an average service provider into an over-achiever. Everyone likes to be appreciated.
It is best to tip well in addition to being lavish in your praise. While on a Southern Californian vacation in June 2011, my family did just that and reaped monumental benefits. We first spent a few days in Anaheim before going on a Mexican Cruise only to return to Disneyland for more memorable times. As we checked out to go on the cruise, we generously and genuinely praised the hotel staff for the great service they rendered to us, making sure some guests checking in over-heard how happy we are with Desert Palms Suites at 631 W. Katella Avenue, Anaheim. We did it to express appreciation, not for any other benefits. One of the hotel checkout worker who overheard us confided in us that if we go on-line to Tripadvisor.com.com and register our satisfaction, the hotel would give us 10% on our next stay.
Our next stay was just 9 days away after the cruise and Lego-land legs of our vacation. When we returned they staff remembered us and found us a large suite in a fairly full hotel (without reservation) at a lower price PLUS a cascading 10 percent discount for next 7 days of our vacation (just for that positive review on Tripadvisor.com). The cumulative 10% savings alone were several times more than the tips we gladly left.
Avoid wasteful spenders (unless you are providing goods and services to them) and make friends with savers. Some people think the way to have friends is to spend their money to keep the friendship going. Any one can have those hangers-on as long as one is spending on them, once the money stops; they drop one like a hot potato. The friends you keep can influence your spending habits.
Finance experts would tell you when it comes to saving large sum of money, you have to pay attention to the pennies or cents, not the dollars or pounds or Euros. Just like any great palm-wine tapper would tell you, the palm trees that produce the best tasting wine drip ever so slowly, they don’t gush or stream. Conversely, “Beware of little expenses; a small leak will sink a great ship”, according to Benjamin Franklin.
If you minimize the rich-at-all-cost mentality, and blaze your own trails at your pace, chances are you will NOT be lured into regrettable dragnets. Be thy self! Saving is like good driving, it’s not how fast you get to the next traffic light that counts; it is how safely you arrive at your destination.
Money saving habits are better acquired and used pro-actively. If you start saving before you are desperate, you are likely to make sound decisions that will propel you to better financial standing. On the other hand, if you exist paycheck to paycheck thinking “you only live once and better live it up now since no one knows tomorrow,” then when you go down in financial flames, you will be so desperate that you will sell your soul to the devil just to obtain a drop of water on your thirsty tongue. You become prone to making decisions you will regret, not just today but forever.
If you read the devil-made-me-do-it excuses illicit drug carriers give after they are caught at African airports and overseas, you will have an insight into the apex desperate circumstances some of these people operate in. Why else would someone risk it all by ingesting dangerous drugs and getting on an airplane for hours just to make money? Men and women, children and teenagers, old men and old women all have died or been caught in this brazen, life-threatening act; all in the name of making money overnight. They forget creating lasting wealth takes time and patience and dexterity.
Few have stowed away in tire wells of airplanes in dangerous no-win efforts to escape Africa for greener pastures overseas with deadly consequences. Some of these people are either too desperate or too naive to know they could not survive hypoxia – lack of oxygen in the bloodstream – even for minutes (if they don’t die of hypothermia) at high altitude where airplanes cruise.
These desperate behaviors indicate the level of economic hardship that African leaders have been presiding over for decades in a nation that is endowed with natural and human resources. Hopefully, the new administration will help make things better for the average persons. However, acceptance of personal responsibility is in order as aforementioned, people can’t continue blaming circumstances for their own desperation and greediness.
Whatever the root causes are, these conditions should be mitigated. Greed fueled by our culture and other human factors can combine to become lethal concussion that can lead many astray. The need for more money, mo’ money!, and bigger houses and cars “by all means necessary” have continue to blind too many folks. It’s difficult to predict what any desperate and greedy soul would try to do when the heat is on full blast. As William Wilberforce put it in his famous speech against slavery: “interest [fueled by desperation and avarice] can draw a film across the eyes, so thick, that total blindness could do no more”. That statement is true today as it was when Wilberforce first uttered it on Tuesday, May 12, 1789.
Attaining one’s financial goals may first appear as Sisyphean as the abolition of slave trade seemed to the 18th century world, but if one passionately sticks with it, one will break free and realize one’s dreams. Most dreams faithfully worked on, do come true! So go for it!!
Though very important, money is not everything! To reiterate, true success should not be based on the size of your bank account or your home or the type of vehicle you drive, it should be measured by the positive impact you have on others, including those who are not directly related to you by blood.
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