My article got featured!!!

Exactly 10 days ago, I had the awesome privilege of having my article feature on BANKELELE. One of the very top business blogs in the country. I am so grateful for giving me the opportunity and God bless all – including you the reader – who continue to encourage me in this journey. Below is the article. Indulge me 🙂

23 Things about the 23rd Home Expo (A Review)

For the second time in my life, I got time to go to the 23rd Home expo. I didn’t think it would be much fun being alone but the 4 hours I spent there definitely says a lot…

  1. Entry to the Expo: There were 2 options – to buy a ticket (200/-) or buy a ‘Homes Kenya’ magazine that came with a free copy and bag (350/-) I chose the latter. My mentor says that magazine has everything!
  2. Condos or Condominium if you prefer: I only used to hear about Condos in movies. They are now available in present day Kenya and this particular one cost a whooping 80M. Before going to a home expo, have a budget in mind. It will help you narrow down to what you are looking for.
  3. SACCOs: There was this lady who tried to convince me that there’s wasn’t a cooperative society but told her that is what exactly SACCO stands for. The investment information she shared, though, was good for making future comparisons
  4. Goals: You may have noticed this as a repeated comment on social media. Basically it says I aspire to the great stuff you’re doing. My goal for going to the expo was to identify a dream house and thereafter pray towards it. Whilst there I got another reason to go for expos, business ideas!
  5. Friends: But the principal reason that saw me get into a matatu and head for KICC was because one of my besties has been looking for a house and keeps dragging me along the trips. I wasn’t excited about the whole affair but the student has now surpassed the teacher
  6. Technology: And when I thought a presentation via an iPad was ‘it’, I walked into a hall where a number of exhibitors had ultra-high definition displays (UHDTVs) and you can be sure it helped move dreams into reality
  7. Everything: and I mean everything to establish a thriving real estate business was here. Generators, solar panels, roofing material, steel beams, sliding doors, kitchen tiles and even simiti was available
  8. Furniture: There was a stand with the most beautiful of mahogany pieces and it felt like a dream to sit on them
  9. Truly Kenyan: Exhibitors came from all over the country were here. Western Kenya, Central Kenya and those from the Coast were well represented. What blew my mind, though, was this gated community in Red Hill accessed by a road 35 feet above it. The thinking to its design – absolutely breathtaking!
  10. Dubai: Kenya is a very rich country one of the foreign exhibitors explained and therefore no surprise was it to see Emirati investors scouting for fellow investors
  11. Sales people: Extroverted ones, genius ones, clueless ones and those who knew you didn’t have a cent in your pocket but still went all out to make the pitch. One day I will make one of them commission happy. One day…
  12. Architects: Exhibitors who did not have the advantage of high-definition technology, used architectural models to convince their prospective clients. A closer look betrayed those whose final workmanship would be cheap. These things are (very) important
  13. Off Plan: The expo was not just about selling property but ideas and with ideas, one cannot just jump on board, without seeing the property’s location, knowing who the developers are, and investigating their previous portfolio(s). And what exactly does 58 square metres in comparison to 125 square metres mean? A lawyer? Is one needed?
  14. Chamas or Investment Groups if you like: were here doing big, hairy, audacious stuff and I can tell you for a fact that those chamas have toiled to reach this level. I salute them!
  15. 2.5 bedrooms: Have you heard of this before? Me neither. But basically what it means is such an apartment comes with 2 bedrooms and a miniature room that can either be used as a study area or additional bedroom.
  16. Serviced apartments: Still reeling on this concept because mine is to move from my rented flat to an apartment but when you hear the probable rents, it begins to make investment sense. At this point I pause to clarify that flat is what the Americans refer to as apartment and a condominium is a block of apartments or flats. Ça va?
  17. Marketing: In the entire tour, I only found one stand that didn’t have brochures. Those in the print business definitely made a kill but there was this one pamphlet where I overtly told the dealer that a “serviced plot behind Kitengela prison” caption scared the investor out of me
  18. Carpets: Carpets confuse me especially when there is so much variety of colour and texture to look at. The guy manning the stand generously explained the types best for different areas of flooring and I will definitely be looking for him should the opportunity present itself in future
  19. Sadolin: These guys saved me from my desperate search for a colour chart and offered theirs for free. They also gave me the exact type of paint that should go onto a bath tub. Such enthusiastic employees!
  20. Eisenkraft: This is a German company that sells tools for bending wrought iron exclusively at exhibitions. It looked easy but doesn’t every business idea look until you start counting the resources
  21. KRA: The government was here not to collect taxes but to offer amnesty to homeowners. In short, no taxes accrue for the years between 1974 and 2013. For 2014 and 2015, taxpayers will be allowed to claim 40% in expenses and only pay 10% in taxes of the remaining 60% of rental income. For 2016, the 10% of the gross income when received must be paid to KRA. Returns (including nil returns) must be filed monthly i.e. by the 20th day of the consecutive month
  22. St. John’s Ambulance: The emergency services people were also here to sell their very affordable courses for the individual, the babysitter, and the company.
  23. To do list: It would be a shame to go for such an exciting experience to go to waste and I have promised self to visit some upcoming properties.

Make sure you visit the next expo! Click here for image credit

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Life after Debt. The ABCs…

CalcLife after debt can be very messy particularly if the funds obtained went towards a deal that turned sour or simply didn’t bring in the expected return. Here are some tips that could help ease such a situation…

A – ASSESS your financial situation

What exactly do you need to pay off? Is it a bank loan? What’s the current balance and what’s the interest needed to be paid thereof? Is there anyone else you owe? Family? Friends? Write down all the amounts including obligations that you need to meet each month.

On a seperate sheet, write down your sources of income. This could be salary from your job, income from your business or assets from which you can make money. Note that an asset need not necessarily be property but also a skill or talent you could sell.

Such an assessment will give you a clear a picture of what you owe, your exact earnings and help you prioritize and / or reorganize your debt repayments.

B – BUDGET! BUDGET! BUDGET!

A budget is a TOOL that helps you plan your money. The idea is to live within your means i.e. ones income should never at any point exceed spending. Many articles on money recommend budgeting as an essential tool in managing finances. Consider the following excerpt from The Good Book:

“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

I decided to give this tool a try after hearing repeatedly about it. I was pretty desperate at the time. It was a matter of life and debt;o) I adopted a 10-30-60 proposal which suggests 10% goes to giving, 30% to savings (an emergency fund, short/mid term investments and retirement), and the 60% remainder to meeting monthly expenses. My goal for the first year of budgeting was to get out of debt and therefore ‘spent’ more than I saved. Life has eased now but I still keep a 15-month MS Excel budget.

C – CHECK

For a budget to be effective, one needs to make a habit of going back every so often and checking it against actual spending. Checking helps you see where your money is going. By so doing, you will also be able to identify overruns and or, miraculously, areas of potential savings. These ‘miracle’ savings can be put towards paying ‘Paul’.

Keeping track of a budget may at times be discouraging particularly if you seem to be way off target. Remember nothing is cast on stone. The idea is to keep at it so that one day you can kiss debt goodbye. And as much as possible, keep your budget simple; details can be very onerous.

Finally, do check how ‘others’ manage their money. There’s lots of value in the experience of others and even more in letting them check on you. I hope to share my thoughts on accountability sometimes but for now, a zillion thanks for reading. Keep checking;o) 

Terms and Conditions apply…

terms-and-conditionsI was, last week, twice a victim of ‘terms and conditions’ apply. “I’m sorry ma’am,” the lady told me. “That’s company policy and there’s nothing more we can do about it.” The second incident was a case of some guy imposing his terms and conditions to save his skin. I was pretty upset but that sometimes is the Nairobi ‘hustle’.

Talking about Nairobi, have you noticed the guy who’s decided to give the city a new look? Choosing blue, white and black as his primary colours, this fellow splatters his pieces across the gutters of Valley Road, on the walls of City Mortuary and most recently, along the foot tunnel that leads to the busy Grogan area. Graffiti* is what I am talking about! and though this kind of art is forbidden in many democracies (not sure what our bylaws say), the chap toils through the night to bring, by day, life to these obscure places.

Not only has he managed to give the town some new ‘swag’, but also seems to be on an ardent mission to pass a message and it is unmistakably in his conspicuous signature – BANK SLAVE! I think what happened to this 45 year old (I guess his age) was he one day walked into the bank (he’d been told he could make a fortune by selling his abstracts abroad) and when he walked out, life was never the same – terms and conditions applied!

www.businessdictionary.com defines terms and conditions as “general and special arrangements, provisions, requirements, rules, specifications, and standards that form an INTEGRAL part of an agreement or contract”. And just recently I truly sympathised with a friend who received a bank notification with his interest rate being revised to 32%. Yes 32%! The term / condition (in small print): All interest rates are pegged to the bank’s base lending rate currently at xx% p.a. and are variable. The bank reserves the right to revise interest rates from time to time depending on prevailing market conditions.

Life happens! And when it does, it can bring unprecedented stress. It is imperative, in such times, to fundamentally rethink and radically redesign (BPR definition) the way we use resources.

  • Rethink – take time off to come to terms with the situation. When ready, ask hard questions and gradually allow others to do same. Remember, those who laugh at your predicament bring the salinity necessary to heal wounds.
  • Redesign – our lifestyles are many times by design and when it becomes impossible to sustain it, we must urgently and radically redesign the way we live. (aibu kando)
  • Resource – ask people! You will be amazed to find people (though few) ready to help you in whatever way possible. But most importantly ask God. He provides grace, wisdom, and every single resource we need. Trust Him!

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* In another life… I would have been an artist… #4real:o) Happy Valentines!

how much PLASTIC do you have?

plasticJust moved house and my word! I could not believe how much plastic I had accumulated over the months. I had this bag where I stashed all sorts of plastic bags – black ones, supermarket ones, duty free ones – and would pull out one each time I was in ‘need’. And believe it or not, I found it difficult tossing many of them into the trash can. My case, however, would be different if I were living in Rwanda because non-biodegradable* bags are an absolute no-no. Travellers into the country are also not allowed to proceed from the airport with such bags and may exchange them for a $4 clothing bag.

The argument for non-biodegradable plastics is that they are recyclable. There is a kind, however, that cannot be recycled – plastic money that is! Commonly referred to as credit cards, these electronic swipes have become increasingly popular amongst the Kenyan professionals. Frequent international travels, technological advancements and progressive lifestyle changes have made these cards appealing. Banking personnel have also not failed in doing their job well.

But the truth is many people are paying for unnecessary costs due to poor credit management. The other day I was with my JVC (Jamaa Very Classy) pal and he was writing out a cheque in part payment of his credit card debt which was at KES 300,000, about KES 50,000 was his interest charge! He had spent a part of it on the Christmas festivities and the rest was a running balance from previous months. I thought he would be happy to consider the following in keeping his costs at a minimum and possibly zero…

  • Pay before time – Find out and take advantage of the grace period within which your financial institution charges zero interest for credit card purchases. It helps to work with a financial institution / bank that not only has systems in place to promptly process your payments but also has the capacity to offer you prompt assistance when you run into card trouble. If you are in a credit card debt situation, push yourself to pay off a certain amount each month and, believe you me, you will be ‘freed’ in no time. (I will talk about debt in one of my later posts)
  • Plan before emergencies set in – I once failed to sit for some exams because a bankers draft reached my examiners way past the due date. Having a credit card has sorted out this problem.  Not only is it convenient (just a mouse click) but is also cheaper (excluding courier costs and exchange differences, the draft at that time cost me KES 2,500. For the card, the only real cost was in the exchange rates).  This became one of my arguments for keeping the card. The other one was / is wondering what to do (without THE card) in case of say a hospital emergency. Bob Lotich of Christian Personal Finance (Christian PF on Facebook) gives one of the main reasons for using plastic money as not having an emergency fund. And given my JVC’s story, an entertainment fund too! I hear Bob’s point…
  • Put a limit to your spending – if the cap on your card is low (ridiculously low), you will find it very easy not only to pay it off but to manage it. It will be easy to track your expenditure, find errors and in no time you will find that you actually do not need THE card (which is the essence of this article). If you are entitled to a card at work, keep it strictly business! You will not like it when you get your pay slip and realize finance has deducted a hefty amount relating to the purchases you made 2 months earlier at some clothing store abroad!

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* Now you know why Rwanda is against non-biodegradable bags – it’s not only harmful to the environment but can also cause chocking!  

January!

January! and my haven’t I experienced it in all its brokenness. Over the years, though, I have come to enjoy such seasons because of the beauty it brings…  

  1. Broke-ness brings clarity – I am able to clearly separate my needs from wants, see exactly what I would do if I laid my hands on a handsome fortune, and have no doubts at all of what my priorities for the future are!
  2. Broke-ness also reminds me of a much needed discipline – budgeting! I am not a stickler for budgets but in the periods I have been diligent, I have experienced such abundant peace than when opted to ‘survive’. And I want to get back there… where I am not only attending to my needs but for a greater* good.
  3. Broke-ness helps me see God for who He is – end December / hello January, I was running some projects concurrently and I grossly understated how much I needed. The much I had saved up would grossly compromise the quality I desired and my out-of-box solutions weren’t coming through. Lets just say I saw God big time!

And so as I (and possibly you?) eagerly await paycheck #1 of 2012, I rest easy knowing that God will not only sort my money issues but my ‘maisha’ issues too. An awesome year to y’all!

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* I dream of wazozuri… yes one day it shall serve a great good!

CASH Kila Siku

10 Sure Ways of Winning the Prize

Every time I switch on the telly, there is some advert on how to access money, make money or use money. The latest ads, however, are about winning money. All one has to do is to send their name to a 4 digit number and they stand a chance of winning an insurmountable amount of cash. Here are 10 suggestions on winning CASH Kila Siku

  

1. AMKA Kila Siku

Get up each morning and pursue your vocation with passion, integrity and excellence. Dream about it. Find ways of increasing revenues, improving processes, impacting lives. And don’t forget to train your children and neighbours’ children on these practices.

  

2. PANGA Kila Siku

Success follows discipline and one of the best ways of managing finances is by budgeting. Tracking monies shilling for shilling may be difficult at first. A simple way to start is to break one’s budget into thousands. Below is a simple guide on how to allocate gross earnings of Sh.30,000.

                                                 10%     Sh. 3,000        Giving

                                                10%     Sh. 3,000        Emergency Savings / Short Term Investments

                                                10%     Sh. 3,000        Long Term Investments

                                                10%     Sh. 3,000        Retirement Fund

                                                60%     Sh18,000       Monthly Expenditure

 

3. KULA Kila Siku

Food and water are key to human survival. So is clothing, shelter, healthcare and education. These essentials must be prioritised otherwise we risk throwing them to the periphery and finding ourselves in a quagmire every so often. In addition, financial plans must be reviewed regularly to accommodate our changing needs.

 

4. LIPA Kila Siku

Buying consumables on credit is a dangerous habit. Learn to say no to tempting offers, be content with your lot and patiently plan to attain your hearts desires. If in debt, chart out a reasonable repayment schedule that will one day release you from the enslaving covenant.

 

5. AKIBA Kila Siku

Save! Save! Save! Not only in your savings account but find simple, fun and practical ways of reducing your expenses. Change your hair or accessories as opposed to buying an outfit each time you have a function. Carry packed lunch to work. And instead of taking your car to the car wash, compete with your kids on who will scrub their mat cleanest. Never fail to negotiate for a discount when the commodities or services you are purchasing are not fixed on price.

 

6. SOMA Kila Siku

It is imperative that our knowledge on money is constantly updated. Read books, read papers, listen to discussions on the economy, take a course on money, if you can. You will be amazed how this information will empower you to attract, retain and grow money.

 

7. ULIZA Kila Siku

Ask questions. Ask when the deal sounds too good to be true, ask when you have no clue and even when you have all the clues, ask. This way you will be able to ascertain if the investment is credible or worth pursuing. Never ignore the warnings of others or even your own. Where there is smoke, there certainly is fire!

 

8. TEMBEA Kila Siku

You cannot afford to walk this journey alone. Find likeminded people with whom you can regularly and openly share your ideas and challenges. Such synergy will not only result in great entrepreneurial ventures but also provide a haven in times of trouble.

 

9. PENDA Kila Siku

It is more blessed to give than to receive. Give to God, your family, your friends and the less fortunate of society. Donate your time and skills to charity and your community. Closely monitor socioeconomic initiatives to ensure that needless dependencies are being eliminated.

 

10. OMBA Kila Siku

Finally, pray everyday. In his sayings, Agur shares this prayer, “Two things I ask of You, LORD; do not refuse me before I die: Keep falsehood and lies far from me; give me neither poverty nor riches, but give me only my daily bread. Otherwise, I may have too much and disown You and say, “Who is the LORD?” or I may become poor and steal, and so dishonour the name of my God.” ~ Proverbs 30:7-9

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… mwenye kupenda mawazo mazuri …

tesha 😉