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|Issues of Money Management|
|Saturday, 21 July 2012 23:29|
WITH all the talk we have been hearing recently about the global financial crisis, and the measures being
taken on the international as well as national levels to make sure that billions of dollars are saved or at least are not wasted, I have seen little about managing money on the individual or household level.
We live in a culture where the prevailing attitude is that – because we do not have a “sophisticated” economy – there is less of a need to engage in budgeting and financial planning, outside of the mainstream business sector.
The need for greater personal awareness of how to manage money was brought home to me recently when an associate of mine retired; this person and family were forced to drastically change their lifestyle, something they had difficulty adapting to, because they had not planned adequately for the drastically reduced level of income in the post-retirement period.
In times of less economic hardship, the ambivalent attitude towards money management that seems to pervade Guyana might not be a big deal; but in the current economic environment, financial management is almost inevitable as is the case in other parts of the world.
In the United States of America for example, financial management has reached such a level of sophistication that it has begun to even parody itself. An excellent example of this is the development of the term “recessionista”, by New York resident, Mary Hall to describe someone who manages to look good in hard times. “Recessionista” is a merger of the words “recession” and “fashionista”, the first self-explanatory, the second itself a newly coined term for someone always at the cutting edge of fashion.
While the “recessionista” phenomenon might seem on the lighter side of all the economic gloom and doom that have been present across the world, for me it illustrates two things, both in contrast to the situation that obtains here. The first is that someone is finding a creative way of adjusting to the financial crisis; the second, that it is a woman who is doing so.
I believe that if it is not the trend already, there is the potential within this situation for a great many women to not only be without a proper grasp of a relatively unsophisticated financial system as ours is, but also can result in them being unaware of the transactions which affect them directly.
A sad example of this situation was when I had first-hand observation of a case in which a widow was at the risk of losing her property; the only indication she had that money was outstanding on it was her receipt of a letter which informed her the bank was about to levy on her home. Her husband had died without fully disclosing their financial situation to her. The tragic thing is that this was not an isolated case. I believe that this leaves women particularly vulnerable to the worst effects of the present unpleasant financial environment.
There is the scope for an initiative whereby women’s groups can help empower the female folk by not only helping them manage in the event of a spouse’s death which leaves them financially stranded, but also to teach them the basics of financial management while the significant other is still around.
Generally, a culture in which there is a greater awareness of the basics of individual or domestic financial management – even the financial management of small businesses – can only work to the benefit of everyone. Now I’m aware that financial institutions offer ready advice to their clientele, but at the end of the day, that advice is only offered within the parameters of the services that any institution is offering.
A bank, for example, would offer financial advice which will directly link to ensuring the facility is repaid within the required timeframe. For example, if a client applies for a car loan, the lending agency will advise that client on the best system of repayment he or she can opt for in taking out a loan for a new car; the institution will not advise the eligible customer not to buy the car, even though there is the likelihood that the car is not the best option for the client in relation to his other commitments. At the basis of all this is the clear presentation of all options to the average citizen and assisting them in decision-making. For example, helping the lower-income person to realise that the seemingly easy hire purchase terms in acquiring the new fridge will see him paying perhaps as much as 300 percent of what he would have paid if he had saved and bought the item at the retail price. Another example- and this is a looming problem for a higher income bracket- is the increasing prevalence of credit cards – persons in more prosperous economies have had to file for bankruptcy because of succumbing to the temptation of credit card use; the potential for digging a hole of credit card debt here has much greater implications given the relative earning power here.
Perhaps the best approach, in my estimation, in changing the current situation is the creation of a programme of financial management advocacy. I know that there are already entities such as the Chambers of Commerce, GMA, and GO-Invest which provide advice to small businesses. Additionally, niche organisations such as the Rice Producers Association have played an integral role in helping small-scale farmers.
There is a gap, however, relative to advice offered to the average householder. This is where collaboration between entities such as the Guyana Consumer Affairs Association and the media houses can be helpful. The range of advice can be varied from assisting low-income families to balance their monthly budget, to counselling small business owners on best accounting practices.
One area of particular concern is the home construction industry. Guyana has experienced a housing boom in recent years, with many first-time home owners expending a sizeable chunk of their hard-earned incomes in a sector in which many contractors have no scruples in exploiting their clients’ ignorance. An awareness programme – within the overall theme of providing financial management assistance – geared at educating people who have interest in constructing their homes about material costs, engagement of labour, etcetera could potentially save new home owners millions of dollars.
Next week, I will endeavour to look at another issue in which greater awareness could lead to not only better management of your money but other aspects of your life as well: ignorance of the law. How many people, for example, are stopped by traffic officers for offences that warrant only a ticket but are presented with an overblown scenario that involves them becoming an unnecessary (and undocumented) few thousand dollars poorer? Of course before I could adequately pronounce on this issue, I have to seek legal advice.
|Last Updated on Saturday, 21 July 2012 23:32|
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