KEN OUKO: How to manage your finances better

(Originally published by Mwangaza Magazine)

Kindly introduce yourself briefly.

I am Ken Ouko, the Founder of Ken’s MoneyMatters and Co-Founder of Gene Coaching School. Ken’s MoneyMatters is the financial literacy branch of Gene Coaching School.

The pandemic is here and has affected many of us financially. Is there a way we can manage our finances during these times so that we survive the pandemic financially?

We are all responsible for where we are financially. Nobody is responsible for your financial status as long as you are an adult. The situation you are in at the moment is as a result of many decisions that you have made overtime.

The starting point is taking responsibility and knowing that you are in charge of your situation. On the same lines, as we speak about Finance and Investments, remember that your success, whatever that means to you, is 80% behaviour and 20% technicalities. Meaning you can earn more than you ever dreamt of but it doesn’t mean you will achieve your financial goals.

Let me begin by saying that the pandemic created opportunities for others and took away opportunities from others. Your view of the pandemic will depend on your mindset and which side of the table you sit. There are many people who created opportunities during the pandemic including myself. Anything that happens to you can be an opportunity or a nightmare depending on your mindset.

Money management during pandemic should not be any different with when things are good. For those who were on the right path, financially speaking, the pandemic did not change much. Anytime you are in a position to make money, you should be able to plan for emergencies like job loss and anything of the sort. If you were not prepared, then the pandemic should serve as a wake-up call.

So the first question we should ask ourselves is, how do we plan before the pandemic? I would say if you are working, have a very stable emergency fund that can sustain your current living standard for more than 6 months. That is the foundation.

The second question would be, how do we adjust during the pandemic? This can be approached on different levels depending on where you stand as an individual.

If you didn’t lose your job and your income was not negatively impacted as such, then you just had to scale back on frivolous spending and keep more cash just to be sure you are financially secure for a longer period of time. This would require just a slight adjustment to your finances. If you are investing consistently then that shouldn’t stop. Remember, the stocks have recovered 103% since the pandemic. So those who stopped investing because of fear are the losers.

If you lost your source of income then you have to rethink your strategy. You have to get other opportunities or create some. There are so many opportunities coming up. You may also have to re-skill so as to be more appealing in the changing labour market. For such a person, your focus should be on creating an income source, not anything else.

If you were in business and things slowed down, you had to cut down costs and have some liquidity to protect you from the way things went. In essence, your preparation should be based on your individual circumstances.

Generally speaking, during a pandemic

  • There is need to have more liquidity,
  • There is need to live on a budget,
  • There is need to plan ahead.
  • There is need to find more ways of generating cashflow.
  • There is need for emergency fund,
  • There is need for continued investment to have passive income
  • There is need for reskilling

In the diaspora, we have credit cards. In Kenya, it is mobile loans and other credit related offerings. What is your opinion on these? Are they sustainable or just a way to mint more from our pockets?

This is a sad one! Borrowing on Fuliza hit Kshs. 1.2billion today and over Kshs. 220bill over six months. That’s how much people are borrowing. Most of these debts are consumer debts. Meaning people take them to shop and pay everyday stuff and not to invest. They are basically helping the Kenyan youth dig their own financial holes.

There has never been any kind of education on borrowing and its impacts, but there are so many channels to borrow. Before you give a child a knife, you have to teach him or her how to handle the knife or else it could be disastrous! That is the issue with all these loans!

Young people are going into so much debt even before they can start working. It cannot be good. It is an opportunity for rich people to get richer and the poor to remain poor. Debt is slavery!

How can we reduce impulse buying? Does budgeting help?

Impulse buying is a behavioural issue and that is why I mentioned that your financial success is 80% behaviour. Impulse buying is like an addiction and you have to be very deliberate and conscious if you are to combat it.

There are ways one can beat it;

  • Work with a Finance Coach like myself. What we do is we come up with a plan and then guide you through that plan. We don’t just advise, we coach. That means I become more like an accountability partner. When I am coaching, I begin with behaviour and mindset before I go to money issues.
  • Having a tight budget is another way of ensuring you don’t impulse spend! You can restrict yourself before you spend any money by making sure you cannot access that money.
  • You can also get an accountability partner who will call you out and remind you on whatever goal you are trying to achieve.
  • You can also set yourself short term financial goals that will motivate you not to spend on anything stupid. Goals can get you focused because none of us want to fail.
  • You can also invest in liquid assets that will not be readily available for you to spend
  • You can also decide on a reward you want to give yourself monthly and the only promise in return would be to avoid spending on anything else if you get that reward. It works

All in all, it is a behavioural issue that can be tackled in a thousand ways.

Kindly explain what are stocks and how much of an opportunity they are, financially. What is the Nairobi Stock Exchange?

Nairobi Stock Exchange is basically a platform where companies can offer their shares to the public. In very simple terms, it is a market where you can go and purchase shares of a company. A share is a part of a company. So, if you buy shares of Safaricom at NSE, you own part of the company.

The other name is stocks or equities. They can make you rich if you use them the right way.

Example, when Covid-19 hit, Safaricom was trading at around Kshs. 23 per share, a few weeks ago, I made a video and told people to buy these shares because it was going to shoot up in prices. Two days later, it was at Kshs. 42 per share, that would make you millions of money depending on how much you bought. That is how you make money with stocks. You can also invest in them long-term, which is the best method if you are new to the markets.

So, you can earn through capital gains like I have just illustrated, or through dividends which companies pay their shareholders or through interests, depending on the company.

Which offers better returns; investing in Stock exchange or venturing into Real Estate?

From my experience, they both have very good returns but with some differences. If we talk about real estate in Kenya for instance, you must have quite a considerable amount to get into it and get some good returns. The real estate market in developing countries requires more security for the investor and we lack that security and hence it becomes very difficult to penetrate.

On the other hand, the stocks market is liquid and easy to access with little amounts as you build up. There is also lots of security for the investor with regards to different platforms that you might use.

Based purely on returns, stocks have given me way more. But I also know if you have the time and capital to flip houses, you can make so much money.

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