When your dream comes calling…

Privileged. Blessed. Lucky.

These are all words that one of my good friends used to describe me. After all, I had been admitted to one if the best business schools in the UK albeit in the world.

In my mind, I was rebutting all of his adjectives with the words:

Imposter. Imposter. Imposter.

Even as I boarded the plane in mid-September to Dubai so that I could connect to the UK, I kept thinking,

‘What have I done ?’

Just earlier in the day I was basking in the Kenyan tropical sun. Once I got my visa at 2:30pm, I “miraculously” appeared Jomo Kenyatta International Airport at 7pm to check-in with the help of my parents super-packing skills. Thanks to my father, the only reading material I had was Development as Freedom by Amartya Sen. (I can’t believe I left behind my brand new copy of Susan Cain’s Quiet.)

Fast forward to January 2015,  two panic attacks,thousands of  essay words,copious amounts of hot chocolate and  lattes later,  I survived my first semester of graduate school in a foreign country. I seriously need to get a  t-shirt.

Photo By S. Charles

In the midst of meeting new people, discovering haggis  and not getting a frostbite (yet!),  I have learned more about myself. I have stretched my personal limits  and reassessed my values.   I know that those I should value those  who are important to me and remind them that they are important. I have learnt that  hard work pays. Yes! ( St. George’s Grassland Academy, Nakuru anyone?)  This was reaffirmed to me through Caroline Mutoko’s youtube video, where she talks about the  limits that  you should go achieve your dreams,  snow and ice included. Here’s the video in case you missed it.

In  light of this, I will be taking a hiatus from  Kerry’s blog to focus  more on my dissertation. Don’t worry.  I will be quietly tweaking the website so that I can incorporate some new things especially about graduate school.  Please stay in touch on Twitter and Instagram.

4 Ways to Avoid Commitment Traps in 2015

We are inundated with success stories. We feel the pressure to  overachieve.  As we begin 2015,  we transfer that pressure into laundry lists of  goals and end up making unconscious commitments. By the time March rolls around, getting  out of  bed becomes a daily struggle, certain phone calls  are left unanswered…you know what I am talking about . Just because you are not excited about those projects anymore. Next  thing you know, its   December and  now you have a laundry  list of  goals  has morphed into  long rant of shoulda-coulda-wouldas.

I know. I think  my friends  would say  that at some point in my life I was  the poster-child for  flaking out on so  many  commitments.  Over the last year,  I have  committed  myself to  minimalistic lifestyle. No more McStuff! Ok. I am not saying that I want to be some of a hermit.  But I am want to get more out of  life  by  focusing on the essentials. I want more experiences and  memories that  bring me inner  joy , peace and love   and  not  just accumulating stuff.   The only way that I have been able to start on this path   is by using the magic word ” NO”. 

So reading Greg McKeown’s  book,  Essentialism: The  Disciplined Pursuit of Less  could not have been more timely.  If  you are an INFP like me, you  are probably having a hard  time  making use of that magic word especially after you  have already committed to something. Mr. McKeown  says that  we should beware of the endowment effect:   If you  feel that  you own something you will have a sense of obligation  towards it.

So  here are Greg’s remedies:

Pretend you don’t own it yet

Ask yourself:

  • What if I was not part of this venture or project, would I still want to get involved?
  • If I did not own this item, how much would I pay to obtain it?
  • How will I feel if I miss out on this opportunity?
  • How much would I be willing to sacrifice in order to obtain it?
  • If I wasn’t already involved in this project how would hard I work to get on it?

Get a  neutral opinion from someone whose is not  emotionally involved in the situation and unaffected by the choice you make. This will give you the permission to stop forcing something that is clearly not working out

Get over the fear of waste (and FOMO):   Since we were children, we were taught to never waste anything especially food. We have carried that into adulthood and cannot bear the thought of abandoning anything especially after investing time and energy (read: blood, sweat and tears).   We feel that the  psychological sunk costs are too high for us to let go of the  investments.  However, the more  we stick to those commitments, the more resources we are wasting. It  is better to severe ties  sooner rather than later.

Stop the casual commitments: You know those  what I  am talking about. Someone tells you  about a million shilling idea and you quickly jump  on the bandwagon thinking  you  need a piece of the action.  A few weeks down the  line, you lose interest  in the project or you become overwhelmed  with  other more urgent items on your to-do list.  This  year, simply pause  before giving a  response to any sort of request. Ask for a 24 hour allowance to enable to think about it before responding. In the event that you get entangled, simply apologise for making commitments you didn’t really realise what they would entail.

Bonus: STOP flaking out! (Alexandra Franzen)

Run a reverse pilot: A few years ago, when the mobile phone industry in Kenya was  still in its formative years, one of my mentors noted that he was reaching a lot to people in his personal network. So he decided to stop calling everyone. Well, except the most important people like his immediate family to  see who really care about. For him, it was a litmus test to see who  really cared about it. In a similar fashion, Claire Ortiz-Diaz  declared  twitter  bankruptcy by  unfollowing E-V-E-R-Y-O-N-E.  One of the reasons that she cites here, is  that    probably  interests  change over time, which  to be totally honest,  is  pretty part of  human  nature.

Greg McKeown says, ” By quietly eliminating or at least scaling back on an activity for a few days or weeks you might be able to assess whether it is really making a difference or whether no one really cares”.


Related links:

99 ways to say NO  (Claire Ortiz-Diaz)

How to let purpose find you (Umair Haque -HBR)

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Liane Metzler

How to Take Charge of Your Personal Finance in 2015

Kenyan coins

This is one of those posts  that I have mulled over  for a very long time especially  after reading  Suze Orman’s  book Women and Money: Owning the Power to Control Your Destiny.   After    transitioning graduate school and living on coffee, noodles and  dreams,  I have come to appreciate the advice offered in  her book and  watching this  video.Though, it  primarily targets North American readers,  Women and Money discusses  the relationship between  women (in their various roles) and money,  here  are few  lessons  that we can all apply in  our circumstances and carry forward to 2015:

Having a regular  date with your budget

As torturous as this  might sound, it is important  to know the  state of your money affairs  so  that you can be able to  create more money and comfortably spend it. Do not wait for  the  time that you will have  personal account or for your significant other to take care of  all the money issues.

You can take easy steps such as  opening AND reading your bank statements for both your credit and debit cards.   These days  your statements can be sent directly  to your email so that you can be  confirming your payments and deposits against those ATM and store receipts ( if you prefer swiping your card rather than  carrying your cash).  This  will help you notice any irregularities in  your accounts.

Set aside time in your busy  schedule to go through the important  financial documents so that  you can see  where you can afford to save (and splurge ) in the next  month,

Read your payslip  so that you can pay yourself.

Most  people, everyone looks at their net pay before any other item on their payslip. After  accepting your monthly or weekly wage,  study your  deductions and  note whether they are worthwhile, well apart from  the statutory ones.  This will  help in the next tip.

Know how to file your taxes

This is one  of the most  important and  excruciating   things that  every one has  to do in their adult life.   We must  give to  Caesar what is his,  so that  he can  ideally improve  our infrastructure and  bring about   positive change in the  nation.    I  know. I know.  You are probably scoffing at me right now after reading the last  sentence. At least  do it so that  you don’t  kill your  political ambitions and/or land yourself  in jail for tax evasion.

Kenya Revenue Authority (KRA) normally runs free tax clinics in various counties which they advertise  in the local dailies. Take advantage of  this  and   you could be  the one helping your  friends and colleagues come the next financial year.

Know the difference between a savings account and a  current account

As  basic as this may sound it is quiet important to differentiate the two.  A savings account is  meant serve as an emergency cash fund. However, it is less convenient  than a checking account   as it has restrictions on the minimal withdrawal amount and withdrawal frequency.  Most financial experts  advise that you should save  enough to cater for  three to six months of  your  living expenses. However, with the current state of the global economy, it would be better to  save enough to one year’s living expenses.

To facilitate this, you can make standing orders to your savings account and for other  important  bills, so  that you don’t have to think twice about  your  setting aside the cash. You can also consider having your saving  account in a different   bank   to lessen the ease of accessibility of the money.   If  you have a large sum of money that you might  have immediate use for instead  of putting it in a saving account, consider a fixed deposit account or a short term government security that will earn higher  interest .

Save for retirement

Millennials  have been  pumped with messages of live in the present like there is no tomorrow.  We forget that one day we will grow old  and we will  need money as we retire to  that  farm  on the outskirts of  Nairobi  or  if you decide on the beaches of Watamu.  But  before then, we have to  work hard and save  up for it.  For those who are employed, the   most  obvious  way is  the  pension contribution scheme provided by  your employer.

Most employers tend to match their employees contribution, so  please take advantage of that.  One of the  greatest benefits of  this scheme, is that member contributions are tax-deductible .

For instance:  Kerry earns a  gross salary of KES 100,000 and contributes KES 10,000 to a registered scheme. Her PAYE income tax will be calculated on KES 90,000.   This  means that she will pay less taxes and  save more money for the future.

For the self-employed Kenyans, you can check out the Retirement Benefits Authority (RBA) website that  offers   you various tips on  individual  retirement benefits and also  a list of   providers

Debt is not evil

Growing up, I watched too many TV shows that showed the adverse effects of having too much. My  young mind registered: DEBT IS BAD!!!. When I finally started to educate myself about debt,  I learned that  it is a necessary evil.

Let me explain.

There is good debt and  bad  debt.   

One should  take a loan i.e. good debt  that  will help them  generate income. For example, Higher Education Loans Board loans (HELB) are good  debt  because with a good education (all factors held constant *ahem*), you  will be able to earn a higher income and  be able to pay it off, once you start earning a steady income. Taking a loan to  build residential  houses  or  commercial spaces is also good debt as you will be able to repay it easily from the  rental  income. A home mortgage are also  another good example,  because shelter is one of your basic needs. Cars have become somewhat necessities in  our day and age  but we take  the loan, please rank  functionality slightly  higher than   prestige.

Bad debt is buying a luxurious good or going on holiday and charge it on your credit card on impulse. It keeps you up at night  and makes  you not want to open your credit card statement at the end of the month.

This  year,  Kenya Bankers Association (KBA) adopted the  annual percentage rate (APR)  which  will  enable  consumers to compare loan products and thus  make  informed  decisions on their total cost of credit. You can be able to calculate  your APR  on their their online credit calculator.

Bonus: Why your bank will hesitate to approve that loan

Get your estate in order

A will dictates  how  your assets will  be distributed among your dependents.  Without  a will, a court of law will appoint whomever it deems fit to  do so.  One can also  choose to move  his or her assets into a  trust.  This can be  your children’s education , maintenance for your  dependents and  any other  specific  use  that  you deem fit. The trust is managed an appointee   known as a trustee.

Insurance is equally  important  as we  live in the age of  terrorism,  rapid lifestyle changes and  several forms of cancer and life has  a habit of  taking unexpected turns. We need to  protect ourselves and our loved ones from  these surprises. Currently, the Kenyan  market has several  service providers with a myriad of policies in  offer. Ensure that you find a policy that  meets your financial needs. Whether or not you are employed, ensure that you subscribe to a medical insurance plan that will help you  go through any accidents or sudden illness.

Be cautious  on who you choose to be your beneficiaries.

Dealing with the C word

Not that C word.

I mean Commitments

It is said that  Africans are really big on their sense of family and relationships  and we would  go the whole  nine eleven yards for those who are closest to our hearts. However, it is important to note that mixing money and relationships is  normally a tricky affair.   It is important to have a  written  agreement  for any financial transaction  that  you are involved, formal or informal. This is will iron any issues that will arise in future.    I love this  is anecdote from Kim of Bear and Beagle Creative:

Not all of my dad’s business ventures were successful. One my mom constantly reminded us of growing up was a data storage business that ended up shoved in a corner of our basement. Did you know that 1GB in the 80s takes up a hell of a lot of room?

My dad decided to offer remote storage well before the days of cloud computing with a friend. They were supposed to go in halves on 1GB of storage (remember, back then this was a huge amount of space and hefty investment). His partner never lived up to his side of the deal, they didn’t have any contractual agreements, and the business failed. We finally got rid of that giant hunk of junk a few years ago but it was a constant reminder in our basement that business ideas don’t always work out the way you think they do.

Lesson: Don’t run with every idea but be selective. Be selective about your partners too & get it all in writing.

 You can read the rest of this great post here

In the case of  harambees (fund raisers) for particular  causes  offer to give in kind.  For instance, if your friend  has an upcoming wedding, you can  offer  to chauffeur the bridal party  with your lovely car.  Maybe one of your colleagues  is leaving  your company, you can offer to  organise (a.k.a running around) the  going away party instead of giving a cash gift. Disclaimer: know how your gift will affect  its recipient and make sure it will not be a burden or look like a  bribe.

Get a side hustle

In  his  book, So Good They Can’t Ignore You, Cal Newport talks  about  using  career  capital  to build  financial viability  in order to  successful.  He  quotes Derek Sivers, ” Do  what people are willing to pay  for.” We have different skills that we can tap into in order to  make the extra shilling. Computer whizzes can  build  websites or  fashionistas can offer  fashion advice or  if  you bold  enough you pick up a job outside your field.

 Agribusiness has gained  the in-thing in  Kenya  over the last  five years  and  people  have realized that they  can make   money   out of their kitchen gardens.    Saturday  Nation  runs  the  weekend feature, Seeds of Gold that  sheds light on  agribusiness issues in Kenya as well as advertises  opportunities   to  farmers and  investors alike.

Purge and Re-use

Now that its the beginning of the  year, there is no  better to time to clean  out your  closet.  With the advent of  OLX, there is  no better  way to make money out selling  all those things that  you thought you would need but have never gotten round to using.  If you are book-hoarder bibliophile like me, you can  try to sell those books  that have gathering dust on your bookshelf to  hardworking Kenyans   you sell second hand books along the streets.

Embrace Minimalism

Over the last  few months, I have  been examining  what influences my  purchasing   decisions.   Like  many millennials, I have been caught in the “live-in-the-moment-do what-makes-me-happy” syndrome .  I  have  learnt that you do not have to have a  KES 5000 meal to  have  enjoy the company of your good friends.    Moving and starting a  new life  halfway across the  world with a 40 kg  luggage limit can force you to embrace  a capsule wardrobe.   It has  enabled me to adopt  jeans as my new  fashion uniform ( which I had totally missed) and   be more intentional  with my  fashion choices as well as save a  couple of coins.

Investing  in  experiences  not things will go a long way providing meaning and clarity  to your life in 2015.

Related links:


Photo Credit via  Hapa Kenya