Saturday, February 25, 2017

About To Retire – Bite What You Can Chew

One of my big uncles had a child with his fourth wife, while he was already in his late sixties. And no, he was not a wealthy businessman! He owned three small houses for his surviving three wives, two broken down vehicles and an under-stocked grocery store. 

But, believe me, that little grocery store was the envy of the neighborhood, and earned him attraction from the younger women of the community. That child born in his retirement age was the eighteenth in the big family.

The reasoning was that the older children would have to take care of the younger ones. It was one of those stupid, old-fashioned philosophies common among my folk. Unfortunately, uncle himself did not even live to celebrate the child’s first birthday. He succumbed to malaria and died.

Two years after his death, three of the older sons who were also married, died from the HIV-Aids virus. So over and above their younger siblings, these men went on to leave their own widows and children, who needed the unavailable financial support.

The advice I am giving is for one to bite only what they can chew. Why bring another child into a life so filled with uncertainty?

For most people over the early retirement age of fifty five years, their wealth creating skills and energy are almost used up. It is a time to harness what you have already gathered, and have the wisdom to use the harvest wisely.

For further teaching, you might want to read the bible story of Governor Joseph (Genesis 41:14-40; 46-49). The first seven years of plenty were for gathering. The second seven years were for distribution and sharing.


We all need the wisdom to figure out at what stage we are in life; whether it be the gathering or the distribution age. Confusing the two stages is detrimental to our health and the well-being of our family members. 

What Is Your Retirement Plan

Back in my junior school days, which is a decade ago; there was a radio program which addressed the subject of retirement planning. The presenter was the late Paul Mkondo (1945 – 2013). He was the first African Insurance executive to be recognised with Life Million Dollar Roundtable International.

He went on to build his very own company, Paul Mkondo Insurance Brokers. Mr Mkondo was well known for his radio theme, ‘Hupenyu hwenyu idambudziko remoyo wangu’, (your life issues are my very concern).

Here was a man who was so concerned about the well-being of others, enough to build an organisation that addressed insurance cover towards retirement, death, farming and business in general. We thank God for this great man’s vision, and that his legacy continues to live on through his organisation, which has since diversified into many other insurance covers.

My dream is to take on the theme of educating people on retirement planning. Having been a Principal Officer of a Pension / Retirement fund, I came to realise with sadness, how a large percentage of my fellow African people actually fail to prepare for retirement. It is so sad when an employee gets to the retirement age of 60 or 65 years of age, depending on their Fund, without any or very little planning.

Even when the economic environment keeps turning and twisting, like where I am from, still one needs to plan wisely about their retirement. You have no one to blame but yourself, if you find yourself a destitute because you did not bother to enquire about the retirement options available for you. In today’s global village, there is so much information out there to self-help yourself in planning for the future.


While planning for the earthly retirement, there is also another kind of planning that needs to be done; the heavenly one. Do not wait until you get to your death bed, before planning on where you intend to spend eternity. Heaven is waiting for you, or the lesser of the choice, hell. Information on how to prepare for heaven is available everywhere, especially in the Bible. Hell is arrived at, by default; that is if you do not make a choice for heaven. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Birthdays

My mother and I almost share the same birthdays; she on February 19th, and I on the 18th. Sometimes I wonder if this is the reason why our relationship is so good!

I am her first born daughter, and I seem to take to her as if I am still attached to her body. Sadly, this is the first year I have not been able to say, ‘happy birthday’ to her. No, she is not late. We are just too many miles and oceans apart. And for some reason, the phone network in her village area does not seem to be working.

But distance will never separate us. I have a vivid imagination of her; where she sleeps at night, what time she wakes up and her routine as she keeps herself active. When I was at the village last December, she would be the first one to wake up from her room, and come by my door to say good morning. It didn’t matter how sleepy I still was; it was a joy to reply back her greeting with warmth and love.

Phones are supposed to be keep us in touch, networks permitting. I may be so far from her, and would not be able to rush to her side, if at all she fell ill, but I still sleep with my phone switched on, and close by my pillow. This is a habit I learnt many years ago when one author wrote about he kept his line open, all day and all night, in case his mother needed him. So for now, I am keeping the line open too, in case she is able to call and we can chat.


Happy birthday mama. May God continue to care for you and keep you strong as your years progress.  

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Being a Fund Manager – Character

Character, like integrity, is very crucial when seeking for a fund manager.

Who in their right mind, would hire a fund manager whose track record is smeared with bad deals
.
It is worth a mile, to dig into the history of the fund manager if you are going to place your life’s savings into their hands.


In his book, ‘The Intelligent Investor’, Benjamin Graham has this to say:

This intelligence has nothing to do with IQ or SAT scores. It simply means being patient, disciplined, and eager to learn; you must also be able to harness your emotions and think for yourself. This kind of intelligence is a trait more of the character than of the brain.
To qualify his statement, Graham alluded to banks which collapsed despite the most intelligent personnel being in the executive departments of these financial institutions.

There’s proof that high IQ and higher education are not enough to make an investor intelligent. In 1998, Long-Term Capital Management L.P., a hedge fund run by a battalion of mathematicians, computer scientists, and two Nobel Prize-winning economists, lost more than $2 billion in a matter of weeks on a huge bet that the bond market would return to “normal”. But the bond market kept right on becoming more and more abnormal-and LTCM had borrowed so much money that its collapse nearly capsized the global financial system.
Good character is birthed through investing your life in God’s hands. Character is from within. You can build on it, by adding virtues that enhance it. But the source and foundation of character can only come from God.

Jonathan’s commitment to David, (1 Samuel 20), said a lot about character. Jonathan stood the chance to lose his inheritance for the throne, to David. But that did not stop him from helping David, from escaping from King Saul, Jonathan’s father, who sought to take David’s life. That is character.

Joseph, (Genesis 39:7-20), would not sleep with his boss’s wife, even though she continuously begged him. He ended up in prison for not giving in to her demands. That is character.

Ruth clung to her old mother-in-law, worried that the poor frail woman, would not make it back to Bethlehem from Moab. (Ruth 1). Despite the old woman’s insistence that she go back, Ruth knew better. That is character.


Our character in the business world, ought to demonstrate the godly principles in which our Christian values are based on.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Being a Fund Manager – Integrity

“Everything rises and falls on leadership”, John C. Maxwell. May I also add that, ‘any country’s economy rises and falls on integrity’.

If you are going to do business God’s way, you need to be always on the lookout for your integrity. The late Dr Phineas Dube, taught in one of his leadership sessions that,‘if one is going to succeed in life God’s way, one needed to keep their hands clean, literally clean!’

In my term as a fund manager, I learnt quickly how to dodge the power of bribes. Most of the bribes came in the form of very innocent-looking gifts, lunch, and dinner invitations. I learnt quickly that I could accept any gifts sent my way, go out for lunch or dinner, but when it came to making a decision on which investment instrument to buy into; all that stuff would in no way influence my decision. I only invested in instruments which were profitable to my employer, nothing more and nothing less.

Integrity is a tight rope to walk in the business world, but it can be walked.  

 ‘Developing a good work ethic is key. Apply yourself at whatever you do, whether you’re a janitor or taking your first summer job, because that work ethic will be reflected in everything you do in life’. Tyler Perry.

The integrity of the upright guides them, but the unfaithful are destroyed by their duplicity. Proverbs 11:3

Being a Fund Manager - Stewardship

I was an investment fund manager for sixteen years. This job was like any other position within the finance department, and would have remained so, had the Lord not opened my eyes to the role of stewardship deeply embedded in fund management.

The monies I was managing were not mine, but belonged to someone else, in this case, the shareholders of the company that I was employed by.

When your mind-set shifts from being just an employee to being a steward, your attitude towards your job changes drastically. When this happened to me, I started to listen closely to how the Holy Spirit would direct me with each transaction that I made. What would have otherwise been routine to someone, became a calling to me. Making decisions became easier, because I knew that with God on my side, I could never go wrong. By His grace, I did not sink any funds, except those that went down the hole of hyper-inflation, which was less than 1% of the total fund.

In Matthew 25:14-29, we read of three people entrusted with their employer’s monies. One was given a portfolio of five ‘million’, the other two ‘million’ and the last one ‘million’. The first manager doubled his five million and made another five million, giving his employer a 100% investment return. The second manager also doubled his two million and made another two million, also giving his employer a 100% investment return.

These two managers understood what stewardship meant. However, the third manager, with his one million investment, an employee mind-set and an impoverished attitude, was more concerned about losing out to hyper-inflation. He placed the funds in a very secure investment that was 100% risk-free, but with zero investment income return. He was fired from his job, and the other two managers were promoted.


If you are going to be a good fund manager, you need God to direct you in the intricacies of the economic market. He understands it more than all the international analysts put together. And He will bless you with a return much higher than the market norm, because you would have put your trust in Him.

Saturday, February 11, 2017

Investments: Before and After Investing

Some friends have been asking me to write a bit on the area of investments. Here is the beginning of a couple more series to come. 



a)    Before Investing - You must have excess funds.
-       These are funds in your bank account not earmarked for any immediate use. Not for rent, school fees, medical, etc. these must be ‘free’ funds that are just sitting in your bank account, earning very little interest.

b)   You must get out of debt.
-       I am not referring to clearing your housing mortgage, and / or your vehicle purchasing loan. These however, play a significant influence on how much you can place in investments. If, after your loan deductions, you find yourself with very little disposable income, you are not in a position to invest.
-       If you are at the same time, owing more that you are making, the prudent thing is to make a plan to get out of debt. Servicing your bank loans through more bank loans, just gets you deeper into debt.
-       You might have to make a plan geared towards changing your spending habits, including those of any who are depending on your income.
-       Investments and gambling are total opposites.
-       You don’t borrow to invest.

c)    Do you due diligence
-       First you must know what your long term commitments are; based on your age group, family, financial status and long term income.
-       At least have a general idea of the kind of investment instruments you want to get into.
-       Work with a reputable investment manager, broker or agency.

d)   After Investing – Take Responsibility
-       You must be able to understand the documentations given to you by your investment manager. Ask questions till you get satisfactory answers. It’s your money that is at stake, not theirs.
-       Take an interest in the investment market. Read newspapers, follow business news and try and understand how the nation’s policies influence the economy.

e)    Accountability
-       Hold yourself accountable to every investment you make. If there are taxes to be paid on capital gains, you are liable.
-       Hold your investment manager accountable to producing every document pertaining to any trade or transaction you make on your portfolio.
-       Don’t give the investment manager free reign over your money. Set up an investment mandate or investment policy statement, whereby both of you will agree on how he will handle your trades and transactions.
-       You will need to agree on the portfolio mix, types of bonds and stocks you are particularly interested in and the percentages you want to hold in these stocks.
-       Read your portfolio valuation report from the investment manager; check for accuracies and irregularities. Follow the movement on your transactions and trades from the previous report to the current one.
-       Query what you do not understand. You are in this to make more money, not lose it through unaccounted-for entries.
-       Have a proper filing system for all your documentation. Be well organized about your investments; that way, you will be able to measure how you are doing over a period of time.

f)     Networking
-       Network with other investors. Share knowledge and ideas. If possible, join an investment club.