I never thought I’d find myself in a position where I was having suicidal thoughts, wondering if life as I was living it was worth it. I mean, I had worked in a bank before and spent another 5 years auditing the financial departments of big corporates and listed companies, but here I was, in deep financial turmoil.
In February 2019, I chose to retire early and had saved enough money to start two small businesses. I partnered with a friend to set up an office to run our various businesses as it made sense to pool resources and work together. Things went pretty well in the beginning and I thought I had hacked the transition from white collar to entrepreneurship. Sales were increasing, customer engagement and feedback were improving, and we were quickly opening more outlets in a bid to expand.
However, I was overlooking obvious things that I would have highlighted in any of the audits I had conducted for other people. Cash flows were low despite the high sales, we seemed to be losing money left and right, and we started missing staff salaries. We didn’t have a contract with my friend for the office or the business, so when things started going south, we crossed hairs, and given no guiding document was present, things turned sour pretty quickly.
That messed me up badly. My friend was like a brother to me because we had been friends for over 15 years, and bad business decisions and something as “small” as lack of a contract messed things up. I rarely shed tears, but on a fateful day in January when I was informing him we could no longer work together, I shed tears. A friendship ruined, an office lost, staff unpaid and without a job, lost revenues and worst still, I had lost all my savings in the process, and I felt crushed. In hindsight, that is when the stress and depression over my financial situation kicked in.
I comforted myself with the fact that I still had two businesses to run but life was about to serve me some humble pie – the pandemic. COVID-19 was hell, and I was among the people who thought there was no way the government could lock people up for weeks let alone two freaking years! I was very bullish, so I did not plan at all.
I started panicking when it got to May and we were three months into the pandemic, and our baby was coming in a month’s time, and none of my businesses were open or moving any sales. One of the businesses had a big padlock from the landlord because, of course, he charged rent even when the pandemic was ongoing, and I couldn’t make rent.
June came, the baby came, and I literally had to sell all the business assets for my gaming business. I made some people very happy with the throwaway prices I had to sell the assets for literally on the day we were leaving the hospital.
Somehow, we made it through 2020, SOMEHOW! But by the time I was selling the assets to get my peeps out of the hospital, I had gone into full-blown depression without even knowing it. I had stopped going for my customary shave every two weeks and had grown an afro. The afro soon turned into unkempt hair and very quickly into dreads, not the good ones. Of course, I had to stay in hoodies, a cap, or a marvin to hide the hair, and eventually, I stopped getting out of the house a lot because what did I have to do anyway.
I started asking myself how someone like me could be in a position like this. I knew the pandemic contributed to it, but I blamed myself majorly for what happened. I should have known these things. What was this I should have known?
According to Forbes, Financial Wellness “is a relative measure of how well a person manages their financial life. Improving financial wellness is about practicing better money habits, setting goals and taking steps to achieve them—all with the aim of improving your overall quality of life.”
Clearly, I was failing miserably at this.
This started to change early 2021 when I started interacting more with a few friends I had recently made in 2018 just before I quit work. By then, I was cooking fast food items to supply to the outlet I had to sustain it. It was all I could do, and when I was not doing that, which was a lot of the time because sales weren’t high, I was having suicidal thoughts.
This was not the life I wanted to live, it was not the life I had envisioned for myself, and I felt that I could not change things over. I was so stuck in my state; my mind was so clouded by dark thoughts that I could not even see the simple opportunities within my reach.
My new close friends became my support circle, coming to see me every day, and that gave me life and allowed me to think more than just the money I did not have. On one of the days they were around, as I was making samosas, one of them asked me why I did not make these to sell to people at home.
I was very reluctant at first, I was a banker, an auditor, and I went to Alliance, yes, that again! But change only happens when staying in the same state is more uncomfortable than the effort to change, and I needed money, badly.
I dropped my ego, made 200 pieces, and posted them on my WhatsApp status. In 2 hours, I had more money than I had made in a few days, and this time around, I recorded every single expense, standardized the recipe, and got someone to help me handle my money.
In 3 months, I was producing and selling food items from my kitchen enough to get me a decent living, something I only found out this year through the free WHO Quality Rights Training, that it is a human right for all.
My friends were also in self-help groups that saved money for investing and projects. They had asked me to join one of their groups, but I refused because I felt I did not make enough to save. I later learned through them that saving is not about the money you make but rather the culture you create to save whatever you can. I hold this to date.
I always found it funny at first that the mere lack of finances pushed me to such dark places until I learned that the right to a decent standard of living is a basic human right. If you are not able to provide for yourself in the present, immediate and far future, it will affect your mental wellbeing negatively to the extent of pushing you into stress, depression, anxiety, and suicidal thoughts.
So what constitutes financial wellness? Well, there are four basic things you need to look out for:
- Your revenue streams and cash flows
- How you spend
- How you save
- How you borrow
- How you plan
Revenues and Cash flows
You need to have multiple streams of income. Multiple revenue streams provide you with the security of cash flows. In the event of a catastrophe in one of the businesses, you can rely on the other revenue streams to sustain you or help revive or kick start new revenue streams.
How you spend
This is the most critical. Regardless of how much money you make, if you spend it recklessly, then you will have nothing left. Unnecessary expenditure needs to be cut, and whenever possible, the money should be spent on things that will help generate more revenue.
Being aware of your financial position is key. Continuing to spend in order to keep up appearances will only make things worse and deepen the problems long term.
How you save
Saving is a culture; it is not about the money. There are enough people who make what you would say is a lot of money, and they do not have savings. Teach yourself to keep a portion of the money you make in a savings account.
If you do not have the discipline to save, join a group. There is a reason our moms and grandmas never lack some money to boost you when you call them.
How you Borrow
First things first, please stay away from those mobile loans. The compounded interest can get to as high as 150% per annum, which, of course, doesn’t make sense.
That said, smart borrowing from legitimate lending institutions is encouraged. If the loan is taken in order to boost a business or start a new business, then it is highly encouraged. Think of loans as a means to get the money now, which you wanted to save in the years to come.
The trick is to use the money borrowed to generate more income.
How you Plan
This is the holy grail of financial wellbeing. Planning ensures you are aware and prepared regardless of the financial position you are in.
It also allows you to plot a way out if you are in financial turmoil, or a way up if you are already doing well. Take time to plan, make your home, and business budgets and always document everything.
Work not documented is work not done, and a plan that only exists in your head is just an idea.
My experience taught me the hard way that it does not take trauma or loss or the cliché ways to get into depression and suicidal thoughts. I have learned to consistently check on my financial wellbeing with my financial accountability partner and to always plan ahead.
You have a right to an adequate standard of living. If you are not practicing any of the things noted, then maybe you should consider starting to implement them. Your Financial Wellness can and will affect your mental health. It’s best to be as prepared as one can be.