Have you ever read financial advice online that left you more confused than informed? You read something, and you are left wondering, ‘is that even practical?’
I am sure this has happened to most of us.
For example, as I was unwinding from my day last night, I opened my TikTok app, and the first video that popped up was named, five ways to have a more productive day. In an energetic and utmost convincing voice, the author started listing what I thought would inspire me to be more productive.
So he starts, “You are going to be a productivity machine if you follow these five daily hacks. Wake up at 3am, ➩ meditate for 2 hours, ➩ run half a marathon ➩, take a 30 minutes cold shower ➩ eat a full English breakfast.
As you can tell, my face went from excitement to confusion, to horror, and then back to confusion - no way would that lead to a productive day. Fortunately, the last five seconds of the video were the author laughing and saying that is how ridiculous most motivational advice currently sounds.
But although the TikTok video might have been a joke (as many are), the digital world is a jungle. There are many crazies and false prophets, and if you are not careful, you hunger for information might lead you to the exact opposite of your heart desires.
It is especially very crucial to be careful about the information that relates to your financial wellbeing. This is why even Google has placed so many rules and guidelines around what they term as ‘your money or your life (YMYL)’ content.
Most of the financial advice you receive today is not practical - at least not to everybody. So today, let's discuss some examples of financial advice that can easily be classified as a myth or, at the very least, is not practical for a normal mwananchi.
I call it the ‘work hard religion.’ Ever since we were young, we were taught to work hard in order to have a successful future. But let’s be real for a moment: working hard alone will take you nowhere.
For example, suppose you have a very stable job as a head receptionist at a small resort in Nanyuki. You love your job and give it your all. You are diligent, passionate, and take your job very seriously - you have even received the ‘employee of the year’ award for four years in a row.
However, the salary from this role is average, and there are no growth prospects. As such, although you hope to build your own dream house one day, that is just about it. You are not actively trying to increase your nominal income. You put in nothing beyond your 8-5.
Well, it is no secret that although you are working very hard, your dream house is likely to remain just that, a dream.
Therefore, it is evident that although necessary, working hard alone is no guarantee to financial success. A lot more goes into succeeding financially than just waking up early and having a productive day. You need to, at least, have tangible financial knowledge, be a whole lot street smart and be intentional about succeeding.
I have seen people who are far more successful putting in 4 hours a day than those who work 15 hours a day. It is not about how hard you work or how many hours you put in; it is more about how smart you work.
Saving is great. In fact, it is what is most encouraged. However, setting strict and unrealistic spending habits in order to save more could potentially be a detriment to your long-term financial plan.
In the current economy and the kind of living conditions we have, few people can save 90% of their income. It might be possible if you are still living with your parents, living with a partner who is the main provider, or having another source of income to finance your lifestyle.
But if you are relying on the same income to survive, then this financial advice may not be very practical for you. Life is not about restrictions; it is more about moderation. So it is more realistic to evaluate your life and finances and then set realistic goals based on your personal needs. For example, this 50/30/20 strategy is a great place to start.
It is normal to feel like your debts should be a priority at the moment. However, this might not be the smartest financial move. As much as clearing your debts - especially high interest debts - is essential, you should not sacrifice your savings for this sake.
Now, not many will agree with this, but one of the fundamental principles of personal finance is ‘pay yourself first.’ This means that before you pay anyone else - your creditors, loans, employees, etc., first put aside money for your savings - especially emergency savings.
So instead of taking this advice literally and focusing only on your debts, why not do both? Pay off your debts while still putting money into your future. This way, even if unexpected expenses occur, they will not wipe out your progress or put you further into debt.
The same way hard work alone does not guarantee financial success, expensive education will not make you a millionaire. Harsh, but true.
There is no guarantee that paying for an expensive degree from a private or foreign college leads to better education or higher job prospects. For example, although graduating from an Ivy League school may put you on a global platform and increase your chances of earning a higher salary post-graduation, many other factors determine how well you will do in life.
For example, you should consider the local job market, the employment rate of the degree you intend to pursue, how the degree will affect your current status, etc. For example, going for a third degree as a high school teacher may not impact your career much unless you plan to transition to a college professor.
As parents, we want to give our offspring all the good things that the world can offer. But this might not be the answer. Yes, you need to work hard to have enough money to support your children financially and ensure that they have a good life.
However, it is equally important to teach your kids how to be responsible, handle money correctly and be smart enough to survive in this crazy world. The most significant part of this process will require them to support themselves financially.
Even if you starve yourself and leave your children a fortune in the current world led by greed and instant gratification, it will mean nothing without personal discipline and the right financial education.
So forget about giving your kids the world. Instead, teach them patience and perseverance and ensure that they have the right financial knowledge - this will be far more useful than any amount of money.
There is a lot of valuable financial information online that can gradually propel you to financial freedom. However, be careful not to get it wrong. Not all the information out there is reliable.
Before you apply any advice to your personal life, first analyze it to see if it is viable and if it applies to your own financial situation.