In Kenya, it is not unusual to find someone who has been employed full-time for a couple of years or so, having little to nothing in terms of assets and other liquid financial cushions.
It can either be one of two broader things. One, they have been earning a not-so-good income and were unable to save enough to lift themselves out of the financial survival stage.
Or two, they were earning a significantly good amount of money but did not have the financial discipline, investment know-how, or long-term planning that could have guaranteed them a higher net worth after a decade of gainful employment.
You have probably read our Money and Me story of how after getting a job straight out of campus at about 23, the author made incredibly short-sighted money decisions that left him at a crossroads 10 years later - now aged 32, with a wife and two children in school.
The first 10 years of professional life may seem quite long. It’s a whole decade! And you’ve probably barely lived through three decades. And yet, many mid-career professionals find themselves nostalgic, a few promotions later, of the copious amounts of money that was misdirected in the earlier years of zero responsibility.
But there is also the reality that the first few years of joining the workforce can be quite brutal; the starting salary may not be that great, you are beginning to field money requests from friends and family, there is a student loan repayment being deducted, your employer is deducting your share of your health insurance premiums and, most importantly, you are just beginning to learn about personal finance with your own money.
Also Read: Competitive Pay: What Does It Mean?
As such, many may only be getting their heads above water several years into their full-time employment; having dealt with all the budgeting troubles of early years, built up some savings at the bank or Sacco, paid off a car loan, a plot of land somewhere, one investment here and there - and probably just beginning to raise a family.
At this point in one’s financial journey, one cannot afford to go broke at all. In the least, there is the responsibility of starting a family, but there is also the broader realisation that one has to move from mere financial stability to building security and financial independence.
Also Read: The 7 Stages of Financial Freedom
So how do you make the most of the money you are making a decade or so into your career? This article takes a deep dive into the financial priorities of a mid-career professional interested in growing their money, leveraging the assets they have to make more, and slowly weaning themselves off of dependence on employment income.
At this important juncture in your financial life, the most logical, most strategic thing is to rethink your financial goals.
You may have created some vague, grand or fuzzy goals when you got your first job that may no longer be applicable to your life now. These goals may then need to be redone, dropped, or revitalised.
Take stock of your progress so far. Recognize your accomplishments. Examine your blunders honestly and figure out how to correct them. This will be the starting point for making the smartest goals for the next phase of your financial life.
You are at an advantage at this point - you are now experienced enough to clearly plan out realistic life goals but yet young enough to recover from any financial missteps you may have made in the past.
Consider what you want to achieve with your savings as well as existing investments to fuel your chosen goals. The timeline for each of these goals becomes as real as it can get - If, for example, you want to own a home for your family, it is no longer a dream from the early 20s, there’s actually a family you are raising to occupy that home.
You, especially, have to think about costs associated with family. Weddings, honeymoons, children, a new home, new kitchen upgrades, family vacations, job breaks, side businesses, and retirement are some of the inescapable milestones that must be planned for.
You might be in marriage, in a long-term committed relationship, or on your way to being married in your 30s. And both you and your partner will have to get used to talking about finances.
Talk about your financial objectives, spending, budgeting adjustments, investing, etc., and help each other be in check financially.
If you haven't already, incorporate it into your regular routine. Find a time that works for both of you and go in with an open mind. Discuss your concerns and ambitions honestly.
Conversations regarding money can be utilised as a moment to reflect and bring clarity. It's critical to develop a clear understanding of you and your partner's financial objectives.
You should consider the option of combining finances into a joint account and the array of family expense management options that brings synergy to your joint financial life.
Do you want to make joint investments? Or Do you want to divide investments between each other but work jointly towards realising a combined higher standard of living? What are your retirement plans?
The truth is that your partner will be a significant contributing factor to your family’s financial future. They can be either the asset or liability depending on how you both handle the money conversation.
Also Read: How to Build Wealth as a Couple in Kenya
Earlier in your career, you created a budget and possibly saved some money. However, your earnings, expenses, as well as your necessities, goals, and ambitions, will very certainly fluctuate from year to year. Life changes, such as getting married, having children, or beginning your own business, will require adjustments to your budget.
"It's a balancing act. When you're in your thirties, you've got more money and more aspirations, so you have to learn to distribute them," says John Deyeso, a financial adviser.
It's possible that you'll have to reduce expenditure in certain areas in order to reallocate funds elsewhere. When your wife gets pregnant for example, you can cut spending on going out and increase spending on buying baby supplies.
The budget is the backbone of your financial life. While you may think you have mastered budgeting over the last several years of gainful employment, mid-career needs, wants and income brings a new set of challenges as explored above.
It is therefore important to spend some time realigning your budget with your new revamped goals including retirement savings that become very important, family expenses, and the longer-term goals aimed at maintaining income stability and financial cushioning.
While you are young enough to recover from the budgeting mistakes of your younger years, it is also fair to say that you are too old to repeat these mistakes. It is also true to say that you are also too far along the journey to make do with strategies that worked for a younger self.
If you were keen on your finances, then you probably started your emergency savings in the early years of your career. Kudos!
However, you are now a decade or so along with even more responsibilities, and your financial world must have changed. Your basic living expenses are certainly higher in comparison to 5-10 years ago.
So, verify the status of your emergency fund. Check to see if it has the required amount of savings to last 3-6 months at your current expenditure level. If this is not the case, Increase your emergency fund amount as a financial objective.
If this is when you are starting your rainy-day fund, you may have to start off with steeper contributions to get yourself closest to building a big enough financial cushion against income disruptions.
One important thing to consider when thinking about the exact amount to aim for in the fund is the fact that if you have a partner and children, their monthly living expenses have to be factored in. You are building a family emergency fund, not an individual one anymore.
Increase your rainy day reserve because you will, without a doubt, face a financial storm at some point.
Why haven't you updated your retirement savings contribution if you're making more as a 34-year-old than you were as a 25-year-old? Increase your retirement savings contribution on a regular basis. Every raise in compensation should be matched by an increase in retirement savings.
Make your retirement savings objectives a priority - you still have the benefit of time in your 30s.
Long-term financial preparation is essential for a safe retirement - the earlier you begin maximising it, the better.
Most financial planners recommend putting aside 10-15% of your income for retirement. As a result, have a look at your contribution rate. Set a financial goal for yourself to save enough for retirement.
We cannot over emphasise the need to save for retirement enough. When it comes to building wealth, time is more than a four-letter word. It thus comes as no surprise that the biggest financial regret by many late in their careers is, not saving early for retirement.
A difference of a few years between when you begin to start saving for retirement could make a difference of hundreds of thousands in final retirement money thanks to compound interest.
Take this example; Anne and Brian are saving $100 a month at a 5% annual compound interest, but Anne begins doing so at 25, while Brian starts at 35.
The 10-year head-start gives Anne $162,000 at the chosen retirement age of 65 while Brian only gets $89,000 at the same age of 65. She gets almost twice as much at retirement despite Anne only contributing $12,000 more than Brian.
Now that is the beauty of compound interest. And the very reason why you have to save for retirement as early as you can.
The only way for Brian to match up to Anne’s retirement package is to significantly increase his monthly retirement contributions. If we assume both are able to sequentially increase their savings, there is no guessing who would find those easier incremental contributions easier to make if we assume both are at the same income level.
What is your primary long-term investment plan? There are the basic non-negotiable retirement savings, but then there is the more active wealth-building plan that will allow you to afford not just basics for your family but have a good short at actualising your lifestyle dreams.
Any investment that has the potential to generate maximum profits when held for a lengthy period of time is referred to as a long-term investment (usually over five to ten years). Some of the long-term investments you can get started on include;
Also, make sure your investments are well-diversified.
According to Marcy Keckler, the vice president of financial advice strategy at Ameriprise, having a varied asset allocation - or investment mix - allows you to take advantage of various market scenarios.
"Diversification can also provide you peace of mind in times of market turbulence," Keckler said. "Remember to keep your short- and long-term financial objectives in mind."
Secondly, If you're a parent with a young child or you intend to start a family, set financial objectives to account for the cost of having children. Here, rethinking your budget should be part of your financial objective. Once you've got a clear picture of what that will look like, go ahead and include it in your budget.
With a clear child/children's budget in plan, one of your long-term investments should be creating an educational fund for them. It's best to start saving for your child's college education as soon as possible.
You don't have to put aside a lump sum for your child's college in one go, you can set up a fund and frequently contribute to their education fund. This money can help you in the future to cover your children's tuition fees, living expenses, book costs, and other educational material.
If you don't want to jeopardise your retirement; get started right away.
While at it, learn to strike a balance by having enough money and savings on hand to live your life as you like while also saving enough to do so in the future.
Furthermore, reaching some of your financial objectives and having a clear plan for long-term goals means your savings and investment accounts will increase in value, and as they do the stakes keep rising. If you're not confident in your ability to make investment decisions, consider bringing a financial planner on board.
In fact, at this point in your financial journey, it is important to seriously consider the services of a financial planner - either as a one-off exercise that sets you on the right path or as a regular partner in your growth journey.
Also Read: Investing for Beginners: How to Get Started
Most people would rather not consider it, but it is a necessary aspect of financial planning. Will your family be financially secure if you are hurt, get sick, or die?
There are several types of insurance that can cover you and your family in the event of an emergency.
Medical bills can put an incredibly high strain on your finances. In fact, it is an unwritten truth that many middle-income families are a medical emergency away from bankruptcy in Kenya.
This is due to the fact that medical inflation is on the rise, and treatments are becoming increasingly costly.
Here is what to look out for when choosing a health insurance plan for your family;
In the event of death, life insurance can help your family financially. Life insurance policies come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Make sure you understand the terms of any coverage you're thinking about purchasing.
When you reach your thirties, life insurance is more critical than ever. You're more likely to be married, planning to own a home, have one or more children, drive a car, and have a lot of bills to pay.
Your 30s are one of the finest times to examine your life insurance needs and receive a decent life insurance premium because you have so many financial commitments and are likely still in good health.
Many experts recommend purchasing insurance coverage that is five to ten times your annual income. If you have a partner and children and few liquid assets, the guideline can be as high as 15 times your annual income.
In your 30s, adequate term life insurance coverage is still inexpensive. For example, if you are a 35-year-old young man and in good health, you can pay as little as Ksh3,000 per month for a 20-year, Ksh10 million term coverage.
A term life insurance cover protects one for a number of years as compared to a whole life cover. Term policies are considered by budget-conscious consumers due to the fact that they can cost up to and above 10 times more than term covers when the benefit is the same.
You can always renew your term cover before it expires and potentially continue enjoying the same low premiums you negotiated when you were younger.
It's a good time to think about income diversification now that you're in your 30s and things have calmed down a bit. Don't put your entire financial future in the hands of your day job. That's a recipe for disaster - if the pandemic and previous global recessions have taught us anything.
It is true indeed that not every single person can set up and successfully run a business. That is when you think about a business as a brick and mortar establishment - a spare parts shop, a mini-mart, water purification business, liquor supplies among a list of popular side businesses Kenyans opt to undertake.
A side business could be the monetisation of the skills you have been earning in the decade that you have been formally employed. By the time you are clocking 10 to fifteen years as a professional, you could be a subject matter expert and with this alone, you could build a consultancy, be a highly paid freelancer, coach, public speaker, and so on.
Utilise your strengths to create an additional stream of income that does not clash with your day job.
What about your partner? Is it possible you could pool your intellectual resources and let one of you take the lead on it? Could the venture turn out to be very promising that one of you quits their day job to run it? It could as well be a brick-and-mortar business if one partner is best suited to pursue this.
TIP: It is time to think about the possibility of taking this direction in your income growth journey. Decide if it is a viable option for you and bear in mind the challenges that may come with such a decision. If you think you are up to task, then by all means, take the plunge - but make sure you have your core source of income protected at the time of taking the dive.
At any age, debt management is a critical financial aim. At mid-career, it is even more important that you have debt in check. If you have not fully understood the importance of debt, the pitfalls of debt, and all the in-between, it is time to seriously consider educating yourself before debt becomes what prevents you from achieving your dreams.
Equally important, is the fact that by not understanding how debt works, the opportunities that debt can open, you may be missing out on wealth-building opportunities that debt comes with - especially now that you are making significantly more and can qualify for competitively-priced debt.
Understanding the act of borrowing is important; where do I borrow? The why of borrowing, how do I leverage on what I have e.g. logbook, a title deed, payslip, house, etc. to get competitive debt, who do I borrow from, and what do I need to look out for? Should I even be borrowing?
You can begin with an audit of your debt situation;
Compile a list of everything you owe. And then come up with a strategy for effectively controlling it. Do you still owe money on your credit cards if you have one? Do you still owe student debt? Mortgage? Then start getting rid of it.
You can manage debt smartly by;
Read Also: Why Debt is Good For You
Each person's debt situation is unique. However, the rule of thumb is simple; Pay off the debt with the highest interest rate first. Then on to the next highest one.
As a mid-career professional, you have braved the storm of early-career naivete, timidity, and possibly indiscipline. Even more importantly, you have actual responsibilities to your immediate spouse, children, and even parents and siblings.
Actually, you are probably most concerned about your most cherished financial goals and are eager to achieve them now that you have achieved some form of financial stability and really do not have the time to mess around.
Read Also: Financial Goals to Set For Your Family
Knowing what you need to be doing with your money, why you need to be doing so, where to keep it and so on is just a start.
You have to actually start doing it, diligently.