My first teachers were my parents. Those early teachings heavily influence my adulthood. Important stuff, like basic etiquette and other social skills to complex issues like money management, and business skills. I'm struggling in the latter, due to a shaky foundation.
My parents did not have a well-thought-out teaching formula on financial aspects. The couple's money usage and generation habits was a complete opposite.
Father, for instance, had a conflicting financial disposition. He was exceedingly frugal, and yet innately a giver. As a civil servant, he depended on a salary, and no other income streaming in on a daily basis. As soon as it reflected in his account, there would be a flurry of bill payments.
As I grew older, I realised a huge chunk of my father's net pay would end up with my mother. She would plan around it - household utility bills, food, clothing needs.
Father only had to deal with the 'Big Bills' such as school fees. He would offset all via a one-off payment through an annual cheque from his Sacco. I cannot tell if it was a loan arrangement, or a special school-fees-savings-account.
As a giver, father left very little of himself. In high school visiting days, my old man rocked the same brown leather biker's jacket from Form 1 to Form 4. I now understand why.
In utter contrast, mother was inherently a spender. New clothes almost every month. She had a Chama thing going, where they'd splash on the latest Tanzanian Kitenge trends. She loved to treat the family with delicacies on specific days of the week, and pay up the occasional school trip.
Besides, mother operated the family's emergency savings plan built around a part of father's salary and daily proceeds from her grocery business. She had a relatively successful grocery outlet at the local center.
Father cared little for the grocery business, it's daily income - or, what came of that income. This couple, wueh!
Lately, it's become a puzzle.
Is money management inherently easier for women than men?
Why did my father take a backseat in financial matters in our family?
My circle of friends is large, mostly men - with a varied pay grade. Quite a few are salaried, a bunch are entrepreneurs.
They are quite similar, though.
In our gatherings, I've not heard anyone craving a ring with a big diamond in it for an engagement. Or, wish for jewellery as a birthday present from their partners.
All these men have a smaller closet, in a modest comparison to their wives. When they spend on shoes, it's at knock-off vendor prices..
On the occasions that we have had to eat out, we often head out to the cheapest restaurant. Someone always knows the cheapest one in any locality!
Then, behold - it is always the cheapest item on the menu!
The general vibe is: "Ah, si nitakula jioni kwa bibi? Hii ni kushikilia tu!"
Hanging out with the boys has, however,intermittently exposed me to the effects of 'Gang Mentality'. It's a polite word for extremely foolish financial decisions.
On the last Friday of September, we had a random meet in Nairobi's Central Business District, at 2pm. It was a meeting to discuss a proposed joint savings group. Ten of us.
For lunch, someone suggested an eatery he knew downtown. It turned out to be a cramped, dingy hole off Accra Road - but, hey, they had roast goat heads and soup going for a song!
We spent little, for a hearty meal.
The bad stuff happened later in the evening. We drove out to a trendy joint along Thika Road with obscenely priced drinks.
Yaani, we spent thousands on drinks we would normally get for a quarter of the price!
Besides, I've observed some nonchalance in these men towards social trends. Most hardly care if a stylish cardigan has hit the market!
Or, a need to keep up with The Joneses.
In my hood, I've watched some lady neighbors sell off a perfectly functional sofa set. Then, dig a little from their savings for a funkier, better-styled coach they saw at their friend's house.
I'm willing to bet that it is the reason most marketing campaigns are targeted at women. I have noticed a peculiar pattern.
My culture has imposed a patriarchal expectation on us, the menfolk. It's innately our duty to take care of women, children, younger siblings and so on. This means paying for everything.
It starts with dating.
In my dating forays, I usually face the financial end in dinners and other entertainment. I've often felt the pressure to spend lavishly to impress a prospect. Like, splash on birthday gifts or concert tickets.
After marriage, it is expected of men to meet most of the major bills.
My father absolutely hates the headache around household shopping, or the planning. To meet this, he would pass the tab to my mother - a section of his earnings.
It is a puzzle, since mother had a monthly income definitely enough to cover the household budget.
I later learnt this financial set up often happens in lots of other households.
I found out, too - that father - did not have a discretionary savings account, just for himself. This reflects with other married men in my circle.
Frequently, chats with father would dwell on stuff like: "Tunaeza jenga rooms kadhaa pale kwa plot ya market by December kweli?"
He had an undeveloped plot of land at our local market center.
However, I have realised that it is not an overly easy ride for the women. I have learned immensely from steely women who have triumphed against significant barriers.
Not once did I see mother take an annual leave, or, a week-long sick off from her business.
I have aunts working in the corporate and civil sectors. They indeed have off days and annual leave - but, the work at home never stops.
Round the clock, the women in my family are always cooking, nursing, and cleaning after the men and children in the house. Everyone seems to accept it, some sort of traditional expectation.
Read Also: 5 Common Financial Challenges Women Face
Sometimes, they have had to handle pregnancies in demanding 8-5 corporate careers.
Over dinner, I have had the privilege of listening to conversations between my father and lady guests.
A couple of women in corporate careers would lament on what they faced at work. A bit of talk around pay discrimination, uncomfortable sexist talk at work, and gender-biased annual promotions.
Father would just listen, and nod like a sage. A fair bit of the lamentations bore down on the insensitivity of the male gender.
The women faced all the difficulties their male colleagues faced at work, and more - like pregnancies and childcare.
It is not an easy journey.
Well, despite a blurred financial template from my father - I realised that financial stability is a personal choice
A bit of everything - from lifestyle choices, some mentorship and clear savings goals.
Learn More: 10 Steps to Reach Financial Stability