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How do I plan my family

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You have quite a lot on your plate: planning for your wedding and marriage, running a business and facing final exams. You seem under a lot of pressure which concerns me somewhat.

Dear Nimi,
I hope this meets you well. How do I properly plan my family finances in terms of expenditures, savings and investments?

Next month, I would have been married for one year. We do not have any kids yet. We occasionally have extended family members come to visit. I am an ICT and brand consultant, while my wife is a fashion and food expert.
Thanks for your anticipated response.

Dear Dele,
Congratulations on your recent wedding. I am always pleased to see a couple work as a team; it is one of the surest ways to achieve financial security.
Money is one of the leading causes of friction in marriage so as far as possible, it is important that money matters are discussed in a non-threatening, trusting way. As two individuals merge their “worldly goods” including their finances, there is so much to consider. You and wife may have different money personalities; one of you might be risk averse with the other more aggressive. A divergence need not be a problem, but you should communicate your preferences clearly to each other and realise that you will have to compromise, until you come to a style that works for your family.

Here are some things to discuss if you haven’t already done so. How many children do you plan to have? What sort of education would you like to be able to provide for them? Where will you live? Have you effected your name changes on your documents? Do you have health insurance? Have you updated your insurance policies to reflect your new status and beneficiary? Will you have joint or separate accounts? How will you manage the household finances? Who will pay for what? Will you pro-rate family expenses according to income or will the primary breadwinner bear the larger part of the costs? How much assistance can you afford to give your extended families?

I don’t have much information regarding your incomes, but it sounds as though you are both small business owners; this often means that income can be somewhat irregular until the businesses are well established. It is important that you to start to build savings aggressively and establish an emergency fund to tide you over during challenging times. Experts advise 6 – 12 months of your expenses set aside in an easily accessible money market account or money market fund.

You do also need to carefully consider realistically how your businesses are faring, and if indeed it is in the best interest of the family for you both to be running businesses at this time, or whether one of you should consider getting a full-time job with steady income for at least a few years whilst keeping the business on the side.

What are your family goals? Establish SMART short, medium, and long-term goals both as individuals and as a family. Estimate what these goals will cost. For example, you plan to start a family in the next few years; there is rent to pay; perhaps you need to buy a car; or perhaps one of you wants to go back to school. Establish individual and family budgets to establish where your money is going; this is the best way to begin to manage your finances. There are many budget tools on line; you can also download a simple budget template at www.moneymatterswithnimi.com. Track your expenses for a month to identify where you need to cut back to make room for savings.

As regards expenses, the decision as to whether you combine your finances is a very personal one that depends on your relationship. For many couples, a mix works well – where the couple keeps separate bank accounts and credit cards and split big household expenses like rent and utilities. Some opt to contribute a percentage of earnings into the joint account to save towards goals and family expenses; where there is any windfall income, you can contribute more. In another model, one partner will pay for utilities whilst the other pays for food etc. This makes it possible for each of you to still retain the independence of not having to account for every single expense.

Commit to investing regularly. Even if you don’t have much disposable income at the moment, set aside some money each month, no matter how small towards your long-term goals. The key to financial security is consistent saving and investing over time; this means that young people have a huge advantage if they start early. Most people don’t have the time or the expertise to select individual stocks; mutual funds are a good option where you have relatively small sums to invest. They also come with built-in diversification and are professionally managed.

As early as possible begin to explore the possibility of owning your own property; this asset class can be truly transformational. For many young couples this might seem daunting, but you can start small by purchasing land. Ideally in a marriage it is best for both spouses to be fully involved in decision making, particularly for major far reaching decisions such as home ownership, choice of schools etc. Try to walk this journey together.

There is no one size fits all when it comes to finances in relationships but with careful planning and clear communication you can work through your family finances. The financial decisions that you make now can have a lasting impact on your financial future as you go through the various stages of life.

Dear Nimi,
Good day. I have small problem.
I am planning to get married. I have my own business and I am in my final year in school, but things are “somehow” now.
I wanted to use the little N150,000 to plan for the marriage. Should I invest it on my business that will yield profit before a year’s time, or go ahead on the marriage plans so that my wife and I will plan together?

Dear Edwin,
Thank you for your email.
You have quite a lot on your plate: planning for your wedding and marriage, running a business and facing final exams. You seem under a lot of pressure which concerns me somewhat.

There is no guarantee that your business will do well; indeed, the vast majority of small businesses fail within the first 2 years. This is not to discourage you but putting all your savings in the business is taking too much risk at this time, considering the other very important plans that you have. Getting married is a huge long term responsibility and you must be well prepared.

Is your fiancée working? Is she able to contribute to the family expenses whilst you build your business, or will she be completely dependent on you for a while? Have you discussed how you will cope with important family expenses of rent, utilities, transport costs and starting a family in the next few months or years? If the business plans do not reap the profits you envisage, will that leave you in dire straits?

I would suggest that you critically review the above; I would also suggest that you try to build at least 6 months of savings to tide you over for unexpected expenses that will come up so that you are not forced into debt. Don’t be in such a hurry. It is important to prioritise and focus on what is the most important thing for you at this time. I wish you the best of luck with all these big plans.

Meeting your financial goals on a low income
We all want to build wealth and plan for a financially secure future. We have goals; such as owning our own property, educating children, travelling and so on. However, this can seem impossible when you’re barely surviving on a very low income.
Indeed, the vast majority of Nigerians are living pay-cheque to pay-cheque. When money is that tight, saving any amount can be the last priority on your list so I am particularly pleased that you are still keen to find ways to save.

When it comes to your finances, it’s important not to focus just on the present, but also the future. Even when your salary hardly covers your expenses, you can still save little by little. Remember that if you cannot save when you earn only N100,000 a month, you will not be able to save when you earn N1,000,000 a month.

Here are a few things to think about as you try to meet your financial goals on a low income:
Are you in debt?
Before you can start to save in earnest, you need to tackle your debt from salary loans or other personal loans. Start by prioritizing your debt so you are paying off the ones with highest interest first or the ones that are putting you under the most pressure.

What are your biggest expenses?
Apart from the usual money saving ideas like cutting back on how often you eat out by taking a packed lunch to work, cutting down on your phone expenses, changing to a cheaper cable TV bouquet, and so on, there are bigger things that you can do if you really intend to bring costs down drastically.

Housing costs tend to be the largest expense for most people. If you are renting, you might consider downsizing to more affordable accommodation or sharing with friends if you are single. If you are fortunate enough to live in own your home and it can fetch you a decent rent, you might rent it out and live in a more affordable location. Be sure to weigh up what you are saving against the inconvenience, stress, and increased transport costs. Your quality of life is part of your investment in yourself.

Start a Side Hustle
If you have cut back to the bare bone and there is nothing left, then you have to look for ways to earn additional income. Can you start a side business to earn extra money? What are your skills and talents? What are you very good at? What do you already enjoy doing that can be leveraged on. Be conscious of any potential conflict of interest with your day job. If you cheat on your employer’s resources or time you will lose your job, and that will only make your financial situation worse.

Saving money when you earn little is very hard but it can be done. It is important to prioritise so you can focus on your goals.

Please always remember to seek professional advice.
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