This is one of my favourite stories that my mum tells me. She'll probably kill me for writing it on paper but for me it's a very pleasant story and one that can be used to motivate other women. Certainly, it motivates me and I admire my mother all the more for how smart she is. She's very, very clever.
This is how it went. Back in the 1980s my dad brought my mum to the UK for holiday. He bought her air ticket but he didn't give her any spending money, he said he didn't have any and that she would have to sort herself out.
From her salary she had saved GBP100, that is all she had, that was her life savings at the time, she was in her mid-20s or just beyond.
I believe this was her first trip to the UK. When she got there she observed a completely different way of life. She loved the clothes that were offered for sale and had one pivotal experience on that trip.
She saw a woman buy one dress, just a single outfit, for GBP60 and she felt more envious than she had ever been before. In her words, "Ndinasilira ngati sindinasilirepo." All she could afford was second hand clothing from charity shops and car boot sales.
She said that she couldn't imagine a world in which she could afford such an existence - a world in which she herself could pay that much for just one suit. This was 60% of her life savings don't forget.
When she got back home she decided she needed to do more to improve her life and the life of her children. Unbeknown to my father she had observed that he didn't actually buy the air tickets for their trip; he had taken them on credit with an agreement to repay over time so she did exactly the same thing.
She went to the travel agent and asked to buy one air ticket on credit with a pre-agreed schedule of when she would pay for it. She was a civil servant even then so she went to work and asked for a loan which she planned to use for shopping.
She went home and announced that she was off to the UK to my very surprised father. How?! She explained.
In that moment my mum gained financial independence. She went off to the UK where she bought things that she thought she could sell. She expected to recoup the money for the air ticket and the loan over a period of about three months but she repaid both in just one month.
With the profits she did the same thing and indeed, for as long as I can remember my mum has used her holiday days to operate a business, not to relax.
I told my mum that a Malawi in which a woman could do that was in a very different time and place. Nowadays it's so hard to navigate the system but she disagreed.
My mother thinks people just have misplaced priorities. For instance she initiated someone she knew into a business and this woman used almost all of her first profits to buy a large TV and sofa set instead of reinvesting that money into her business.
If you take a very long term view and operate a business with such a view you can achieve so much. Ignore the naysayers and be an inspiration to your own children like my mother was and is to me - she is my model for hard work.
"Financial peace isn't the acquisition of stuff. It's learning to live on less than you make, so you can give money back and have money to invest. You can't win until you do this." Dave Ramsey
For 2 years until early 2014 I wrote a weekly personal finance and business column for Malawi's leading media house, The Times Group. The target is middle-class, working African women.
This is a reproduction of the articles that appeared in the weekend edition of Malawi News.
|Heather Katsonga-Woodward: On Business, Life & Everything In-Between||
On Managing Money