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Prevention is better than cure in your personal finances

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One-thousand Shilling notes spread out.

One-thousand Shilling notes spread out. Many people forget that there are no quick fix solutions to physical and financial health. PHOTO BY RACHEL MABALA 

By Grace Makoko

Posted  Tuesday, February 18   2014 at  02:02
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I am always intrigued by the attention we give to diets and all weight watching programmes. I was introduced to the slippery world of dieting and weight watching in my teenage years. I don’t think there is any popular diet out there that I have not tried. What I can confirm today, nearly 30 years later is that prevention is better than cure. The biggest weakness of the human race is our failure to understand and embrace this concept.

The current perception
When you observe our lifestyles today it is clear that we believe more in healing than in health. We make poor choices about what we eat, we don’t exercise enough, don’t sleep enough, we are always on the run, chasing the next deadline all the while knowing that if the worst comes to the worst ,we will go to hospital and get medication for whatever condition our sick body has.

We make excuses for our poor, short sighted choices and justify our lack of fitness.

Actually in my case, the excuse was the one you have heard from almost every mother; I have three daughters and the evidence of that is apparent. If we truly believed in health, then we would do everything it takes to be healthy. We would eat less, throw out the junk from our diet, snack less, exercise more regularly, get adequate sleep and enjoy our family and friends more. You don’t need to wait for a doctor to tell you these things unless you believe in healing and not health. Prevention is better than cure.

Funny that this same concept of health versus healing, prevention verses cure plays out in our finances.

One of the biggest businesses in town is money lending and the number of patients queuing up for this treatment is staggering. Most of these loans are for consumption and are therefore not going towards wealth creation.

Searching for miraculous cures
Many of the patients lining up for this miracle cures are looking for healing of the immediate illness; school fees, rent, transport, kwanjula (introduction ceremony), wedding, graduation party, name it. What I find incredible is that we now have a number of evening study programmes that offer lessons on financial literacy and the uptake is not impressive.

Not many people are going for financial health classes as they would rather ask for a loan from friends and relatives to meet their financial obligations than save up a nominal amount or even borrow money to attend a course that will give you life-time knowledge on how to live within your means and create wealth.

Financial literacy interest low
I once told a friend of mine about an eight-week financial literacy evening course (two hours per week 6:00pm to 8:00pm), let’s just say her response proved to me that she did not think her future was worth the Shs260,000 that it would cost for knowledge on financial health. Another individual who I offered to pay for said she had no time, then two months later approached me for a loan.

Clearly, what we want is a pill, a tablet that will cure our financial sickness, these days we even go to church seeking a financial breakthrough, a miracle cure yet financial health is superior to financial healing.

One thing is clear, we need to radically change our approach to life and think long-term when it comes to health and well-being. There are no quick fix solutions to physical and financial health, one has to make some painful choices and prepare for the discomfort that comes with postponing current pleasure for future gains.
When it comes to financial wealth I am reminded of what the good book says “Go to the ant and consider its ways and be WISE.”

The writer is Standard Chartered Bank’s head of financial markets in East Africa.