By Wandia Gichuru / Adapted from her Nation Interview with Thomas Rajula (June 30, 2015)
I was 21 when I graduated from university, so I spent most of my 20s working. My first real job was in Montreal, Canada. More than anything, I loved the fact that I was independent for the first time in my life; mature enough to make my own decisions, yet young enough not to have real responsibilities. That gave me a lot of freedom to take risks and make mistakes. I partied a lot and lived a very spontaneous life.
All I wanted to do was find a really good job with a really good company. At the time, I thought Kenya Airways would be the perfect place to work so that I could get free tickets to fly around the world! I ended up working for the Kenya Wildlife Service and then for Citibank – both really amazing places to work.
I was useless with money in my twenties. I would basically spend everything I earned by the end of each month and a lot of it was on travelling, clothes and entertainment. I did not open a savings account until I was 30, something I am not proud of.
I am quite proud of the fact that I always took work seriously though – even from a young age. When I commit to doing something, I do everything I can to make sure it happens. Even when I wasn’t that ambitious, I gave my best at whatever I did.
I wish I had been more prudent with my money – I think financial discipline should start when we are young. Every decision we make brings us to exactly where we are right now. There are a few things I would do differently if I could turn back time. I of course wish that I had saved my money. If I had, I would have had more money to invest, (in businesses, properties, the stock market, you name it) which would really have come in handy! I have friends who started putting money aside with their first salary cheque, and today they have enough saved to pay for their children’s’ education all the way through to university overseas. Sadly, I cannot say I’m in the same situation.
Looking back I also wish I had spent a bit less time partying and more time being creative, doing more constructive projects, either charitable or for profit, exercising and cultivating good eating habits – basically leading a healthy lifestyle. It’s never too early to start these things! And the sooner one starts, the stronger a foundation you are building for your future.
Lesson 15: Take your money very seriously. Even if your take-home is kshs. 10,000, save some religiously. Remember that many teachers, nurses and policemen who take home very small salaries, educate their children, buy a plot of land and retire well. Join a Sacco near you and save there.