I opened my first bank account at 18. It was my birthday and I remember being so excited about the idea of having plastic money. Needless to say, a year later I found myself getting rid of my plastic money and putting limitations on my account. At 18 I did not appreciate the value of money, or the need to save. Almost 10 years later, the coin has flipped and my philosophy regarding money has drastically changed.
Being in my 20s, having moved out of home I have been forced to acknowledge that with this newfound freedom comes great responsibility. Financial responsibilities.
As that coin flipped and I was faced with some hard-hitting realities, I came to acquire a little financial finesse. From my experience here are a few financial skills that every 20-something person should know:

1. Be tight-fisted. 10 shillings can have incredible value. When did you last grab a sausage as a snack or a mandazi? It may have been convenient but it wasn’t inexpensive. When you add grabbing coffee in the morning, a smoothie, fast food and a candy bar when you’re filling up your gas tank, these seemingly insignificant items can easily add up to 50 bob a day, 250 bob a week and 1000 shillings a month. Could you carry snacks and a pack lunch? Just think of how much you could save.

2. Cook. I love to eat out, but it certainly dents my pockets. Dining out can be expensive. People who don’t cook pay a lot for meals. Cooking and financial planning may not seem like they go together, but people who cook can eat very inexpensively. You don’t have to be a gourmet chef but if you learn to cook three or four meals you enjoy and make them regularly, you can save a lot in a year. Buy your ingredients in bulk. One meal turns into three when you make enough for another dinner and lunch the next day.

3. Choose the right roommate. What are the characteristics of a perfect roommate? Trick question. There’s no such thing as a perfect roommate but at the top of the list is someone you can rely on to pay rent on time every month. Then you want someone clean and who generally keeps to themselves. As much as sharing your space can be a win for your budget, it’s also important to pick the right person and have a written agreement. Especially if you happen to be friends.

4. Learn to negotiate. This applies to everyone but especially to women. Young women at that who tend to be timid; women are 2.5 times more likely to have a “great deal of apprehension” about negotiations.
“According to Linda Babcock and Sara Laschever, authors of Women Don’t Ask, failing to negotiate your first salary and starting your career less in salary can result in a career income loss” of thousands of shillings by age 60. Men are four times as likely as women to negotiate their first salary; this may have a major impact on the salary gender gap.
Do some research on the market value of your work; don’t shy away from asking people in the same field. Lastly, know your own value. How much of an asset do you consider yourself to be?

5. Invest in real property. When it comes to owning property, it’s definitely an asset in the long run. There is the headache of pushing tenants for rent every month and the mortgage payment to consider but the beauty of it is that the rent pays for the mortgage.
One strategy is to buy your

first home with the intention that you will turn it into a rental property when you’ve saved enough for your next down payment. So all you have to worry about is getting to know who your tenants are with the “Nyumba kumi” initiative.

Written by Naledi Juxon

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