By KES Lewis
There is a place and time for calling the authorities to account for their handling of the responsibilities and privileges entrusted to them. When businesses, churches, and governments act in a way that betrays the social contract they are engaged in, they should be called out and challenged to stamp out corruption and bring about real change.
However, there is a need for individuals to exercise agency, the idea that a person possesses a certain level of control over their actions and the consequences that follow. When a person acts with agency, they experience well-being and greater life-satisfaction among other things.
Without dismissing the reality of the economic dark clouds hanging over the nation, individual actions can mitigate their effects and, in some instances, bring about meaningful change.
Last time I proposed changing mindsets, setting goals, and saving and investing as things each person can do to help themselves during this season. To these I want to add the following.
Start a business
Betty (not her real name) lived the middle-class dream. She got good grades throughout primary and secondary school. University was a bit harder. Maintaining good grades amid her newly discovered freedom and the lack of structure that she thrived in while at her previous schools, did not come easy, but she persevered and graduated. She then got a job, increased her debt burden to build a house, and lived the seemingly comfortable middle-income life.
Even though she was gainfully employed, Betty still struggled to make her financial commitments, so she started a side gig. Being conscientious, skillful and hardworking, she began to see positive effects. Eventually she gained a solid reputation and clientele. Then it happened. Her day job became tedious, tiring, and predictable, at the same time, her side hustle was giving her an unusual sense of fulfilment and joy, not to mention the added income to do things that needed to be done. When the feeling of dissonance with her job would not go away, she went against the grain of societal expectation and resigned her job and turned the side gig into the main thing.
This is a true story, and it can also be your story. You do not have to take the same route, but starting a business, either to complement your main revenue or to be your main income generator, is a viable option.
Live on a budget
When the supermarket prices went up, she complained to anyone who would listen. She stopped short of calling for fire and brimstone to fall on the supermarket, their owners, their families and every future generation. Yet amid her condemnation of the price hike she did one, small, but powerful thing. She stayed on her budget. If she was only able to buy two of something, she bought two, even if she usually bought four. She sacrificed and remained disciplined.
Living on a budget is spending less than you are making. Said another way, its making sure your income is more than your expenses. While this sounds easy it is not or more people would do it. That said, living on a realistic budget is critical to overcome the financial malaise that plagues the country and to an extent the region. You do not have to eat out every Friday or buy that new pair of jeans or attend that expensive party. The sacrifices of today would bear fruit tomorrow. So, live on a budget.
Whether real or not, the response of the authorities during the recent volcanic eruption left a bitter taste in the mouth of a lot of people. What was very much real though was the generosity of the people of St Vincent and the Grenadines. Those who lived abroad sent what they could, those who lived on island shared their water and food with their neighbours and those in need.
Being generous leads to better relationships, increased physical and mental well-being, life satisfaction and increased work productivity. In short, generosity improves your quality of life.
Practice it. Start with whatever you have and increase your giving when you have more.
· Become financially literate, especially about compound interest.
· Collaborate with others. You can form an investment group to limit the burden of investing, create a cooperative to purchase food in bulk or partner with others in your business venture.
· Invest in education, whether yours or your children. Education is one of the ways to escape poverty.
· Create and remain in a sustainable family structure. Cohabitation does not benefit anyone. Women especially remain wedded to poverty when they are in relationships that cycle around a dead-end. Get in a proper family structure.
Yes, SVG is hard, but you can act, change your mindset about poverty and wealth, set realistic goals, save, invest, start a business, live on a budget, and be generous. If you have any advice, share it with others. Spread the wealth.