Making money mistakes in your 30s can cost you down the line, more than you realize. Muriithi Mwangi, the Group Financial Controller at Africa Healthcare Network shares some insight on the financial dos and don’ts to live by in your 30s.
Ah yes, your 30s. The decade of your life when you’re meant to have some semblance of having gotten your act together - career-wise, financially, or otherwise. In your 30s, you have more responsibilities than you did in your 20s so the stakes are higher. Well, in this article we address the financial aspect of things.
Money matters are always delicate; having too much of it is ideal, but you may not know what to do with it. Having too little doesn’t solve your problems either. There are a few basic rules to follow when it comes to managing your money. We caught a few words of wisdom from Muriithi Mwangi, a CPA, B.Sc. Statistics graduate and a finance and accounting professional about the money mistakes to avoid in your 30s.
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am Muriithi Njagi Mwangi, the Group Financial Controller for Africa Healthcare Network overseeing finances for Kenya, Tanzania, Rwanda, and Ghana. I joined two months ago and prior to that, I was the Financial Controller at Farmworks Africa handling operations in Kenya and Uganda. Throughout my career, I have worked in various industries including Media and Advertising, Construction, Agriculture, and Retail and Healthcare.
What does the role of a Financial Controller entail?
It involves overseeing cash flow for the company across the different countries, managing payables and receivables and ensuring that we have money to fund the operational activities. It also involves helping the leadership and budgeting team with capital expenditure, growth, fundraising, and grant raising.
Have you always worked in Finance throughout your career?
This is my 7th year in Finance. Before that I was self-employed, but still doing finance-related work.
Having worked in Finance for 7 years now, what would you say is a non-negotiable financial advice one should apply to their life?
(Laughs) No pressure…
Planning, planning, planning. It may sound very simple but you always have to plan. Plan for the little that you have so that when you get more, you’ll already have the culture for it and know how to cater for the excess. You’re better off knowing that you need help if you’re not good at planning. Prioritize it at any level, provided you have any sort of income, be it a steady income or even pocket money.
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When you get to your 30s, it is expected to have achieved some form of stability. With that said, what money mistakes should one avoid in their 30s?
1. Avoid peer pressure
Like you said, your 20s are all about discovery, trying new things, and shifting careers, but in your 30s there is a bit of stability. People in their 30s have probably worked for, say, at least five years, so you know what you want to do and what you don’t want to do. Across your social settings, you’ll find that the people around you are probably in the same space in life; some could be joining mid-level management, overseeing teams, or traveling outside the country.
Subconsciously, you’ll find some strange peer pressure setting in because your peers might be buying assets, so you will feel the need to match up. This peer pressure can come in the form of acquisition of assets and liabilities depending on how you think about them. You may also give in to this peer pressure when it comes to taking up debts. You might get a call from the bank informing you that you can get a certain car or buy a house on debt. So that peer pressure could come from friends or financial institutions.
Depending on how you are planning to accommodate that into your overall plan, I’d say there’s a lot of unnecessary payment. If you were to get a mortgage of probably 10-15 years on a house that you’re buying in the coast, you could end up paying for it for 15 years. This is a very long time to pay for something that you likely weren’t sold on. By the end of the first year, you end up realizing this was just something to show off to your friends and the people around you and it wasn’t worth it.
2. Start saving if you haven’t by now
Save up any amount you can then once you’ve built up momentum, do it consistently. Once you start saving consistently, you need to ensure that your savings are robust meaning they are not just general savings. Ensure that you know what the money you’re saving is for, be it KES 10,000 or KES 20,000.
Allocate your savings to specific things within two main categories: Foreseen and unforeseen expenses.
Foreseen expenses are possible future expenses, such as going back to school, travel, or buying/building a home, so plan for them when you allocate your savings.
Unforeseen expenses include any unplanned events that can affect your finances such as a job loss, a demotion, or a salary cut. Make sure you are saving for an emergency fund.
This will help you avoid many mistakes. If, for example, someone comes to you selling a car at a throwaway price of KES 300,000, you might be tempted to buy it just because you have that money stashed away. But if you have already allocated that KES 300,000 to something else, you won’t see the need to buy the car. It’s not about having the money; you may have the money, but it is not for that purpose.
3. Get medical insurance
Ensure you have medical insurance in whatever amount or plan. I have seen people’s accounts being wiped out completely because of a health problem where they needed to be admitted in hospital and had to raise a lot of money. You can end up selling all your assets or going into debt just to offset medical bills, yet medical insurance can be fairly priced or even cheaper than paying the medical bills. Getting medical insurance can help you avoid such a situation.
Are there money mistakes you made and you wish you’d have done things differently?
(Laughs) If I could write a book… I have made my fair share of mistakes but luckily none of them were bad enough to take me back to square one. I have invested in risky businesses with some not paying off at all.
My main takeaway from that was to assess opportunities based on risk. There are high, medium, and low-risk investment opportunities; think about what percentage of your money you are willing to do away with for each kind of investment. For a high-risk investment, make sure you assign a very low percentage of your investment, basically what you can afford to lose.
I was once told that there is a right way to save: quickly, cheaply, and never the same way twice. If you see that you have made a mistake with an investment, leave it as soon as you see that red flag and don’t go back to that situation again. Some people could be optimistic and assume that by trying again things could turn out differently.
Then again, life happens. You cannot be afraid to invest your money just because there are conmen and investments might not happen. Just be cautious.
What would you say is the worst financial advice people dish out freely?
“Tumia pesa ikuzoee” (Use money until it gets used to you) (laughs) Yeah, that is the worst one I’ve heard yet.