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The fate of foolish financing.

Christmas is around the corner and money will be flying on good times cause-I-deserve-it, gifts of love and guilt, and countless could-have-stayeds. Many Namibians, like Erna Eichas, find themselves stuck in the quicksand of debt and are all desperate to get out. The good news is there is help available in numerous forms.


Vibrant and engaging, Erna Eichas hopes to change people's financial behaviour in her community. "The only thing my people know to do with money is to spend it", she says, "we can't wait for Christmas but then we are surprised by January. And we say it is a difficult month. But it's not. January is the same as all the other months. It's us and what we do to January!" At age 40, Erna is the mother of 6 daughters and lives in Agste Laan, but she believes change is never too late. Every new day is a day to pursue your dreams. It is important for Erna that her children and their peers be taught about finances from a young age to learn how to work well with their money. It is for this reason that she, with the help of her brother, Seth Nowaseb, a lecturer at Unam, established Hairab Finance Education to teach people in her community and especially children--on becoming smart about their money.

A stay-home mom, with a history in waitressing, frail care work, cashier, and clerk jobs, Erna's volunteering at her church soon led to employment there on a part-time basis. The work at church mostly provides for the family's food and from time to time Erna has a braai stand to make a few extra dollars. As the main breadwinner her husband earns N$7 000 per month, but after deductions the family has N$2 300-N$2 500 to make do with. As a computer technician he sometimes has the opportunity to also make a few extra bucks, but this is not a guarantee. School going children are expensive even when education is free, funerals and weddings, car insurance and maintenance, water and electricity, are but a few of the expenses the little over N$2 000 needs to cover.

Well acquainted with the Sheriff of the Court and cash loans, Erna realised she was no different than an ostrich with its head in the sand, unwilling to learn how to face the facts about her finances. Erna used to be the kind of woman who would draw up her shopping list, but come the isles with goods wrapped and packaged so pretty and neat, she'd forget about her list until she stood in the street, surrounded by bags of groceries and no taxi money. Eyeing around for someone to give her a lift or lend her the fare could so easily have been prevented. But those were her ways, lacking in foresight and planning. She was, however, no exception for she saw the same scenario play itself off in multiple varieties in her community. Did everyone not walk around jovial on Pay Day only to seem angry, frustrated and dazed by the fifth day? For Erna this way of living came down to mismanaging your own life and putting extra strain on relationships. She determined to get her head out of the sand and learn how to do things differently. If she was not going to learn how to do things right, how could she go out and convince others that change was possible?

Hairab Financial Education

Erna recalls the first time they arranged a teaching session where Seth would introduce them to financial wellbeing. People came late, they seemed uninterested and even she found herself dozing off. Here they had an opportunity to get out of the mess they were in, but such focus was hard. It was much easier to complain about one's finances and to allow things to carry on as usual. The benefits were clear to see, but the doing took some serious determination.

Hairab Financial Education teaches about the psychology of money and tracking your finances to understand it is often our thinking around money that is the root of our troubles. People complain, "I don't know what happens to my money." With "money tracking" they discover exactly where it goes and in this way they are able to start taking control back over their finances. Do you daily drink coke that you buy from the corner shop? Do you open clothing accounts because your identity is tied to what you wear when you actually have enough clothes? This is a way of throwing away money, according to Seth. Since you know you drink a can of coke a day, why not buy in bulk from Metro to save money --and then go ahead and invest that money in a savings account? So it's not always how much you earn, but what you do with you earnings that leave room for saving.

Erna recalls her early days of getting into the habit of saving, "I remember getting upset when I limited myself to eating brown bread, because I would think, 'I have money, man! Why must I eat like this?!'" But this was the beginning of her turn-around to not only start thinking differently, but to also start acting differently. One thing Erna advises on, if you are a couple, both of you need to buy into saving otherwise it probably won't work if one saves and the other regularly withdraws.

In addition to individuals like Erna and Seth with a desire to see their communities become empowered, the Namibian Government in line with the fourth National Development Plan (NDP4) has taken steps to improve financial literacy in the country, specifically focusing on low-income households.

Financial Literacy Initiative

A 2013 financial literacy baseline survey reveals 51% of people surveyed have financial knowledge around budgeting, saving and the likes. But only 32% behave in accordance with that knowledge. The survey further reveals 49% argue they do not have money left to save after paying for their living expenses. To top it off, the Numbeo's Southern Africa Living Index 2014 Mid-Year report has identified Windhoek as the most expensive city in Southern Africa. It is therefore necessary that we educate ourselves on finances if we are going to see changes in our struggling finances in this expensive city.

The Financial Literacy Initiative (FLI), which provides financial education to the public, initiated by the Ministry of Finance and the German Development Cooperation (GIZ) was officially launched in 2012. To date they have distributed 122 000 booklets on money matters for the youth, micro-, small- and medium enterprises, employees, the general public and specifically people from the low-income sector. They have also reached 2 200 SMEs through their training of trainers' programmes.

Considering not everybody is keen on reading books on finances, FLI was clever enough to not only produce small booklets in various languages, but also print their information pages in newspapers and magazines, produce DVDs, produce and regularly air a money-wise song with Sonny Boy and Adora, appear on TV and be active on Youtube, Facebook and Twitter. The vision is to improve the quality of life for Namibians through educating the nation on better financial decision-making and management about products, services and institutions.

If you know you need things to change in your finances, search for the available tools and begin to implement the advice.
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Title Annotation:Finances
Author:de Voss, Vida
Publication:Sister Namibia
Date:Dec 1, 2014
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