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3 Ways to Save Your Life’s Savings

Ghana has many, many traps that have caught countless repats in their endeavour to make Africa their home once again.  Here are some suggestions on how you can hold on to your money.

(1) Live within your own means.  This sounds a whole lot easier than it is, unless, of course, you already own your own car and home. The single most important reason why Africans coming from the Diaspora find it impossible to survive in Ghana financially is because we have been taught to live way outside our means.  This discipline should be learned and practiced before coming to Ghana.  The objective is to literally abandon using credit cards and live within a structured budget based on your real income, for one year before relocating.  No exercise or preparation will be more beneficial to any prospective repat.  A great guide is Dave Ramsey, a popular talk show host with excellent tutorials (books & CDs) on how to budget and save. Without this discipline you can not financially survive or thrive in Ghana.  America is very unique in that almost anyone can drive a new car and “own” a house.  Everywhere else in the world you actually have to be able to afford those things and not just 10% of their value.  That is why our counterparts, the Chinese, Lebanese, Indians, etc. are able to make more rapid progress when they move to Africa, because they are coming from economic structures much like that in Ghana, only theirs is usually far poorer.  We, on the other hand, are coming from the most “developed”, most sophisticated economies the world has ever known, which by design is destined to lead its subjects to debt, slavery and ruin.  We have to change the way we think about spending limited resources of every sort.

(2) Don’t fool yourself.  Ghana requires that you must invest a minimum sum of $10,000 in order to get legal residency in Ghana, thus you must, all-of-a-sudden, become an investor even if you never gambled with stocks or owned your own business.  Do not come to Ghana and decide, because everything looks so green, that you can simply grab the bull by its horns and turn yourself into a magnate.  It will not happen.  If you were gainfully employed before then admit to yourself that you are somewhat addicted to a regular income.  You can not flip the scrip over night and you can not get a job here. (On the contrary, about 5% do find good paying jobs, but it should not be your expectation.)  Instead, play the game.  Open a business that requires little to no risk, investing your money no differently than you would have spent it if you didn’t have to invest at all.  For instance, open a guest house.  Use the money you were going to use on shelter to build or rent the living quarters that you planned living in, then allocate a room or two for guests.  Put up a small sign if necessary, but most importantly, do not “invest” in any business venture until you have had the time to see things clearly.  Budget yourself to be able to survive for a year on what you bring and allow that time to observe before making any investments.

(3) Seek counsel.  All too often repats can’t afford the services of Delloite and Stouch so they assume they will figure it all out on their own. Worse still, we move in insignificantly small numbers, hardly ever as a group or an organization like our counterparts, thus we are easily targeted and picked off. It may be too much to ask most Africans to put differences aside and make collective movements, each humbly playing their respective roles, so instead I will suggest that you align yourself with 3-5 other individuals or families that you think you can trust and who have lived in Ghana for at least 2 years .  Use these people, lay as they may be, as your Board of Directors.  Take no decisions without their vote.  They need  not know each other, but at least 2 should also be from the Diaspora and at least 1 should be from Ghana.  Then when deciding big issues like where to buy land or small matters like how much you should pay a house attendant, take a poll from your Board, then decide.  What ever you do, stop following Kofi, the brother of your new best friend’s father, like the blind leading the blind, straight to the end of the road, where he will still be smiling while you are crying, your pockets empty.  Not everyone is crooked, but hardly anyone will tell you “he doesn’t know better”.  Instead they generally claim to be experts in areas they have no real knowledge of and give horrible advice with a smileJ.

In short, learn to think about resources differently, not just money, but time, space, air, water, food, and shelter should be viewed in relation to their true value and availability.  A conscious student will realize that western practices can not be sustained on any level and must be changed anyway.  Secondly, don’t convince yourself that you are what you are not.  If you have been employed most your life take your time before you jump ship into the ocean of entrepreneurs.  Last, but not least, don’t trust your judgment, get a second, third and fourth opinion.  Nothing is ever what it seems and hindsight is only slightly better.