My wife and I once lived in a comfortable house in a nicer suburb than we could afford. We loved our neighborhood and felt very comfortable there. One day however, we both realized that many of our neighbors were actually far wealthier than we were! They owned businesses or worked in careers that allowed them to earn far more money than we did. After some sober reflection, we reached the conclusion that living in that expensive suburb was slowly ‘eating’ our future! And so we made the humbling decision to move to a much less expensive area. Needless to say, some of our friends found our decision very difficult to understand!
You see, we are part of a culture where everyone wants to own the latest gadgets, drive the car of their dreams and live in the leafy suburbs – as quickly as possible! We want it all and we want it NOW. A friend who works in HR and regularly interviews fresh college graduates told me that many expect a starting salary of two hundred thousand shillings, as well as a car and a house! Blossoming casinos and the abundance of SMS lotteries point to the dream that many have to strike it rich quick. Politicians award themselves arbitrary pay-rises to live at the standard they desire, whether the nation can afford it or not. And preachers preach a non-biblical gospel that says you can get rich without working by simply ‘naming and claiming it’.
All these factors have resulted in a ‘get rich quick’ mentality that is undermining our ability to succeed as a nation! The result is a people who prefer to take shortcuts, give bribes, and steal our employer’s time, all in a bid to get ahead. We not only want to get rich quick but we want to live rich now! I have known of businesspeople who on winning their first big contract immediately moved to a bigger office, hired more staff and upgraded their car only to find themselves struggling a few months later after the money was spent!
What my wife and I had realized in the nice suburb is that our rate of consumption and our desire to live the good life now was hindering our ability to create the financial margins that would allow us to invest for our future, grow in our generosity and leave an inheritance for our children.
Reminds me of the time a wise older man asked my investment group, ‘how long are you planning to invest for?’ We confidently answered that we were investing together to provide for our retirement years. His reply shocked us. ‘I didn’t realize I was talking to such selfish, short-term thinkers!’ He went on to challenge us to invest not for ourselves but for the next generation. As the richest and wisest man in the bible once taught, ‘a righteous man leaves an inheritance for his children’s children’ (Proverbs 13:22)
Asian cultures have practiced this well, even here. The Nakumatt we see today is a result of the investment of several generations. Notice that there are precious few examples of successful, multi-generational, African-built companies! If we want to create lasting wealth and to be part of the generation that see’s Africa stop being called ‘the dark continent’ and become ‘the great continent’, then we too must stop eating our future today. We must develop a multi-generational view of wealth!