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Updated: Dec 7, 2020

Most of us utilize the start of the year to create a New Year’s resolution. This year was most special because 2020 provides the opportunity for us to plan for a new year and a new decade. None of us, however, could have predicted the many devastating events which have occurred since the start of 2020. These events include wild fires, hurricanes, floods, social unrests, death of superstars (like Kobe Bryant and Chadwick Boseman), deadly explosions and a 100-year pandemic - COVID-19, which has already killed over one million people. A study out of the University of Illinois found that 100,000 small businesses have permanently closed their doors since the start of the pandemic in the USA. These many tragic events have resulted in the demise of many lives and businesses. Survival in these very hard times is proving difficult for many, especially the poor, new startups and even existing businesses.

I AM HEARTBROKEN; the Management of the gym I have attended for over twenty (20) years, Spartan Health Club Jamaica, revealed that they will be closing their doors at the end of October. They said that the closure is due directly to “the extremely negative effect on the financial operations of the club caused by the Coronavirus”. I started the gym back in 1997 to enhance my health and wellness; ironically, 23 years later, a health crisis has led to the closure of my wellness center.

The statement “in very hard times” can be somewhat misleading. This statement in its simplest construct, seems to suggest that hard times are only experienced in certain times. This implies that hard times are restricted to particular circumstances, like a tragic event such as a famine, hurricane or a pandemic. This is a major fallacy. Many persons are born into very difficult circumstances. They live in poverty, communities without adequate social and physical infrastructures and lack of access to proper health, security and educational services. Similarly, many small businesses are under-capitalized at startup. They lack the required human resource, marketing and technical capabilities to grow and develop. For many, hard times is a ‘way of life’.

I am now on Chapter 7 of writing my first book, Memoirs of my Family: Destiny Driven by Mobility.

I was born into a poor family with sixteen (16) brothers and sisters in a remote rural village in the hills of North Western St. Elizabeth, my father, a farmer and my mother a shopkeeper. My place of birth has never retarded my aspirations and development. My mother and father were adamant that our modest circumstances would not be a negative determinant for me and my siblings’ future growth. The result is that our destiny was driven by their quest for our family’s mobility. My family’s situation is not unique! Many persons have used hardships, challenges and disasters as a catalyst for creating a better life for themselves. Notwithstanding this reality, there are many persons whose circumstances continue to remain desperate, especially in these very hard times.

Joe Moore said that “a simple fact that is hard to learn is that the time to save money is when you have some”. A simple strategy to live by is that you should work hard and save your money and where possible, borrow and spend other people’s money. My father reinforced the importance of capital to me. He said “Save cash and buy land” and my sister Bernice, a teacher, who I grew up with, taught me the importance of knowledge asset. She said “Education is the food of life”. We should therefore invest in cash, fixed and knowledge assets, to create a competitive edge for ourselves and our businesses.

After further interrogation of the topic “Money-Management: In Very Hard Times”, the following is my ‘Road Map’ to good money management in hard times:

Wealth Creation

You cannot manage what you don’t have!!! Wealth creation requires a job or a source of income. At minimum, you should have a job where you are paid a salary. Select the job in an industry that creates stable and high rewards. In the case of a business, revenue is generated from the selling of products and services. The revenue from the selling of products and services must be greater than the cost of producing them. The surplus that is created by a job or business is the instrument of wealth creation.

It is always best to have reserve capital (cash and fixed assets) in very hard times. Without capital accumulation, a person or business is at risk of being hurt by unforeseen tragic events. Capital accumulation should be generational for it to be most effective in creating lasting value. Capital accumulation is best accomplished through savings, loans and investments. A person and business must be tactical in executing their capital accumulation strategies in very hard times, especially when the economy of a country is fragile.

Knowledge Assets

Having strong knowledge assets are most important for responding to hard times. Knowledge assets are intellectual resources that are best created through formal education, on the job training and life experiences. The synergy of intellectual resources such as information, ideas, learning, understanding, memory, insights, cognitive and technical skills, provides power to a person and business. Knowledge created from good, credible and accurate information produces better decisions. Knowledge asset is also accumulated over time through learning; it is the wisdom that is created from this process by a person and business that is utilized to prepare and recover from tragic events.

Businesses have become very good at capturing operational data and converting it to business intelligence that is used to maximize opportunities and combat threats. Individuals must also make good decisions about where they live, who they live with, where they work and even who they vote for. Smile! Making proper life decisions will assist in altering the level of hardships that a person experiences during their life time. A person and business should invest in continuous learning and development to effectively operate and survive in very hard times.

Operational Consolidation

We must take urgent actions during hard times to cut costs. Consolidation of some activities by a person and business further reduces cost. This requires prioritization of the major cost drivers and activities that are listed in your budgets. We should identify the discretionary and nondiscretionary cost drivers and eliminate all the discretionary costs. Businesses should revise their yearly budgets and refocus their operational, maintenance and capital work plans. In the case of nondiscretionary costs, they should ensure that in all instances, value for money spent is achieved during the procurement processes. Always target the larger nondiscretionary cost drivers such as mortgages, utilities, foods, payroll, etc. for cost reduction.

Carpooling has massive benefits to persons, especially workers’ pockets and the general protection of the environment (fuel, congestion, pollution, etc.). Reducing the number of homes and moving from costly urban centers to the suburbs or rural areas, can dramatically reduce costs for families. Many persons should contemplate moving back to the country, which has better living standards, including lower/no rent, cleaner air and cheaper foods. We should encourage our children to stay longer in our homes, opt for family gatherings and eliminate expensive recreational activities. Businesses should outsource non-core activities, reduce the number of business sites, deliver more of their services online and offer corporate services within group of companies. During very hard times, there is normally less to spend.

Shared services are vital for increasing economics of scale and getting the best value for our money in hard times. Businesses and residents should target securing space in developments that use the principle of shared services. This means shared cost for insurance, security, garbage collection, sewage, cleaning, etc. Shared service facilities also provide for better management than standalone facilities. Shared service developments, for example, an integrated business center, provide persons the opportunity to access one-stop services from an integration of services that are delivered also at a lower cost. Shared investments in high cost equipment, such as renewable energy systems, results in lower cost of ownership to all users. These equipment provides for greater contingency and reliability to clients and businesses, especially after a tragic event.

Technology Centric

You should adapt pervasive technologies to reduce the cost of living, enhance your quality of life and increase operational and business efficiencies of companies. Consider yourself behind a ‘Black Eight Ball’ if you are not technology centric. Governments should invest in technologies to reduce the digital divide, especially between urban and rural communities. There must be a focused strategy on how rural communities get access to Government services. Businesses should invest in telecommunications, productive and business applications to enhance their business processes to make them more efficient. They should pursue an e-business strategy which focuses on reducing their brick and mortar footprint, while increasing their online presence. Individuals should invest in portable intelligent devices and utilize social media and other productive tools, to limit their travel to secure products and services. Living digitally is more cost effective than operating or receiving services from a brick and mortar establishment, more-so now that people contact is very dangerous, especially in this pandemic.

Leverage Benefits

You should leverage all benefits that are available to us in hard times. Government usually provides different social benefits through its agencies responsible for education, labour, housing, security, justice, water, utility, etc. You should identify these benefits and draw down on them. Many companies have collective bargaining agreements in which they agree with the unions/staff to provide benefits to their workers. Companies also provides a list of additional incentives and benefits to all their workers. Special focus should also be placed on the leveraging of loans, grants and scholarships which are provided by local and multinational organizations. Of great importance is the support that is provided by NGOs, foundations, social clubs, community groups, etc. You should never be too shy or proud to access these supports, especially in times of crisis.

Health and Wellness

Your body’s immunity becomes compromised as you get older; this is more evident in very hard times. A. J. Reb Materi suggested that “so many people spend their health gaining wealth, and then have to spend their wealth to regain their health”. Spending on curative health is always more expensive than spending on preventative health, you therefore must be wise about your health-seeking behaviours. Invest more in your lifestyle, sleep longer, take your supplements, eat right and exercise! This will save you more in the long term. Businesses should increase workplace productivity by investing in the improvement in working conditions to foster the wellbeing of their workers. They should also invest in work from home and flex time initiatives, where possible, to better support staff. They should also distribute personal protective equipment (PPEs) to all staff and in the age of COVID-19, ensure proper social distancing and appropriate temperature assessments in their offices. Productivity enhancement strategies correlate well to wellness strategies, especially in very hard times.

Take it from me, living life per minute “powered by good health, exotic places and people” is a consequence of good money-management. Live a Little!!! The economic health of most countries has been impacted by the tragic events of 2020. Our survival will require that we stabilize and create new income streams, consolidate and reduce our cost of life/business and strengthen our mental and physical health capacities to cope with these very hard times.

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Faquhy, I enjoyed the read. The information present is indeed relevant and could bring great results if applied. I have been in the Financial Services space over the last few years personally and professionally. I have been involved in a few traditional and non-traditional investment opportunities like cryptocurrency, FX Trading, and stock among other things. When I lived in Jamaica I felt like most of these options were out of my reach. I don't know if that was true but that was my reality. How are we going to change that for the common man on the street? One of the areas we fail in as a country is educating small business operators how to run their business profitabl…

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