by Grace Agada
Breadwinners are one of the most generous people in the world. They sacrifice a major part of their income to help their families and friends. But the sad reality is that they suffer the most in retirement, not because they are good people but because they choose to do good things instead of the right things. There is a huge difference between the two. If you are a working-class professional and you are the breadwinner in your family, I wrote this for you.
A Few Facts about Breadwinners
A lot of breadwinners will fall from their breadwinning throne and become dependent liabilities in retirement. This means that they will have a past life that is better and bigger than their future.
Breadwinners, who end up as a burden to their loved ones, are also the cause of generational poverty in most parts of Nigeria. That’s because many of them who put their hopes on their children end up having dependent children in retirement. Those who have independent children end up jeopardizing the financial security of their children as their children struggle to take care of their dependent parents during the most fragile and early stage of their careers. Most times, breadwinner’s retirement coincides with when their children’s career is just beginning to pick up. This is the sad end of many people who dedicate their entire lives to helping others but themselves. While helping others is not a bad thing, the problem is how you help them and the order in which you help them.
There is a proven order of help that you must follow if you want to achieve financial independence; you have to think rationally, not emotionally when you want to help people. Unfortunately, most people are largely emotional when it comes to their finances and family.
To explain this proven order of help, let’s use the example of two characters:
The Story of John
John and James are two married men and are both breadwinners of their families. John is a successful career professional and so also is James. John started out his career with the goal of achieving financial freedom. Like many others before him, John soon realized that the financial demands on his income will not let him achieve his goal, so John decided to fight for his financial freedom. To do this, John prioritizes his own financial independence above everything else. He spends only on essentials, saved aggressively, and dishonors requests that he categorized as luxurious and entitled.
John was criticized. His financial predators, who saw that John was slipping away from their grip, attacked John. They called John selfish, greedy, and soulless, and they tried to emotionally blackmail him for choosing his own financial independence first. But John knew better not to bend to criticism so he focused on his financial independence goals. John recognizes that his time in the corporate world is limited so he had to work hard and fast so he can help the people he loved. After a few years of hard work, John is now financially independent. He enjoys absolute peace of mind, sleeps well at night, and can now help those he loves for the rest of his life. Today, all the people that once criticized John want to be his friend, and John is now a hero to his children, colleagues, and society.
Now, Meet James
James, in contrast, decided to go the society’s way. He tries to help others while also trying to help himself. Because his income is limited, he splits his resources between himself and others. The sad story is that James is not exactly helping himself neither is he truly helping others – both James and the people he helps are not independent. James occasionally puts his own welfare behind bars, bends over backward to please people, and prioritises others over his own welfare. James is society’s hero. Society calls James ‘selfless’ and they praise him because he is easy prey for financial predators. James pushed himself to help others with hopes that he will return back to himself before his time in the corporate world is over. Unfortunately, James is not lucky. Like the many others before him, he runs out of time and becomes a burden to his loved ones.
Although James had good intentions, his strategy for help was flawed and he forgot three main financial principles:
- First, the only financial problem that has a start and a finish date is your personal problem, other people’s problems never end.
- Second, the proven order of help that every successful person follows is to love God first, love yourself, and then love your neighbor.
- Third, James failed to realise that you cannot help others get up when you are not standing yourself. The more stable you are, the more you can help others.
James ended up in a bad place not because he is a good man, but because he fails to follow fundamental principles. Today, a one-time, well-respected James is now begging for monthly stipend.
In my career as a financial expert, I have come across a lot of James. In fact, I was once a James myself. For many years in my career, I helped everybody else. I entertained all kinds of request even though no one showed up for me when I was down. I continued with this unhealthy financial attitude because I was looking for external approval and societal acceptance. I wanted to be liked, praised, loved, and seen as a good person and I took it to the limits. Need I say that I was taken advantage of by my predators? Thankfully, I discovered the truth and transformed into a John. The rest, they say, is history.
Why Society hates John
The typical John is not society’s favorite. Society loves James because he makes the job of financial predators easy. However, only the likes of John can truly achieve financial independence, build a lasting legacy, and deliver their family from generational poverty. John follows the proven order of help: help yourself first and fast, and then help others for the rest of your life.
Most Less Privileged people are James
If you are a James, see yourself as the person that needs help the most, especially if you are not yet financially independent. The most less-privileged people I see, every day, are James who are currently breadwinners but will soon retire with no sustainable income, no prestigious work, and a downgraded pension stricken life. So make it a priority to help yourself first. While society encourages you to give away all your earnings and fix other people’s problems, you need to realise that when corporate life is over, you will see the true color of your cheerleaders.
How to Secure your Financial Future
The first place to begin is to create short-term income security for yourself. That is a cash reserve that will protect you during periods of lost wages, economic uncertainty, or temporary unemployment. That is the first baby step you must take. After that, you then need to create a lifetime income that can maintain your living standard and secure your financial future.
You also need to move away from doing seemingly good things and only do the right things – not all good things are right for you at that particular time. The challenge, most times, is that people think that this is a selfish way of living, but, in reality, this is not true. One of the best advice I ever got about financial success is given each day by airline attendants: “If the oxygen masks fall from overhead, first put on your own oxygen mask, then assist those next to you.” That is the only order that works for your financial independence.
To secure your financial future, you need to do two things:
- Form new relationships and move away from your predator relationships. The fastest way to achieve any goal is to surround yourself with people of like minds. Remember that what you are trying to do is not popular, society frowns at it and as long as you are still stuck with your old relationships, they will bully you into submission.
- Save the big portion way. Your current saving habit(s) will not take you to freedom. You need a proven formula that’ll double or even triple your current average savings without necessarily increasing your income or taking a loan.
Remember, you are fighting for your freedom and independence – none of which will come easy. So be willing to fight, shed some relationships if you must, and focus on only your independence until you achieve it.