Across Nigeria, children are heading back to school this week, after nearly two months of school break. While this is a good thing, it can also be a source of financial concern for parents. This is especially so for young parents, many of whom were just students a few years ago. Some of these millennials-turned-parents have only begun to pay school fees for the first time in their lives, and they are not finding the expenses funny.
Imagine this scenario
Segun and Ifeoma (aged 29 and 27 respectively), got married in 2013 shortly after their university days. They welcomed a set of twins a year later and have since birthed one more child. Fast forward to 2019, the twins are aged five years old and already in primary school. What this means, is that the young parents must cough out thousands of naira in school fees for the twins every school term.
Due to such factors as a bad economy, lack of high-paying jobs, and the high unemployment rate in Nigeria, these young parents earn average salaries that can barely take care of their needs. For instance, while Segun’s monthly take-home as a medical doctor is N250,000, his wife earns about N150,000 as an Executive Trainee in a bank. Together, they manage their joint monthly income to take care of a range of expenses such as rent, food, clothing, medical bills, extended families’ needs, and most importantly, their children’s school fees.
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Why school fees are burdensome to millennials-turned parents
The truth is that most public schools in Nigeria offer low-quality services at affordable rates. Therefore, to get quality education for their kids, parents must be willing to spend more. The situation, however, becomes problematic when young parents such as Segun and Ifeoma must squeeze from their earnings to pay these high school fees, bearing in mind that they have a long list of other expenses.
In the early to mid-2000s, Segun attended the Federal Government College at Ijanikin, Lagos. There, the tuition was relatively affordable even as the quality of education was manageable. Now that he is a parent; he knows better than to send his children to public schools, except for a select few anyway. Consequently, he and his wife must bear the cost of sending their kids to private schools where the fees per term are often as high (if not more) than his salary.
How can millennials cope with the high cost of educating their kids?
In a 2018 LinkedIn article which remains relevant till date, financial expert, Damilola Alonge, explained in detail how millennials can best manage the cost of training their children in school. According to him, the answer is simple – young parents should “start building an Education Fund today!” He advocated that every millennial should do this, whether or not they currently have kids.
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Why you need an education fund for your kids
The answer is simple – it is a very smart thing to do. Simply defined, an education fund is money set aside for the purpose of investing in your children’s education. Once again, this is a very wise thing to do because as you may well know, availing a child the right to proper education is one of the best investments any parent can ever make, especially in this part of the world.
It is best to start building an education fund early because the older your children become, the costlier it is to educate them. Starting an education fund for them means that as they grow older, you can easily be able to pay their school fees without becoming overwhelmed.
Let’s get back to Segun and Ifeoma for a second. Their twins’ education will become much more expensive as they graduate to secondary school and then to the university. If the young couple starts now to have an education fund for their children’s future education needs, they’d have a lot of burdens lifted off their shoulders some ten to fifteen years from now.
How the education fund works
Just to be clear, establishing an education fund for your children’s education has nothing to do with opening an account and dumping money in it. Far from it. Instead, it is all about investing. Alonge recommends defining a fixed timeframe between now and when you’d need the money to start paying school fees.
You will also need to factor in the kind of university you’d like your child to attend, as well as how much it currently costs to send a child to such a school. Doing all this will help you know how much of your monthly salary you will need for “investing in a mix of asset classes like equities, fixed income, USD assets, real estate, mutual funds, etc.”
For instance, if Segun and Ifeoma want to start an education fund to take care of their twin’s tertiary education, they can come up with a 12-year investment plan – 12 years representing the timeframe between when the kids will finish with their primary and secondary education before proceeding to the university.
Upon starting the education fund, professional investment/financial planners can then help the couple to monitor the growth of their investments towards the purpose for which they have been made.
Why CBN’s Intervention loans are not enough to help SME’s stimulate the economy
Since access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth, funding it has become paramount.
Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) play a major role in most economies, particularly in developing countries. According to the World Bank, they represent about 90% of businesses and more than 50% of employment worldwide. Formal SMEs contribute up to 40% of national income (GDP) in emerging economies and these numbers are significantly higher when informal SMEs are included. The World Bank predicts that “600 million jobs will be needed by 2030 to absorb the growing global workforce, which makes SME development a high priority for many governments around the world.
Since access to finance is a key constraint to SME growth, funding it has become paramount. This has birthed a myriad of programs ranging from incubators to accelerators both locally and internationally giving out loans, grants, and other resources to ensure that the sector is equipped to create jobs and stimulate the overall economy. There have also been federal grants and other forms of support given to SMEs. Since the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, SMEs have been prioritized as recipients to loans and other stimulus packages. The CBN’s N50 billion Targeted Credit Facility (TCF) geared towards supporting SMEs and households whose economic activities have been disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic, is just one of the different packages that have been put in place to cater specifically to it.
While there is data to back the impact SMEs have on our economy, it is true that even though small businesses help the economy, not all small businesses will contribute to the dream – or even survive past its early years. According to The Better Africa report, by Weetracker, an African digital media company, the top 5 countries that experienced the highest shutdown rates among start-ups between 2010 and 2018 were Ethiopia at 75%, Rwanda at 75%, Ghana at 73.91%, Zimbabwe at 66.7%, and The Democratic Republic of the Congo (66.7%). Failure rate for start-ups in Nigeria averaged 61% over the same period. What this means is that if small business loans are being given to businesses at random in Nigeria, 61% of those businesses are bound to fail and the monies given, completely lost.
The small business loans being offered by the CBN is a good step in the right direction. However, determining whether it ends up in the hands of the startups that are viable enough to scale and create the jobs or the larger percentage that will fail, depends to a large extent on how they are selected. In disbursing the loans, there must be clear methods of choosing the recipients. CBN’s N50 billion Covid-19 intervention fund for SMEs in conjunction with NIRSAL Microfinance Bank, simply noted that it would appraise and conduct due diligence applications before sending them to the applications to the CBN for final approval, to CBN for review. The results will tell their story.
Why the economy needs more than loans
The CBN giving out intervention loans is just one part of finding the solution – and this too does not say much about the amount in loans being given and their effect on the economy at large. If it’s too little to make any real difference, then it might only buy many of these businesses a few more months of dogged survival, after which all will be lost.
The overall operating environment must be able to stimulate growth either through favourable tax incentives for specific industries, moratorium on other forms of loans, or just the provision of basic infrastructures like electricity and speedy internet services.
Another important thing is to ensure there is a ready market for businesses within the country. Even with the right federal loans, a business having no ready market will sink its funds into inefficient marketing. This ready market, however, has a lot to do with the ease of local production to ensure competitive pricing, further curtailing the proliferation of imported items, and more.
In other words, economy will benefit even more from its overall development. The loans might help but, overall, there is unlikely to be sustainable exponential growth until the things that should be in place to expedite the development process exists.
How Nigerian SMEs can survive high mortality rate
SMEs are a very important economic catalyst in developing and industrialized countries.
In Nigeria where unemployment is a serious issue, the local businesses have a special position in the industrial sector because it has created employment and has been able to utilise labour. The local businesses, otherwise known as SMEs which means, Small And Medium Enterprise are everywhere, found on every street and corner as they surround us.
There is however no universal definition of SMEs that is widely accepted as it differs and varies from countries, but this is usually based on employment, assets or combination of the two. Institutions and organizations define SMEs in different ways depending on the purpose and the objective. Take for example, according to Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development OECD (2005) SMEs are considered to be independent firms that employ less than a given number of employees. However, SMEs were classified in terms of size, and financial assets.
The Small and Medium Industries and Equity Investment Scheme (SMIEIs), defined SME as an enterprise with a 200 million naira maximum asset base, with the exclusion of land and working capital and with a workforce of not less than 10 employees and not more than 300 employees. Akabueze,(2002).
The Third National Development plan of Nigeria (1975 – 1980) defined a small scale business as a manufacturing firm that employs less than ten people, or whose machinery and cost of equipment does not exceed N600,000
The Federal Government Small Scale Industry Development Plan of 1980 defined a small scale business in Nigeria as any manufacturing process or service industry, with a capital not exceeding N150, 000 in manufacturing and equipment alone.
These definitions give a clearer explanation as to how the meaning of SMEs differs and varies. However, just to give you a clearer understanding of what local businesses or SMEs mean, they are independently owned organisations that require less capital and less workforce and less or no machinery. They are ideally suited to operate on a small scale to serve a local community and to provide profits to the business owners.
Most enterprises in Nigeria, most of which are in the commercial sector are categorized as small businesses. The role of the small and medium enterprises towards the development of Nigeria is of great importance as it has contributed greatly to the country in terms of growth and development and also in providing employment opportunities.
From seminars to workshop initiatives for SMEs both locally and internationally, a lot is being said about SMEs all over the World.
According to the Central Bank of Nigeria report (2003), SMEs are a very important economic catalyst in developing and industrialized countries.
According to the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), developing countries can conquer poverty and inequality by democratizing, deregulating, and liberalizing the integration of the global economy. Recent studies have shown that SMEs contribute to over 55% of GDP and over 65% of total employment in high-income countries also that SMEs and informal enterprises account for over 60% of GDP and over 70%of total employment in middle-income countries (OECD, 2004).
However, considering the term “small”, there’s a whole lot of enormous challenges that come with it. In Nigeria, the factors working against the development and growth of local businesses are quite numerous, some of which include:
1. The issue of funding is a major problem with SMEs in Nigeria. However, the problem is not how to source it but the accessibility to either short or long term loans.
2. Lack of infrastructural facilities is a serious impediment to the performance of SMEs. The problem of inadequate infrastructural facilities includes electricity, good road network, availability of potable water, and solid waste management. These infrastructures are left to the business owners to provide themselves.
- Poor Management and Low Entrepreneurial Skill Base is a serious clog in the survival of small businesses as there is a lack of essential and required expertise in business which leads to wrong and costly decisions and mismanagement.
- Entrepreneurs often blame their failures on inadequate sales. However, the problem lies with poor marketing skills that could help promote their sales.
- Most entrepreneurs go into business without proper planning by taking a realistic view of what their strengths and weaknesses are, let alone giving careful consideration and analyzing the economic trends or business conditions in that particular sector of activity, which sometimes leads to mishandling when the business starts to expand.
- The root of most employee problems in Nigeria is poor personnel management. They put aside personnel matters till crises set in. Such crises usually pose serious threats to the firm’s survival if they are not promptly looked into.
- The harsh deteriorating macroeconomic environment in Nigeria has adversely affected the performance of small business enterprises and has posed as a major challenge to their survival and growth. Most small business enterprises are struggling with the problem of uncertainty caused by the unstabilized macroeconomic environment and policy shifts.
With all of this ongoings, some of the solutions preferred to ease these challenges include:
1. The need for government, and non-governmental organizations to create Seminars and workshops initiatives and other forums, to establish a platform for the interaction of SMEs owners/managers with others which can help to improve on their management capabilities.
2. Government should also provide the necessary infrastructures in order to ease the burdens and thereby encourage and promote rural industrialization.
3. The SME owners/managers should strive to develop effective marketing strategies in order to boost business operations which will become profitable.
4. It is important for SMEs to develop good personnel management policies to avoid crises that could affect their business.
5. Local business owners should take to proper planning, realizing his strengths and weaknesses before diverting into any business to avoid mishandling.
6. Goverments should help create a macroeconomic environment that is stable as it will enable these local businesses to make reasonable forecasts on costs, turnover, and return on investment.
7. The government should help in making funds easily accessible to SME owners/managers, be it short or long term loans that could help to encourage them to execute their business plan.
8. SMEs operators should also develop their competences in managing and sustaining their businesses by constantly engaging in training, research and development.
Emergency Fund: Can you raise N50,000 cash tomorrow?
Focus on building up your emergency funds before building a portfolio of assets.
Can you raise N50,000 cash tomorrow? Yes cash, without selling any asset of yours; Can you? This is a very important question you need to ask yourself. One generally accepted lesson from the 2020 economic downturn for both corporations and individuals is to always have an emergency fund (EF). So, what is an Emergency Fund? How is it set up? How is it used? Let us explore.
What is Emergency Fund
An EF is a savings account set up to pool and hold a minimum of three months of calculated Non-Discretionary Income (NDI). The EF is advised as the first activity any investors should undertake. Specifically, before even investing a cent, set up and maintain an EF because this fund acts as an “insurance” or stop-gap for your income or investment portfolio.
How is an Emergency Fund set up?
An EF captures a minimum of three months of Non-Discretionary Income (NDI). What is NDI? These are expenses incurred that must be settled irrespective of income. For instance, rent must be paid, groceries must be paid, we cannot simply stop paying utility bills because we lost our job and thus income.
Once we decide on an investment plan, the first thing to do is to list out all expenses we will incur and attach a cost to them per month or annual basis but corresponding to the period of payment. We do this to identify the necessary expenses which we refer to as the NDE.
List of expenses
- Rent N1,500
- School fees N500
- Camping/Holiday N300
- Go to Movies N100
- Groceries N400
- Cable TV N200
- Gas for cars N200
- Phone Bill N300
- Eating out Dinner N200
Total expenses for the month are 3,500
Next, decide which of the expenses listed above are Non-Discretionary. In other words, which of these expenses must be settled irrespective of income? Let us assume our client chooses the following as NDE:
- Rent N1,500
- School fees N500
- Groceries N400
- Gas for car N200
- Phone bills N300
These expenses above come to a monthly NDE of 2,900, with a three months minimum of 8,700. This minimum sum means that should the client lose his job or suffer any other income interruption, these necessary expenses will be paid from the emergency fund, without the need to sell down investment assets at fire-sale prices just to raise income.
How is it used?
The Emergency Fund is simply a piggy bank. Once it is set up, you can increase the minimum saving from 3 to 4 and as high as you want to go. What is does is insulate your investment portfolio from losing any compounding or dissipation in principal because you must sell. So, if there is income interruption due to job loss or you simply want to take a long holiday and write a book, you can do so and still meet your expenses from these savings.
An EF is not only for downturns, as it is also good for opportunities. A friend of mine bought an almost brand new car from a work colleague that was emigrating abroad because he could pay cash immediately in short notice. Cash is always king when you are in a tight negotiation with a seller.
Your Emergency Fund should be kept in cash or near cash investments. Return on investment for the EF is secondary to access to those savings. Also, you want your EF in an investment class with fixed income with no variation in returns. this means in practical terms do not invest your EF portfolio in equities that pay a variable return or even any asset which may need documentation and visits before you can access your funds. I am also wary of a commodity like gold, which does hold value, but cannot easily be converted to cash. The recommended asset classes to invest your EF are:
- Call or Fixed Deposit in Banks
- Sovereign Treasury bills, they are easily discounted and converted to cash
- Certificates of Deposit with bank
If the asset call cannot be converted to cash in one activity should be avoided. Also, ask the institution if they charge fees for early withdrawal and what those fees are.
What can I do tomorrow?
- Start an emergency fund immediately. Do the expense exercise, determine your Non-Distortionary Expenses, start to build up a savings pot.
- Focus on building up your emergency funds before building a portfolio of assets.