Archive | November 2012

A personal finance guide for women of colour: ‘miscellaneous expenses’.


“Thanks WWN for reminding us to stick to our personal and family budgets. But you seem to forget our extended family system here in Africa.  Funerals, weddings, birthdays, relations soliciting for help (and they do it as if it is mandatory)! How do we trim down the spending? I tell you, it is a large chunk! ‘Miscellaneous’, you may call it, but it is often larger than the monthly family expenses.” ~Uche O. U~

Managing ‘miscellaneous expenses’.

The importance of developing a personal budget cannot be over emphasized. However, it is often the issue of sticking with budgets that overwhelm most people. Planning and executing budgets are even more challenging in environments where cultural ties are strong and the extended family system exists.  The beauty of the extended family system cannot be argued, but if the associated responsibilities are not managed properly, the result may be high stress levels, breakdown of relationships, high debt loads and the ‘Iroko Tree’ syndromes and/or the ‘Stolen Luck’ syndromes, just to mention a few.

(Refer to this post for more insights on the ‘Iroko Tree’ and ‘Stolen Luck’ syndromes).

A critical factor that makes sticking with personal budgets difficult is the state of the economy; stagnant growth, high unemployment rates and a ‘middle-class’ that is in fact the ‘working poor’.

For women of colour, (living in their home countries and in the Diaspora), the topic of personal budgeting should be addressed in a holistic way. They are often catering to multiple interests and carrying varied responsibilities, sometimes as ‘co-bread winners’ for their parents, siblings, cousins, nephews and other members of their kith and kin. It is not strange to find one person responsible for the tuition fees, medical bills and rent of other people in her extended families, besides her primary responsibilities to her nuclear family. It is no wonder that this topic resonates deeply with many.

In individual conversations and group coaching sessions among women across different cultures Caribbean, African, Persian, European, Latin American and so forth, miscellaneous expenses associated with extended family members, remains a huge  obstacle to achieving balance with personal budgets.

Here are some basic principles for managing ‘miscellaneous expenses’

  1. Make a budget so you have clarity on your earnings and immediate household expenses;
  2. You can plan for uncertainty because there’s already the certainty of an uncertainty happening. Make provision for miscellaneous expense (based on historical estimates). You can budget for miscellaneous expense by actually including it and earmarking an amount (Fixed  monetary sum or as a percentage of your earnings);
  3. Track your miscellaneous expenses over a few months and then track gradually over a year. Categorize them: What are you spending most on-Burials/Birthdays/Weddings/’Aso-ebi’/Gifts/School fees/Personal loans/Social events/Medical Expense/Daily living?
  4. Try sticking with your budget for at least one month, and if any extra expenditure arises, you roll them over to the next month.
  5. At the end of each month, check for variations between your estimates and actual spending.
  6. Re-Prioritize: How important are these things to you? What can you forfeit, what adds value, what is essential and what is non-essential?
  7. Make a list of who the recipients are. Prioritize your recipient list. High up on your list may be your parents, siblings, mentors and those who sowed positive seeds in your lives. You may add them to your monthly fixed expense, depending on your situation.
  8. There are people on your list who should be weeded off that list or educated on money matters before adding them back on. (Someone in the Diaspora gave an example of a cousin, a university undergraduate, who had asked for financial assistance to buy some back-to-school materials. From her part-time earnings, she sent her a few hundred dollars, only for her cousin to rudely inform her that the money was not enough to buy her MAC line of cosmetics, much less her designer line of tee-shirts. And she was even admonished by this said cousin for not taking up over-time hours like her other nursing colleagues! Compare this to someone who needs financial aid for a medical condition or to pay tuition fees. The difference is as clear as crystal).
  9. Study and analyze the seasonality of requests and activities, when are the highs and lows: Holidays/Beginnings of school term or semester/Particular time(s) during the year? Adjust your budget accordingly to align your cash-flow with these timelines.
  10. Be clear on the difference between a loan and a gift to people, especially to family members.
  11. Avoid loans to family members/friends unless you truly trust them and/or from the onset, you are ready to write-off the amount. This helps you in two ways: i). it helps to preserve the relationship should they default. Ii). it eliminates the cash-flow flow problems that may arise for you if the loans are not paid back.
  12. People need a hand-up and not a hand-out, know the difference!
  13. Consider giving certain people bulk sum of money to either start a business/go to school/learn a skill, so they become truly independent rather than encouraging and enabling them to become perennial beggars. A one-sided relationship often ends badly with a lot of resentment because every human being has an innate need for self-actualization and self-mastery.
  14. If #.13 above is a challenge to undertake alone, consider pooling resources together with other friends/colleagues/family members, in order to achieve these worthwhile goals. You may also consider collective giving i.e. something that serves a group or community rather than individuals, such as setting up cottage industries, micro-loan programs, building or renovating schools, health care and skill acquisition centres.
  15. Hold yourself and others accountable so you may create the right balance for your overall well-being. Also, remember to put yourself on the list!


The preceding is a guest post from Juliet Ume, MBA –Wealth Management Consultant & Lifestyle Coach at Whole Woman Network. Juliet is an avid Life Connoisseur and a passionate advocate of WomEntrepreneurship, Investment & Financial Literacy for women. Follow her on Twitter: @wholewomaninc


Demystifying the ‘Iroko Tree’ and ‘Stolen-Luck’ syndromes

Milicia excelsa tree (Iroko) at IITA-Ibadan

Milicia excelsa tree (Iroko) at IITA-Ibadan (Photo credit: IITA Image Library)

-Iroko Tree Syndrome: A belief that you are financially better than everyone around you and once they ask you for any form of help, you gradually (and willingly) assume the role as their sole source of sustenance and help them with just enough to get by and never get up. And by extension, you expect eternal servitude from them and make yourself beyond reproach. This is a belief steeped in ego, greed and self-importance. (This is also referred to as the art of over-rating oneself!)

Stolen Luck Syndrome: A belief that you are unworthy of success and that there are those who have been either been blessed with or have ‘stolen’ your luck and so they owe you a piece of their earnings. Thus, you willingly and clearly relinquish all sense of personal responsibility to others. An idea steeped in mental laziness, envy and a defeatist attitude. (It is also referred to as the art of purposeless living!)

“It takes courage and wisdom to give and receive; it is not only that we give of yourself, time and resources that counts, more importantly, it is ‘HOW’ we give. Give with graciousness and an open heart and be humbled for a chance to serve God in others. To do otherwise robs the receiver(s) of self-respect and diminishes their dignity. The same goes for those on the receiving end: ask with grace and a humble spirit, for no one owes you anything, nothing is a birthright…It is better to say no with grace than to ‘give’ with disgrace. Remember, your widow’s mite is always enough”. ~Whole Woman Network~

Principles to manage the ‘Iroko tree’ and ‘Stolen Luck’ Syndromes:

  1. You cannot give what you do NOT have, do not attempt to play God in people’s lives. Give and receive unconditionally, and not as control tool or mechanism for self-inflicted bondage or slavery;
  2. You cannot please everyone and it is NOT your responsibility to do so. If you give because you seek to please, you will end up drained, depleted and depressed and everyone ends up unhappy and/or unfulfilled;
  3. As long as you are clear in communicating your boundaries, they will be respected. People will operate within established boundaries if you are unambiguous in your communication and consistent in your actions. It is your responsibility to teach others how you wish to be treated;
  4. It is always better to give from a place of joy. If you feel people should be eternally begotten to you because you’ve come to their aid, or you feel resentful/used/manipulated after giving then you have to take a step back and evaluate why you give;
  5. You always have a choice to say either ‘YES’ or ‘NO’. Learn to exercise both from a place of power and not a place of fear of what people will say or think (refer to #2 above);
  6. We are all created equal before God. You are no better or worse than someone else. We simply have different opportunities and skills. Our overall mission in life is to serve one another in different ways with dignity, grace and respect;
  7. Teach people to fish and don’t just hand out fishes (Note to giver: ‘You don’t have enough fishes to give everyone who asks’. Note to receiver: Nobody owes you anything; no one has ‘stolen’ your luck! Your hands are also blessed, so receive with humility and bless the giver);
  8. If you want to build wealth, you must make sacrifices. Focus first on helping yourself, so you may be in a better position to help others in sustainable and meaningful ways;
  9. Don’t deplete your ‘Goodwill bank account’ with frivolous requests. Learn to differentiate between what is important/essential versus what is not essential;
  10. As difficult as it may seem, sometimes people really come to you for help because they have no other recourse. Life can be difficult and challenging especially in this harsh economic climate. Some people truly need the help. Be empathetic, sincere and do the best you can under your particular circumstance. In the end, it comes down to creating a balance between your well-being and your duties/responsibilities. HIS grace is sufficient for us all.

Live beautifully, live passionately, live freely.


Remember, you are not ordinary, you are divinely unique.

You are WOW (Wonderful One-of-a-kind Woman)!

w(H)olistically Yours,

© Whole Woman Network

An Interesting Wish List for Women at 40!

“There’s something magical about turning 40: It is the age when a woman realizes she’s divine: she’s one with her creator. She stops pleasing everyone else and begins to live on her own terms. It is when she stops being a crap magnet and sets her magnetic field to ‘zero tolerance for bullsh*t!’

She finally understands the mystery of intimacy: that a part of her soul, her essence, is either lost or shared, strengthened or diminished, healed or bruised and so she becomes very picky, because she knows that who she lets in can either beautifully complement or radically mess up her life!  She realizes that she doesn’t have to settle for crumbs and that being alone does not mean she’s lonely.

She enjoys her own company and basks in the beauty of silence, secret laughs and quiet conversations. She appreciates the blessings of having a few good friends who’ve been there and will BE there, regardless. This is the age of unconditional love, forgiveness and acceptance of herself, of others, of life. It is the wonderful age when she begins L.I.V.I.N.G freely, meaningfully, passionately and beautifully.”

~(Excerpt from WWN’s Life Transformation Program: ’90 Days to a Healthier, Sexier, Wealthier YOU’)

There seems to be a universal fascination with turning 40, especially among women! It seems to be a pivotal age, that milestone when women acquire a special depth and level of wisdom, grace, confidence and success!

At Whole Woman Network, most of our members are in the 40+ demographic and so we decided to do a fun Q/A session with them and asked one simple question: ‘What’s the one wish you have for every woman at 40?’ These are some of their interesting responses:

1. To have gone up to the mountains, away from people and technology (literally and figuratively), and communed with her creator through a spiritual retreat, meditation, prayer and/or visit to a holy place. ~Olivia Z.

2. To have inner peace and be able to laugh at life and enjoy her own company. Also, to come to terms with and love her body. ~Uzo A.

3. To share life’s experiences and be a role model and mentor to at least one young girl, even if it is her daughter(s). ~Diana B.

4. To have experienced a mind-blowing, earth shattering orgasm! ~Rosalie I.

5. To have fallen deeply, totally and deliriously in love at least once. ~Ify N.

6. To have experienced a broken heart and be wiser, kinder and stronger for it. ~Oby P.

7. To own (at least) one of each type of precious stone/metal: Gold, Silver, Diamond, Gemstones. ~Mojghan A.

8. To own a piece of God’s own Earth (property or land) in her name. ~Anna P.

9. To visit a land where they speak a tongue she does not understand and to learn a different language. ~Ngozi U.

10. To come to peace with her Father. ~Zeenat A.

11. To have a new-found love, appreciation, respect and understanding for her Mother. ~Carol B.

12. To have achieved or be on the path of true financial independence and be in a position to give back to others. ~Ranti M.

13. To have the ability and freedom to take a break from work/life and take out time to pamper herself. ~Angela F.

14. To be committed to a cause, have reconnected with her alumni, have at least one hobby, learned a dance or trained in some sport(s). ~Fariba S.

15. To be blessed with at least one good friend, who’ll always be there, loyal and supportive through the ups and downs of life. Or better still, to be such a friend to someone else. ~Kelechi A.

Ladies, in a nutshell, enjoy your lives and be yourselves no matter what age you are. Like they say, ’40 is the new 20!’ Happy Birthday to everyone who turned 40 this month! In the words of the phenomenal Maya Angelou: “When I passed forty I dropped pretense, ’cause men like women who got some sense.”

What are your favourites on the wish list? Don’t forget to comment on our Facebook page. 

Love, Light & Truth!

❤ Juliet ‘Kego Ume-Onydo
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