Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Is that thing an asset or a liability?

Live on what you earn,

Live if possible on less,

Never borrow for vanity or pleasure,

For vanity will end in shame,

And pleasure in regret.

- Author unknown

Why do some Nigerians indulge in flamboyant lifestyles? Why do some of my compatriots like ostentatious living even when they can ill-afford it? Who do they want to impress? It is not uncommon to see some Nigerians acquire gadgets they don’t need, can’t afford, and don’t know how to use. Some persons are obsessed with acquiring all modern contraptions they see; from cars, to phones, wrist-watches, computers, music machines, television sets, air conditioning systems, freezers, cookers and other household items.

Starting with cars, some people are gripped with the Sport Utility Vehicles (which in local parlance is called Jeeps) and other posh cars. They allow themselves to be lured by credit facilities granted by some banks or car dealers to buy at almost double the market price. Because they have a long term to pay back the money for the cars, they jump at it without thinking through if they actually need such classy cars in the first place or if they could maintain them. Quite unfortunately, some of those cars do get stolen or get involved in accidents even before the owners finish paying the loans. If the vehicles are not insured, that is tantamount to double jeopardy as they would still have to repay the loan for the lost car.

The same goes for other afore-listed appliances or gadgets. Some people have up to three smartphones, just as a status symbol.  I have seen people who are looking for jobs buying BlackBerry or smartphones when what they actually need is a phone for basic communication. The sad pity is that a significant number of people using smartphones do not know how to make optimal use of them. All they know how to do is to call, text, take pictures, and access the social media (Facebook, Twitter, etc). The phone may yet have over 20 other functions which many of the users never know how to operate. This inability to make maximum use of the phones and other electronic gadgets arise from the owner’s inability to read the manufacturers manual of such appliances.

The same applies with computers. There are some people who unnecessarily acquire desktops, laptops and i-pads for personal use. When asked why they are buying all these gadgets, they’ll tell you they perform different functions. Some will say they want to be current or want to be seen as being sophisticated. There are people going for LCD, flat screen television they don’t have the resources to buy. Some buy on loan from their cooperative societies or through bank facilities.

There is also another category of Nigerians who though love to party but would rather borrow to throw the bash. They buy everything for the celebration on credit – foodstuff, drinks, and rent hall, cloths, among others.  The one they couldn’t get on loan, they borrow to pay for with the hope that they would use money given them by well-wishers to offset the debts. Oftentimes, little or nothing is realised from this expected source.

With the party over, the host begins to worry and dodge from their debtors. What a life! Can’t people just learn to live within their means? Again, who are these people trying to impress? Is it the society that is insatiable? Is it the people who will extol your virtue today when the going is good and tongue-lash you when there is nothing to offer them?

I pity people who always want to be trendy. I mean the gadget freaks.  They want to have the latest cars, phones, computers, wrist-watches, cloths, shoes, bags, belt, perfumes, ties, eyeglasses, settees, and many more. Good, if they can afford them. But, it is patently clear that many could not but are just acting under peer pressure. The humongous amount some people invest on contraptions they barely need, referred to as toys in the social circles, is enough to build decent houses for their families. Of what use is acquiring all manner of gadgets when you are in a rented apartment and unable to meet the basic needs of your immediate family? For sure, you don’t have to be ostentatious to be fashionable. Some people misapply the dictum that, “As you dress, so you’ll be addressed”. You can dress simply and moderately and still be appreciated. These people forget the wise saying that it is important to cut one’s coat according to the length of the cloth and not one’s size or as put by one of the Pentecostal pastors, “Life is in phases, men are in sizes”.

This rat race has led many into avoidable debts, financial crises, crimes, sickness and even untimely deaths. Pity, sad pity. If only many of us will cease to be impulsive buyers. If only we would think deeply and separate our needs from our wants and imbibe the economist principle of scale of preference and opportunity cost. If only we would resist peer and family pressures and live our lives decently within the limits of our resources.

If only we understand what is an asset and what is a liability. Then, and only then, would we save ourselves from the needless hassles of ostentatious, glitzy and vain-glorious living.