I’m sure that you have all heard the phrase ‘Living the American Dream’; one owns a business, has a house in the suburbs with a white picket fence, a station wagon, a wife, a couple of kids and enough money to have a yearly family holiday. Sure, not everyone gets to live that dream (the global financial crisis was sparked off by the subprime mortgage bubble where banks lent money to anyone who wanted to buy a house, even when they had no income at all), but there are enough examples of people living that dream in the United States to feel that it is possible.
The American Dream is awesome; but I’m not American and I don’t want to live over there. I’m perfectly happy to enjoy the warm sunshine and ochre dust of Rwanda. So, I must build my dream over here. But before I built a dream, I had to figure out what that dream actually was.
I will be honest with you all and admit that I’d not really been thinking too much about where I would be in the next five or ten years. I guess it’s because I graduated from university only a few years ago and I still felt ‘young’. It’s a rare kind of person who leaves university, gets his/her first job and immediately starts saving and planning and I’m not that breed of human being. After almost three years in the work environment all I can call my assets is the furniture in my rented apartment and an old vehicle that is liable to break down at any time. Not really impressive I know.
I would have felt a lot more embarrassed if I felt like a pariah for living life from paycheck to paycheck. But when I look around me, to people my age, all I see is people living their lives exactly like me. We barely have an asset of note and we spend the majority of our pay living the average yuppie existence- eating at fancy eateries, bowling at Mamba Club, buying fancy Blackberries and IPads. But no more I say. I have seen the light.
I owe it all to a friend of mine, who after a seven year engagement, finally decided to pop the question. He’s now getting married at the end of the year. After slapping him on the back in congratulation, I pulled him aside and asked how he would be able to afford not just a wedding, which friends and family contributes to, but married life. He told me that he had been saving almost half his salary for years. I was amazed and a bit ashamed as well. I felt rather sheepish and unserious, especially when I thought about my parched savings account.
Reading this paper a few days ago, I believe it was the Monday issue, I learnt that the Social Security Fund was planning to build affordable houses for middle-income and upper middle-income people. I was excited by the news. That is, until I realized that I wasn’t in a position to buy a house, or even a tiny apartment in Batsinda.
It was quite a slap in the face, the realization that my future was uncertain because of my own financial irresponsibility. Would my future spouse and I live in a rented house? How would I be able to afford to build a home if I had children’s’ expenses to take care of? Unless a bag of cash fell out of the sky and landed on my head, I would die a property-less pauper. I must say, I find this fate unacceptable.
So, yesterday, I went to the Bank of Kigali headquarters and talked to the good people working in the mortgage department. They were extremely helpful and they advised me on how I could afford a decent house in three years. I was pleased to find out that while it would be a bit of a financial squeeze, it wouldn’t be the death of me. And honestly, the sacrifice will be worth it. If I can do it, I’m sure almost anyone can. I suggest you talk to your banker, they are sure to have products that can help you reach your dreams. Let us not wait until we are on the wrong side of forty before we knuckle down. There is no day like today to start realizing your own ‘Rwandan Dream’.