Clarity of purpose
Some things may seem so basic and should be part of common sense. But actually, many do not think out issues carefully. People do things mostly on impulse and those who are not impulsive, analyze a little and then just assume things will work out on what they have decided after partial thought. They take action based on goals that are not sufficiently clear or detailed. The biggest example of this phenomenon is the hundreds of thousands of Filipinos who invest their hard-earned savings on businesses offered to them that are clearly unsuitable to their particular situations. And why did they invest? They were simply driven by their general desire to earn more money. The how, the when and the why issues do not even get serious attention. They rush to invest without defining their expectations. Worse, they do not even compute what they will make out of it versus the possible risks of failure. They invest based on the assurance of trusted friends and relations who are not even qualified nor experienced enough to give them such advice.
This kind of confused decision process is demonstrated every day by the all-too-common scenario of people who come into some money either from their OFW family members or bonuses or even worse from loans that they were enticed to avail of. They rush to invest in tricycles, FX taxis, sari-sari stores, network marketing gimmicks etc, etc. When asked why they invested, nine out of ten are not able to articulate except to say that “I wanted to get into business and make money”. Their objective of getting into business is valid. This is especially important to those who have spent so much in the past that they need to make up for lost time and money.
But in reality, many investments do not serve the real purpose of making money. The thought processes, unfortunately, end there. No further thinking goes into asking whether or not the particular investment will, in fact, make money for them. They were enticed to make their investments purely based on general assurances of profitability. All it would have taken was to ask themselves one or two more questions. What is it that I should earn and how will it be produced by this investment? The failure to ask these questions is precisely because people generally do not define their purpose clear enough so that they can correctly process it mentally or, as they say, sufficiently think it through before they decide.
There are three Tagalog phrases that, to my mind, reflect perhaps this cultural flaw in our thinking processes. These are: “Pwede Na (That’s good enough), Medyo (More or less) and Akala ko” (I thought that, or I assumed that). These words reflect imprecision in thought and unfortunately, finds itself in the work place resulting in mediocre performance.
Overseas, the Filipino worker behaves differently. He is extremely productive and the reason is because he is given specific and detailed work objectives, which are measured on a regular basis. The reason is clear. Rules and other work-related protocols are enforced. Supervision is consistent. Proper tools are provided and the workers are given feedback of their productivity almost instantaneously. There is no room for imprecision.
In most local organizations, decision processes are mostly influenced by behavioral or cultural feelings and practices. Short cuts are more the rule than the exception. Any questions or doubts, if any, are resolved based on assumptions. Even where strict rules on quality control and management systems are in place, the quality of action still, more often than not, falls below standards. Supervision is perceived most lacking when in comes to service industries. When supervisors face a situation where they have to choose to stick by the rules versus cutting work time or “hurting the feelings” of either clients or co-employees, rationalization wins. For example, they start thinking that the employees will feel bad if their attention is called and cannot work well anyway. So, they allow them not to follow the strict rules. Or they need to meet a deadline so they allow short cuts. All the other employees see these bad examples. Eventually, everybody follows the wrong standard and quality suffers.
How does one overcome these behavioral or cultural practices? One way is to start on the financial aspect of one’s life. After all, finance will probably be the most precise part of each person’s personal life. Practice in being precise in the management of personal finances, encourages care in the thinking process in work, family and other relationships.
The first exercise in managing personal finances is to know where one is financially at any point in life. A Personal Statement of Assets and Liabilities and Personal Income and Expense Statement are requirements to get started. With these tools, one can be more precise in moving forward to make his Personal Financial Plan. With such a plan, one can better assess the opportunities that come up.
In teaching financial literacy, our CFE Team gives the basic principles and “commandments” but reminds everyone that no one can start on a journey without a map. The journey to financial literacy starts with one’s financial plan. What the plan is able to do though is that enables the individual to draw up alternative road maps to reach the same personal financial goal. No short cuts, no “Pwede na”, no Akala Ko”, no “Medyo” can be allowed.
Let me take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy and Blessed Christmas! This year and the coming 2009 will bring all of us more financial trials because of a worldwide condition that is beyond our control. Even if it is not our fault, it will surely hurt our pockets. Those who invested in the past months and year may be “losing” on their investments but those are only paper losses. Remember that if you invested in a good company and the value of your investment went down, you are only losing “on paper.” You actually lose only if you sell. This is the reason why we always say that investing is for the long term, at least five (5) years.
Francisco J. Colayco is an entrepreneur, a venture developer and financial advisor. He is the Chairman of the Colayco Foundation for Education and the Author of Bestseller publications: “Wealth Within Your Reach” (Awarded 2004 National Book of the Year, Business and Economics by The Manila Critics Circle), “Making Your Money Work” (Nominated 2005 National Book of the Year, Business and Economics by The Manila Critics Circle),”Pera Palaguin Workbook” (co-authored with Dr. Helen Valderrama), “Money for Kids “(co-authored with Dr. Nina Lim-Yuson) and “Pisobilities” DVD. He is available for talks, seminars, and workshops. Learn more about his advocacy at http://www.colaycofoundation.com <http://www.colaycofoundation.com/> or email firstname.lastname@example.org <mailto:email@example.com> . The publications are available at National Bookstores, PowerBooks, 0917-8537333, 02-6314446.