As a child growing up, I watched my family struggle to save money. I grew up on a cocoa farm in the Bainings region of East New Britain Province with my grandparents and they worked very hard so they could look after the family. There was never a thought about how to manage their money so that it worked for them, rather they struggled to get by each day, never really saving too much for a rainy day or to invest in other income earning activities. Like many families in Papua New Guinea, we simply did not know enough about money.
For me, it would have been good to have the opportunity to learn about money as I was growing up. I always thought money was the responsibility of the grown ups and I should leave that to them, even as I got older. But, if I knew more about money as a young person, I would probably not have been so reckless with it when I first started to earn money. People need to learn about money when they are young, so they become better money managers. Instead of racing to the nearest trade store to buy something sweet, I could have bought some seeds and grown my own tomatoes to sell at the local market. Then I could reward myself with something sweet.
Money has become much more important in our lives today because we are now living in an increasingly consumer based culture – we need to buy our rice, flour, sugar; we need to ensure our children go to school; we want to improve the quality of our lives by having water tanks, gas and electricity. We all should learn how to talk about money in our families so we can better manage it. We must ensure we control our emotions about money because it is a topic that causes many relationship problems and domestic violence.
If we all learn the basics of managing money it will help us to be self-sufficient and be financially stable. Rather than always waiting for the Government to do things for us, we will start to have the freedom to make our own choices. We will be able to save money, understand the difference between wants and needs, manage a budget, pay our bills, build a home and have enough money for when we are no longer able to work.
In today’s world the medium of money is also changing. Whilst cash is a big part of our lives, more and more people are using electronic banking. This is because it is safer than cash. Carrying cash can be risky. I know many examples of when mothers were returning from markets only to be robbed of all their cash. I really like the idea of banking coming to our villages. I am currently assisting PNG Agriculture Company to establish village banking agents with MiBank. Families can make deposits and withdrawals right in our villages, making it easier for them to save and protect cash from being stolen. No more putting money in the pillow or burying it in the ground. We can put it in the bank, and it will be safe – even if the bank burns down.
I believe we all need to be financially fit. We know it is important to keep our body fit to stay healthy, but it is also important to be financially fit, to be able to have the money we need when we need it. We should better understand how money works, recognise the effort we make to earn it, how to have more savings for a rainy day and understand that borrowing can assist us increase our income and wealth. We should be able to carefully consider the decisions we make to ensure our money is working for us.
AgBook is playing our part. We have a free introductory program called Talking about Money that introduces participants to these important topics. Our follow up programs graduate participants to increased levels of understanding and cover topics such as cash flow planning and money management, profitability and borrowing, investing in your farming business, financial record keeping and managing risk.
Through our programs, I encourage you to come on a journey with Tatu Daniel as we describe his life from being a poor farmer who buried his cash, to how he learnt about money, opened a bank account, saved for his future, borrowed to invest in new income earning businesses and built his own permanent house for his family. All our farming families have this opportunity and AgBook looks forward to showing you the way through our programs.
Until next month.