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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 14 December 2018

Don't use social media to disguise your financial black hole

Instead of posting about our amazing lives, we should be striving towards financial stability, says Nima Abu Wardeh

Illustration by Gary Clement
Illustration by Gary Clement

It’s party season. Some people I know don’t have a day to themselves between now and 2019 - gosh, how do they find the energy? You just know there’ll be no getting away from it all – with millions more memorable moments posted on social media to make sure we know exactly how much fun is being had.

Social media – it’s the best marketing tool anti-depressants could hope for.

Over the next few weeks it’s going to be in overdrive, heaving with perfect-looking smiley people - living out fancy, full, abundant lives. It gets to you after a while doesn’t it? That feeling of inadequacy or missing out, even if you’re aware it’s not the full story.

We don’t know the reality of people’s lives through social posts, because we only get snippets and snapshots. But what about your nearest and dearest, people whose lives you think you know more about – do you have the full picture there?

“She’s rolling in it,” said someone I know about another person I know. “She’s been buying property and selling it. She doesn’t have any money problems.”

Little does she know that this person is a few months away from being destitute. She put the money she'd made in a property deal in an investment vehicle that turned out to be an elaborate fraud. It’s gone. Just like that. She’s too embarrassed to let people know, so they think she’s loaded.

The woman doing the talking is also going through financial upheaval. Her husband’s business was ripped off; they discovered the man running it had siphoned off money, contacts and clients, and had set up a similar business elsewhere.

This woman lives in a huge house, with land, and her husband has always been tapped to help family out of financial holes. Except now he is in a financial hole himself - but again, they’re too embarrassed to let people know the reality of their situation. I wonder what they’ll be doing over the festive season – hiding because they can’t face their new reality, or getting into a bigger financial hole, spending what they can’t afford in order to keep up appearances.

__________

Read more:

Protect yourself and your family in case it all comes crashing down

The right career decision can lead to financial freedom

Knowing my bank balance saved me from becoming a fraud victim

How our parents handle money affects our financial behaviour as adults

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Seeing as it’s the season to spend, reflect and think about future aspirations, I’d like us to think about what it means to be financially stable. Writing this sentence makes me realise how very conflicted this time of year is. Is the emphasis on figuring out what you want for your future self (fitter, slimmer, financially solvent) or living in the moment (foodie, spendy and indulgent)? I’ll leave you to ponder this after we analyse what I think could be the best gift you give yourself – ready? Being financially stable. Why? Because along with financial stability comes mental stability and life stability I believe.

Here’s what I think makes you financially stable in the immediate sense – meaning not stable enough to stop working, but that you’re on the right track to living with dignity down the line. In this state you won't have the issues that the folk partying their troubles away or sinking into Instagram or Facebook hell are grappling with. With financial stability:

  • you don’t worry about losing your job. Because:

  • you have enough money saved up to survive for months – perhaps even a year. Which means that you:

  • don’t lose sleep over finances,

  • don’t go overdrawn,

  • you own credit cards, and use them solely for their rewards and convenience,

  • you pay off credit cards in full before the due date

  • you pay all your bills in full before their due date

  • you’re confident about your future

  • you live beneath your means

  • you save a double digit percentage of your salary

If this is you, wow, you’re sorted.

The next time you find yourself looking at social media posts, wishing you were there, or own the stuff that’s on display, think about who’s living on credit, living a lie, living now and selling their future. Having fun is a must for a full, happy life, but fun and spending a fortune don’t need to go hand in hand.

Be financially stable and you’ll get the last smile and still have something to share.

Nima Abu Wardeh is a broadcast journalist, columnist and blogger. Share her journey on finding-nima.com