LEARNING IS A CONTINUOUS PROCESS, MENTOR SACCO MEMBERS ACKNOWLEDGE

Mr. Eliud Nguma Mbugua, chairman, Mentor Sacco addressing members during the MID.
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Tier one Sacco organizes education, training and information days for its members in line with one of the seven   principles of co-operatives

By George Gichuki

Mentor Sacco,   one   of the leading tier one Saccos in Kenya  with an asset base of  Kshs. 13.5 billion  (  as  at the end of the 2023 financial year)  is currently  conducting members’ information days ( MIDs)  in all the areas where it has a presence.  These areas include:  Mathioya, Maragua, Kandara, Kangema, Makuyu, Kahuro, Gatanga, Kigumo, Kiharu, Ithanga, Githunguri, Limuru, Gatundu, Kikuyu, Ruiru , Kiambu and Nairobi.  The theme of  this year’s  MIDs is : ‘ Empowering members to add value to their lives through prudent financial management.’  To that end, a team of professionals  have been lined up by the Sacco to make presentations to the members during these days at various  designated venues.

MIDs are organized  by Saccos in  accordance  with one of the seven  principles of co-operatives – education, training and information.  Globally,  co-operatives provide education and training to their members , elected representatives, managers and employees  so that they can contribute effectively to the development of the said  organizations.   The other principles include :   open  and   voluntary  membership, democratic member control, members’  economic participation, autonomy and independence, co-operation among co-operatives  and concern for community.

Tradition

The programme kicked off in the first week of May with a series of meetings in Mathioya, Maragua and Kandara.  Speaking during the   members’ information day  at Kianjiru-ini Primary School in Maragua,  Mr. Eliud Nguma Mbugua,  the newly elected  chairman of Mentor Sacco  was upbeat about  the Sacco’s  strong  performance  and  growth  over the years.    He emphasized that going by its tradition, Mentor Sacco organizes MIDs annually in order to educate members on issues that empower them socially and economically.  “ We also use the feedback from our members during the MIDs  to strengthen the Sacco and make it more responsive  to their needs,” Mr. Mgugua said.

In a bid to  grow  its  membership   according to Mr. Mbugua,  Mentor Sacco is currently undertaking aggressive marketing  campaigns in Kiambu,  Nairobi, Kajiado and  upper Machakos.   “ We  also   give very good returns in form of dividends, interests and rebates every year , hence attracting many new members  besides  retaining  the current ones,” he noted. 

Commenting on the governance structure of the Sacco, Mr. Mbugua said that the board has nine directors from all   its electoral areas.  Members of the supervisory board on the other hand are three.  Further, the board has committees  including : audit, credit and front office  service activity ( FOSA).  “ Each committee plays a pivotal role in strengthening  the sacco depending on the role its members have been assigned,”  said Mr. Mbugua.  He also appealed to the youth to join the Sacco and start saving while they are  still  young.

Through its digital platform ( dubbed Mentor QuickCash) , the Sacco is able to reach members  countrywide,   even in areas where it doesn’t have a physical presence.

Prudent financial management

Mr. Nelson Nyoro,   a seasoned co-operative practitioner,  associate lecturer at the Co-operative University of Kenya and the director of co-operatives, Mombasa County  was one of the facilitators during the MID at Maragua. He started by requesting members to identify the habits that make them to mismanage their finances.  The habits given   included :   excessive   consumption of alcohol, extra marital affairs and living beyond one’s means.  He then spoke at length about the relationship  between personal responsibility  and  future fulfilment.  “ We have a responsibility to manage our resources carefully,” he said adding that one should not spend more than what he or she is earning.

Mr. Nelson Nyoro,  co-operative practitioner, making his presentation at the MID.

Mr. Nyoro also emphasized on the need to make the right choices in life if one is keen on achieving financial success.  “ Depending on the choices they make while managing their finances,  two individuals  who are earning  equal   income often   attain different  outcomes,”  he said.  “ Similarly, you may be earning less income than a certain household, yet you are able to grow  more wealth ,”  he added.  The secret according to Mr. Nyoro lies in prudent financial management.  “ You  may   also  have  a   household whose   income is almost half what you generate,   yet  you are almost at par in terms  of  wealth  creation,”  he opined.    Outcomes  according   to  Mr. Nyoro    are not an indication of how much you earn.  On the contrary  they  indicate  the  financial choices that one  makes.

Further, he advised couples to have an open discussion on money matters.  “ Households that manage their income together and  openly  attain better results than the ones  operating   at  cross purpose,” he cautioned.  “  A wife may squander all her money on unnecessary  shopping  after being frustrated by a husband who is a drunkard,” he lamented.

The second important consideration according to Mr. Nyoro is the correlation between current financial decisions  and future fulfilment. “  Habits are   predictors of outcome and   for  that reason,  if  you  consume    all  your  income  while in active  employment as opposed  to  investing  it ,  then  you are  bound  to  be  in   financial   distress   once  you   retire,”  he cautioned.    He  further  said  that   most people who  finance   their lifestyles  through debts ,   end  up experiencing    financial    challenges when  they lose their incomes.

Giving the example of Warren  Buffet,  a   renowned billionaire investor  from  the US, Mr. Nyoro  advised  the attentive   members     to live within their means.  “ Warren Buffet lived in  a  modest   house for about forty five years and even after his wealth grew, he didn’t succumb  to  the temptation of relocating to an expensive residence,” observed Mr. Nyoro.  “ It is very common in Kenya for people to relocate  to expensive  residential  areas  when  their incomes  grow  and consequently, they end up consuming  instead of investing  that increment,”  he said. Warren Buffet on the contrary didn’t mind driving a simple car even as his income increased and this gave him room to invest  more.

Members registering for the MID at Kianjiru-ini Primary School in Maragua.

Financial success

In order to achieve financial success, Mr. Nyoro  advised members to manage their debt levels prudently.  In that respect ,  he gave the example of Robert Kiyosaki, American author and businessman who  refers   to  debt  as  the ability  to   use other people’s money ( OPM)  in order to achieve your financial goals. “ Debt is a good means of fast tracking you  to your financial  goals,” he said. “ Our incomes may not be sufficient  in taking us closer to our financial goals,” he added. Nevertheless,  he cautioned that debts should be well managed, otherwise they might wipe out  all the wealth that one has accumulated.  Additionally, Mr. Nyoro advised members to invest   their debts  ( loans) in income generating  projects as opposed  to  consuming them. “  In the same vein,  members  should be able to  service  their debts using their incomes without  struggling,” he added.

In a nutshell, Mr. Nyoro advised members to have a budget  ( finance the goals  that  they   want to achieve),  be clear on what they want to pursue and align  the same   to the family  goals, besides enhancing    transparency  and accountability  on  how they manage their finances   in order  to  win the support  of  their spouses and other family members.  He also advised them to involve  their children while budgeting the family incomes so that they can  become prudent in managing finances.   “ It is not how much you earn  that  contributes  to  your  finance success,  it is what you do with what you earn,” he quipped in conclusion.

Your health is your wealth

 Needless  to   say,  it  is important for individuals to   take care of their health as they endeavour to accumulate wealth and achieve financial success. Indeed, maintaining healthy lifestyles is a critical   pillar in prudent financial management. This pertinent issue was addressed by Mr. Leo Ndegwa, a clinical food nutritionist during his presentation at the Maragua MID. “As much  as  possible,  you should  endeavour  to  use   your savings at Mentor Sacco to improve your living standards  as opposed to settling hospital bills,“said Mr. Ndegwa. “My task is to advise you on how and why your nutrition should be healthy as  a  means to safeguarding your investment in  the Sacco,” he added.

Mr. Leo Ndegwa, clinical food nutritionist, emphasizing a point during his presentation.

Mr. Ndegwa further told  the members that Hippocrates of Kos, a Greek physician, regarded as   the father of modern medicine once said that   if you do not take your food as medicine, you will end  up   taking    medicine as your food.  Hippocrates  in that case was emphasizing  on the need of   taking  nutritional  food.   “ The loans that members are offered  by  Mentor Sacco  should  earn   them  good returns  once  they are invested,”  said  Mr. Ndegwa  adding  that  these  loans ( as much as possible)   should  not  be used  to purchase  medicine  or  meet  medical  expenses.  The facilitator was also emphatic  that the   traditional food  that was taken by our forefathers was more nutritious  than  the modern  diet. He therefore advised members to appreciate  the  need  of  going back to their roots by taking traditional  food.

Lifestyle diseases have  become very common nowadays. They are not only expensive to treat and manage, but they are   also major killers.  One way of preventing the occurrence of these diseases according to Mr. Ndegwa is by maintaining the right body mass index (BMI). In  that  regard,  one  should avoid gaining a lot of weight. He also advised the members to avoid taking diets with a lot of refined starch because    they    cause   a spike in the  blood sugar, leading  to  diabetes. As a way of preventing hypertension ( another common lifestyle disease), Mr. Ndegwa advised members to avoid taking food with a lot of cholesterol including : fatty meat as well as  deep fried commercial products like pies, buns and pastry. “High cholesterol is manifested through deadly strokes and heart attacks,” he  cautioned.  Mr. Ndegwa also informed the members that excessive intake of alcohol and smoking tobacco also lead to the occurrence of fatal   lifestyle diseases.  

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