No One Is Coming To Save Us

Its almost Christmas!

Don’t you just love that? The Presents! Family! The Celebrations! The Decorations! The Presents! Did I repeat that? Yes, I did. That’s how much I love Christmas presents. Even God knows that I love my Christmas presents that’s why both my kids were born in December, one was born on the 24th of December, talk about getting your presents early. And so far, I have been lucky, Christmas time, I stress everyone about the stuff I want until I get it, even God knows I am serious about Christmas.

However, for this year, a colleague of mine sent a message to a whatsapp group that I am part of. This message was written as below;

To whom it may concern,
Gogo Gwena is a Traditional Midwife who stays in Mbare, Harare Zimbabwe. On 6th of October 2020 she was on the Issue Pane Nyaya radio show where she detailed issues affecting pregnant women that she helps to deliver at her place. She stays with her niece in a two roomed house.
Women with different kinds of pregnancy related complications come to her place to give birth despite her lack of formal medical training. She has delivered over 400 babies since the doctors’ and nurses’ strike started in 2019. Due to the exorbitant prices being charged at private and
public health centers, unavailability of doctors and nurses at local clinics and hospitals, Gogo Gwena’s place has become a popular place were women deliver their babies. More so, those who deliver at her place pay 20 USD or in kind. The majority of these women come from low income
families and usually do not have enough even for their upkeep or baby clothes for the unborn babies. For example, Gogo Gwena narrated a story of a woman who gave birth to twins but she did not have enough clothes for both babies as she never had a scan or knew she was carrying
twins.

This message made me pause for a moment, one Christmas some year I was in a hospital, having “complicatedly” given birth to the most gorgeous baby in the world, with love in my eyes, receiving awesome care and even got a delicious Christmas lunch, mum and baby were healthy because of the system. Now, here is a story in my country where some women are failing to give birth in functioning health care systems, they are failing to look their gorgeous babies in the eyes and some have nothing to give to the babies.

I realised I had to play my part, I can sing about the bad healthcare system, tweet about it and talk about it day in and day out but there is no one else who is coming to save us. I have to play my part. Its nice and easy for us to blame and talk about our bad government but why not do the little that we can. Are you aware that, you managing to read this article means that you are blessed than most, in Zimbabwe, there are many that don’t have access to internet, to smart phones, to more than one meal a day. Why don’t you and I do what we can because truth be told, *no one is coming to save us” we have to do it?

We are asking for very small donations. If you are anywhere in the world, please donate https://gogetfunding.com/pregnant-women-in-zimbabwe-need-your-help/ or you can please log into Takealot and buy gloves, masks, towels, disinfectants and baby clothes if you can https://www.takealot.com/sourcedirect-disposable-vinyl-gloves-100-gloves/PLID69311575…a pack of gloves cost as little as $10. Contact Humphrey Chiranda on +263 783 260 407, Annie Chasi +263 782 316 193 or Janet Madaka +263 78 616 6721 for where to send the donation.

However, these donations are not limited to new things, we are also asking for donations for second hand items that can go towards these pregnant women or their babies. If you feel pregnant women are not your forte, please feel free to send your donations to whichever charity you wish and we will deliver them for you.

You and I have been blessed, I have got the opportunity to have internet to send this message and you have the opportunity to read it. Let’s extend the blessings and the love, why not think of someone other than you and your extended family this season and let 2020 finish with a bang. Lets play our part, lets do what we can.

#NoOneIsComingToSaveUs

www.africamindshift.online supports citizen initiatives for change

Robo-Advisors, We Need To Talk!

The one ambition I had when I was growing up was to be the captain of a ship, I wanted to navigate across the seven seas of the world. Unfortunately, I grew up in the wrong era and country, there was no internet for me to check where sea navigation courses were being offered neither is Zimbabwe conducive to nurture such kind of ambition. Therefore, that quickly fell by the way side. All of a sudden I had to change the ambition, all this in the short space of a 6 months holiday, I chose something that I thought would not be so boring. I thought if I couldn’t be out at sea, then an office that I wouldn’t have to talk to anyone would be the next big thing, I chose to do an Accounting degree. After 4 years at university, I came out with a degree and a seriously bad taste in my mouth, I had tasted it and it wasn’t going down well as a rest-of-my-life ambition. I did whatever I had to do, until one day I realised that I needed to change career path. If I couldn’t have the sea, I needed to have the money then, and what better idea than to follow in Warren Buffet’s footsteps, investments.

As a Zimbabwean girl, I had no money for the actual investments but I thought if I could eventually get to be a Hedge Fund Manager, I would be well sorted. And you are thinking, why Hedge Funds?

“Hedge Fund is a limited partnership of investors that uses high risk methods, such as investing with borrowed money, in hopes of realizing large capital gains.

Oxford Definition

Needless to say, high risk with hopes of realised large capital gains with a possible 20% performance fee for me, not a bad ambition, even I do say so myself. Did I mention that the minimum hedge fund investment is $1 000 000? Great dreams and started working towards this and before long, I heard about Robo-advisors. Seriously, can’t a girl catch a break. Are you wandering why I am mad? I will explain.

A robo-advisor is an automated investment portfolio manager, that’s the easiest definition I can give. This is basically investment advice that you get from the system with the lowest fees , minimum human interaction and no minimum investment requirement. If you are not getting it, these are websites that have been created to give financial and investment management advice based on your age, retirement goals and risk tolerance, via an algorithm it will give you the most optimum portfolio for your goals. I am not needed in the investment management space anymore, the robo-advisors are encroaching in my terrritory and it looks like this digital age has been doing it for a long time. Accountants are slowly being pushed out by easy accounting systems on the market, portfolio managers by robo-advisors, maids by washing machines and dishwashers.

My guess is that there is nothing much I can do, I can’t advocate for a new law for them to be stopped but I can work with them. My loss is your gain, so if you want to consult these robo-advisors; do check out Betterment, Wealthfront , Personal Capital, to name but a few. Consulting a financial adviser does not have to cost you an arm and a leg anymore, you can now manage your portfolio with the help of robo-advisors. There is no more excuse for you to be spending frivolously when portfolio managers are now a click of a button away.

Robo-advisors are not yet popular in Zimbabwe, except Fidelity life which has a hybrid robo-advisor, do check it out.

The digital age is here, get on board.

Please subscribe to my list to get more from me.

Covid 19: 5 Month Review

I can, honestly, say that I don’t know how to start this article. Should it be on a high note or a low note, am I happy or sad about the effects that Covid-19 has had in my life, I don’t know. Lets see the benefits and challenges I have faced in the last few months then decide how I should be feeling at the end. Though, I am currently on a high because I am listening to a song by Killer-T Tidanane, so the chances of this article being positively biased are high.

Statistics from Worldometers

Pros

  1. I got seriously connected virtually, it is only in this Covid that I have shared platforms with Mr Mutumwa Mawere, Mr Leo Kandemwa, Arthur Mutambara, I must say that my digital rolodex is looking quite impressive.
  2. I finalised three books, published one, second one in development and cartoon character development in process
  3. I got serious with my blogging, a blog that had been sitting for 6 years with no content
  4. All the creativity in me came out in full force, I knitted 3 hats for my kids when I was worried about failing to get them winter clothes
  5. As a woman, I have to say, I have never had a cosmetic free year like this one.
  6. No constant hair saloon trips…(ha, ha, hadn’t been doing that with natural hair)
  7. No sore heels…haven’t had to wear high heels much
  8. Clothes consumerism has been curtailed…with South African borders being closed, I almost resorted to illegal like activities to get my kids winter clothes.

Cons

  1. At the beginning of the lockdown, I was obsessed with the coronavirus statistics and would check them three to four times a day, eventually, I realised that this was something I had no control over and eventually stopped. But just looking at the graph, it doesn’t look like its flattening or slumping…not good.
  2. The first 3 weeks of the lockdown I put in my hours in the Netflix space, not something I am proud of, I am not a TV watcher, I can go for months without even getting the remote from the kids
  3. The food bill went up, kids have nothing to do but play and eat all day long
  4. The food gets into places you don’t wish it to, I think I am a full 5 kgs heavier now (depressing)
  5. The government took advantage of the COVID 19 times
  6. I haven’t been studying, this weighs quite heavily.

No Change

  1. I haven’t had to do any work adjustments….the remote working space still the same
  2. Spending time with my kids….I am a work-from-home mum

I think like I indicated earlier, this was going to be positively biased and it is, because I have done more in this Covid Virus season than I would ordinarily do. Ordinarily, I would set the books aside because I have work to do, the one driver I have is a guilty conscience. If I overindulge in a guilty pleasure, I overcompensate. I watched too much Netflix and I had to satisfactorily compensate for the unproductivity.

Excuse me for today’s topic, I was informed that if you are a writer, you need to write everyday, even when you have no motivation….a writer writes. That’s the only way to perfect the skill. If you do assess yourself, please do comment and tell me how you are doing in these Covid times.

Please subscribe to my mailing list to hear from me

When You Find Yourself In A Hole, Stop Digging.

You are done! You have finally had it! You are not going to do it anymore! The last loan you took from the bank was it! This was you the last time you looked at your bank statement when the company needed another huge cash injection. Yet, you found yourself calling all the friends and going back to the bank for some more debt. So now, you are reading this and you are thinking, things haven’t gotten better yet, you have hope that they will, but a little something in you is asking , when is this this going to stop? And I have to be brutally honest and tell you, that it has to stop now.

Courtesy of Google Search

If you are in a business and its not making money time and time again, even after you have changed the strategy and the model, then despite what you have been told not to give up on your ideas, maybe this idea just isn’t for you. It is an unfortunate truth but 25% of start ups fail within the first year, another 35% within the first 5 years. As a fact, you are not alone in this, business ideas fail and your idea will come, this one just wasn’t it. In actual fact, your business could have failed because of any of these reasons:

  1. Lack of need for your product
  2. Lack of capital
  3. Not the right team fit
  4. Competition
  5. Poor product
  6. Poor marketing strategy
  7. No care for customers
  8. Bad location
  9. Loss of focus
  10. Burn Out

An age old truth says when you find yourself in the hole you need to stop digging. And this is speaking to you, dear business owner, you are in a hole, stop looking for more loans to save the company, I truly understand that you have already spent so much money on this and it has to work out, but isn’t it better to lose what has already been lost than to lose more if you keep on injecting into the business. I also know that you don’t want to give up, because you are not a quitter. You have read a lot of motivational books that tell you, winners never quit and this is a truth but if you were to read more into these winners’ stories, one would be surprised that they also had businesses that they had to abandon because the ideas weren’t working or they were not the right fit for the environment at the time. e.g Abraham Lincoln. He is one man who practically failed at almost every business venture he tried and a lot of elections he ran, only to eventually emerge as the American President and a good one at that. His failures were so big that every “Never Give Up” story has him as an example.

Stop Digging! You will find a better business idea, model, strategy and better time. All is not lost.

Please subscribe to my mailing list to hear more from me.

Am I a victim of my own expectations?

Anyone who went to college with me would tell you that I was at the club every Friday and Saturday. It would be pointless to start lying now, if you know me then you know that I enjoyed my varsity days to the fullest. I also wore the smallest clothes possible and I could get away with it too…because everyone knew I was the exotic girl who lived in a very hot country (obviously not Zimbabwe, its is not that hot). I was making the most of my life because that is who I am, I never let a chance pass. This was reminded to me a few days ago when I met a former colleague on a platform called C2C, Connections2Communities.

He said, “Janet, I wondered what had happened to you because I told people about you for years.” I said, “Really! Why?” He said, “Because when we were working at PG Industries, you always insisted on us going out every Friday night and you had this sense of fun like no one else I have ever met in my life.” I laughingly told him that I had since grown up, I was now a mother of two and busy working on a formula to get a billion dollars.” Reflecting on that conversation, I realised that I might not be clubbing as much as I did then, I might not be going out for dinner and movies every Friday night as I did back then (kids are expensive), but I have stayed true to expecting so much from life.

A few days before my wedding, my boss told me that you have to get awesome pictures because this would be the biggest party of your life. Needless to say, I was four and half months pregnant at my wedding, I didn’t hire wedding dancers, we didn’t do steps (a tradition by Zimbabweans to have some choreographed dance at the wedding) because I was planning on dancing and I can honestly say, I danced at my wedding, I think 5 years later, I can still feel the aches from that dancing.

This is the thing, I am not a loud person, I understand “protocol” of any setting, and in a physical room full of people, you won’t point at me and say “that is a loud person”, but my actions are loud. However, I would say, I am a shallow person….not intellectually, in the sense that what you see is what you get. If I say I am going to do something I do it, something that my boss loves, she knows if I say I will do something I will do it…luckily enough, she is a free thinker, she doesn’t care when it gets done as long as it gets done.

Now comes the story of my disappointment, I am in a whatsapp group that has a lot of interesting people and the discussions in that group are rich and provoking. This group is called Connections2Communities, its as basic as its sounds Converting connections to communities, its about people getting to know each other virtually and becoming a community. So I administered a questionnaire to 367 people (+/-50) which had 2 simple questions other than the biodata, what’s your profession and what are you expecting from the initiative? In my mind, since this is a community about getting to know each other, this must be as basic as it gets. After a good 16 hours, I checked the response, and I found that I had 16 responses. Just 16 responses…and this is a community where people are saying lets get to know each other so that we form a community around our ideas. So my first thought is

  1. Does it mean the other 351 members are here to spectate?
  2. If people can’t be bothered to answer a simple questionnaire like this, how will they be willing to do much more for the community.
  3. The senior members of the community hadn’t answered, does it mean they are preaching a sexy rhetoric that they think people want to hear.

And yes, I know that people are people, they are going to do as they wish but if you are in a community called connections2communities and someone sends you a questionnaire that is saying let’s get to know each other so that we find meeting points, would that be too hard to answer. I was quite disappointed by this but after calming down, I realised that I was a victim of my own expectations because

  1. I believe people should never pass up any opportunity to be heard
  2. I expected people to act as I would
  3. I expect a lot from life and I believe people should too (Was planning on being a billionaire, now after learning about BlackRock, I want to be BlackRock to be part of the people that have money that controls world events)

Not many people have responded to my questionnaire but if you were in a group called Connections 2 Communities with me, would you answer this questionnaire https://forms.gle/THdWPbJYz9v5BuiF7. If you are not, I would love it if you would join because it is a great initiative even though it is still a steep climp. And of the few people that have answered, I have found one answer that brightened my day, so my efforts are not lost.

Please subscribe to my mailing list to hear more from me.

Valuation of Real Estate

Like everything else in investment, valuation focuses on intrinsic value, this is valuation that is based on fundamentals. However, like I said earlier, real estate valuation is not easy as it is unique, heterogenous and illiquid so its very hard to determine independently. But this does not mean that it can’t be done, it can be done using any of the three approaches.

a. The Cost Approach

b. The Sales Comparison Approach

c. The Income Approach

The Cost Approach

When using this method, our first thought is, what would it cost to replace the building in its present form? We will obviously start with an estimate of the land area, the we would add current construction costs. And this would give us an estimated cost price that we would write down as the value. This is a simple method but I need to point out that it has two shortcomings (i) required land value is not easy to appraise and (ii) the market value of a building could differ significantly to its value of construction. An office building with high rentals, full occupancy will have a higher market value than what the cost approach would predict. And this would also go vice versa, the same office building with low rentals and poor occupancy would have a different value to what the cost approach would offer.

The Sales Comparison Approach

This approach is similar to that popular statement that goes like, “You are the average of the three people that you hang out with”. And this approach is similar to that. Market value is estimated relative to a benchmark value. There is a property that can be benchmarked as the ideal property which is similar or a number of houses in the same area can be valued and the prices get averaged. Then this average price is then adjusted for factors considered to be affecting the property being valued. This average price can be adjusted for changing market conditions, percentage of error in the pricing and the unique features of the property to the benchmark. Let me give a simple example

Image for post
Small Example of the top of my head

The Income Approach

This method works on the premise that you will have your rental incomes forever. It therefore, uses a discount type model that uses Net Operating Income (NOI). This is rental income that is believed one will get from the investment in perpetuity reduced for expenses (estimated vacancy and collection losses, insurance, taxes, utilities, repairs and maintenance). This is then divided by the market cap rate, the rate used by the market to capitalise future income into the present market value.

Image for post
Another small example of the top of my head

This method relaxes the assumption of constant and perpetual amount of annual income, but we all know that life is not like that, life is unpredictable. Calculations are based on a pretax basis, tax needs to be adjusted for.

There is more to be explored on this topic but let me conclude here for today.

Location! Location! Location!

I have discussed what is real estate, the advantages and disadvantages of direct ownership of real estate investment. Now, let me take you on a location story. Whilst writing this article, my husband and I got into a discussion about high density areas. My husband is a real estate specialist by the way. He explained to me that Hillbrow in South Africa, Mufakose in Zimbabwe and Luanda, Marginal in Angola are all high density places. My first thought was, “He has finally lost it, how can he group them the same way.’ In his very academic way of doing things, he patiently explained that they are both high density areas but with very different price tags. Density is measured as population per square metre and by that definition, all the areas mentioned above are high density areas.

However, where Mufakose and Hillbrow are high density areas, the people that stay there  are low income earners and have a lower standard of living, the people that stay in Marginal Luanda, Angola are high income earners and have better standards of living. The differences in rental prices between a place in Hillbrow and a rental apartment in Luanda would shock anyone. A flat in Hillbrow can cost R5 000 (US$295) per month whereas a flat in Marginal, Luanda costs US$5 000 per month, they are both high density places, despite the differences in countries, the disparity is too large. Then, why the difference?

The difference is called location! The real value in real estate is attained through location. When one talks location, this is the land that the house is on (geographically), the calibre of ancillary services and utilities in the area and people around your property. Best way “the people around you” can be understood is this…A black man bought a house next to a white guy, which was exactly the same as the white guy, they did the same renovations and did everything to make sure their properties stayed at top value. One day the white guy decided to sell his house, he put a For Sale sign with a price and the very next day, the black guy put his For Sale sign with a double price. The white guy was quite irritated and walked to the black guy’s house and demanded that the black guy explain himself. The guy simply told him that his house was more expensive because he lived in a white neighbourhood.

It is an unfortunate truth that neighbourhoods with better services and bigger houses are more expensive, and neighbourhoods with poor services are cheaper. The good neighbourhoods they have an easy selling point, the amenities….there are better schools, golf courses, gyms, walkways and a generally serene environment. For these amenities, you will pay and that means your investment property will fetch higher income and better care…no one wants to damage high value property, replacing the stuff would cost. Then neighbourhoods with poor services with lower income, these are generally ignored by governments and anyone with a good income would not want to stay there. This, therefore, lowers the value of your investment as the expected rental incomes are lower.

It, therefore, goes that when investing in real estate always consider location! Location! Location!

Advantages and Disadvantages of Direct Real Estate Investments

First things first, what is real estate?

The most basic definition of real estate I can give is that real estate is a piece of land with bricks and mortar. However, we can fancy this definition up and say, real estate is considered to be buildings and buildable land. This is a tangible asset that can be seen, touched, pointed at and one can even say, “That building there is mine, its my real estate”. And like I mentioned earlier there is real estate that falls under the investment category and some that don’t. A house one owns and lives in is not an investment in real estate but as an investment category, real estate is one of the most enjoyable assets that one can own, especially direct ownership in which it is fully paid for

I know what you are thinking, how do I enjoy a house I don’t stay in?

  1. Are you forgetting those monthly rentals that come on the 1st like clockwork?
  2. What about the bragging rights that you have…”I own this house?” The rights entitle you to “King” status when you are within the premises of the property, its full ownership rights for an indefinite period of time. Do you remember that statement, “My house, My Castle”…you are the King of your Castle! You are the chief in your boma!
  3. Any business idea that you have, you have sitting equity in the form of a house. You can walk into a bank and tell the manager, “I need a $50 000 loan to start a business, I will give you my $2 000 000 house as collateral.”
  4. If well maintained, this is an asset with longevity, you can forsee the rental incomes into your grandkids’ generation
  5. Its easy to keep your asset as it is very hard to dispose, you can’t be short of $2 000 and sell a house, you sell a car for that not a house
  6. If things ever go south, you have a fall back position, you can sell it at will.
  7. During economic recessions, hyperinflationary periods when people are panicking, prices going haywire, real estate can easily maintain its value, it takes major movements to shake real estate.

To make it more scholarly, the advantages of investment in real estate are

  1. Rental Income
  2. Full Ownership rights
  3. Real estate can be used as collateral
  4. Longevity…if built right, it can stand for a very long time to come
  5. Long term asset….you can have it indefinitely
  6. Not directly correlated to economic cycles
  7. Stores value

As a grown up, I need to educate that there is nothing called “free lunch”. There is absolutely no way that there would be such splendid advantages to owning a real estate investment without a price. There has to be disadvantages and below are the following disadvantages of owning real estate investment;

  1. Tenants are a stressful and demanding lot, they always want you to fix something, the plumbing system, the geyser, the window, the ledge, the window opener, the door handle. And at certain points you wander if they are just trying to get their rental payment back with the constant demands…(the demands are not that constant, I am being dramatic for effect)
  2. Buying the property leaves you walking to work and the kids eating bread only…no money left for condiments and no money left for fuel. It takes lots of sacrifice.
  3. If you decide that other people should manage the property, they will charge you so much that you wander if you now co-own the property but you didn’t get the memo.
  4. If you ever get tired of the neighbourhood where your house is, you just can’t move it. The asset is that big and immoveable
  5. Trying to sell the real estate will have you calling your ancestors, it is not that easy, it takes time.
  6. The worst of all, even though you know how much you bought your house for or how much you built it for, you never know the actual value of your real estate. Imagine that big an asset and your best guestimate is “With these two properties, I am probably a millionaire by now’

The scholarly way of looking at the disadvantages;

  1. Individually managing the properties is cumbersome
  2. It requires a huge outlay of cash to buy a property
  3. Transaction costs and management fees are high
  4. Property is immovable
  5. Property is illiquid, it does not sell very fast
  6. Each property is unique, and therefore, ‘market value’ of any property is difficult to ascertain.

This is the 2nd part of the 5 part series, please subscribe to get the articles in your inbox.

What is Over-Investing in Real Estate?

I am in a  group called Classy Homes on Facebook, everything about this group exudes “class”, the Facebook page, the people in it, the ‘rich’ conversations and the homes that are showcased. There is nothing that I don’t wish to emulate and when I am in this group, I have my make up on, my nails nicely polished, sit straight up and chest out and even my conversations go a notch richer than the normal me (all this is imaginary of course, but I imagine that’s what my avatar would do), Facebook is something I do in bed, at the end of the day. This group discusses homes, mostly residential properties that people own and how to adorn the homes in a classy manner.

So the other day, a topic was raised which went like, “Is it an over-investment to build yourself a mansion with all the extras in a high density suburb?”. As a finance practitioner, this topic was right up my lane and I felt I could raise my social bar a bit and participate. The conversations were wide and varied but they were mostly biased along the lines of it being an over investment. Obviously, I didn’t agree with this for the following reasons;

1. I felt the basis of the argument was wrong as long as we are talking about property that the owner lives in, that is not an investment, it’s residential real estate which does not make you earn more money in any way. It really doesn’t matter where the house is built, in the low density ‘posh’ suburbs or in the high density low-income areas, none of the owners are getting money from this property other than luxurious accommodation for the former and noisier neighbours for the later.

2. Then there is a residential property that the owner builds for business with the clear intention of getting rental income. This is an investment property and the mantra for property that says, “Location! Location! Location! then would be undisputed that you are putting too much money for a neighbourhood where the rentals will not go above a certain threshold, so don’t waste your money.

3. When you build a property for yourself, the idea of investment falls off, it becomes a subject of utility, how much satisfaction one would derive from the property built. If it’s a property that one is building for themselves and their family then by all means build a mansion and load it with the extras, no matter the location, be it in the rural areas, the high density areas or the suburbs. There is more satisfaction here.

The basis of the above observations is a study I did in Investment in Real Estate.

This is a 5 part series, subscribe to my mailing list for more

Lets Build Each Other

I like to impart what I know with the world and if anyone looks at my writing style, they will realise that its writing for the masses in a language that everyone can understand and without taking too much of anyone’s time. There are times that I come across writings and audios that I find to be quite profound, I share them here because that is the only way to immortalise them. This is the audio that I believe everyone should hear, there is a mixture of English and Shona but largely, one will be able to understand what is going on. The audio was done by Rutendo Matinyarare.

Point to note, he is talking to the Zimbabwean man