By Wilson Erumebor
The world has been taken by a storm- COVID-19. In addition to its devastating impact on human lives, the virus and its associated impacts have resulted in a sharp drop in crude oil prices to below US$20 per barrel in April from US$70 per barrel at the start of 2020. The implication of this drop will be felt on the Nigerian government’s revenue for 2020, given that oil revenue accounts for over 60% of government income. As revenue declines, the ability of government to pay salaries and meet other obligations will be constrained. External reserves will continue to fall; exchange rate will be pressured and prices will rise. Business activities will be suppressed due to lockdown and movement restrictions while consumer spending will be subdued. In the light of the foregoing, there are projections that Nigeria is heading for its worst recession ever and could stay there for a long time if government does not intervene appropriately.
As the Nigerian economy goes through tough times due to the fall in oil price and the impact of Covid-19, citizens and businesses will feel the brunt; thus, individuals, businesses and families would need to adopt survival strategies and mechanisms to get through the difficult times ahead.
Here are 10 survival tips that can work for individuals/families:
1. Develop a budget to track income and expenditure
In such times of huge uncertainties and looming economic recession, it is important for families and individuals to develop a budget to monitor their income and expenditures. Having a defined spending pattern helps to curb the urge to spend indiscriminately. Individuals can easily know when they overspend and make the necessary adjustments because what can’t be tracked, can’t be measured. The budget could be prepared on a yearly, bi-annually, monthly and weekly basis. There are several mobile budgeting apps such as You Need a Budget (YNAB) & Spendee that can be of help in this regard. A budget is telling your money where to go instead of wondering where it went -Dave Ramsey.
2. Eliminate all unnecessary costs
During times of economic difficulties, smart individuals, families and businesses are those that are able to adjust accordingly. Naturally, individuals and families often incur costs that are largely unnecessary and they become accustomed to such spending habits. With the Nigerian economy expected to contract in 2020, the income of many individuals, businesses and households is expected to drop significantly or at best remain constant. Some individuals will experience salary cuts or lose their jobs. Therefore, it becomes important to prune out irrelevant costs from budgets to reduce unproductive expenses and increase savings or spending for productive purposes. For instance, some families and individuals will be forced to make tough choices of either going to the gym or exercise at home. Some will have to reduce or cancel vacation and unnecessary trips; reduce expenses on fuel, cable TV subscription, alcohol consumption and limit luxury lifestyles where necessary. Access to internet can be restricted for productive use only. Remember, desperate times call for desperate measures. If you buy things that you do not need, soon, you have to sell things you need – Warren Buffet.
3. Negotiate for cuts from service providers
As part of the ways to reduce costs, individuals, businesses and households must constantly negotiate for discounts from service providers and sellers. Cuts can be negotiated for expenditure items such as school fees, tutorial fees, laundry services, and even purchase of certain goods. Where discounts are not available, Individuals and businesses can propose part payments for heavy expenses such as rents, in order to free-up pressure on earned income. Everything is negotiable. Whether or not the negotiation is easy is another thing – Carrie Fisher.
4. Make future purchases now
As Nigeria approaches an economic recession or possibly a depression, the Naira will lose its value and prices of goods and services will rise. As with the previous recession in 2016, where inflation rate rose to 18.7% in January 2017, such scenario will likely play out in 2020. Already, inflation has steadily increased from 11% in August 2019 to 12.2% in February 2020. One way to control the negative implication of inflation, which erodes consumer purchasing power, is to purchase items now that will be needed in the future, particularly those with significant price tag. Some of these may include food items such as rice, beans or electrical appliances etc. Items can also be purchased in bulk to take advantage of available discounts. Inflation is taxation without legislation – Milton Friedman.
The importance of savings cannot be overemphasized. Part of the reasons why Nigeria is going through hardship is the absence of adequate fiscal savings. As individuals and businesses, it is important to inculcate the habit of saving for the rainy days. Families and Individuals need to have an emergency account that can last three to four months, depending on the family size. The best time to save money is when you have some. Saving for the future requires making huge sacrifice for today’s consumption. “Do not save what is left after spending, but spend what is left after saving”- Warren Buffet.
6. Be careful with lending cash
In difficult times, there will be increasing requests for financial support from family members, neighbours, friends, etc. While it is good to be your brother’s keeper, individuals must be cautious in doing so. Lending must be accounted for and specified in the budget. Individuals can include a charity account in their budgets in order to avoid being stranded after lending a significant part of your income. When lending people money, be sure their character exceeds their collateral – Jackson Brown.
7. Diversify your income
It is quite easy for individuals and even businesses to be complacent when revenue is coming in. There is often the temptation to rely on one stream of income thereby missing out on fresh opportunities. To reduce the risk of financial crisis, it is important to diversify your revenue base and limit vulnerability to shocks. One way to diversify revenue is to invest in yourself by acquiring new skills. Living in this digital age has made it easier to obtain relevant skills via the internet. These skills can place you in a good position to provide services to clients and generate new income streams. Businesses can identify new market segments/opportunity areas with good potentials during a recession. Areas such as food processing and exports become lucrative during difficult times especially as the government will make attempts to discourage imports and promote exports, in order to improve the country’s foreign exchange position. An investment in yourself pays the best interest.
8. Try as much as possible to keep current job
Developing good relationships with colleagues and being competent at work will help you stand a better chance at retaining your job, when the hard call for downsizing needs to be made. Remember, this is not the time for slacks and unnecessary mistakes. They could be costly! Work Hard, Work Smart!
This is arguably the best time to invest in shares of reputable companies especially given that their share prices have fallen below their real values. As individuals, we must bear in mind that tough times do not last for ever and as the situation improves, the value of these stocks will improve. You can seek professional advice from experts and stockbrokers. In addition to shares, invest in dollar assets/funds. Several investment banks in Nigeria have dollar funds with fair returns. Individuals and businesses can leverage such opportunities especially given the weak outlook on exchange rate in Nigeria. Lastly, as recession looms, the government will likely discourage importation of certain food items and this is also an opportunity for businesses to close such gap and produce locally. I have found that when the market’s going down and you buy funds wisely, at some point in the future, you will be happy. You won’t get there by reading. Now is the time to buy. – Peter Lynch
10. For businesses, key into government support programmes that target your sector
You will be doing your business a great service by taking advantage of the government support programs. The Central Bank of Nigeria and the Federal Government, for instance, have announced several intervention funds for the textile industry, mining, agro processing, healthcare, MSMEs etc. Business owners must constantly search for such support programmes and key into them. It is also important to join the business associations in your sector to have access to such information. The business environment remains challenging. But if you have a good strategy, there is gold in all of this – John Barth
Finally, economic recession comes with consequences for government, citizens and businesses. Tough decisions will be made and there would be costs on citizens and employees- in terms of job losses, inflation, etc. As individuals, we must be prepared and try to keep our mental state in check. For families, now is the time to have honest conversations with your partners and kids. Kids must be guided on how to adapt to the changing times and encouraged to acquire innovative skills for problem solving. We must bear in mind that although the economy is in a tough phase that may last longer than usual, this phase will not last forever. As sure as the dry season will follow the wet season, prosperity and economic growth will follow a recession.
Wilson is an Economist with over a decade of experience in areas such as macroeconomic policies, fiscal and monetary policies, inclusive economic growth, youth development and poverty studies.