We are always advised to stop waiting and try and buy land as soon as you can. Well, for Investment Manager at Safaricom Investment Co-operative, John Mwai, believes that one of the biggest holes many Kenyans fall into.
Buying land with a loan doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a good investment. Below is an interview with Mwai on investment.
In my line of work, I conceive and incubate business ideas from the ideation phase to implementation. I wear many hats and juggle between different roles from being a finance professional to being a subject matter expert in diverse fields. This involves a lot of reading and research work. It can be challenging but I love the thrill, the learning, and the opportunities therein. Before I joined Safaricom Investment Co-operative, I was employed as a Development Manager in real estate.
Some years back, I took out a loan to buy a parcel of land. Whilst the land has appreciated to date, it has remained idle and I doubt the capital gains are higher than the interest I paid. The key lesson that I took away from this is that the opportunity cost of money should never be ignored.
I have many career highlights but most recently, I led the development of a high-end residential real estate project that has won global awards. The project started off with many challenges. For instance, we had a restriction in terms of building heights and that meant I had to be creative around the product pricing in a bid to recoup the cost of the land. Secondly, the product had to offer maximum privacy.
I worked with the team to design a one-of-a-kind product that has a villa feel to it, whereas it is in essence a condominium-style building. Given the challenges faced, this was a very fulfilling achievement.
If I were to start all over again, I would invest more in a broader skill set and take on as many diverse jobs as I could. In today’s ever-changing world, key skills are learnt on the job. Two key skills come to mind—Data analytics and marketing. These are invaluable skills that I feel would have made a big difference in my career if I had learnt them earlier.
I don’t save, I invest, which are two sides of the same coin. At any single point in time, I have a project that is running and I periodically commit funds towards it. It could range from subscribing to an online course that interests me to buying shares in a company. What matters is that my money is never idle. Previously, I would accumulate money in a bank account, under the pretext of saving but would end up consuming it.
I have come to realise that money and its tenets have different meanings to different people. No matter how small your initial investments are, the gains will soon be exponential. Time is your friend in this case, not the sums you start with. The earlier you start investing the better the returns. That said, what has always stood out for me is that money is an enabler not really the nuts and bolts to a better life.
“It’s good to have money and the things that money can buy, but it’s good, too, to check up once in a while and make sure that you haven’t lost the things that money can’t buy.” – I learn this daily from George Lorimer.