(Photo above: The crazy Mzungu walking on water, Lake Malawi, Africa | Photo Courtesy of Rosell Wealth Management)
Making the Impossible a Reality
[An excerpt from David’s new book: Keep Climbing — A Millennial’s Guide to Financial Planning]
I had never even heard of Malawi before arriving in Africa. Even though this heavily populated nation ranks among the world’s least-developed and poorest countries, it didn’t take long to realize that the friendly, welcoming, colorful and vibrant populace is Malawi’s greatest asset. It’s impossible to visit and not become engaged with the people who live there.
“Mzungu, Mzungu. What is your name?” the locals would exclaim again and again when I got off at a bus terminal or walked along the dirt road of any village. “Where are you from?”
“America,” I would answer.
“America numba one!” they would exclaim. “Michael Jordan! Yeah!”
The greetings made me feel welcomed.
Indeed, the inhabitants’ legendary friendliness has led to Malawi being called the warm heart of Africa, a label the country well and truly deserves. About the size of Pennsylvania and surrounded by Mozambique, Zambia and Tanzania, this landlocked country is among the smallest on the continent. It’s also one of the most scenic. I had heard that chilling out on golden sand beaches of its “inland sea,” Lake Malawi, was a must. This 360-mile-long lake, which covers one fifth of the country, is Africa’s third largest and home to over 1,000 different species of fish adorned in wild patterns of intense colors. I had to go.
How can there be tropical fish in a lake? I wondered once I got there. It was hard to fathom that it was not the ocean.
I arrived at Cape Maclear. The strip of idyllic beach was the social hub for the locals from Chembe Village. Some sections of the beach were full of activity with local fisherman and women filling up containers of water, while others were places the local children loved to play. The coming together of two different cultures, the tourist and the villager, proved to be just as joyful and rich.
I found a pleasant place to stay called Mr. Steven’s, which offered relatively clean grass bungalows on the beach for only 10 Kwacha per night. At the time, $1USD equated to 15 Kwacha. What a deal. It was time for an ice-cold Carlsberg at the thatched roof bar. To my surprise, leaning against the side of this hut was a wooden water ski with bindings made of strips of leather. It could have dated back to 1922, the year water-skiing was invented. Having grown up water-skiing on Lake George in New York, I immediately thought how great it would be to water-ski on Lake Malawi. And that’s when I started thinking, Hmmm… The sport requires a smooth stretch of water—check! A water ski—check! A towboat with a towrope—not so lucky.
“Do you know who owns the ski?” I asked the bartender.
He didn’t. However, he did point to his friends Howard and Enoch who owned an aluminum rowboat equipped with a vintage Johnson outboard engine that appeared to be almost as old as the ski. Before I knew it, they were collaborating on how to make my dream become a reality. Within minutes I was back in the placid water behind their boat, cord in hand. I knew it was not going to be easy for the 10-horsepower engine to get me up and out of the water, but I was determined to hold on for dear life. I kept my legs tucked into my chest in a cannonball position and the ski’s tip out of the water, pointing toward the sky.
“Hit it!” I bellowed.
I leaned back and kept my legs slightly bent. The rowboat was struggling. I was struggling. Don’t let go, I kept saying to myself. Don’t let go. I did everything possible to hold on, when all of a sudden the ski began to plane and I was actually gliding over the water. I took in the scene and thought to myself how happy I was in that very moment. Howard and Enoch looked thrilled, but their expressions were nothing compared to those of the crowd that had gathered on the beach. The locals were pointing at me and jumping with joy. From their perspective, this Mzungu was performing the impossible by walking on water. They had never seen anything like it before. My ski had obviously just served as bar décor.
As the boat headed back toward the shore, I crossed the right wake, picking up enough speed to let go of the rope and coast up onto the beach. Did the kids think I was superhuman? All I knew as the locals swarmed me was that I had minimally used up five of my fifteen minutes of fame. Talk about fun! When things eventually quieted down, a woman brought me an enormous, fresh plate of rice, beans and fish as a way of saying zikomo (thank you) for the entertainment.
You Can Make It Happen
Getting out of the water with a vintage wooden water ski behind a 10-horsepower engine strapped onto a rowboat is a similar analogy to a rocket ship launching into space, spending 80 percent of its fuel during takeoff and after a certain point flying smoothly with minimal consumption. The hardest part is just getting up.
Many millennials may think retirement is impossible. The people of Malawi thought walking on water was impossible, and frankly, when I saw the boat I would be behind I had to agree with them. You younger investors may feel like it’s going to take a miracle to achieve your financial goals, but it’s not. You don’t need to walk on water. Successfully saving for retirement is not any different from water-skiing. You just have to understand what you are dealing with so you can put that knowledge to use. In short, you must understand the basics of investing and then make it happen by taking action today.
You can do this!
If It Is to Be, It’s Up to Me
Many people take the path of least resistance and live their lives by default rather than by design. Financial freedom and living the life you have always imagined aren’t just going to happen to you.
A Chinese proverb states: The best time to plant a tree is twenty years ago. The second-best time is now. I know that retirement planning isn’t the first thing on anyone’s mind; however, it’s important to get started. If you dawdle, as so many people do, and keep telling yourself it can wait till later, you’ll wake up one day when you’re 55 and find yourself scrambling to figure out how you’re going to live in your retirement years.
I’ve heard people say that they are too young to start worrying about their financial futures, as retirement seems very far off. I agree that they shouldn’t agonize about it. Still, the fact is that it is never too soon to begin planning, and if you do get started now, in all probability you will not have to worry down the line. General George Patton said it best: A good plan implemented today is better than a perfect plan implemented tomorrow.
I know the concept of financial planning can be daunting. Yet the creation of a plan that you understand and know how to implement is one of the most important things you can do at this stage of your life. Like any overseas journey, your road trip to financial success depends on where you’re starting from as well as the destination you look forward to reaching. When you reach your goal, we’ll celebrate with an ice-cold Carlsberg, rice, beans and fish. And you’ll feel even more elated than I did when I skied on Lake Malawi.
As Zig Ziglar put it so eloquently: “If you can’t take a huge step to begin with, take as big a step as you can but take it now!”
David Rosell is President of Rosell Wealth Management in Bend. www.RosellWealthManagement.com. He is the author of Failure is Not an Option-Creating Certainty in the Uncertainty of Retiremen and his latest book Keep Climbing — A Millennial’s Guide to Financial Planning. Learn more about his book at www.DavidRosell.com or Amazon.com. Ask for David’s book at Barnes & Noble, Newport Market, Cafe Sintra, Bluebird Coffee Shop, Dudley’s Bookshop and Sunriver Resort.
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