On Sunday, I spent about 30 minutes writing an article on personal finance and sent it to BellaNaija as potential guest post. Yesterday, it was posted and you can read it here: https://www.bellanaija.com/2017/08/michael-olafusi-3-money-mistakes-nigerians-make/ The comments people left have been amazing.

Straight out of university, a Nigerian youth wants three things: get a high paying job, travel to USA/UK, and buy a classy car. He then sets the foundation for a lifetime of bad financial decisions. Not that anything is wrong with wanting those things, the problem is the timing.
He wants it all in the next four years; so he sacrifices building a strategically focused career and acquiring skills of real value, for getting any job that pays the most today — even if it is not along his field of study or interest.
He consoles himself by saying he is just using the job to acquire enough money to go further his studies in the US/UK, and then makes the second terrible mistake of spending all he earns chasing foreign degree and travel pictures to show off on Facebook.
Finally, in between the job and the travel he buys a car using a flexible payment option or with financial assistance from friends/family. He has no long term strategic plan that doesn’t involve resetting his entire life every few years.
Every major decision resets his life — rather than build up strategically on what he has already. The high paying job is the first reset, cutting him off all his university study and field of knowledge. The car is another reset, emptying his bank account. Then the US/UK travel is the ultimate reset, he abandons all — job, car and career growth.
Not everyone follows that pattern completely, but most of us are guilty of that young man’s main sin: no long-term strategic plan that nicely builds up on all we achieve over time — especially as it relates to finances. Many of us suck at managing our money, and I want to help you break away from the common mistakes we often make in handling our money.
1. Following the Crowd
 I see people blindly following the crowd. This is why most Nigerian youths have similar mindsets and unreasonable expectations straight out of school. They are more in touch with the crowd than with reality. It is, also, the main reason a lot of people went into MMM and other bad investment decisions. They hear family and friends talking excitedly about how they are making a killing from them and they hop along. A financially illiterate mind is the fraudster’s workshop.
How do you become immune to the crowd pull?
It starts with proper financial education, the same way we became immune to our grandparents’ superstitions by being educated. Regardless of your field of study and career path, you need to educate yourself on personal finance. You need to be able to distinguish between what makes financial sense and what doesn’t. That is the only way you will resist buying a car too early in life when you are daily inundated with pictures of friends in their new classy cars. That is the only way you will be able to see beyond the immediate returns people are getting from unsustainable pyramid schemes and understand that there are other more enduring ways to grow your money.
So, in a sentence, to avoid the mistake of following the crowd, arm yourself with financial education. If you need guidance on free and reliably ways to become financially educated enough to constantly make expert money decisions, just shoot me an email at michael@olafusimichael.com
2. Saving Wrongly
 There are some, who either by nature or nurture, are able to resist spending their money recklessly. They make a regular habit of saving. Just that they commit another blunder: they save wrongly.
Is it possible to save wrongly? Yes, it is.
Mum said they bought the cow for her and my dad’s wedding for N900. That same cow now sells for over N250,000. Imagine she saved N900 that year in her bank account, today it will not even buy her a cow leg pepper-soup as the interest rate on money you put in savings account is negligible when compared to inflation (most banks even cancel any interest once you withdraw from the account more than twice in a month).
Whenever you use your bank account as your primary savings/investment account, you are saving wrongly. You might even be better off spending the money now on stuff you can sell in the future — like silverware, quality leather sofa and any other stuff with a life expectancy greater than that of a cow.
How, then, do you save wisely?
Have a proper investment account. If you are risk averse, do treasury bills and money market investment funds. If you can stomach some risk, then go for stocks and real estate investments. Just make sure you don’t hand that money to your bank, even if they say they’ll give you a good interest rate on fixed deposit account, it will still be way lower than what you’ll get from treasury bills.
3. No financial plan
 If you don’t track your expenses, income and savings/investment, you are setting yourself up for financial failure. Any going-to-be-successful financial plan is built on actual historical data and forecast of periodic expenses, income and savings. Once you have put in place a structured approach of monitoring and controlling your expenses, you begin working on growing your income actively and passively. The difference between your income and expense, your savings, serve a dual use. One is to provide you a cushion for shocks that come in life — unexpected expenses and emergencies. The second is that it becomes the seed for growing your income passively via prudent investments, which is the biggest component of all the super-rich people’s wealth.
As a rough guide for you, here is my own financial plan that I have been using for years. I have it broken down into steps below... (continue reading at https://www.bellanaija.com/2017/08/michael-olafusi-3-money-mistakes-nigerians-make/)
image: fourhourworkweek.com
Last week I bought two books: The 4-Hour Workweek by Tim Ferriss and The $100 Startup by Chris Guillebeau. And against some of the very discouraging reviews that has kept me off The 4-Hour Workweek, I found the book to be the best book I have read in two years now and wished that I had read it before now.

The 4-Hour Workweek is an action book. It forces you to rethink the way you have been doing things and act better. By the way, if you are about to read the book, I'll advice that you don't have too much spare money lying within easy reach. This is the type of book that is best read when you are broke or you'll end up spending your money on some bold bets.

It has fired me up to take actions I have been postponing and to stop viewing my progress in life by how busy I am. It opened my eyes to the value of time and how much it can multiply the reach of whatever income one earns. Using his very words, "You don't have to be a millionaire to live the lifestyle of a millionaire." If you aren't always pressed for time and are creative enough, you can enjoy all the things and experiences you felt you needed millions to access. You can travel cheaper and more flexibly. You can access more uncommon opportunities and you can follow a thrilling unique path in life.

As part of the learning I have gotten from the book, I am already planning a West African tour. I have gone to open an account with Ecobank since they allow one to withdraw directly from their ATM in local currencies of, especially the francophone, countries and are present in all the West African countries. And against spending over a million naira that a standard multi-country tour package costs, I will be doing more of road trip and plugging in business interests in the trip. I have always wanted to break into the francophone countries surrounding us and now I have an extra drive to attempt this.

Even my membership drive to join the Institute of Directors Nigeria got a renewed push. Using some of the tactics and advice in the book, I asked someone I don't know to become a referee (as they require existing members to be referee) for my membership application and he accepted. 

If you think you'll profit from some serious push, then I'll recommend you get the book and read it. And to shock you, I have just read one-quarter of the book. Can't imagine what more I'll find out when done reading the remaining three-quarter.
image: myajc.com

Sometimes the best way to overcome a temptation is to give in to it.

Say you are dieting and you feel a strong temptation to eat pizza and ice cream. You might make your life a lot easier and free up mental energy to do more productive things than battling that temptation if you indulge yourself in a very small size ice cream.

Or say you suddenly have this huge desire to want to go for a foreign vacation, somewhere exotic and where you've never been to before. Again, you can save yourself the whole recurrent battle of keeping the desire in check if you just travel to Cotonou beside us here and indulge yourself in a vacation-like experience there.

For me I often face temptations, it is the downside of being exposed to too much information. I get to come across a lot of things that interest me and give rise to expensive temptations. In just the past one week, I have come under the temptation to buy a new high-end laptop, to buy the Google Pixel phone, to buy a Samsung high-end phone and to travel to Mauritius. And that is just in one week. You don't want to imagine how many temptations I have faced in the last one year!

Yet I have satisfactorily been able to handle all these temptations because I give in to them in a small way. I allow myself small luxuries. It is amazing how buying a N9,000 Bluetooth headphone can wipe away your temptation to buy a new laptop and new smartphone. That amazing feeling of having overspent has a magical way of clearing all your other expensive thoughts. Even going to an expensive Chinese restaurant can wipe away the desire to travel out of the country.

There is, however, one thing that you need to do to make this small luxury cure effective. You must always keep most of your money out of easy reach. When you have N6 million in your ATM reachable savings account, a N9,000 Bluetooth headphone is not going to cure you of all your expensive urges. The magic is in having as little as N25,000 in your account so that when you get the N9,000 debit alert and see the balance of N16,000 you feel like you've made a very significant purchase. And for me, spreading my after-investment money across six different bank accounts help me achieve than effect easily without completely running out of money. It makes those little luxuries feel really really expensive and cures me of the big luxury temptation.
Yesterday, I forced myself on New Horizons -- scheduling, paying and taking the Microsoft Office Specialist (MOS) 77-888 Excel 2010 Expert exam in one day. Despite some very disturbing technical glitches that had me wasting about 20 minutes out of the allowable 50 minutes total time on 4 out of 29 questions, and required the test admin to hard reboot the computer, I still managed to attempt all the questions and passed with a 800/1000 score.

I have now fulfilled the certification requirement to kickstart the process of becoming a Microsoft Certified Trainer (MCT). The other two steps for me are to get an evidence of my instructional skills (either via a qualifying Train-The-Trainer type of certificate or a reference from a Microsoft Learning Partner) and another acceptable reference from my workplace/contractors.

I currently have trouble with the evidence of instructional skills. Though I have been delivering 2 to 8 training sessions monthly for the last three years, they just won't accept my word of mouth evidence. Then the Microsoft learning partner I reached out to, New Horizons, are at a lost about the whole MCT process and seem unwilling to make my problem theirs. Then the acceptable Train-The-Trainer certifications are not available here in Nigeria (as far as I know/checked).

Luckily, I will be presenting later this year in the MCT Africa Summit and two of the main organizers are MCTs. I reached out to one of them and he too was at a loss regarding how I should get past that stage. He got his 10 years ago and followed a slightly different path. The only sure option he provided was to attend the Microsoft backed Train-The-Trainer session that will happen before the MCT Africa Summit, in December. It's a little pricey and four months away. The other guy had to travel to the US to get his (or got his when he traveled to the US). 

In a wild shot, I emailed one of the Microsoft Learning team lead explaining my situation and asking for his expert advice. I hope he replies, and favourably.

It's really worrying that so many things other people in other countries have easy access to are either unavailable to us or very difficult to access in Nigeria. There are many things I see other people generate full-time income from in other countries, when I try them I get to battle all sorts of restrictions and in the end lose the battle. It happened to my Udemy online course, when Paypal showed me hell and seized my money twice or thrice, I gave up and made the high ranking course, that took me months of hard work to put together, free. And now I see it happening to my Amazon published books. The payment company I used to receive my book sales royalties sent me an email last month that they no longer process payment from Amazon for one of the book sales. Now I understand why so many youths get frustrated in Nigeria and seem to look lazy/uncreative compared to other youths in other countries.

If you are a project manager, financial planner, sales manager, marketer or business analyst, you need to be very comfortable using What-If-Analysis tools in Excel for flexible planning and target meeting.

In this month's webinar, I will be taking you through the practical use of the What-If-Analysis tools and Solver.
1. Goal Seek for knowing what to do to achieve a set goal
2. Scenario Manager for simulating different scenarios (best case scenario, worst case scenario, etc)
3. Data Table for creating a matrix of possible outcomes when one or two inputs are varied
4. Solver for doing linear programming, optimization and cost management.

The webinar will be on Thursday 24, 2017 for 3:00pm to 4:00pm.

Venue: YouTube live (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eE1yV9RNIko)

Don't miss it! Set a reminder to help you remember.

Also don't forget to join our webinar directory to be in loop of all our webinar events: Join Webinar Directory

Three days ago, I got a free coupon from Microsoft to take the 70-779 Analyzing and Visualizing Data with Microsoft Excel exam. It is currently in a beta mode, which means you don't get your result immediately until they've used the pool of beta testers to set an appropriate passing score. 

Also you don't get any preparatory materials -- no recommended study guide nor guidance from people who have taken the exam before sharing their experience online in forums. It is expected that you are an expert already in the domain the exam tests and can depend on your technical expertise to face the exam without any elaborate preparation.

In fact, they even let you select to do the exam online using your home office or room as the testing center. And that was the option I picked as I don't trust that the Nigerian testing centers will let me do an exam at their place for free (without paying directly to them).

It was no easy task setting up my sitting room as a testing center. I had to clear everything except the sofas, center table and dispenser. Then the test guide (called greeter) from the testing platform provider (Pearson VUE) had me use my webcam to show him a 360 degrees view of the room and then the ceiling and the floor. Not even phones were allowed close to me. Then I mustn't stand up or stay out of the webcam view throughout the over two hours exam or I am disqualified and exam cancelled. No one must walk in or speak to me. The whole set-up was a very tense one. I had to hold out my wrists so he can be sure I have nothing concealed there and that I am not wearing a watch. Also he had me open my computer Task Manager and guided me to close all other applications including ones that run in computer background -- like Dropbox, iCloud and Google Drive. 

The exam was over two hours long. Though I spent about one hour 45 mins, using my sofa and center table as desk made it a very uncomfortable and tiring exam for me. But I performed very well, by my own judgement, but will have to wait till November before I will see my results.

If you are interested in taking any Microsoft exam, especially ones you can do right from your home without needing to be at the scheduling mercy of a proctored exam center, visit https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/learning/exam-list.aspx 
image: theguardian.com
I am currently reading Thomas Piketty's Capital in the Twenty-first Century having completed reading Michael Lewis' Liar's Poker.

I am barely past the intro and I already find the book a great read. It has opened my eyes greatly to how income, wealth and politics have co-mingled from as far back as the 18th century. He explained how many economists have tried to predict the future of inequality for the past 200 years and got it wrong. That technology and human creativity, which are unpredictable, keep changing everything.

Though I am yet to read enough to conclude on what points he made but from the reviews from those who have read the entire book, his main conclusion is that in the capitalist system, which we all now live in, people who make all their money from labor (just their salaries and side hustles) will never catch up or even reduce the financial gap between them and those who make a large chunk of their money from capital (real estate, financial assets and businesses).

The part I have read, however, has taught me that it is a poor use of one's time and energy to try to predict the economic and political future of any country. Especially, Nigeria. That rather than me complaining and projecting into the future the sorry state of things in our dear country, I am better off positioning myself for any major shift in income and power (re)distribution. And that history has consistently shown that national economies change in unpredictable ways and when people least expect. The same way the land owning politically connected high class in the world economies of Britian and France during the pre-18th century never imagined that there would be an industrial revolution that would shift wealth from them to the hardworking and creative technologists (industrialists); and the 20th century industrialists never expected that there would be a rise of software/internet companies with little physical assets and built by straight out of school young chaps disrupting their century old businesses.

No one knows what will disrupt the Google and Facebook billionaires in the future, and again redistribute wealth. But one thing seems certain -- very little comes to those who don't position themselves for any value creation (and receipt).

image: stockinvestor.com
USA stock market has been rising consistently for the last nine years making it the second longest bull market in the US history as the average bull market lasts about four years. This and many other valuation signals -- price to earnings, stocks valuation to GDP etc. -- make it very obvious that the US stock market is due for a bear. 

I came to this realization last year November and promptly sold off all my US stocks and put the money in US bonds, international market bonds and emerging market stocks. But two months ago, I began feeling uneasy with my emerging market stock positions. Usually, whenever the US stock market tanks it drags with it the emerging market stocks as investment firms rebalance their portfolios by repatriating investment fund from their foreign (usually emerging) markets to acquire more of the depressed developed markets assets. The funds from that sale I put into a Gold ETF. Gold usually rises when stocks tank.

Then this week I became worried again. I had read that the bond markets are artificially propped up by government spending, especially the US bonds. Seeing how well even the Nigerian foreign bonds were snapped up, I needed no further evidence to see that even the international markets bonds I have are likely overpriced. So I sold off the bonds -- both the US bonds and the international market bonds. And while searching for which investment to put the funds from the sale into, I settled on PowerShares Deutsche Bank commodity index tracking fund, DBC. Commodities are the most likely asset group to gain from stock crash and DBC is a basket of 14 of the most popular and most liquid commodities in the world. So I decided to also sell off my Gold ETF and put the whole money into DBC. 

And that is an elaborate summary of my current market sentiment and strategy. I strongly believe that the US stock markets is going to crash soon as it has been over-inflated by government money (quantitative easing) and low interest rate, and now that the US government is already discussing reducing their balance sheet while increasing interest rate, both stocks and bonds will fall. 
I have begun building the web app version of my Nigerian Market Data App
Going from this already published Office App

To this type of Web App

For now I can't share the web address as there is still a lot of work to do on it. I am using a development template I bought on envato market to speed up the front end design and also using the latest Microsoft ASP.Net MVC core web application development platform. Been learning as I build the app.

I have now mastered one of the aspects of the web app development process that has been giving me a lot of problems before -- user login data management/access. The default user login system in the ASP.Net MVC app template uses a very difficult to access database that it creates upon initial run of the template and separates from the production copy. Now I have learned how to migrate to my own chosen external database and use across both development and production.

If I would be adding messaging, commenting and other real-time interactive features, I would need to dust up my materials on Angular JS as it is most recommended and widely used for implementing such features.

I am not in any rush and as soon as the web application is done to a useable level, I will share the web address with you all.

Culled from: http://www.chevening.org/apply/
Apply at: http://www.chevening.org/apply/

Applications for 2018/2019 Chevening Scholarships and some Chevening Fellowships are open and close on 7 November 2017. 

Before you apply for a Chevening Scholarship

Before starting your Chevening Scholarship application, you may wish to familiarise yourself with the following requirements:

In order to apply for a Chevening Scholarship

Once applications are open, please navigate to your country's application centre in order to start your application. The video below shows you how to get there:
In order to submit your Chevening Scholarship application, it is essential that you have the following ready:
  • Valid passport/national ID card
  • University transcripts and degree certificates (undergraduate, postgraduate)
  • Three different UK master's course choices

You may also wish to submit the following optional documents if you already meet the requirements. You can submit your initial application without these documents, but you will have to upload them to your application by 12 July 2018:
  • English language test results
  • UK master's university offer

Only documents in PDF format can be uploaded to the online application system, and documents cannot be over 5MB in size.

After you have applied for a Chevening Scholarship

To find out what happens once you've submitted your application, please refer to the application timeline
If you are selected for an interview, please refer to our interview guidance
Remember, if you are invited to an interview, you will be required to submit two complete references via the online application system no later than 26 February 2018. If you have not submitted your documentation by this deadline, you will be unable to proceed with an interview.