In the six years that I lived in the US I no one ever asked me to lend any money or anything worth more than ten bucks, except once. That once, I lent money to a fellow Ghanaian student, who was schooling at the University of Toronto in Canada. He had a story I could relate to. It was nearing Christmas, he wanted to visit his family, and had found an airline ticket for a good price through a travel agent. However he didn't have the money to pay for it and the travel agent was not going to hold the ticket for him past the next day. He first asked a mutual friend whom he was closer to, but she did not give him the money for whatever reason. Convinced by his reassurances that his father-a well respected minister who was at that time the head of one of the more popular Christian denominations in Ghana- had already wired him the money from Ghana, I sent him the $500 he had asked through Western Union. He made me believe that the money would get to him within 2 days. He confirmed receipt on 05/05/2004 after Western Union had also sent me a pick up confirmation email which I still keep. Then he disappeared. To put it into context, I was a rising Junior in college earning hourly wages of $7.5 before taxes. As an international student, I was only allowed by law to work a maximum of ten hours/week. A little calculation shows that even if I spent very little on myself, it would have taken me nearly 3 months or close to a whole semester to save up that amount of money. Imagine my growing consternation when 2 weeks passed and our guy had made no attempt to either send me my money or explain his failure to do so. I went through all the stages of loss and when I finally accepted it, I was glad that this had happened to me at a time when I had so little money and that having learnt from it, I was now wiser.
What I didn't know then was that I wasn't really any better at handling such situations. It just seemed that way because no one else asked me for money, and I didn't have any to give. Now that I think of it, I even realize that there were several other instances when people who had asked me to buy things for them promising to give me the money as soon as I got to Ghana, would pay only half of the money, and not pay the rest. What's really disturbing about these minor thefts is that is that they were done by people who are respected in society for their smarts, their family connections or financial standing. Yep, there are people who seem to be or make believe they're doing okay financially but somehow they manage to still need to take loans from the “poor” ones like me. That's something I've never understood because I always live within my means. Whatever money I have, whether it is little or much, is always enough for me and I can't understand people who consistently live beyond their means, then borrow money from me, and pretend they've forgotten they owe me.
When I moved to Ghana, a friend of mine who had been living here for many years cautioned me not to disclose to people how much I make, or they'd start asking me for money. I followed his advice to the letter, so that when he asked me how much I make, I didn't tell him but it doesn't seem to matter that people don't know how much I make, they still try to borrow from me. First someone asked for a loan of two hundred cedis, then two thousand cedis, then fuel. Can you imagine, someone actually tried to make me share my fuel allowance? and then someone said (not jokingly) that I should be sharing my phone units, and then another one asked for eight hundred cedis, and yet another for seven hundred cedis, all in three months of working here. These people have to be kidding me! I live waay below my means and that's why I'm able to save money. If I wanted to blow my monthly income, you'd better believe I could. You know how many times I've walked away regrettably from Chez Julie in Osu because an outfit there was too expensive for me to purchase? If I wanted to, I could buy those clothes but then I'd have to be content with living in the one-bedroom that I have in the house my father built and maybe even begin asking my friends for money too.
I don't know if this has anything to do with people knowing that I just returned from Abrokyire (abroad) and so erroneously think I came back with a fortune or if I look like someone who has money. I swear 3 different people who smelled like confidence tricksters asked me for money in Osu on the same day. I felt sorry for the first one, and was suspicious of the second one but by the time the third person approached me, I felt harassed and exploited.
Ghanaians living abroad who chose to return home for good need to watch out for this. I'm reaching breaking point. I am resolute about not giving loans but it is still affects me negatively when people ask. I wish I could do something to stop people from asking me ever again. Equally important, how can such people be helped? Financial independence/ personal finance workshops? It is really disturbing that the people I speak of are not those who don't have jobs but those whose incomes I could live on but somehow they can't seem to manage properly, including bankers, and managers! There are even those who will make you buy music on itunes with your account and then not pay you the proper amount for it. It's like high class theft! With such people, it's not that they don't have money; it's about the proper management of it, or the mindset. What can a sista do? Help!
Note: If you enjoyed this and want to see more of my writings, visit my blog: Wo Se Ekyir: What Your Mamma Never Told You About Ghana by copying and pasting this link into your browser: www.maameous.blogspot.com