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Building financial resilience at home boosts recovery

As the nation re-imagines strategies to swiftly deal with Covid-19 pandemic, it will find out that its solutions are inextricably linked to the financial resilience of Kenyan households. Financial resilience is the capacity to cope with negative income or expenditure shocks or to recover quickly from periods of financial adversity. Financial resilience for household matters in salvaging a country's macroeconomic stability in the wake of financial crises - particularly because household buffers play a role in consumption expenditure cuts and their response to debts. Owing to the Covid-19 preventive measures, the financial muscle of most households has been handicapped, and the consumption, spending power and debt response impacted negatively.

For a country whose economy is driven by 83 per cent of informal sector workers, and an average monthly household consumption per capita of around Sh5,000, it is safe to assume that how long these households stretch their resilience goes beyond just how long and widespread the health crisis spreads.

Further, it might be dependent on how well-kitted most households were in terms of savings, access to affordable credit, levels of debt or requisite financial skills.

With Kenyans' robust coping strategies already under strain, most households need to reconsider and unlearn what they know and need to know about financial resilience during a crisis.

Granted, there is no surefire strategy to come out of a financial crisis like this unscathed. Policymakers and financial experts need to be at the forefront of strategic interventions that can help most households navigate this phase to a safe recovery.

Households need to re-evaluate their financial sustainability. Are they financially fit to sustainably whether this into an unknown sphere? Are their budgeting, income and debt management, risk and investment appetite, and insurance behaviours consistent with the times?

A fundamental household change during this pandemic course is learning to cut unnecessary spending and budgeting.

In that complex journey, the difficult but necessary part will be identifying the must-haves versus the discretionary spending.

Here, a tight household budget regime helps to determine the cash corning versus expenses going and cementing what your short and long-term priorities look like. Frugality at this stage trumps extravagance. Anything to support resilience - disposing of a second car, no new clothes, foregoing a holiday.

Equally shrewd during this period is the ability to manage debt. There have been massive lay-offs and pay cuts, which have caused an unprecedented income shock for those in employment; businesses are going through distress and bankruptcies and it may be considered forgivable to carry the debt for a while. However, debt is debt and nothing will hurt more than debt, especially high-interest debt (read credit cards and loans). It would be prudent for individuals to seek professional advice from the onset of managing debt.

ABEL MUNDA AND GODFREY KIOI MDs of Liberty life Assurance and Heritage Insurance Kenya respectively