Yesterday, I had an opportunity to spend some time with another brother-in-law Drissa and his family. Drissa just returned back from a 2-month stint in Boston but also teaches Chemistry at the University in Mali. He has such an adorable family. He is blessed with 5 beautiful daughters. His oldest is 14 years old while his youngest is just 8 months.
Yeah had meetings so he left the kids and I to visit. It was amazing to watch how Fatou, Drissa’s second oldest daughter charmed my bull headed daughter into playing with her. Even more amazing that Carmen actually went with her to the shop down the street. As Drissa left to do some errands, I observed a women group headed by my sister-in-law Eugene( pronounced Agenee). The meeting was a mixture of socializing and money planning. In Mali, although banks do exist to facilitate the transfer of money, Malians very rarely use them to save money. So this is how this works: a group of people get together and assign a leader that will collect the money. This “pot” of money is given to one person a month. Each person will contribute their share into the pot each month and each month they enjoy the benefit of that lump sum of money. The order of people that get the lump sum is determined by a drawing. They all decide how much is comfortable for them to contribute each month and it has to be the same for everyone. So for example, there may be 5 people in my group (including myself) and we each contribute $25.00/month. So one month, I could enjoy the benefit of $125.00. While money saving is the key behind the meeting, I personally believe that the feeling of community stands out even more. It was fun to watch these women joke loudly and talk about all issues from their husbands to cooking. After an hour and a half of eating, joking and discussing the money, the sum of the money was given to one woman for this month.
So the next time you want to do something fun and responsible with your friends, maybe you can try out the Malian way of saving money. Not only does it strengthen the sensibility of saving money in this tough economy but also a feeling of community. Think about it, saving in a bank means the money is accessible at all times, but with this way, you only have the money the one month that is your turn.So it teaches you to budget effectively and not dig into your savings. This was something new to observe. I definitely enjoyed getting a different perspective on money from a Malian standpoint.