Russell Barrett Is the Oliver Clarke Graduate Scholarship Recipient in Leadership and Governance

Earl Jarrett (left), deputy chair and chief executive officer of The Jamaica National Group explains to Russell Barrett (right) the importance of the Oliver Clarke scholarship. Meanwhile, Parris Lyew-Ayee (second right), chairman of the JN Foundation and Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation look on. Mr Russell made a courtesy call at the organisation’s head office in Kingston, recently.

Twenty-five year-old Russell Barrett, who resides in St Elizabeth, is the recipient of the Hon. Oliver Clarke Graduate Scholarship, which was awarded to celebrate the life and legacy of the late chair the board of directors of The Jamaica National Group, a media mogul and Jamaican business stalwart.

Russell, a senior public procurement officer of the Southern Regional Health Authority, said that being selected as the first recipient of the prestigious scholarship was an overwhelming and grateful feeling.

“I’m most thankful and excited. The donor’s name, in which the scholarship is presented, is within itself most prestigious. Mr Clarke has a legacy of his own, and I am proud and honoured to be presented with this scholarship,” Russell said with pride.

He is pursuing a Master of Science Degree in International Public and Development Management, at The University of the West Indies, Mona Campus. He informed that the graduate programme is a sought after course for middle managers.

After completion, Russell hopes to continue to work at his organisation, where he aspires to be promoted to regional director within the next five years.

The Calabar High School old boy said that the scholarship, which is valued up to $2 million, will cover all his educational expenses, a burden which he said has been lifted from his shoulders.

A graduate at The UWI, where he pursued a first degree in International Relations, Russell knows the challenges which go into the financing of an education, as he shared that while doing his first degree, he was not qualified to get financial funding for his studies. However, his parents, who are from humble beginnings, were determined that their first born would get a tertiary education.

“It is from the sweat of their brow that I was able to go to university,” he said, as he revealed that his mother would buy and sell retail clothes, to finance his education, with assistance from his father.

He also worked on campus whenever he had no classes to earn extra cash to cover the shortfall. He noted that these challenges served to mould his character and made him into a thrifty person, who benefited from the value of saving.

“I was a member of the Jamaica National School Savers Club; and therefore, I had a bank account by the time I was 11 years-old,” he boasts.

He said that, with the guidance of his father, he continued saving with the institution; and was able to get a mortgage from the institution, to purchase his first home.

His advice to young people is to aspire to do well and seek higher education. “Hard work and dedication will take you far, but a good education will give you the edge,” he said.

Earl Jarrett, deputy chair and chief executive officer of The Jamaica National Group congratulated Mr Barrett and shared that Mr Clarke was passionate about stamping out corruption and mismanagement of public resources in the public sector and that The Jamaica National Group thought it was fitting to honour his legacy with a scholarship fund that would invest in a generation of young leaders who will not be corrupt and will shout out corruption when they see it and put in good management practices to safeguard against corruption.

Parris Lyew-Ayee, chairman of the JN Foundation said good leadership especially in procurement will be especially needed in the public health sector in the COVID-19 pandemic and post pandemic.

“Leadership procurement to deal with corruption is very important. This is why we are going to need people with backbone, high morals and values to take charge,” he said.

Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation said that the scholarship was introduced for the first time last year, following the death of Mr Clarke in 2020.

Ms Allen informed that two grants were awarded from the scholarship fund to Jamonte East, who is pursuing a Masters in International Public and Development Management and Keenan Falconer, who is doing a Masters in Science and Development Studies, at The University of the West Indies.

The scholarship offering will be replicated over the next two years and one person is expected to be selected annually.

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JN Foundation and UTech Partner on Academic Programme & Research for Drought Solutions

The JN Foundation and the University of Technology (UTech) have forged a partnership to train more persons in water adaptation as one of the solutions to address the country’s drought challenges.

The partnership was formalised through the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) recently, which will see the development of a course certifying persons for careers in water adaptation and research relating to rainwater harvesting and greywater recycling.

The Hon. Earl Jarrett, deputy chairman and chief executive officer of The Jamaica National Group, who signed on behalf of the JN Foundation, said that the MoU was a significant collaboration with both organisations working to protect the environment and meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals.

“We are committed to those goals and we have participated in other UN Sustainable Goals activities. One of our activities is that we will be developing targets for the Group over the next few months, in terms of carbon footprint; and therefore, this project fits in with what we are doing at JN Group,” he informed.

“In respect of the environment, a change in behaviour comes from learning and knowledge; and you are in a position where you are conducting research, you are teaching and communicating. And hopefully, through this MoU, we are signing today, we can get more people to use more water adaptation tools and technology. We will also communicate to Jamaicans that we have to change, in order to live longer and sustainably,” he said.

Professor Colin Gyles, president of UTech, in response, stated that the university was pleased to participate in this particularly important alliance with another home-grown Jamaican organisation.

“A part of what we must seek to practise is collaboration for the common good; and I believe that this particular partnership between two institutions, which are indelibly etched on the landscape of Jamaica, speaks volumes as what we, as a nation, should seek to do,” he said.

 “In relation to the project itself, it could have hardly come at a better time, because as we enter the drought season, we are keenly aware that Jamaica has a problem with water, the land of wood and water. The truth is, there is no reason why…with the brilliance and innovativeness of our people…we should be having that problem. And, I do believe that this project, in fostering water harvesting, water treatment, and innovation; as well as supporting the development of these, is long overdue,” he said.

Claudine Allen, general manager of the JN Foundation, said that the charitable arm of The Jamaica National Group was pleased to be teaming up with the university, to develop the course and commence the programme.

She stated that in addition to programme development, the MoU will allow for research, particularly in the areas of sustainable development, climate change, and energy efficiency; as well as related areas associated with water, housing, and land management.

The MoU was facilitated through the Water Project Jamaica, which is being administered by the JN Foundation. Its objectives are to facilitate the uptake of water adaptation measures in the housing sector across Jamaica. These include:  the use of rainwater harvesting systems; water efficient taps and showers; low-flush toilets; efficient irrigation systems; and grey water recycling facilities; as well as, other appropriate efficiency measures.

Other objectives of the project are to: increase climate resilient housing in Jamaica through greater awareness about the business and financial cases involved in developing and building homes, with water efficient measures.

The project also aims to promote efficiency in the use of water by Jamaicans in their homes; improve the reliability of water supplies; and thereby, enhance the country’s water security and climate resilience.

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Karen Oliver Is The 2020 JN Foundation Staff Scholarship Recipient

Karen Oliver, Communication Specialist in the Corporate Communications department, is the 2020 JN Foundation Staff Scholarship Recipient.

Karen, who has been employed to The Jamaica National Group since 2001, is currently pursuing a Master of Arts degree in Communication for Social and Behaviour Change, at The University of the West Indies (UWI).

“It took a few seconds to sink in, after reading the email, that I was the 2020 JN Foundation Staff Scholarship Recipient.   I’m elated to be selected, because not only will this scholarship help to offset a part of my tuition at The UWI; but the thought that I’m now a JN Foundation Scholar is also very meaningful to me.  I’m really grateful to the Foundation for this wonderful gesture,” she said, as her face lit up with pride.

Karen, who has responsibility for staff and member publications for The Jamaica National Group, is a consistent academic performer. In two consecutive years, 2018 and 2019, she was named the top overall student, in the Department of Communication Studies, at the Northern Caribbean University(NCU).She also received the Director’s Award for academic achievement, East Jamaica Regional Campus of NCU.

She graduated from that institution in 2020, with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications Studies (Journalism major), Magna Cum Laude.

Karen attributes her success to hard work and determination. “These are attributes, which I have acquired over the years, and they have contributed to building my character,” she related.

She has also displayed these outstanding achievements on the job; and  she was named the Employee of the Quarter in 2012 for the Corporate Communications department; and was again a nominee for that award in 2014.  In that same year, she was appointed Respect Ambassador, to assist with culture transformation, during the transition of the Jamaica National Building Society to become a commercial bank. 

Also, in 2014, she received the inaugural Innovation Award from the Group Human Resource Development department, for initiating and implementing ‘$mart Wid Mi Money’, a unique money management programme for employees.

Tanya Pringle, executive, Corporate Communications at The Jamaica National Group, said she was proud of Karen’s achievements and her consistent high performance on the job.

“Karen is a ‘go getter’ who always excels at whatever task is given to her. She owns her projects and champions them without much supervision. I’m overjoyed at her recent accomplishment”, she said.

Karen’s other achievements include being a trained public speaker who, in 2015, achieved the Distinguished Toastmaster (DTM) designation, the highest designation in the Toastmasters International programme; Toastmaster of the Year for the JN Toastmasters Club in 2012 and 2016; as well as Toastmaster of the Year for Division B, comprising Jamaica, The Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands, in that same year.

In 2016, she achieved the most educational awards (12) in Toastmasters District 81, which comprises 24 Caribbean territories.  From 2014 to 2015, she served Toastmasters International, as one of six Area Governors for Jamaica.

In that same year, she received double recognition on the JN Wall of Fame, which was initiated to acknowledge the outstanding achievements of employees. Karen is a member of the Planning Committee of the Governor-General’s Achievement Awards programme. She is married with two daughters and enjoys speech writing, public speaking, sewing, and gardening.

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Should I Save or Invest My Money?

Rose Miller, Head of the JN BeWi$e Financial Empowerment Programme, says that as the world welcomes 2021, many Jamaicans are looking carefully at their finances with the hope that this year will be more prosperous than the last.

She noted that one of the big questions on some people’s mind is whether they should focus more on saving or investing in the New Year.

“With the economic and social challenges that accompanied 2020, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many persons are looking to make changes with how they manage their money in order to safeguard and build their wealth,” Mrs Miller said.

She pointed out that if persons are wondering whether they should save or invest this year, the answer depends on their goals, timeframe and overall financial situation.

The JN Foundation grants manager explained that saving is putting money aside, bit by bit. “You usually save up to pay for something specific, like a holiday, a deposit on a home, or to cover any emergencies that might arise, like car repairs,” she said.

Mrs Miller further noted that saving usually means putting money into cash products, such as a savings account in a bank or building society.

Conversely, investing is taking a portion of your money and trying to make it grow by buying financial instruments that are expected to increase in value. “For example, you might invest in stocks, property, or mutual funds.”

Who should save?

She pointed out that when it comes to saving, everyone should aspire to build an emergency fund. The general rule is to have savings of at least three to six months’ worth of living expenses; including rent, food, school fees and any other priority items you would normally budget for each month. This emergency fund should be in an account that is easily accessible.

“Your emergency fund means you have a financial cushion if something goes wrong.”

Mrs Miller said once persons have built an emergency fund, they can now shift their focus to other financial goals, including a deposit on a house, a wedding or a trip. “It’s a good idea for them to continue saving at least 10 per cent of their income each month or as much as they can afford,” she advised.

Mrs Miller said the only time persons shouldn’t save or invest is if there are other pressing needs, such as getting their debts, especially high interest rate debt, under control.

Are you ready to invest?

“Whether or not it makes sense for you to invest depends on your goals, specifically if they are long, short, or medium-term,” she pointed out.

She explained that short-term goals are things you plan to do within the next five years, while medium-term goals are plans you hope to accomplish within the next five to 10 years.

“Longer-term goals are ones where you won’t need the money for ten years or more,” Mrs Miller said.

Short-term goals

She noted that for short-term goals, the general rule is to save into cash deposits, like bank accounts. “The stock market might go up or down in the short-term and if you invest for less than five years you might make a loss,” she advised.

Medium-term goals

For the medium-term, Mrs Miller said while cash deposits might sometimes be the best answer, it depends on how much risk a person is willing to take with their money to achieve a greater return.

“For example, if you’re planning to buy a property in seven years and you know you’ll need all your savings as a deposit and don’t want to risk your money, it would be safer in a savings or fixed deposit account,” she recommended. “The latter would provide a more favourable interest rate and would allow you to earn returns ahead of inflation.”

On the other hand, Mrs Miller said if an individual has more flexibility with their funds, and is prepared to take some risk with their original capital they might consider investing to try and achieve a greater return than would be possible by saving alone.

Long-term goals

The JN Foundation grants manager noted that for longer-term goals, a person may want to consider investing, because inflation can seriously affect the value of cash savings over the medium and long-term.

Mrs Miller said the stock market tends to do better than cash over the long-term providing an opportunity for greater returns on any money invested over time.

“You can lower the level of risk you take when you invest by spreading your money across different types of investments. This is called diversification.”

She pointed out that as the below table suggests, most persons will have several goals with different timescales, which means that they will have to do some saving and some investing.

“That is why it is important to look carefully at your goals and make a plan. Talk to a professional if you are not sure how to proceed,” she advised.

Buy a new carYou need a new car within two yearsSave
Put down a deposit on a houseYou’d like to move into your new home in three yearsSave
Pay for your weddingYou will be getting married in five yearsSave
Have a comfortable retirementYou’ve just turned 30 and you’d like to retire at 65Invest
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More Schools to Benefit from X-Marks the Spot Campaign

Two schools located in St Catherine and Westmoreland are the most recent educational institutions  to benefit from infrastructural  work,  through the X-Marks the Spot initiative, a School Crosswalk Road Safety Campaign, being implemented by the JN Foundation, in collaboration with the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) and the ABERTIS Foundation.

Onyka Barrett Scott, general manager of the JN Foundation, said that the upcoming work will include the erection of signage for bus lay-bys, pedestrian gates, and the widening and paving of sidewalks and painting of the crosswalks at Bridgeport High School in St Catherine; and Llandilo School of Special Education in Westmoreland.

“We are excited about these two projects, which will make it safer for students when they traverse the areas,” she said, explaining that the work should be completed by December.

“When these children return to school for face-to-face classes, they will be returning to a safer environment,” she said.

On completion of the project, the schools will join the list of 29 schools which have benefitted from improvement to their pedestrian crossings, signage or general road safety related improvements in 2020.

Ferncourt High School in Claremont, St Ann is one of the schools that benefitted from the campaign. Marissa Johnson-Howell, Dean of Discipline at the school, said the upgrading of the cross walk was welcomed, as its now safer for students.

“Road safety is of paramount importance to the care and protection of our students and members of staff. We are very appreciative of the JN Foundation’s initiative to paint a pedestrian crossing at the point of entry for students to access the main campus and look forward to their continued support in providing a safe and secure environment for our stakeholders,” she pointed out.

Mrs Barrett Scott stated that the aim of the School Crosswalk Campaign is to encourage advocacy and discussions about road safety in schools and households

Hazard Primary School in Clarendon was the first school to be upgraded under the campaign. The educational institution benefitted from the erection of: signage for bus lay-bys, pedestrian gates, the widening and paving of the sidewalks.

The campaign was informed by a Child Road Safety Assessment Report commissioned by the JN Foundation, which provided the baseline data to improve the safety of children on roads, particularly near, or on their way to school.

The research identified specific schools and zones where children were most vulnerable to incidences of road traffic crashes, injuries, and fatalities. These areas required specific infrastructural and/or safety interventions, both at the physical and social levels.

Since the start of 2020, 22 children have lost their lives on the roadways. Additionally, an innumerable number of children continue to suffer from life-altering injuries, which are a direct result of traffic crashes, within 100 metres of school zones, during the past decade.

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Comedian Tells Young People Saving is No Joke

Popular comedian Ian ‘Ity’ Ellis is reminding young people about the importance of saving.

Drawing on part of a quotation from Earl Jarrett, Chief Executive Officer of The Jamaica National Group, Mr Ellis pointed out that “savings are not only the fuel for investments”, but that the money, which is put aside when times are good, is often what individuals and their families turn to in challenging financial times.

He was addressing the, ‘Ask Me Anything About Money’ Youth Forum, organised by the JN Foundation through its BeWi$e Financial Empowerment Programme.

The live chat was held at the Terra Nova All Suite Hotel in Kingston on Wednesday, November 25 and streamed LIVE via Facebook, Instagram and YouTube.

“This season has really taught me the value of having some money set aside. I tell my daughter that the one thing I would change if I had the power to go back in time, is that I would save more,” said the accountant and entrepreneur.

“I am blessed to be in a position where if it were not for savings, my children would discover what it is to be hungry. Therefore, I would really like to emphasise to young people that they need to develop the habit of saving, especially when they come into some earnings.”

Mr Ellis, who was a special guest at the event, stated that the global pandemic has highlighted the importance of savings in the lives of many Jamaicans. He noted that many persons are now struggling to make ends meet, due to the severe socio-economic effects of COVID-19.

“I know it is said many times on platforms such as these. However, the truth is that the message is very relevant, especially now, as so many persons are struggling, because they didn’t save at all,” he said.

Onyka Barrett Scott, general manager of the JN Foundation, agreed with Mr Ellis, advising that the rule of thumb when it comes to saving is to, “pay yourself first.”

“When you receive your pay cheque each month, no matter how small it is, try to set aside at least ten per cent of your earnings,” she recommended. “Put that ten per cent in an emergency fund and don’t touch it at all, because there is going to come a day when you will really need it.”

Mrs Barrett Scott noted that this rule applies regardless of the individual’s income.

“Many young people will say that they don’t make that much; therefore, how are they going to save ten per cent each month? But, regardless of the amount you make in salary, you can still put aside something. Start with whatever you can and gradually move towards the ten per cent over time,” she emphasised.

The “Ask Me Anything About Money” forum was geared towards young people between the ages of 16 and 30-years-old, who were interested in financial education. It addressed issues such as saving, budgeting, investments, insurance, credit cards and pivoting during the COVID-19 crisis.

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Use Your Credit Card Wisely This Holiday Season

Rose Miller, head of the JN BeWi$e Financial Empowerment Programme, says contrary to the common belief, a credit card is not a “debt sentence,” if used prudently.

Mrs Miller, who is also Grants Manager at the JN Foundation, stated that a credit card can be an important tool in the quest towards financial security, if managed carefully.

She added that one of the values of a credit card is that, it gives people access to money they would not otherwise have.

“When you have a credit card you have access to the money that is on the card. Therefore, if you’re on the road and you’re in an accident or you need to rush to the hospital, you have that card and you can use it. And if you pay your credit card bill on time and in full, each month, you pay absolutely no interest on that money,” she pointed out.

Mrs Miller informed that persons can also use their cards to spread out payment for major purchases and establish healthy credit. Some credit cards even come with rewards, such as discounts or cash back on purchases, or airline miles.

She noted that during the Christmas season persons may be tempted to spend more than they normally would; and in many cases, the ease and convenience of the credit card may encourage overspending.

“I encourage prudent spending and careful budgeting at all times, but especially around this time of the year, because credit card debt can be overwhelming; and may prevent persons from saving for future financial goals,” she explained.

Mrs Miller pointed out that there are measures persons can take to prevent credit card debt. Whether they are opening their first credit card account, or starting fresh after paying off a large balance, here are some tips to use credit more wisely and avoid debt:

Spend Within Your Means

The best way to avoid credit card debt is to pay your balance in full each month. But how can you ensure that is an attainable goal? The answer lies in your spending habits. It is important to understand that your credit card can be a tool to build credit; and pay for larger purchases in small increments. Hence it should not be a way to buy things you cannot afford. This can be a hard lesson to learn, as it is easy for credit cards to feel like “free money.” But remembering to only put purchases on your card which you will be able to pay off, is the simplest way to prevent credit card debt.

Make Monthly Payments on Time

Another way to prevent credit card debt is to make payments on time, every time. Many banks let you set up automatic payments, so money from your chequing account can go directly to your card before it’s due every month. You can also set up personal reminders on your calendar if this isn’t an option. Late payments often result in late fees, which can quickly add to your existing balance and make it harder to keep up with payments. You may also consider making multiple payments a month if it works with your budget.

Keep A Low Utilisation Ratio

Ideally, you want to pay your balance in full each month, but if that is not possible, at least try to keep a low utilisation ratio. Your utilisation ratio is the per cent of credit currently in use. Let’s say you have a credit line of $100,000. If you have $50,000 in purchases on your card at a given time, you have a 50 per cent utilisation ratio. Using a high percentage of your available credit can make it harder and harder to pay off debt. As you accumulate a higher balance, you’ll end up paying more in interest. As a rule, keep your utilisation ratio below 30 per cent of your available credit to stay on track and prevent accumulating too much debt.  The credit utilisation ratio is the second most important credit score factor after payment history.

Understand Your Credit Card Terms

Knowing the specifics of your credit card agreement can help you to avoid unexpected fees and keep track of your payments. Different credit cards will have different interest rates and potential fees. Before you use your card, read through the agreement to understand when you will be charged a fee, how interest will be applied to your account, what is the current interest rate and when that interest rate will increase. For example, some cards offer zero per cent interest for a specific amount of time; however, when that time frame is up, you will be charged interest on your purchases. Don’t let these factors surprise you. A good way to ensure you stay in the know is to continually improve your financial education.

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It’s not too late to save for a debt-free Christmas

It is Not Too Late to Save For a Debt-Free Christmas!

As the country grapples with the onslaught of a global pandemic and its economic effects, the idea of merriment and festivity this Christmas season may be a distant thought from the minds of some Jamaicans.

However, despite how tumultuous 2020 has been and the lingering uncertainty which lies ahead, Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation, said that the holiday tradition is still on this year’s calendar, “whether we like it or not.”

“And the season still comes with its numerous financial responsibilities. Therefore, you still need to have a viable financial plan, to ensure that you keep your holiday expenses under control; and so that you do not start 2021 in debt,” she advised.

Mrs Miller, who is also head of the JN BeWi$e Financial Empowerment Programme, pointed out that it will be a difficult Christmas for many, particularly those who have lost their relatives, jobs or businesses, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. She noted that the recent heavy rains that have lashed the island, causing severe flooding in some communities, have further dampened the spirit of many Jamaicans, and has also placed them under increased financial stress.

“This means that careful and meticulous budgeting for the season is extremely important,” Mrs Miller informed.

The JN Foundation’s financial literacy expert, suggested that the first, and probably the most important step, is to set a Christmas budget. “If you have not already started saving for Christmas, you do not have a lot of time, but it is not too late. You still have about six weeks to go, and it is never late to get serious about budgeting your money,” Mrs Miller pointed out.

Set a Budget

She advised persons to sit down with pen and paper or use one of the many budgeting apps that are available on the Internet to help create their own budget and see how much they can set aside in time for Christmas Day.

“To begin your budget, make a list of family and friends you will be buying presents for and allocate an amount for each person. If you are hosting dinner, then consider how many people will be coming over and how much you will need to spend on food and drink,” Mrs Miller said.

She said persons should remember that there is a limit on the number of people who can gather in one place this Christmas season, due to COVID-19 restrictions. “This may very well be a plus for your pocket, as you won’t need to spend as much as you normally would,” Mrs Miller noted.

Work Out How Much to Save Weekly

“From there, you should be able to work out how much money you would need to put away from now until Christmas. For example, if you are planning to spend $40,000 on dinner and presents, you would need to save at least $8,000 a week for the next five weeks,” she said.

The JN manager advised that people should treat saving in the same way as they would a bill.

“Committing to saving a regular sum each month or week is more effective and would be more successful than simply saying you’ll save whatever you have left over after spending, which may be nothing,” she pointed out.

Try to be realistic, bearing in mind all that has taken place in 2020 and the continued uncertainty of the immediate future. It is better to commit to a manageable sum than to aim too high and give up, Mrs Miller pointed out.

Be Creative with Your Gift Ideas

To further cut down on how much you spend, you need to be creative with your gift ideas, Mrs Miller recommended. “Gifting does not have to be a spending spree,” she said.

She suggested that instead of rushing to purchase gifts, people should consider creating their own gifts using their skills. Purchasing or creating gifts that can be shared by more than one member of the household, instead of providing individual gifts, is another idea to consider.

“It saves time and money, as you don’t need to shop for every single person. And, very often, the gifts you create are not only less expensive, but they are more meaningful than the items you buy in a store,” she said.

Start Your Shopping Now!

Mrs Miller said start early. “Picking up Christmas essentials, such as gifts and decorations, when they are on sale can earn big savings.”

Take advantage of online deals and events, such as Cyber Monday and Black Friday.

“If you know what gifts you need to purchase, it can help you to pick up some items over a period, to help spread the cost; and save you the hassle of shopping in peak periods,” she advised.

Mrs Miller pointed out that there are also many ‘free websites,’ which allows persons to create their own cards, with family photos and videos. “There are many ways to save a dollar or two, you simply to be creative; and, most of all, be determined not to overspend for the holidays,” she advised.

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Don’t Blow Your December Salary on Holiday Spending

With such few opportunities to indulge in social activities during 2020, due to the restrictions and challenges posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, there’s a temptation among some Jamaicans this year to ‘live a little’ this Christmas and treat themselves and their loved ones.

However, Garfield Goulbourne, relationship manager at JN Bank, is advising persons to balance that need for interaction and treats with thrift, and avoid blowing their December salary on Christmas gifts and other holiday expenses, considering the continued economic uncertainties.

Mr Goulbourne is instead encouraging Jamaicans to save or invest their pay cheque, bonuses and any additional income they might receive this festive season, in order to better prepare for the New Year.

“With all that is happening across the globe, because of COVID-19, including job losses and pay cuts, this year is certainly not the time to make carefree spending choices, such as using an entire pay cheque on fun and festivities,” he said.

“I understand that it has been a rough year and many of us want to enjoy ourselves and unwind a little, but I must warn against going overboard. The sacrifices you make and the restraint you exercise will be worth it in the long run, and will set you up well for 2021, and years to come,” Mr Goulbourne added.

He further noted that many people will be getting paid early this month, as they prepare for the holidays, and as such, they should remember that the funds will have to stretch for much longer than usual.

Mr Goulbourne, who is an ambassador for the JN BeWi$e financial empowerment programme, managed by the JN Foundation, warned that January expenses need to be considered before money is spent over the holiday period.

He said early December payments should not be spent before creating a budget.

“Budgeting starts with knowing how much you have to spend without using credit cards and heading into the red. It’s as simple as that. Forward planning is one of the ways that you can reduce the financial burden of Christmas. Once you have your budget, stick to it and you shouldn’t have any debt going into the new year,” he said.

Mr Goulbourne advised that a few questions people should bear in mind before spending their December salary include:

  • Have you set aside money for January expenses, including school fees?
  • Is your car registration and insurance up to date?
  • Am I up to date with my billers and creditors?
  • Have I thought seriously about health insurance and other medical expenses in case I fall ill?
  • Do I have enough funds in my account in case there is a major emergency?

He noted that these considerations must be prioritised over holiday shopping.

Mr Goulbourne also had some advice for the fortunate few who will receive Christmas bonuses from their employers, this year.

“This year is the year to make your Christmas bonus count. Save it or invest it if you can, but if you must spend it, do so wisely,” he said.

“A few of the ways you can make the most of your Christmas bonus is to use it to pay off debt, boost your emergency fund, or add it to your retirement savings,” Mr Goulbourne said.  

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‘Savings Could Help to Cushion the Economic Impact of COVID-19’

Rose Miller, grants manager at the JN Foundation, is renewing the call for more Jamaicans to get serious about building an emergency fund.

Speaking against the background of World Savings Day, observed globally on October 31, she stated that the COVID-19 pandemic is a vivid example of why an emergency fund is such an important financial asset.

Mrs Miller, who also heads the JN BeWi$e financial empowerment programme, said in a crisis, such as the coronavirus pandemic and its ensuing economic fallout, an emergency fund is the first line of defense against debt and financial ruin for individual families and businesses.

“If more Jamaicans were putting aside money in ‘a rainy-day fund,’ more of us would be able to withstand the economic effects of this crisis,” she said.

Economic analyst, accountant and author, Dennis Chung, agreed with Mrs Miller, adding that savings could help to save the economy from the full force of COVID-19, as most Jamaicans would be able to maintain their standard of living for much longer.

“If more people were saving, for example, 20 per cent of their salary, each year, and they were working for about ten years, then they would basically end up with 200 per cent of their salary,” he said.

Mr Chung said this means that, even if they found themselves out of a job because of the global pandemic, they would not have to worry about the mortgage or the car payment, for at least a year or more.

“Therefore, you could cut back on your spending and focus on the essentials of life, without significantly affecting your standard of living, your credit rating or your children’s schooling,” he informed.

The economic analyst further noted that, this level of saving would also have a positive impact on the country’s economy.

“Because it means that the government probably wouldn’t need to be sending out so many care packages; people would not have late loan payments, which again has a domino effect on the banks,” he pointed out.

He noted that the same concept is applicable to local businesses, because if a business has enough savings or reserves in place then it means that it has time to adjust to certain shocks.

“People must save to ensure that they will have enough funds to adjust more easily to whatever reality faces them. Adjustments actually do cost money; therefore, if you have a company and you don’t have that extra money put aside, then you don’t have the chance to adjust,” he pointed out.

Mrs Miller added that for those people who are still in a job, there is still time to build an emergency fund, even in the middle of this crisis.

“In uncertain times like these, many of us want to feel safe. Of course, the first priority is to stay healthy. The second is to make sure you and your family can survive financially. If you do not have a solid six-month emergency fund, you should now focus on saving as much as you can. The truth is no one knows when the next emergency will strike,” she said.

Mrs Miller also advised persons to avoid buying any luxuries for the time being; postpone making large purchases; and focus on building up their cash reserves.

“Save what you can…any windfall you receive, whether it is an incentive payment, or a government-issued stimulus cheque. You can even save the money you’re suddenly not spending on transportation, eating out, and other non-quarantine approved activities.”

“World Savings Day,” was started by the World Savings Banks Institute in 1924. Its objective is to emphasise the relevance of saving, with a particular focus on developing countries where a large percentage of citizens do not use the banks.

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