Learn when to let go of assets

car asset

Emotional attachment is unhealthy when it negatively influences your decisions about them.

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To show you what an emotional attachment to your assets is – and how unhealthy it can get – I’ll need to tell you about my mother. My own blood mother, the real Mrs Bett.

I haven’t asked her permission to tell you this story, but I suppose she’d understand why I’d reach for her personal – and private – experience to teach you about money.

My mother was a lower-primary school teacher until she retired in 2008. She relocated to our farm upcountry – in Kaplong, Bomet County – where she now spends her days with my father and our brother running a dairy farm.

As a primary school teacher, my mother didn’t earn much money. But she never let the size of her salary dictate the size of her dreams and ambitions: she was making small money but she had big dreams and big ambitions that translated into big money moves.

One of the big money moves she made was buying a piece of land through her Sacco. She bought it on loan, on cheap, in the early 2000s, in an area on the outskirts of Nairobi which – back then – was an undeveloped vast tableau of dust and desertedness.

Her Sacco eventually collapsed with her life savings but she was left holding on to the title deed for her land.

The area has since developed into a picturesque pocket of metropolis: there are schools and malls, tarmacked feeder roads, and nested gated communities in areas earmarked under controlled development. It’s a far cry from what it was in the early 2000s.

My mother’s land has been fenced off and her neighbours have built their own retirement homes. Some have sold them. Others – like my mother – are still torn on what to do with it.

My siblings and I have found ourselves in a familial dilemma. The ideal plan would be to build a bungalow here and rent it out. We can’t pursue this plan, though, because we don’t have the millions of shillings needed to build.

Our suggested plan is that our mother sells the land and use the money to buy a ready-to-occupy residential house elsewhere. This house will give her a rental income every single month to supplement her pension.

But my mother won’t buy into this suggested plan, her heart is fixed on the ideal plan.

She’s been giving us every reason not to sell it. The last time we spoke about it was last year, in June 2022. She told us something along the lines of, ‘Market prices have dipped because of Elections. Let’s wait until the new government settles into office then we can sell.’

Unhealthy emotional attachment

I realised then that my mother has an unhealthy emotional attachment to her land. She’s having difficulty letting go, there’ll never be a right time to sell.

I understand where her attachment stems from – every one of us has the potential of developing an emotional attachment to our physical assets, these things that we put our sweat and tears, heart and soul, into acquiring.

We work so hard, sacrifice so much, and deny ourselves so many comforts, to pull enough money to acquire this asset we desire. Be it land, a house, a car, a motorbike, machinery and any other asset you can see and touch.

Emotional attachment is unhealthy when it negatively influences your decisions about them. The unhealthy attachment comes with a measurable cost: my mother’s unhealthy emotional attachment to her land is costing her an income.

Every month she chooses not to sell, my mother loses at least Sh25,000 in rental income. This is cash money that would’ve been going into her pocket. And, being the shrewd investor and calculated risk-taker she has proven herself to be, she’d have created yet another income stream from this rental income.

The only way to break the emotional attachment to your assets is to go through the ugly emotions of mourning this loss. As long as you’ve put the money from the sale into another asset, then rest assured that the income from this new asset will wipe your tears away.

You’ll even wonder why you took so long to let go.

Florence Bett-Kinyatti is a certified accountant and former financial auditor. Engage with her on the socials @_craftit & [email protected]


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