What is the impact of access to political party finance – money that parties use to fund their campaign activities – on politics in Africa? While multiparty elections have become more regular in the developing world, many opposition parties are still failing to win elections. This paper argues that poor access to political finance weakens democratic consolidation and negatively impacts the participation of less-resourced candidates who are unable to self-fund. As a result, opposition parties are forced to rely on weak promises of aid from international donors and unreliable state funding. This in-depth analysis of political finance, based on extensive interviews with politicians and government officials in Zimbabwe, political documents, news reports, and a review of court cases, reveals that uneven financing has weakened opposition parties and serves as an extra advantage for incumbents.
It has been so long since our last blog post. I am excited to be back with the help of our brand new assistant, aka Baby Banana, who arrived in June 2020, which explains our absence. Little Banana has been the brightest spot in our quarantine life.
The arrival of our baby girl, together with the events of 2020, has made us realize the importance of thinking ahead and securing a financial future for our loved ones.
Who needs life insurance?
If you have dependents be it, children, parents, siblings, you should get life insurance. If anyone will suffer financially from the loss of your income, then you should get a policy.
How much insurance is good enough?
Most gurus will tell you 10x your income or enough to pay off your mortgage and or pay college costs for your kids. I spoke to a financial planner recently who said they encourage people to get $1 million.
The truth is somewhere in what you can comfortably afford. The cost of a policy is based on many factors, including your health, age, and occupation. Can you believe that insurance companies are charging teachers more?
I also know that many people have lost incomes or, as in our case, face salary increment freezes. COVID sucks. You want to be prudent in your decision making. For a generally healthy 30 something male, the cost of $1 million coverage is about $60/month for a 35-year policy from most insurers. The price is a little higher for women.
Policy rates tend to be lower when you are younger and healthier. However, today is an excellent time to get this taken care of regardless of your age. I suggest getting a term policy instead of whole life insurance. A good term is anywhere between 25 and 35 years.
Where do we buy insurance?
I use policygenius.com to compare rates. My husband and I have also taken the maximum coverage we can get through our employers because the rates are often lower. The downside is that you can’t take the policy with you when you change jobs. However, this is a good start if you are still trying to figure out finances.
Life comes at as fast. So much has happened in the last six months that we never anticipated. Protect yourself and the ones you love.
Before you go
I know many of you know more about this topic than I do. Please share your thoughts and tips. If you recommend a particular insurer, do let us know.
For academic conference organizers, attendees and anyone inviting us for talks
I like going to conferences. I think most academics do. I love talking about my work and getting feedback and hanging with friends in the academy
(side note: I quite like the academy- I know it is not fashionable to like your job but…).
The thing though is that as much as we all like going to conferences (big and small) and giving talks it isn’t cheap. The cost is higher on graduate students who get a tiny share of the funding pool.
Professor friends – I know you have research funds – why aren’t you using them to help fund travel for your graduate students?
I do not even have graduate students, but our school gives us money to pay for our students to go to conferences with us. It is a lot easier for professors, especially tenured faculty, to find more money than it is for graduate students. Topic/rant for another day
So how do we financially prepare for conference/talks travel
Sources of funding
Know your allocated travel funds – every school or let me say most schools have some travel allowance. When I was a graduate student, we had an allowance of $250 -which is cray, but we can discuss that later
Make a list of all possible sources of funding for travel – my faculty mentor gave a list of at five sources that I did not even know existed
Always ask organizers if they have a budget to cover your travel needs – this works – trust me
Investigate possibilities for funding via the conference or affiliated organizations
Most conferences have funding for students – recently there was a twitter storm about tenured people applying for student funding – we should all have more shame
Some conferences have targeted funding for minorities
Attending workshops before the conference might come with free travel and or housing
Volunteering to help with some activity might also come with complimentary travel
If you have a co-author, you may have the option to use some of your travel funds to cover their travel.
You might be able to use travel awards to cover childcare – double and triple check with your school
Planning for travel
Understand all related costs. The obvious ones are hotel and airfare but some small things to keep in mind-
Travel to and from your home to the airport – this is huge for me. To get to the airport from Wellesley, I have to pay $80. That means a total of $160 unless I drive and park at the airport, which is neither cheap nor convenient for me. I could also ask my husband to pick me up, but that sucks if I get back at night – he has to be up at 5 am for work, so yeah, we are not doing that. Taking the bus is an unnecessary 2-hour journey. Uber is not an easy option because – Wellesley
Meals during travel – coffee, bagels, lunch all add up- you also want to make sure you are eating healthy wholesome meals to avoid travel fatigue and sickness ($20 for the day or more depending on length)
Luggage – black hair products, shampoo, lotion, bathing gels, etc. all require that I check in my bags. Hotel shampoo, conditioners, and soap are not designed for black bodies ($50)
Ways to cut costs
Itemize your travel budget, so you know what to expect
Build a relationship with taxi/car service if you live in the middle of nowhere – often they can give you a discount or override surge rates
Buy bulk travel size supplies – I regularly stock up at bath and body when they have sales
Buy bulk travel snacks – trader joes has some good size snacks
Pack easy to carry fruit like apples, banana and 3oz yogurt (also trader joes)
Eat a good meal before you leave home
Book travel with an airline credit card to get double miles and free luggage check-in
Suggestions to expedite reimbursements
Ask if your school allows for travel advance that way you are not out of pocket for a long time
Complete reimbursement forms for each trip from the moment you make the first purchase – e.g., when you buy your air ticket
Take pictures of every receipt or use an app to capture and store receipts – this is great when you are in the field
You do not need to have some debt to have good credit. You need to be able to use credit to establish a credit score/record, but you do not need to carry around thousands of debts in loans or consumer credit to have a decent credit score.
Debt is stressful. Debt can make you go crazy, and having monthly payments sucks. Monthly payments annoy me. We bought a brand-new car in December because our old car, which I bought in grad school (cash $3,000), looked close to giving out. However, it is a Toyota and no longer looks like it will die any time soon. Back to the car. All good advice says buy a used car, and I agree, except in this case our crossover SUV from Nissan was cheaper than any other used SUV we looked at lol. The Nissan kicks range between $17k to $20,000 brand-new. It is super basic with some excellent features. We wish it had more power, but it works.
I was telling a friend that we plan to pay it off soon (we are about 52% paid up), and she said, but you need a bit of debt for your credit score. This is false. I agree that for most people, especially folks of color looking to make big purchases like a home, we do need a credit history. There are many ways to do this – your phone bill, your cable bill, buying groceries with a credit card, and paying it off at the end of every month. My credit score is over 800, which is more than enough for getting a house loan when the time comes. A bigger focus should be saving for a down payment and staying clear of unnecessary loans.
Ask yourself these questions before you make purchases – do you want to make monthly payments for say underwear? If you buy underwear from Victoria Secrets and do not pay it off at the end of the month, you will most certainly be in debt (plus interest) for underwear. This is not necessary. There are other reasons not to support Victoria Secrets, but being in debt for undergarments is a top one.
If you have consumer credit, I suggest that you buckle down and pay it off. People use different strategies like
the highest interest first
Smallest debts first –
Or mixed methods.
Whatever methods you decide on, you will need to pause on using your credit cards or borrowing until you are paid off. I prefer making minimum payments on everything and putting extra $ on the smallest debt first. I like seeing wins, so this works for me. When I was paying off debt, I customized the Dave Ramsey snowball method. I closed off two of my cards and negotiated a lower rate with the companies. This brought my credit score down to 705, which sucked, but I knew I would fix the situation faster this way.
I am also no anti-credit card. I love free things, so the rewards work for me. Every year we take a couple of trips for “free” using rewards.
I will do another post on my fav credit cards – I want to hear from you- which credit cards have the best rewards?
Most of my friends are in their 20s and 30s, so conversations about health care costs are not top on our minds, but they should be. I think that part of having a sound financial plan involves thinking proactively about health care costs. The good thing is that if you are young and healthy preventative care is all you need.
Dental – I am honestly obsessed with dental care and know first hand that this small thing can put in you in pits for thousands of dollars when something goes wrong. Before coming to the US, I had never been to the dentist. I never had toothaches, and I brushed my teeth. In college, I did not even know we had dental coverage- I now know that most college plans cover dental.
College student resources can be found on your campus websites. A quick look around shows that schools like Brown, Wellesley, Amherst, Harvard all introduced dental plans in recent years. You can also check here to see if your school participates in this discount program – I had a look around and still prefer the insurance option.
Some states also offer great insurance options. For those in MA have a look here
Teeth are great because if you do the bare minimum, you will most likely have exceptionally healthy teeth for a long time – genetics also play a part and some of us luckier than others. Dental insurance is also cheaper than health insurance – I encourage you to get it.
People often ignore easy to fix dental issues. Your gums should be a lovely healthy pink.
Your gums should not bleed when you brush them
your teeth shouldn’t hurt when you bite on them,
you should not have extreme sensitivity to hot or cold drinks
And, you may not want to have bad breath.
The excellent news is that dental health can be attained at a reasonable cost over a long period allowing you to save for payments. If you have a good dentist, you can plan together with advance notice for big expenses.
I was reading that being able to flash a happy smile does wonders for our self-confidence.
What is covered in a basic dental insurance plan?
Two cleanings twice a year –regular cleanings are usually $60-$80
Some proportion of things like fillings, crowns, implants
What are some common dental issues faced by migrants?
Most people will need to have a deep cleaning (scaling and root planning) the first time you visit a dentist as an adult – the dentist will check your gum pockets with a needle to determine gum health – healthy gums have pockets between less than 2 millimeters (mm). If you have deep pockets above 3 mm, you maybe have some gum disease. Worry not – most people only need to have the deep cleaning done once in their life. When I first went to the dentist in college, he said my pockets were between 3 and 6. I was so scared. But he explained that most of us from the global south eat yummy starchy foods – so we have a lot of sugar retained in our mouth. Happy to report that now my dentist often uses my gums as an example for healthy and well taken care of teeth. Most of my gum pockets are 1.
If you do not get regular cleanings, food collects in the gums and on the teeth. If you look at your teeth, you may notice the tartar build-up. This is not good. Our grandmothers understood this because they used traditional floss and toothbrush. Great for the environment and your health. We will be selling these at ZimTuckshop soon.
Dealing with gum disease can cost anywhere from $300 per quad to $1,000 health insurance will cover some of the costs, but generally, you will have to pay for the vast majority.
If you have had fillings done at home, they might suggest redoing them – ask for a second opinion because this is not always necessary.
They might suggest that you have your wisdom teeth pulled out. I did not, but there are some cases when you need to have this done.
They may also suggest that you need braces – ask for a second opinion and do a lot of research on your own. If you decide to get braces, most insurance plans will cover at the very minimum $1,000. Braces, including Invisalign, usually cost between $4,000 and $6,000. There are very few reasons to rush getting braces so even if you do decide you want them you can certainly wait until you have saved a bit. Most dental offices offer payment plans, but they also require down payment between $500 and $1,000. My husband is currently going through Invisalign. His teeth are already starting to look amazing, but I should warn that the process is painful lol – happy to chat if you go this route. I have so much to say about a process that is not happening in a mouth LOL
The good thing about dental care is that once you get into a rhythm of care, you will not need to do much.
Strategies for dealing with dental costs and maintaining good dental health
1. Get the premium plan – it is usually just $20 more – you will be glad you did
2. If you have a partner who also gets dental insurance at work, I suggest you both get family plans. We have not paid out of pocket costs for dental health in years – most policies cover 80%, so having two plans is great.
3. Go to the dentist twice a year -I go three times a year because we have excellent insurance
4. Brush your teeth a MINIMUM of two times a day
5. Invest in good toothpaste – if you have sensitive teeth -Sensodyne is great
6. Invest in a right electric toothbrush ($10) change your toothbrush at least twice a year (my husband says monthly YIKES!) – you probably go shoe shipping three times a year
7. Floss at a minimum once a day (good floss is just $2-$5 per month)
8. For some people, a Waterpik is also a great idea
9. Use mouth wash (a big jar will cost about $5)
10. Ask your dentist for a gum stimulator to help clean your gums and keep them healthy
11. Avoid sugary drinks if you are prone to dental issues
Good resource for what to expect with
Other good health practices that will save you money in the long run
1. Go for your annual checkup – this is free under ALL health insurance plans in the US. I know in the UK, Canada, and even Zim this is also free
2. Follow what the doctors suggest for any issues – if you have high blood pressure take this seriously, iron deficiency, etc. take it all seriously and improve your diet, increase your workouts and your body might self-heal and take medications if you must
3. Invest in multivitamins
4. Use protection if you have sex with multiple partners
5. Use birth control if this is something you believe in (and want to avoid pregnancy)
The usual – not an advisor just love sharing my thoughts