“I’m 25, Earning A Million, But It’s Not Enough”

October 7, 2019

Every week, Zikoko seeks to understand how people move the Naira in and out of their lives. Some stories will be struggle-ish, others will be bougie. All the time, it’ll be revealing.

On this episode, we have a 25-year-old who started off winging it, and even though he’s still winging it, he’s doing it at three times the amount he was earning a year before.

What was the first impression you had about money while growing up? 

It was back in school, my second year. 

Not that I didn’t have any interest in money before this time, but it was my strongest realisation. 

It was the first time I made money for myself. Some people in my class wanted to buy and sell stuff for Hall Week – food. I don’t know why they assumed that I had money, but I gave them my pocket money and savings; I invested about ₦30k. I made my capital back and 30% extra.

About a year after in 2013, I got a publisher who was going to help the department sort out some of our printing issues. It was a big gig for him, and this guy paid me about ₦100k. I was in 300-level o.

Ah, mad. What did you spend the money on?

Omo, I just dey chop. But something else happened – I felt a strong need to leave home. I was eager to grow up and see what it was like to work for your own money. I stayed in school or in friends’ houses during the holiday. 

Were you still getting pocket money from home after you left? 

₦20k a month from my parents, but it was barely enough, for all kinds of reasons. In final year, I started helping people with assignments, and papers and data analysis. I made about ₦100k during that period. That’s how I got money for graduation and all the final year things that come with it. I bought clothes, even bought a laptop.  

Lit. NYSC?

I was working part-time for a startup – doing comms. They paid ₦20k per month, plus my NYSC allowance. That brought my total income to ₦39k. 

This was the first time I was consistently earning more than what my parents were giving me. Pocket money already stopped at this point, but my dad still sent the occasional ₦5 or ₦10k.  

Towards the end of service, I got an internship at a consulting firm. They were paying ₦10k weekly, so I was juggling it with my original PPA, the startup.

That must have been a lot. 

Yep. Then the accounting startup realised that my attention was divided. They let me go, but it was on good terms sha. 

This was May and I was back with my NYSC allowance and the 10k per week from the consulting firm. 

Then after six weeks with the consulting firm, my internship ended and they said they were not going to retain me. Around the same time, I almost got into one of the Big Four accounting firms to work comms. I lost some important documents when I was supposed to be heading for the interview.

Ouch. That must have sucked. 

Yes it did. Meanwhile, my parents were already asking me about Masters. My father kept sending links to Masters programmes and scholarships. And I was like, this man, calm down, I don’t want to go back to school now. 

There’s only one way to pacify Masters ginger.

Yep. I got a job that was paying ₦60k in August 2015, after NYSC ended. It was a Digital Communications role, my second one at this point. But it involved a lot of social media work, and I realised I was not very good at it. I quit that job and got another job at a startup. 

How much?

I went from ₦60k to ₦40k because I actually believed in the vision. The owner convinced me. He told me that he saw himself in me. When I didn’t live up to his expectations, he now became disappointed in me. His behaviour towards me changed. He started showing me pepper. I felt like a fool. 


After six months, I left – this was in 2016. After that, I started freelancing. I was writing everything from documents to articles for whoever was willing to pay. One magazine wanted me to write about luxury, I finessed that thing. 

Then I got a full time job in another startup in July 2016. They were paying me 90k. That was when I started Digital Marketing. I was there for two months. After two months, I realised again that I just wasn’t a good fit for a social media role. 

The next company I joined was a Digital Agency that paid ₦100k. That was my first real structured job – I was even given an offer letter. 

So you went from ‘first salary’ to ‘first structured job’ 

They were paying me ₦100k for the first six months. Then ₦120k eventually. At that time it was plenty money to me. But the thing with money ehn… what’s that saying – 

– As your money grows, 

Your expenses grow. I was constantly getting broke. My parents were no longer sending money. 

My dad’s salary wasn’t up to ₦100k. In fact, it was my mother’s small food business that got the family further. I remember that we’d wake up at 4am on Sundays to go sell food in church. Even at the NYSC camp in the state where we lived.

So you felt on your own at this point. 

Pretty much. I was there for a year and a half – my longest job ever. I left January 2018 to the next gig. But something interesting happened while I was there. My boss got a slot for someone at the company to attend a course abroad. All expenses paid. He chose me. 

That’s a big deal.

He chose me, because I’m hardworking. Look, I can joke with you, but when it comes to sitting down to do the work? We are not friends. I’ll do the work, because I know it’s the person that does the work very well that matters in the end. That’s one thing I learnt from my mother.  

When I returned, I stayed for a little more time, and then took another job – the 2018 gig. 

How much? 

₦350k. My net was about ₦290k. When that money entered my account, I’d never seen that type of money before. It was another Digital Agency, and I was an Account Manager for their special clients. In fact, it’s where I met my current boss. 

Oho. Tell me about that. 

It took a while, but I joined my current boss’ company. 

For how much? 


How much? 

₦1 million. Net. No forex anything. Actual naira. 

That is wild. You tripled in one year. 

The day the money entered my account ehn, God. I just went to sit down in one quiet restaurant, and I just dey chop. It was also while I was eating I was doing maths. I made up my mind that I was going to save $1000 every month. 

In dollars?

Saving in naira is a scam. If i’m not investing it, then why am I saving in naira? Inflation is going to chop the money eventually. I just removed the money, changed it to dollars, and saved it in my domiciliary account. I think earning more just gives you room. You start to pursue the things you want. 

What type of company just slams that kind of raise though?

It’s an Investment Company catering to H.N.I.s.

High Networth Individuals?

Yes. Catering to these people even starts to change your behaviour. When that salary entered, I can’t even remember how I spent the bulk of it. I went out a lot. I was just dashing people money and buying gifts for loved ones.

Talking about loved ones, do your parents know how much you earn? 

Yes. It’s not even my mother’s reaction that was amusing. It was my father’s. He switched from Masters mode to marriage mode. 

“When will you marry?”

But they cant ginger me too much like that Masters time sha. I’ve started contributing to my younger sibling’s school fees. 

Life has changed o, guy.

Let’s talk about what you did with the rest of that first million.

Also, I just Uber everywhere now. Danfo done commot for my life. 

Do you still worry about money? 

Not anymore. I don’t have any major worries. I’m very content and satisfied. There’s nobody’s life that I look at and envy. And I’m doing well. 

What about actual financial security? 

I feel safe because of my safety nets, most of the perks of my current job. I have health insurance. My Health is insured by the company, and it’s premium. I’m well taken care of. 

So you work in a company where you get to service a lot of high net worth individuals. What does that do to your psyche? Working with High net worth individuals. 

First of all, I don’t feel rich, because I’ve seen actual irich people. People that built their money. They’re very cagey with who they let into their inner circle. And the only way they can really take you seriously is if you’re offering something they find valuable. I’m not sentimental about this at all. Quid pro quo. 

My boss said I’m making a lot of people happy. That’s why I’m here. That’s how I got here. 

What’s one experience that stands out for you? 

Somebody spent ₦3 million dollars to pay for property. People have money oh. I also try to bring people along with me as I move up. I’m not saying this to brag, but since I got here, I have gotten people jobs. I’m not going to leave Nigeria. I’m staying here.

Once I have built what I want to build, I can now go. But I’m not leaving Nigeria to become somebody’s bitch. Or so that somebody will be looking at me like I don’t have money. Or somebody will be talking to me anyhow.

With everything you know now. With all the things you’ve been exposed to, how much do you imagine you’ll be earning in five years? 

In five years, I should be doing $1,000,000 annually. At least.

12 million a year to 365 million a year is quite a jump. 

Yeah it’s a jump. But then I made the jump from 350k to one million. And I didn’t know how it happened. I don’t know how it’s supposed to happen, but I’m working on it. I’m meeting people everyday. Talking to them, asking questions. Eventually i’m going to crack something. Every month, I have a goal to meet five executives. People in high ranking positions in organisations. Pick their brains. Just to expand and to see the possibilities and improve. 

What’s the most fascinating thing you heard in one of your meetings? 

I don’t know if it’s what I’ve heard or what I’ve realised. It’s that, young people are only despised if they have nothing to show for it. People judge you based on how they perceive you or what they’ve heard about you.   

But for now, I’m not trying to show anybody that I have money. As a matter of fact, I don’t even want them to know. Once people know that you have money, they’ll start begging you. For example, I pay one of my neighbour’s son’s school fees. It’s like ₦9k. So because I offered that, every time he needs money, he’ll be coming to meet me. 

Nigerians must not know that you have money oh. My neighbors’ children randomly come to my door and knock and say “we don’t have what to eat.” And it’s because of the kind of area where I live. It’s a price I have to pay for a cheaper rent – ₦400k.

You’re commuting between extreme realities on a daily basis. 

In a way, I’m sitting on the fence, I don’t have to think about it. I have lived my life on the fence. While growing up, my parents did not have a lot. We were not poor, but we were not rich. We didn’t have to worry about a lot of things.

So I’ve always been in a way, satisfied with life and insulated from a lot of things. It’s the same way it is now. I’m living in the middle of two worlds. It’s nothing to me because this is basically an extension of my childhood. This is how it has always been. 

What’s the best thing you’ve spent money on recently?

I bought birthday presents for both my mum and dad. I got my dad a perfume set. It didn’t thrill him. Nigerian dads. I got my mum some dresses. Really lovely dresses. Like a set and she loved it. She sent pictures. So, yeah I think that’s the best thing I’ve spent money on, recently.

This is a pretty obvious question, but on a scale of 1-10, happiness. Financial happiness

Financial happiness. I think I’ll do a 9.

What’s the remaining one?

The remaining one is not having an asset base already. If I had an asset base giving me re-current revenue without having to work too much here, I’ll be a 10. This is when I’ll be proper relaxed and financially secure.

Right now, if I stop working, there’ll be serious problems.

Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.
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Every story in this series can be found here.

Fu'ad Lawal

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