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.
The 28-year-old in this story was at her last job for three years and didn’t get a raise once. Two years into her new job, she got a raise. She’s built her wealth to ₦7m within two years, but she thinks she can do a lot better.
What’s your oldest memory of money?
I didn’t grow up with privilege. My parents and I lived in a face-me-I-face-you one bedroom apartment, and we shared a toilet with a couple of other tenants. I knew we didn’t have money because my parents struggled to pay rent. Eventually, we got a quit notice. Like that, we were homeless. My mum went to one of her friends, my father lived with his brother, and I moved in with one of my uncles. We were separated for about two years.
What were those two years like?
God, I hated it so much. Even though we had no money, my mother spoiled me because I’m her only child. I didn’t cook or wash my clothes. I had to do all of that and other chores at my uncle’s. The most stressful part was that there were like six other kids in the house and we ate from the same plate. I wasn’t used to that and it didn’t help that I was a slow eater. I went to bed hungry a lot of the time.
That doesn’t sound like fun. How did your living situation change two years later?
My mother did the work oh. In those two years, she learned a new trade, went out on her own and started making money. My dad was there too, but he was comfortable with his civil servant salary even though it wasn’t a lot. He liked the stability. My mum was the one who was always looking for the next opportunity. I imagine they raised the money together, but my mother was the major contributor. We moved into a two-bedroom apartment this time.
Were there other expenses your mum took care of?
Many. She was the breadwinner in so many ways. I remember that we were going through cash problems when I got into secondary school and couldn’t afford my ₦25k school fees. My mother managed to find the money. Things like that.
Also, she was always worried that I would have to carry the weight of my family in the future, so she wanted me to have the same hustling spirit she had.
What did that mean?
She made me work as soon as she thought I was ready. I was 12 or 13 and in SS 1 when she hooked me up with one of her caterer friends. I started working with her friend twice a month during holidays and served guests at parties. My pay was ₦800 per day. ₦1500 on days she felt generous.
How long did you do this for?
About a year, but it was also on and off. By the time I was finally done, I’d raised enough money — about ₦6k. I used it to buy a phone.
Well done. Did you do another job pre-university?
Yeah. I was admitted into university in 2008, but there was a three-month wait before resumption. I got another job as a sales girl at a call centre. My salary was about ₦5k per month, and I was there for three months.
In uni, my allowance was ₦5k or ₦6k. I had a boyfriend who used to supplement what I got from my parents and buy me food every now and then. We were together for two years until he broke my heart.
University was all right for the most part. At least until my father got sick when I was in my third year.
He had a stroke. He and my mother had just returned from an outing when I noticed that his mouth looked weird and brought his attention to it. He took some meds that night. The following day, they went to the hospital and the doctors told him he had a stroke. They gave him some medicine and said he was free to go. When they came back home, he couldn’t get out of the car. He had lost the use of his legs.
They returned to the hospital, and he was there for more than six months. He was ill for anoher three years.
That must have been tough. I’m sorry.
My mother had to slow down with her business to stay by his side and take care of him at the hospital. I still got an allowance every month, but it wasn’t always ₦5k anymore. I wasn’t even comfortable asking for money because I knew my mother had enough problems. So I went out to find a job.
What job did you get?
An ushering job. I held it for a while and got between ₦10k and ₦20k from each job I went for. I took some of the money I earned out and started selling shirts in school. I’d buy for ₦800 and sell for ₦2500 or ₦3k.
So money was coming in?
Sort of. It wasn’t bad, but it also wasn’t consistent. I was occasionally broke. One time, I went to the bank to withdraw my last ₦4k. On the bus ride home, they removed the money from my pocket. I wanted to run mad.
I’m not even going to try to unpack that.
Lmao. I finished university in 2013, and my mother told me that she had tried her best to send me to uni and I was now on my own.
What does a reality check like that do to someone?
You find a job ASAP. I started working almost immediately after I finished university. At first as an intern at an agency and on a ₦20k salary.
I went for NYSC that year. And nothing spectacular happened until I was done in 2014.
And it was back to job hunting?
It was such a struggle. I was squatting with a friend, so I had accommodation. But you know when you’re living with someone but can’t contribute ₦1, you always wonder when they will kick you out. I continued looking for a job frantically. It took five months before I found one.
It was at the same agency I interned at before my NYSC. I went back and started working in the finance department. My salary was bumped up to ₦74k.
Nice. You were earning money now. Did that change anything?
A month after I got the job, things went sour between me and the friend I was squatting with, so I had to move out. My parents live on the outskirts of the city, but I moved back in with them. For next five months, I would get out of the house at 5:30 a.m., hitch a ride with someone, take a bus after that and then walk the rest of the way to the office. The entire experience was draining.
I was saving ₦40k out of my salary every month to raise money for rent. I eventually got a dead apartment for ₦150k. God, two people couldn’t fit in the kitchen or the bathroom. Don’t even get me started on the rats. Two years later, I left the house.
My landlord asked me to pay rent in advance. I wasn’t going to do that. But I also didn’t have enough money to move out.
How did you navigate that?
I thought my father would help. He’d just collected his pension, which was a decent amount of money. I asked him for a loan, but he refused. He blew the money away. He claimed he bought a car and a plot of land. Till today, we haven’t seen anything.
When I didn’t get the money from him, I applied for a loan at a loan company and the interest rate was insane — about 21%. I was desperate, so I took ₦250k from them. The good news, I was able to finally move out of my shitty apartment. The new apartment cost ₦230k. The bad news, I had to pay them a portion of my salary every month.
Were you still at the same job?
I was there for about three years and didn’t get a raise once. But that was about to change too. I met this HR person on a random day. We spoke for a while and I casually told him I was looking for a job. He asked for my CV. A few months later, he reached out to me about an opening at an FMCG company. I applied, interviewed and got a job in their sales department. This was 2017.
My salary went from ₦74k to ₦200k. They also gave me a car. It felt so surreal. I had walked the streets of Lagos in my dusty shoes, but now I was getting a brand new car.
I get that.
I cleared the outstanding loan first which was about half of the initial ₦250k I took plus interest. Then I started saving more aggressively. For the first time, I could see where my life and career was going. I’ve been at the same job since that time.
Cool. What has happened between then and now?
I’m my mother’s daughter. I’ve done a couple of businesses on the side — I’ve sold make-up products, perfumes, clothes and other stuff at different points to supplement my salary.
I was promoted at work in 2019 and moved from ₦200k to ₦420k. I was managing a lot of sales reps when I joined the company, but after the promotion, I started dealing with clients directly. However, all of this came with a transfer.
Not really. They only gave me a few weeks notice, so it was scary. Fortunately, they gave me ₦600k to get a new house and ₦100k for my flight ticket. But it took a while to settle in at the new office. My job is pretty male-dominated, and I try not to ask for privileges because the men already think I’m supposed to be bad at my job. I got the hang of it quickly and still hit all my targets. I mean, I’ve not missed a target since 2018.
This flex. Let’s talk about those targets.
Each salesperson has their own yearly target, and It depends on the type of customers they’re managing. For me, it’s usually between ₦200m and ₦500m. Meeting your targets means getting a performance bonus.
What has been your best performing year so far?
2020, weirdly. Most of my clients are supermarket chains, and consumers moved to those kinds of outlets to buy their products instead of going to the markets. I was able to grow our numbers despite the virus. I got a bonus at the end of each quarter in 2020, and it was between ₦400k and ₦600k. But money came from other sources too.
I’m a babe, so there were a couple of men who liked to give me money or take care of some of my bills. I was bent on moving to Canada in 2019 and someone paid my visa fees. Another person gave me money to add to my proof of funds. I also started seeing someone casually and he was giving me ₦100k to ₦200k every month, so I wasn’t spending my salary. When men like you and they think you have money, they like to give you more money to impress you. The best thing about it was that I could save more aggressively than before.
Lmao. At the end of 2020, I had ₦5.5m in savings.
2021 has been pretty slow so far, but I’m still saving more than ever. I think I have saved about ₦7m. However, I hardly ever have money in my main bank account. I sort of have my money everywhere.
Can we try to trace where your money is and break down the numbers?
Dollar investment on Risevest: ₦4m
Emergency funds: ₦600k
Rent savings: ₦470k
I invested ₦270k in a friend’s business and I’m expecting my capital and ROI in a couple of months. I also have ₦400k in a special fund I opened for my dad’s funeral.
I know it sounds very dark, but it is what it is. I like my father, even though he’s done some bad shit to me and my mother. But he’s elderly and will die eventually, and I want to be ready for the expenses that will follow. I started thinking about this last year because of Covid.
I wonder what your relationship with him is like.
Like I said earlier, my mother was pretty much the breadwinner. He became intimidated, and it morphed into violence. There was a time he beat her and didn’t stop until she fainted. Fast forward to the time I needed the loan from him, he didn’t come through. He was spending money for outsiders, yet I was suffering. I don’t think he has ever treated me or my mother fairly.
He’s my business, and I take care of him now, but I wish we didn’t have to struggle so much when I was younger. If he carried everything on his head like my mother did, some of these things wouldn’t have happened to me. I like him as a person. But as a dad? Not very much.
This has impacted my relationships too. If I meet someone and they start giving me signs that they’re intimidated by me, I start to panic. I’m very careful with my relationships. I would hate to be in the same position my mother was.
However, I still do my duty and send him and my mother money every month. I’m not even sure if my mother needs it. She has more money than I do.
Phew. This sounds like a good place to talk about your expenses.
I don’t really spend the money I work for. I get gifts here and there, but my running costs per month should look like this.
Interesting. But how much do you think you should be earning now?
At least ₦8m per annum. However, I’ll have to leave my current job to get that. Leaving the job isn’t my priority. Leaving Nigeria is.
Is there something you currently want but can’t afford?
I don’t know. I live within my means and I’m not big on things. Wait— I’d like to buy my first designer bag this year. The bag I want costs about $1200.
Cool. What was the last thing you paid for that improved the quality of your life?
My smart TV. It’s made me like my house more. I got a good deal for it too because it was on sale. It was only ₦70k.
What do you think you could be better at, financially?
I think I’ve saved up decent money, and I’m cool with that. There’s nothing I want that I can’t buy for myself. All I want to do this year is to double my income, and I’ll do it. I just have to take all my side businesses seriously.
I see. How have all of these experiences shaped your perspective about money?
I still live in panic mode all the time. It’s why I’m so big on having an emergency fund. Covid didn’t help matters. I was so scared I’d lose my job even though I was making money for them. I save most of the money I get, but I still don’t think I’m doing well for my age.
What would make you panic less about money?
The goal this year is to add at least ₦5m to what I currently have. That should do it.
How would you rate your financial happiness then, on a scale of 1-10?
7. I’ve made a lot of progress in the last two years and I’m thinking about my future and actually working towards it. But at the same time, I feel like I could do better and time is running out. If I hit my extra ₦5m target this year, I can move to 8.
If you’re interested in talking about your Naira Life story, this is a good place to start.
Find all the past Naira Life stories here.