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.
Tell me about your oldest memory of money.
Hmm, I didn’t acknowledge the existence of money till I was in secondary school. Prior to that, whatever I needed was always provided. I’m not saying that this changed in secondary school, but there was a stark difference between what my mates had and what I had. When I got into secondary school, my mom started giving us money to spend during lunch break. ₦20. That could buy snacks, and that supplemented the food we took to school. I finished secondary in 2009, by the way.
What’s the first thing you ever did for money?
That’d be teaching at a JAMB lesson on Fridays and Saturdays. I was earning like ₦2k per class. I spent the rest of my weekdays interning at a Digital Agency. The agency didn’t pay though, but I needed the experience. I was in 300-level at the time. The only money I got there was when they gave me ₦20k after three months for being exceptional. I was so proud of the money, but what did I do with it? I gave everything to my mother, not that she needed it though.
NYSC was a gap year. I collected my ₦19,800, living stress-free. I graduated top of my class and garnered experience from internships, so I was just going with the flow.
Where I served, they paid us an accrued ₦5k/month allowance, which was paid at the end of the year. I also lived with a local politician who paid us ₦5k/month as an allowance. Ahhh, it was also election season. Come and see moneyyyy. ₦20k here, ₦25k there. NYSC also paid us to serve as polling officers.
Some corpers made up to ₦200k separate from the money NYSC paid them. Anyway, in 2016, about one month after my NYSC, I got a job.
Neat. How was it for the rest of your classmates?
Not many of us got jobs immediately. Very few, in fact. I would like to chalk it up to a good result, some work experience and being able to do some things to stand out, but it wasn’t that.
So, maybe it’s good fate. When I came back from NYSC, my mum was telling everyone that her daughter had finished NYSC. A family friend of ours said her office was hiring a customer service person, and I jumped on it. I remember calling my mum to ask if the offer was good. The money was about 70k/month. They were deducting 4k for pensions and tax that they never paid.
Anyway, a year and a few months after — there was a promotion in between — I moved to another job. Towards the end of 2017. The new company was for a client support role in a startup.
How has your salary grown over the years?
My first salary was 230k, and I wanted to go crazy.
After my probation, which lasted less than six months, it got increased to 260k — this was in 2018. By 2019, after a salary review, my net income became 330k. I’ve been on that since, plus other benefits. I get a transport allowance separate from my salary, about 30k, and airtime bonus. We should be getting hardship allowance though because the thing hard.
Tell me about the hardship part.
I don’t think I slept much in the first year. Anxiety attacks came whenever my phone started ringing or some particular numbers called. Kasala don burst be that! Also, a desk job leaves you sitting too much, add the fast pace, and you start to look for coping mechanisms. Mine was food.
Even though I had standard working hours, the work always went home with me. It got worse when we started working from home. Now, I’m trying to draw the line by not working outside my hours, resting, fighting off the guilt for resting. It’s working, and my health has improved. I need to be alive to eat my money, please.
Talking about eating your money, what eats yours?
Food. I might see things and give myself a reason not to buy them. But one food picture on Instagram, and kia kia, I’m ordering.
Okay, how about we break down your monthly expenses?
This is my most dreaded question because I’m not responsible with money at all. All I do is spend it. Is that not what money is for?
Hahaha. Let’s break it down.
I never finish the “rest” before the month ends sha, except those few months where I’m dashing people money or going out a lot.
What’s your largest expense?
Rent, ₦200k a year. The gag is that I still live like a student. Early 2017, I started my Masters, moved to a hostel, and I haven’t looked back since. I’ll move out in 2021 though. My current space is a self-con, but I want to move to a mini-flat or two-bedroom apartment.
Looking at where your career is, how much do you feel like you should be earning?
I don’t care much for the money. The money is great o, but I want to do something else. I’m extremely bored. It’s so routine now that I can do it in my sleep, although it does get interesting from time to time.
I want to do something that makes me giddy again. I’m that person. I need to derive joy from my work, and I don’t anymore. I’m ready to move.
Do you know what you want to do yet?
After you’ve lived a life where moves fall into your lap, it becomes hard to figure things out. So I don’t think of your question in those terms. But I know I want to tell stories.
What’s something you want right now but can’t afford?
A car for my mum. I can probably afford it, but it’d be extravagant.
Sounds like a decent savings chest.
Hmm, is it really large enough? I have only about ₦2 million saved, plus small change here and there. I want to learn how to invest money. Truth is, I don’t even know how to spend money. Every month I’ll say I start my excel sheet, but I never start it.
What’s something you paid for recently that significantly improved the quality of your life?
It’s definitely my meds. They come down to like ₦8k a month.
What’s your greatest financial regret?
That I don’t have shares in Paystack.
I need to learn about investing.
What’s the most annoying expense that you have to pay for?
Skincare products. Ahhhhh. I started in 2020 during the lockdown, and I’ve spent about 100k on skincare products alone. I’m not going to count these other things as petty, but I’ll just go on to mention them. Self-care for me is making my hair, waxing, acrylic, pedicures. Gosh, I need a glucose guardian. I’m tired of being my own glucose guardian.
On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your financial happiness?
6. I could be richer. I’m poor right now though I’m far from suffering. I need to be able to spend money without thinking about what else it could have gone to.
Is there something you wanted me to ask you but I didn’t? Something you’re itching to explore?
My attitude to money. I also want to tell you about how my mum beat my sisters and me for saving money when we were in secondary school.
We just wanted to save. It was cool then, having kolo. We were putting money together till a later date when everyone could share it and do whatever they wanted with it. My aunt found the stash and reported us to our mum. She went berserk.
I’ve repressed this memory so much. I don’t know why she went crazy. She encouraged my brothers to save when they were about our age though. There was a huge disparity between how we (girls) were raised and how the boys were raised in my house. It took my dad dying to shift perspectives.
Sorry about your loss. What did this disparity look like?
It’s evident in the way the youngest approaches stuff. He can ask for money without thinking twice about it. He actively saves for what he wants. I dunno if I can chalk it up to being Gen Z or the attitude of my mom towards money around him.
For the longest time after that, I didn’t know how to save. Money was meant for spending. The first time I actively saved was NYSC. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have pressing needs like that.
I’m realising that I’ve lived life so sheltered. How bad can things get? I don’t know. I’ve always had the basics and more.
I don’t have the best relationship with money. I shy away from discussing it. I give it out often and had to learn to start saying no. I feel guilty for having it. I feel bad for not having more of it sometimes.
What doesn’t a healthy relationship with money mean to you?
I don’t even want to be billionaire rich. I just want to be comfortable enough to take care of myself and the people around me. Just like I grew up. My parents were not the richest but they gave me everything I needed. My mum still does. Not the extras, just all I needed and some.
Quick one before we round up, how did your dad passing away affect finances?
First, his death was sudden. He was there, then he wasn’t. About insurance, I’m not sure she claimed it, if he had any. I’m not even sure she claimed the money in his bank account
We had to make a couple of changes. First, we renovated our house, and took on new tenants. We sold some things, and bought others. My mum had to cut off the extended family she was supporting to focus on the nuclear family. The burden rested solely on her. A lot of things changed sha, I know I wouldn’t still be in Nigeria if he didn’t pass away for example.
But you know how shit goes. It happens.