The Bumpy #NairaLife Of A “Late Bloomer”

August 10, 2020

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.

Let’s start in the trenches. When did you first feel like you were in a hole?

That must have been when I was in Uni. I wanted to study Medicine, but it wasn’t working out. I tried going abroad, gained admission, but my parents didn’t have money to pay. So, I just settled for one other random course here. That was the first time I knew that I and life were one kain. 

What was money like growing up? 

There were different phases. There was one where I didn’t know that we didn’t have money. I remember that my mum used to come and beg them to allow us to enter the school even though we hadn’t paid school fees.

It didn’t click until I was in uni and constantly broke. I just didn’t get it. 

You started with your parents, but at the school fees point, you said ‘mummy’. Where was your daddy? 

Hahahaha. 

Hahahaha. 

I always refrain from talking about the misadventures of older people, because I’m not there yet. But he pulled a typical “that type of daddy” move. He tried in some aspects sha, but that’s the summary. 

Back to uni.

My allowance was like the stock market, always up and down. My siblings went to school far from home, so my mum always had to send money. I was the only one close to home, and she used to say that I can always come back home to eat. 

There’s rice at home. 

Hahaha. I had a bunch of friends, we were collectively broke. We’d wait till like 11 am, then we’d go and eat fufu, so it’d last until night. Hahaha. 

After uni. 

NYSC was the first time I was making consistent money. This was 2012/2013. My mum also stopped funding me. I think this was also the time I knew I was bad with money. I was earning ₦19,800. It wasn’t a lot of money, but you hear stories of people that saved through NYSC. My rent had been paid up already. 

That was when it became clear that I was bad with money. After NYSC, I wanted to take a gap year. I just felt like I needed to breathe and learn more about myself. 

Interesting. 

You see, there’s broke and there’s brokenness. I got so broke, I had to cut that gap year short. My mum wasn’t giving me any money because she thought I was making a bad call. So, I went to Lagos to look for work. 

Someone – extended family – was starting a small business, and they needed an extra hand. The business never got off the ground, but they got me a job at an NGO. That paid ₦25k. This was 2015 and my first real salary. 

What were you doing? 

Research Assistant. I was there for about seven months. The money wasn’t adding up again. How do I know it’s seven months? I had one shoe, a really nice shoe. I wore it every day. It spoilt, then I bought another one, and that one spoilt too. So you can say the lifespan of two shoes you wear every day is 7 months. 

Interesting thing is that it was there I started learning some basic web development. There were some challenges the company was having with some tasks, so I just started researching stuff and picking up some skills. I just kept stumbling into things, until I got introduced to someone who’d give me feedback on some things I’d tried. 

Then one day, in 2016, I asked to be an intern at his office, for three months. I actually said I wanted to work for free. I didn’t know how I was going to survive. 

What kind of place were you in at that point? 

I was low, with no plans, and I was getting old – I was 26. Everybody seemed to just be getting it right, except me. 

Anyway, they didn’t let me work for free. So they paid ₦25k. Three months later, when my internship should have ended, I got a raise to ₦50k. Another three months later, it increased to ₦100k. At that point, interestingly, I’d gotten married. 

Wait. Wait. You were in the middle of figuring out your – 

– Yep. 

First of all, you barely earned. And in the thick of all of that, you decided to get married. 

Yes. So, I’d always wanted to get married. Like, I really hold religion in high se… See, at that point, I really just wanted to have sex.

Ha. So, konji. 

I’ve thought about it properly, but I’ll just be lying to myself. I just wanted guilt-free knacks at that very moment. 

Oh, my days.

There was no ceremony, we just became legal – families and consent and all. The good thing was that she’s quite entrepreneurial, so she had a lot of things going. Also, her dad was still covering her big bills. Also, we actually weren’t planning on living together immediately. She had a place in a family house different from where her parents lived.

Then I moved in, and it just took rent away for a while. 

This aggression that you used to enter marriage. Hmm.  

First of all, I got laid off, then my wife got pregnant. 

Hayy. 

Looking back, I know that if I was focused on being extremely better at the job, I would have done much better. So many things were happening, and I was not giving my job the best. I started chasing many tiny small gigs, but nothing significant. 

You were unemployed and expecting a baby. What was that like? 

There’s one moment that sums up how that period was. My wife was frustrated and understandably angry. One day, she came out of the room while I was working. She was like, “you’ll just be working but you’re not making any money. The person that is sleeping is better than you.”

Omo. 

Yah. So, I was just working on bad projects, anything that’d pay the next bill. The thing about being in that place is that you’re always owing. So any money you earn, you’re trying to use to pay debts. 

What is ₦50k in the market when you’re buying baby stuff? I think there was another thing that made the whole period a struggle.

I’m listening.

So, it’s not like she grew up rich-rich, but all the male figures in our lives had their shit together. When you start in marriage with dreams of “e go better”, it gets really old quickly. Save your stories, abeg. 

In all, solid babe. Two weeks before she gave birth, I got another job. Two of my guys gave me money to pay for the hospital bills. Now, I started the job at ₦180k per month. A breath of relief. 

When you have months of financial backlog, it takes a while for things to stabilise. First of all, I’d partially ruined my wife’s business, so I had to fund that. Thankfully, someone sent enough clothes to last a year from abroad. 

Three months later, it became ₦220k, and things started to ease up a little. I was there for 8 months, then I quit. 

Why? 

Nothing was happening, and I wasn’t growing. Most of the team I was working with had quit too. I left before I even got another job, which was a valuable lesson. 

When you have a wife and children, you don’t leave before you get another job. You suck it up. Those two months before I got another job? 

Intense.

Ahhh. Boy. I didn’t have to sense to have an emergency fund before quitting. I just did Insha Allah. 

And vibed the rest.

I don learn. I got another job that was paying ₦235k. This was 2018. I was there for four months when I got this amazing new opportunity. It was supposed to pay ₦500k. With pride, I quit my other job. I didn’t like it there, it was toxic. I don’t understand why the Oga will come to the office and be shouting at people. 

But you see, in the space of two weeks at the new job – 

Tears? 

– they shut down operations. Some financial issues sprung up. 

Hayy, what of your ₦500k? 

I just saw a credit alert of ₦130k, without warning. When I called the Oga, he started telling me stories. I was so disappointed. I’d just quit a job with a family o. 

I quit immediately. At this point ehn, you either just completely lose it, or pray and hope. But I was constantly switching between the two. 

And just around that period, we had to leave the family house we were living in, at two months’ notice. It’s wild because we’d been living there for a year and a half, and it felt like it flew by. But all of it was my screw up. 

How? 

There are certain basics that you need to fulfil before you even consider marriage. You need a dependable job, and a house to live in. I had a job, but the money was not responsible. 

This last job wahala, I’d just started winning the confidence of my wife back, and then all of that happened. 

Coincidentally, another family member of hers from another side – a father figure – called my wife like, you said you wanted to buy a car, oya I’ll send you money. 

How much did he send? 

₦1 million.

Hmm. There’s no car now, is there?

I took a loan a ₦700k from my wife, and then we got a place. She put ₦300k in her business. I didn’t get a job for 5 whole months. 

Not even small gigs? 

Oh, I got those small ones to survive and pay the next bill. I also just focused on supporting her business, because that was what was really feeding us. So, I ran all the errands, did all the legwork. I mean, I felt I could have been supporting her more, but it was the least I could do at the time. 

Then she started feeling that heat again. 

“Working without money” heat? 

Yes. I was so frustrated. It was the end of the year, and companies don’t hire that much at the end of the year because they’re closing books. I’d interviewed and interviewed. 

In March of 2019, I got a call. A job. My salary went back to ₦183k. When they confirmed me as a full staff, my salary was increased to ₦224k. It’s the best place I’ve worked. 

While I was there, another opportunity came, and it was offering ₦370k. It’s the first time I transitioned from one job to another, seamlessly. I didn’t even leave immediately. I was juggling both. 

It was the beginning of a new chapter. 

Mad o!

Serious confidence boost. I was happy because it was the first time my wife could stop thinking about money constantly.

I juggled the two gigs for four months, then dropped the lower-paying one. 

By January 2020, someone was willing to pay me ₦250k. Part-time. It also happened to come just before the lockdown. Another company needed me on a short time basis. ₦180k a month. My wife was telling me that ah, you’re going to get exhausted. I think it was born out of all those years of chasing. 

And now, all the opportunities just came. 

So, here I was, in the middle of the pandemic, making ₦370k, ₦250k, and ₦180k in the middle of a pandemic. 

₦800k. What does that do to the brain? 

I dunno, but the first feeling I felt was gratitude. People were losing their jobs, and I was getting more, and I just felt a sense of duty. I was just wiring money up and down. 

“My mum nee – ” pew!

“Someone is sick –” pew pew!

I made ₦1.6 million in two months, and I have only ₦600k in savings. It was the first time in years that I could be useful to other people. I was trigger happy. It felt very good. 

What has this switch up done to your perspective on money? 

Frankly, I don’t even feel like I worked hard this year. Maybe experience means I’m not more efficient. But all of it coming as everyone was unsure, was weird. Like, the period I really really hustled, the money didn’t come. 

I guess you can call that career capital. I’m at a place where I’ve even stopped applying to Nigerian jobs. I only take it when it comes. Foreign gigs are what I’m on the lookout for. 

Energy. Let’s break down your best income month’s expenses. 

What’s something you want right now but can’t afford? 

A car, for my wife’s convenience. For me, I really dunno. 

What’s something you wish you could be better at? 

Financial planning. I also want to get better at my work, because when I get better, I get more money. 

What’s your emergency plan for general stuff like? 

Just that ₦600k. But I’m definitely working on it going forward. So, I think I’m just new to the money, and I just spent the last year misbehaving. Now, my head has started to settle. I’m even re-learning basic things like how to buy clothes. When you’ve been chasing the next meal for too long, you don’t even think about clothes. 

Let’s talk about your financial happiness, on a scale of 1-10. 

I’ll say 9. I’ve always worked on my contentment for as long as I remember. The thing that really bothers me is other people I’m responsible for. I really just want to take care of other people. Building a family, the rewards are slow, and it can sometimes feel mundane. But when you ask me what I am, I’ll tell you I’m happy.


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The next Naira Life drops on Monday next week at 9 am. This is what you get when you subscribe to Zikoko’s Money Newsletter:

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