The Heartwarming #NairaLife of a 23-Year-Old Breadwinner

November 21, 2022

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.


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The 23-year-old software quality assurance engineer on this week’s #NairaLife makes over $5k monthly. He made ₦50k at the beginning of 2022. Of all the reasons he’s happy about his new income, being able to take care of his family comes first.

Tell me about your earliest memory of money

My parents never gave us money when we were children, so I always looked forward to receiving monetary gifts from visitors. Of course, my mum would collect the money to “keep” it, and that was the end.

Why didn’t your parents give you money? 

They just didn’t. They gave us two biscuits and one CapriSun to school every day, so to them, there was no point giving us money. In fact, my mum told us if we collected money from strangers, we’d disappear at night. That didn’t stop me from begging in school, and sometimes, even stealing from her sha.

One time, I stole ten of my dad’s golf balls and sold them to my classmates for ₦500 each. I just wanted to have money for extra snacks. 

Were things okay at home?

Things were good. Both parents were bankers until they retired — my dad in 2013 and my mum in 2017. I’m the last born, and I have three older sisters. We frequently did trips abroad during holidays. I’ve been to seven different countries. In fact, all that flying made me want to become a pilot. Spoiler alert, I’m not a pilot today. I studied computer science.

My dad retired when I was in JSS 3, but our lifestyle didn’t change. He either spent his time at home or playing golf with his friends. At this time, my three sisters were studying abroad. My dad paid their fees, and my mum ran the home. It wasn’t until 2016 I first noticed things changing. 

How?

On the night I got my WAEC result, my dad sat me down and informed me I wouldn’t be studying abroad because the naira to dollar rates had suddenly gone crazy. He couldn’t afford to sponsor four children at the same time. I was disappointed, but I understood. Besides, I went to a private university in Nigeria. If it was a public university, that’s when I would’ve cried. 

Things were still okay. My mum was working, so we ate well. In fact, no matter how bad things got, my mum never joked with our feeding. 

So it got worse?

It did. 100 level was okay. By 200 level, I heard my dad was borrowing money to complete our fees. I was like, borrowing money ke? When I was home on holiday, I noticed he wasn’t sleeping at night. 

In 2019, I was in 300 level second semester, and we were owing ₦20k from my school fees. ₦20k, bro. My dad just kept apologising to me, saying he’d find the money. 

School started threatening to kick me out, so I took out of the allowance I’d saved and sent it to him to complete the fees. I could see from his reaction that the thing pained him; he felt like a failure. That’s probably when depression kicked in for him. I got home after that semester and found out he’d tried to kill himself. 

Whoa

My sisters were back in Nigeria, and he sent one of them a message like, “Take care of the family”, and didn’t pick his calls after that. My mum was in her small shop in front of the house and didn’t pick her calls for a while too. When they eventually reached her and she ran upstairs, she met him in his room about to take a handful of pills. 

I was so angry. He was sad he couldn’t take care of us, so he was just going to… leave us? For who? Till today, we’ve not talked about it. When his friends heard, they pooled money for him to clear debts and outstanding fees for my sisters. They didn’t know his finances were that bad. 

I swore I would make good money to take care of the family. 

What was the plan?

I was already on the path to graduating with a first class, so the plan was to finish strong and then find a job. Maybe through NYSC.

Did you finish with a first class?

Yep. I was even the best graduating student in my set, and I got an ₦85k prize. But COVID had disrupted the NYSC calendar, so I wasn’t posted from August 2020, when I graduated, until May 2021. 

What did you do in that period?

I just dey house o, my brother. I applied for jobs but didn’t get any. It was so frustrating knowing I wasn’t making any progress. I even began to have doubts about my future because of how idle I got. All my sisters studied medicine-related courses. What if I was wrong for studying computer science? Questions like that plagued me. 


At some point, a friend reached out to me to help him do his computer science-related assignment and paid me ₦4k. When his friends heard I did the assignment well, they also reached out to me. I charged ₦4k for short assignments and ₦8k for the longer ones. I also did someone’s project for ₦40k. 

I started giving my dad the occasional ₦10k whenever he was going out. I didn’t give my mum money because her pension is  ₦150k monthly. My dad’s is ₦43k. 

At home, we could sense the frustration in the air. A tin of milk would finish, and the person who bought it would be like, “Guys, who finished this milk na.” Small awkwardness here and there like that. 

Where did you go for NYSC?

Calabar, but I redeployed to Lagos after camp. Because I studied computer science, I knew Lagos was a better place to get tech jobs. 

I served at my uncle’s company. I didn’t really do anything, but they paid me ₦30k monthly. So when my friends told me they were taking a software quality assurance (QA) course, I decided to join them. The problem? It cost ₦300k. I told them to send me whatever course materials they got and studied them during my free time. I also learnt from YouTube videos. 

By July, I felt like I knew enough to get a job in software quality assurance, so I started applying. Ls everywhere, bro. The hardest job to get in tech is your first job. Everyone wants someone who has done something before. No one wants to give you a chance. By October, I finally got an internship. 

Quality assurance role?

Yep. I wasn’t going to deviate since that’s the path I chose. I lied to my uncle that I had to do something NYSC-related on Mondays and Wednesdays when I went to this job every week. So every month, I got NYSC’s alawee of ₦33k, my uncle’s salary of ₦30k and my QA job of ₦50k. That’s ₦113k. I put my dad on ₦10k monthly. 

Best in sonship

Shortly after, I read the Naira Life of a woman who was earning $110k a year, and when the interviewer asked her to convert it to naira, she replied, “I don’t think in naira anymore”. Omo, the thing burst my brain. I started applying for remote jobs that paid in dollars. 

Did you find any?

Not until December 2021. The rejections were so many, they became depressing. It’s even harder to find tech jobs abroad. I started lying on my CV. 

How much did the one you got in December pay?

It was meant to be £10k monthly, but I didn’t get it because, even though it was a remote role, I had to live in the UK to get the job. When my parents saw the offer email, they were shocked. They didn’t understand what I was always doing on my laptop before, but after that email, my dad himself ensured my laptop was always charged. 

In January, I got to the last stage of another job interview but didn’t get the job. After that, I decided to stop looking for jobs abroad and focus on Nigerian companies. Because of all the lies on my CV, it was much easier to get offers. One company offered ₦200k, another, ₦250k, and another, ₦400k. I’d accepted the ₦400k one when the company I currently work for reached out for me to have an interview. I started working in March.

How much?

£2k a month. 

Mad

Bro, when the first alert entered, it was like ₦1.5m. My entire family looked at the alert; all those little frustrations died. It was like a complete sense of ease just filled the house. I’d never seen such pride on my parents’ faces. As a child, whenever I thought about my first million, I thought I would get it through savings. I’d just exceeded it in a month. At 22. I gave my dad ₦150k, my mum ₦100k, and we bought stuff for the house. That’s just how things have been since then. 

In June, I saw a TikTok where someone said they were working two jobs, and I thought, “I have plenty of free time. I can do this too”.  And so, I started applying for jobs. By October, I got another that paid $3,450 with stock options worth $10k. 


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How has earning this much affected your lifestyle? 

Before, I had to look at my account balance and calculate before spending any money. Now, I just buy whatever I need without too much thinking. I’m like, “Is it not just money?” Recently, the police pulled me and my friends over and were checking our papers. Normally, I’d be scared. But the first thing that came to my mind was, “Las las, na money dem go collect. And I have money.” I’m mostly introverted, but these days, I go out more.

What’s the last thing you bought that changed the quality of your life?

A new iPhone 13 Pro Max for ₦760k. I planned to get a phone next year, but I realised I hadn’t bought anything big for myself since I started earning well. Occasionally, I look at the phone and just go, “I’m a big boy o.” I also bought AirPods Pro for ₦140k and an iPhone 12 for my sister for ₦430k. 

Have you recently spent money you had to plan for first? 

My sister got married recently. I contributed ₦1.5m. 

How do you feel about black tax?

I don’t see what I do as black tax. In fact, it’s my love language to see my family members happy because I’m spending money on them. I absolutely love it, and I only want to do more. 

What are your finances like right now?

I have $10k in stocks, £7k and ₦500k. But I want to invest in more financial literacy going forward. I don’t think it’s wise to just leave money in the bank. Gradually, I’ll learn. 

Is there something you want right now but can’t afford?

I think I have all I need right now. But maybe my own house.

Show me how you spend money in a month

The entire $3450 from the other job goes to savings or investments. 

And how happy are you financially? Use a 1-10 scale

Before I got my current job, I would’ve said 6. But now, it’s an 8. My goal was to earn $5k a month by the end of this year. I’ve surpassed it. Let’s push for $10k monthly next year. 

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