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.
When you read this #NairaLife, you’ll realise why the 32-year-old subject wanted to be a lecturer. But after finding out lecturers don’t make so much, he switched to work in finance. Five years later, he now earns more than many senior lecturers.
Tell me about your earliest memory of money
One day, my uncle gave me ₦100, and it meant I had so much more money to spend the next day. I was used to collecting ₦50 for lunch. That day I realised, omo, money is good.
It’s like getting 2x your salary unplanned. As I got older, these small gifts from relatives or my mum sending me on errands and asking me to keep the change became more frequent. They brought so much joy to my heart. If I had extra money, I knew what snacks I’d buy with it the next day. But as I got older, my spending priorities began to change because I had interests.
Football. When I was in primary school, my dad bought my footballs. In junior secondary school, my guys and I had to buy our balls. When you play football on the streets, you lose a lot of balls. Sometimes, the ball bursts. Other times, it goes into someone’s compound who won’t give you back.
All this talk about balls…
LOL. My guys and I hated losing balls, so we either always had an extra one or bought a new one at least once a week. It was Health 4, and it was ₦300. We contributed for it pretty often. In fact, because we were regular customers of the woman who sold the balls, she gave us on credit sometimes — as long as we made a ₦200 deposit.
What this meant was I spent less money on snacks and more on football. It also made me understand more money meant more pleasure. I had to protect my money from getting lost so I could afford what I wanted.
I’m guessing you always wanted more money
How did you plan to get it?
Grow up, go to school, get really good grades, get a job — I think that’s how us millennials grew up.
Who is us? I’m young, please. Was football your only motivation to make money?
Nah, it wasn’t. There was something my dad would say that inspired my second reason to make money in this life.
Tell me about it
Whenever he bounced my siblings and me from watching cartoons because he wanted to watch the news, he’d tell us the story of how, when he got to Lagos, he couldn’t afford colour TVs, but now, he had one. He’d say if we made money when we got older, we could get as many TVs as we wanted — even in our bathrooms — and nobody would say anything.
So do you have a TV in your bathroom?
LMAO, nope. Just the one in my living room, but I can watch whatever I want.
Haha. I’m guessing the next phase of your life was uni
What did you study?
Economics. It was my dad’s choice. I wanted to study electrical and electronics engineering, but he wanted me to be a banker like my mum. In fact, I started with science class in SS 1, and he threatened to not pay my school fees any further if I didn’t switch to commercial class.
My major options after commercial class were economics and accounting, and I chose economics because it felt more practical and versatile. Like I could solve real-life problems. Accounting was just numbers. And that’s why I actually enjoyed studying it in uni.
What was uni like?
I enjoyed it. I went to classes, got good grades, made friends, played video games, partied, everything. I entered in 2007, and monthly allowance from my parents started at ₦10k. By the time I was graduating in 2011, it was ₦20k. I can’t remember when it increased.
Was it money you could survive on?
If I lived according to my means, yes. I went to a federal school somewhere in the east where things weren’t so expensive. But because I had extra things to spend on — girlfriends, parties, drinks — I either had to cut living costs or make extra money.
How did you make extra money?
I wrote exams for people. Because my grades were good, I got asked to write exams for someone, and I passed it. That’s how word spread, in small circles, that I could write exams for people. It was ₦5k per paper.
By my third year though, to reduce the risk of getting caught, I dropped all my clients except one guy, and I wrote exams for him until I graduated. If he had nine papers in a semester, I wrote them all and made ₦45k. We also became friends, so sometimes, I went to chill at his house, and we went out to get drinks together. He’d pay, of course.
Why didn’t he write his exams by himself?
I asked him one time, and his response showed he just didn’t think he was smart enough to. You know what’s crazy? He was going for classes. He just didn’t think he could write and pass exams. He was also just in school to satisfy his parents.
On my own end sha, I was happy I could make extra money. He even tried to fly me down to help him write his final papers.
I thought about it. My mum saw I was worried, so she asked what was going on, and I told her. If you see her reaction. She was so shocked. She said if I went, the plane would crash, and I’d die. Omo.
Nigerian mother 101
LMAO. For NYSC, I was making ₦40k as an office assistant to add to NYSC’s ₦19,800 in Abuja. That was a good year. After NYSC, I went back to the school I’d graduated from to do a master’s in economics.
At that point, I’d decided I wanted to be a lecturer because I was good with academia. I’d always had outstanding grades in school, so it felt like that was the perfect career for me.
In December 2015, shortly before I rounded up my master’s, a friend introduced me to someone who lectured at a postgraduate institution in Lagos. During that meeting, we spoke about research projects we’d worked on, and he was impressed with what I was doing for my master’s final project. So he offered me an internship once I graduated.
Did you take it?
Yes. I interned as a research assistant with him from March to August. He paid me ₦50k monthly. In August, I officially began working at the postgraduate institution. The pay was ₦120k for the same research assistant role.
How long were you there for?
Eight months. Working there made me realise I didn’t want to be a lecturer anymore. I wanted good money.
Lecturers don’t make good money?
I didn’t know until I found out that senior lecturers at the postgraduate institution made like ₦400k.. And I knew young guys who were fresh out of uni getting corporate jobs that paid better. I didn’t want to work my whole life just to look for a side hustle in my 40s and 50s.
A conversation with a senior lecturer sealed the deal for me. He told me his brother, who worked at an oil company, had a gratuity of almost ₦1 billion waiting for him after retirement, but his own gratuity would be about ₦12 million.
I applied and got an internship a friend told me about at a financial institution, and I resumed in October 2017. It was a three-month contract that paid ₦120k monthly. It was the same thing I earned as a research assistant, but at least it was a start to my non-lecturing career. If I did well, they’d hire me full-time.
After the first three months, they renewed the contract to run for another three months. And after those three months, they renewed it again. And when they were going to do it the fourth time, I left. They were making me do full-time work while paying intern salary.
When I left, I did freelance jobs researching for people’s master’s projects until 2019.
Wait… were you still living at home at this point?
I moved out and got a shared apartment when I got the job as a research assistant. My dad contributed some money for my rent, and I paid the rest. Apart from that, I was feeding and transporting myself on my ₦120k salary. No savings.
Okay, back to 2019
I got a job as a strategy analyst at a financial services firm.
Explain your job to me like I’m five
Investment banks have financial goals, and strategy analysts help ensure everything the bank does aligns with the goals they’ve set. If they don’t, it’s the job of the strategy analyst to advise management on how to realign.
How much did they pay?
₦250k. And I stayed there till late 2020.
Did the role or salary change?
The role didn’t change, but the salary grew a bit. It never entered ₦300k.
Is that why you left?
Another financial services firm poached me.
How does poaching work in your industry?
LinkedIn. Recruiters go through your page to see your work history and the projects you’ve worked on.
Interesting. How much did this one pay?
A lesson a friend taught me that prepared me for this bump was to not let income increases overly influence my lifestyle. Income increases are meant for saving and investments, and that’s what I began to do. I got essentials like a new mattress and AC, and I could give more people small money when they asked, but apart from that, my money went to savings and investments.
What do you invest in?
Stocks and mutual funds.
Can you break down what you have in savings and investments?
Let’s just say they’re solid.
Are you still at this company?
Nope. I left this year (2022). I was poached again. This time, by a big consulting firm. Another strategy role.
Another salary bump?
Not too big. By January this year (2022), I was already earning ₦600k. The new job pays ₦650k. But because it’s a big company, it’s good for my resume. I know my salary will still go up over time, but even better, I’m sure the role will open doors for me, even in companies abroad.
Can I see how your expenses look on an average month?
And what’s something you can’t afford but really want?
Hmm, let’s see. Maybe something sentimental. Like a Rolex watch.
How happy are you financially? The scale is 1-10
6.5. Am I happy? Yes. Am I satisfied? No. There are people younger than me who earn more, and there are people older who earn less. I can go out when I want and afford the things I need. But do I think I can do even better? Absolutely.