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.
What’s your earliest memory of money?
I remember older people “dashing” me money out of pity. I lost my dad when I was one and was an only child for the first 12 years of my life.
On random Sundays, my mum would take me to greet one wealthy church member or the other, and they’d hand me wads of cash. I used to go to primary school with ₦200, even though I didn’t spend more than ₦50 on food. The rest, I spent as I pleased.
I don’t know what it meant for my mum and grandparents to provide for me, but I know I was quite comfortable.
You grew up with your grandparents?
Yes. After my dad passed, my mum moved back in with her parents. Then, she went back to school and married my stepfather after she got her Higher National Diploma.
My stepfather doesn’t live in the country but has a couple of businesses here, so my mum manages them.
This is a good place to ask about the first thing you did for money
While trying to get into university in 2013, ASUU went on a six-month strike. My secondary school’s principal encouraged me and some other new graduates to return to teach the junior classes.
So, I started teaching a special needs JSS 2 student maths, English and basic science lessons on weekdays and got paid ₦10k monthly.
It was the first time I had money that wasn’t given to me. I spent most of it on clothes, and because I didn’t really know what to do with money, I also naively lent some to my mum’s sibling who lived with us at the time. Of course, I never got the money back.
I was at the job for two months and left after the term ended. By the time the new term started, I had gotten into uni. I started classes in January 2014.
Did you do anything for money in uni?
I didn’t. I’d say it was because I grew up without needing to be financially responsible for myself. Apart from the gifts I got when I was younger, my stepfather took on the responsibility when my mum married him, so I never worried about money.
I only started working after graduating from uni in 2017. There were some delays with my clearance for NYSC, so I took up a client communications internship with a financial institution the following year.
How did you get the job?
I had been home for about four months doing nothing, so my stepdad spoke to my half-sister who worked there. Fortunately, they were taking interns, and I got in. It paid ₦60k/month (₦3k per each day you worked).
Most of my salary went into paying for data to stream movies. I also tried to save, but after spending heavily on data and buying ₦1k chicken and chips daily, I realised ₦60k wasn’t plenty money.
I also gave a cousin ₦20k once to help pay her uni admission acceptance fee. Like me, she also lost her dad early, and we’d grown close. So, she and her siblings tend to look to me as an elder sibling, and I support them occasionally.
I spent only five months at the company, though.
Why did you leave?
I was supposed to go back to school for clearance. I lived and worked in Lagos, and school was in Port-Harcourt. But something happened, and I couldn’t go again. To think that I already resigned officially.
Yikes. So, what did you do next?
I stayed at home again for another three months. In January 2019, I got another job as an audit intern. This time, the salary was ₦40k/month.
How did this one come about?
My stepdad came through again. His cousin owned the company and helped me get a foot in. This time, though, I spent all the ₦40k salary on transportation. We lived on the mainland, and the office was in Ikoyi. My stepdad even had to give me an additional ₦40k monthly for the two months I worked there so I could fend for myself.
You worked there for only two months?
I resigned when it was time to return to school and finally do my clearance and convocation.
I eventually got called up for service in June 2019 and was posted to Jigawa. But I redeployed to Ogun where they first sent me to a village. Then I worked my way to a government office. However, I never actually worked there.
They weren’t paying corps members stipends, and I wanted to return home. There was no point planting myself in Ogun when I didn’t see a future there, and there were better career opportunities for me in Lagos.
From my ₦19,800 NYSC allowance, I paid a guy at my PPA ₦6k monthly and a lady at CDS ₦5k/month so I wouldn’t have to show up. I did have to go to Abeokuta once a month for clearance, and the cost of transportation was ₦5k. At the end of the month, I’d only have ₦3k left from my allowance.
What were you doing in Lagos?
My half-sister got me another internship with the same financial institution in August 2019. The payment structure was still ₦3k for every day I worked and ₦60k/month on average. But they started deducting 5% of my salary for tax, and I was left with ₦57k/month.
This was how the internship worked: The company had different projects at different points in time. A regular team handled these, but but sometimes they had a lot of backlogs to clear. They hired interns for the number of months required to clear them.
When I came on, they needed interns for a year. So, I joined the reconciliation and resolutions team, and my job was data entry and extraction. I was there until March 2020, when the COVID lockdown sent us all home.
What happened after?
I was at home. I even tried my hand at a YouTube lifestyle channel, but I only did it for a bit and stopped. Now, I regret I didn’t use the opportunity to build skills in data science and analytics. I became interested in the field during the internship, and I still feel like I wasted time not acting on that interest. Maybe it’s because I didn’t have enough career information then. I’m on my younger cousins’ necks now to build skills so they don’t waste valuable time like I did.
But what was money inflow like?
Remember the internship was for a year? It was supposed to end in July, but we had to close work in March. However, they paid our salaries till July. I was also collecting NYSC’s allowance, which had increased to ₦33k. So, that’s what I used to cover my data expenses, food — I had moved in with a family to be closer to work — and sometimes send money to my cousins.
I also got random ₦10ks from my stepdad when I complained about needing money. I returned home in July and had no income till August —I received a payment from my late paternal grandfather’s property.
What property was that?
My grandfather had five flats. Each flat was given to one child as an inheritance. Since my dad was dead and I was his only child, the rent income from his flat was given to me.
I got ₦140k in the first year. It was supposed to be ₦400k, but my uncles said they removed some money as my contribution for my great-grandma’s 50th memorial party and some remodelling work at her grave.
It’s an annual payment, so I expected ₦400k the following year. But I got ₦300k. I believe they think I’m young and have no responsibilities, but I don’t fight it. I’m just glad to receive something.
I get what you mean. Back to 2020
I wasn’t getting an allowance since I was home, so I managed that ₦140k from August till December, when I got a modelling gig.
How did you get into modelling?
It was a one-off gig, really. I’d been interested in modelling since 2016 but decided to explore it with a friend who had a modelling agency in 2019. We tried to get me cast for a fashion week show, but I didn’t get in.
In December 2020, I auditioned for another fashion week. I got in and was paid ₦200k for the five-day event. 30% of the pay was my friend’s — technically my agency’s — cut, so I got ₦140k at the end.
Subsequently, I did a couple of free gigs where they’d pay for my transportation and snacks. I did another paid job in May 2021, though: a designer paid me ₦50k for a one-day show. After the agency took its 30% cut, I was left with ₦35k.
I stopped modelling entirely when I wanted to gain weight, but my agency kept pressuring me to lose even more weight.
We were given specifications, too. Your hips couldn’t be more than 33 inches, your bust 31 inches, and a waist between 24 and 26 inches. It was too stressful for me, and I wanted to look healthy. I’m 5’10, and I weighed 55kg. By BMI calculations, I was underweight. I just decided to let it go.
Were you doing something else for work?
Yes. The income from modelling wasn’t consistent, so I took up another brief internship with the financial institution in 2021. It was the same ₦3k daily arrangement, but I had completed NYSC and was qualified to apply to be a full-time staff member. A month into the internship, I applied to go full-time, but I failed the test.
It was really depressing. I felt like I’d lost an opportunity, and I disliked how they didn’t even rate interns and treated us anyhow. Soon, the work environment started affecting my mental health, and I resigned after three months.
Funny enough, two weeks after I left, I heard that some interns spoke with management to increase the daily pay. Instead of increasing it, they fired all the interns and got new ones.
I’d always been interested in natural hair. So, after doing nothing for two months, I started an apprenticeship with a natural hair care salon. My stepdad paid ₦75k for the training, which lasted seven months.
I wasn’t paid during that period. Thankfully, my stepdad came through again and put me on an ₦80k monthly allowance.
After the training ended, they offered me employment as a junior stylist. I did that for only a month.
They paid ₦40k/month, but I worked six days a week. The distance was also a factor. I was on the mainland, and the salon was in Ikoyi. So, I was always late, and they’d always complain about it.
Plus, I noticed some senior stylists only got paid ₦50k to ₦60k/month. The manager’s salary was ₦120k. It was obvious there wasn’t much hope for income growth. Granted, the customers were rich IJGBs and Ikoyi wives who tipped well, but it wasn’t sustainable. The entire salary was only enough for transportation, and I couldn’t rely on making an average of ₦1,500 daily in tips.
Were you spending on anything besides transportation and food?
Those were my major expenses. There were also the occasional expenses on clothes and other stuff. I just know I didn’t usually have money left to save.
What was the next step after leaving the salon?
I began applying for bank graduate trainee opportunities. I also got into a self-paced data science and analytics training with a data camp. It was free, and I had access to the courses for one year, but I couldn’t practise what I was learning because I didn’t have a laptop. It’s still there if I ever get the chance to go back to it.
In September 2022, I got accepted into two banks, and I picked the one whose training school started earlier. Plus, the other bank had a clause where you had to work for two years or pay ₦2m if you wanted to leave before then. The bank I chose had a one-year compulsory stay clause and ₦1m in lieu of one year. It was a no-brainer.
Training school covered a six-month period, which was later extended to eight months due to a couple of delays with the bank. I was paid ₦60k/month for the first four months before it was increased to ₦100k/month for the remaining months.
I became a full-time staff member in May 2023, and my salary was updated to ₦307k. It was increased again in August due to the state of the economy, and now my salary is ₦375k.
How do you feel about your finances right now?
I’m finally making money that makes me happy. I don’t really have responsibilities, but I can comfortably get things I want without thinking too much about it.
What are some of those things in a good month?
I just started saving the ₦75k because I feel like I’m in a position where I can save more. But I still spend more than I save, and I’m hoping to figure out how to manage my finances better soon. But unlike before, when I’d be broke before the end of the month, it’s better now. Of course, I’d still like to earn more so I can do more things.
Can you tell me about some of those things?
My boyfriend is currently working on his Canadian permanent residency, which involves money. I’ve lent him about ₦500k for the process. When he gets an invitation to apply (ITA), he’ll need to include me in the application, which will cost 1,500 CAD for each of us.
We may also need to get married, pay ₦107k for IELTS and get my degree evaluated by WES for $251. In summary, I’ll need about 6,500 CAD for my application and plane tickets. So, I need to make money.
How much would you need to earn monthly for that to happen?
Ideally, ₦800k or $1k. I currently work as a relationship manager at the bank, but I’m still interested in data analytics. I feel like tech is what will give me the opportunity to get jobs that’ll pay me in dollars. It’s still just a want, though. I’m not sure how to get there. But I’m happy with my current career progression.
When was the last time you felt really broke?
January. I was still in training school earning ₦60k/month. I typically get paid on the 24th, but they paid on the 9th in December. I thought that meant the 13th-month salary was coming. It turned out they only paid full-time staff a 13th-month salary. I was broke-broke all through January.
What’s one thing you want right now but can’t afford?
A MacBook. Last I checked, it was ₦860k.
Is there anything you wish you could be better at financially?
Saving and managing my money. I use a money planner, but I don’t use it daily. Meaning, I forget what I spent that day or dropped money somewhere I can’t remember.
How would you rate your financial happiness? The scale is 1-10
6. I’ve grown up without much responsibility, and I’ve mostly only spent money on myself. What I earn right now is enough for me, and I’m happy. I only regret that I didn’t use my free time to work on myself and upskill. I see what people are doing around me, and although I envy them, I still struggle to put in the work.
I still can’t believe there was a time I was receiving so many allowances from home, but I just spent it anyhow. I think I wasted a lot of opportunities.
What do the next few years look like for you?
I may take a professional accounting course since I plan to relocate. If I don’t stay in finance, it’ll be data. I just need to work on building opportunities for my future.
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.