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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Nairalife #266 bio

What’s your earliest memory of money?

I don’t have a specific money memory apart from spending my pocket money on books and two-for-₦5 sweets. I grew up privileged, so I didn’t have to think about money. It was just there.

Tell me more about your privilege.

My dad owned a law firm, and my mum didn’t have to work, so that should give you an idea. My pocket money in secondary school was ₦1,500/week, and my school provided lunch, so I was just spending on books, snacks and whatever else I liked.

My dad was pretty strict with money, though. I have five siblings, and we used to spend every summer vacation in England. During those six-week trips, my dad would give me a £500 allowance I had to use to shop for outing clothes for the rest of the year. He’d occasionally give the extra £50 for cinema outings or to go on the bus, but I had to run him through everything I planned to do so he’d approve. He had a particular way of doing things, and my siblings and I had to do exactly like he said to remain in his good books.

Fast forward to 2007, I finished secondary school and went on to do two years of college in the UK — a prerequisite to study medicine at university. After college, my dad said I had to study law like him or return to Nigeria.

What did you choose?

Law in the UK. I didn’t want to lose the freedom I had in England. Even if he’d said I should do animal dentistry, I’d have done it. 

My monthly allowance was £500 in my first year in 2009, which was enough to cover my phone bills, food and transportation. But there was hardly anything left at month’s end because I also liked spending on things that made my life easier — I still do. Small rain would fall, and I’d pick taxis instead of waiting for the bus.

Then, I’d manage whatever I had left till the month’s end because I couldn’t call home for more money.

Why not?

I’d have to explain to my dad where the money went, and I’m uncomfortable asking people for money. Maybe it’s pride, but I’d rather not do it.

By the time I left uni in 2012, my allowance had increased to £900, but I still had money problems. I’d also developed a taste for retail therapy, so that didn’t help. I returned to Nigeria with zero savings. Then I went to law school and started working for my dad at his law firm during NYSC in 2014. 

Were you paid a salary at your dad’s firm?

Oh, yes. My dad treated me like a regular employee. I was paid ₦150k/month — the same amount he paid every entry-level lawyer. He got me a car so I could drive myself to the firm though. 

The funny thing was that he didn’t show me any favouritism at work but expected so much from me. Other lawyers would go home after regular work hours, and I’d have to stay until 10 p.m. if he was still in the office. When we’d eventually leave, he’d drive with his police escort and leave me to drive alone at night. I didn’t have any free time; I was almost always working. 

Then, I had to leave the firm in 2016.

What happened?

I got pregnant, and my dad wanted me to get an abortion. It wasn’t a teenage pregnancy o — I was 24, and he knew my boyfriend. He just wanted me to do things the way he wanted. He even promised to upgrade my car to an SUV and fully sponsor my wedding if I did as he said.

But I didn’t want to live like that for the rest of my life; always doing whatever he said. So, I refused, and he disowned me. I lost my job and car and had to leave the house. My dad and I haven’t spoken since. My siblings are also not allowed to contact me.

Damn. What did that mean for you?

I moved in with my boyfriend. He worked in construction — still does — but his contracts didn’t come every month. He could get a ₦5m job today and then nothing else for a while. We went through a rough patch because of that. We were also saving every income that came in for me to have the baby in America. I didn’t think the America thing was necessary, but I went with it.

Also, I was suddenly very aware that I didn’t have money. Money was always there, but now it wasn’t. I was almost always ill during pregnancy, and the electricity supply in his area was terrible. We had to sleep without light multiple times because there was no money to fuel the generator. I wasn’t used to that, and it was tough adapting. It was a depressing period. 

Sorry you went through that.

Thank you. My boyfriend and I had a registry wedding, and I travelled to America to have my baby. We had family there, so it worked out. 

We made the best decision choosing America because my child was born with genetic defects that required surgery. Obamacare was still effective in the state where I had my child, so we got the surgeries and other healthcare benefits for free. We only paid for the birth, and that saved us about $250,000 in medical bills. I stayed in America for about a year before returning to Nigeria in 2017.

Did you try returning to the workforce?

Yes. I started job-hunting immediately. But I ran into a couple of issues. Law was my only experience, so I inevitably applied to law firms. But my dad is quite known in legal circles because of some high-profile cases he’d worked on. 

Once prospective employers connected the dots and realised I was related to him, they were no longer interested. One even said I was coming to spy for my dad. Of course, I couldn’t go around telling everyone he disowned me so they’d trust me. They just couldn’t understand why I’d leave my dad’s firm to work elsewhere. After a while, I told myself that pursuing a law career wasn’t possible. It’s a good thing it wasn’t even my passion.

That’s wild. What did you do?

I started looking for “any work”. Anything to put on my CV. In 2018, I got a ₦25k/month business development role at an insurance company. I was promoted within two months to business development manager, and my salary increased to ₦40k. I also had a 7.5% commission on sales, so sometimes I made up to ₦100k in salary and commissions. I left the job after nine months because I didn’t like sales. It’s like walking up to people to beg them to give you money. 

I feel you.

In my next job, I worked as a user researcher at a bank for ₦100k/month. My goal was to cross the ₦150k salary I earned while at my dad’s law firm to prove I could earn it on my own. He’d said I wouldn’t survive without him, and I wanted to prove him wrong.

I figured the quickest way to earn more was by upskilling, so I began to invest in online courses around user experience. I spent almost two years at the bank before I moved to another job in 2021. This one paid ₦189k after taxes, and I used my first two salaries to pay for a ₦200k Udacity course. To me, investing in my career was a better decision than trying to save.

Why did you think so?

I wasn’t earning enough to save. If I saved ₦50k/month, for instance, I’d only have ₦600k at the end of the year. It still wouldn’t make sense even if I got a 15% interest. But I can take that same ₦50k to invest in a course and work on getting a new role that pays five times what I was earning. 

I got that advice from someone on Twitter and ran with it. I got another UX research job in 2022; my salary was ₦350k/month. By the time I left the job in 2023, I’d been promoted a couple of times, and my salary was ₦500k. Between 2022 and 2023, I spent about ₦2m on an education program with an international business school. 

That’s a long way beyond your ₦150k goal

I’d have been excited to earn ₦350k in 2012. I mean, that money could take you to Dubai. I should’ve felt like I could finally relax, but the fluctuating exchange rate meant I couldn’t even enjoy the fact that I was earning more. It’s even worse now. 

It’s the reason I decided to work towards earning in dollars. Towards the end of 2023, I started writing and sharing what I’d learned from my multiple courses on LinkedIn. A content manager reached out, and I got a gig — $350 for every technical article I write for their blog. 

I’ve written at least one article a month since then. I did two articles in March and hope to keep that up. But I started another full-time job in January, and I’m a mum of two now, so it’s a lot to juggle.

How much does the new job pay?

₦1.5m/month, which is great because I’ve finally started saving. Since January, I’ve saved my dollar earnings in a domiciliary account and one-third of my naira earnings in a fintech savings account. I’ve also considered saving my dollars in a fintech platform to earn interest, but my challenge is having to buy the dollars on their platform. Why can’t I just transfer from my domiciliary account? I might just open a dollar-denominated mutual fund account and leave my savings there. I’m open to suggestions from whoever reads this sha. What should I do with my dollars?

I’ll be sure to ask them. How much have you saved right now?

$1,500. I recently took $500 out of it to treat my husband on his birthday. I’m looking to start saving half of my salary monthly, but I’m currently running a part-time Master’s program and eyeing a ₦750k course, so the saving plan is still just a plan.

Do you have a saving goal?

I’m saving because spending the whole money wouldn’t make sense. My husband handles most of the bills. If I ever have to save for something big, it’ll probably be buying a house or my kids’ education. 

Japa might be an option, but my husband’s business is here, so we’ll need to put a lot of thought into it before deciding to leave.

How would you describe your relationship with money?

I’m still learning. I want to say I have it all figured out, but I really don’t. I’m not frivolous, but I definitely need better money management skills. For instance, every time I get a salary bump, apart from thinking about courses, I’m also considering what I can do to appreciate the people around me. Like, how do I appreciate my husband? Or make my kids’ lives better? I even increased the salaries of my housekeepers and security guard.

I want to save more because I might not have a choice with how inflation is going. I can’t confidently say earning ₦1.5m will still be considered a good salary in the next three years. So, I need to improve my savings and investment portfolio even as I try to earn more. Again, I’m open to financial advice.

Apart from saving, what other lifestyle changes have come with earning more?

Not much. My kids are still my biggest expense. My husband handles most of the bills; I just pay for food and the random things my kids need. I also have two housekeepers — over 18 — who go to school and some other vocational training, so I give them pocket money and handle expenses like their clothes and hospital bills. My husband pays them salaries, but they save it.

Can we break down these expenses into a typical month?

Nairalife #266 monthly expenses

Most of my black tax expenses are spent on my kids’ teachers, house staff, and in-laws. My husband and I also contribute about ₦30k – ₦50k each to purchase monthly welfare packages (mostly foodstuff) and share with underprivileged people in my neighbourhood. The economy is terrible, and it’s our way of easing other people’s burdens.

Talking about the economy, I’m always shocked by my food expenses. When I was earning ₦100k, grocery shopping was like ₦50k in a month. Why am I spending more than triple that for almost the same things now?

Omo. I can’t answer that. What’s an unplanned expense you made recently?

I renewed my car’s comprehensive insurance and passport in February. The renewal wasn’t unexpected; it was the increased fee, especially for the car insurance. When my husband bought the car two years ago, insurance was around ₦180k. 

It moved to ₦350k in January 2023, and now it’s ₦430k. Usually, my husband pays, but I offered to do it because I’d just gotten my new salary. The passport renewal was for a 10-year validity period, and I paid to fast-track it. It cost ₦140k.

What’s an ideal salary you think you should be earning now?

$5k/month. I see it as something I need to work towards rather than something I’m owed. I’ll be set for life if I can earn a minimum of $5k/month for the next 10 – 20 years. I don’t need to become a billionaire or make it so my kids don’t have to work a day in their lives before I’ll be fulfilled. 

In fact, I want my kids to work and know the value of money. I want them to enjoy, but they should also know what it takes to get what they enjoy and be responsible contributors to society.   

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

A number of things, actually. I want to own my own home someday and have enough money to take a family vacation every two years. I’d also like to be able to afford to put my house keepers through school till university comfortably. Same for my kids as well, preferably outside the country.

How would you rate your financial happiness on a scale of 1-10?

6. I can afford my basic needs, but I don’t think there’s enough structure in place yet to give my children and family the life I want for them. There’s promise, though. I just need to keep going the way I am.

The funny thing is, if you’d asked me how happy I’d be earning ₦1.5m last year when I was still on ₦500k, I’d have said a 10. It’s good to have something else to look forward to, though. 

I’m curious. Do you think you’ll ever reconcile with your dad?

A part of me wants us to, but I know he can be quite problematic and controlling, and I don’t want issues. I miss my siblings, but the only way I can have a relationship with them is if I get back on my dad’s good side. Maybe it’s better like this.

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.



Zikoko amplifies African youth culture by curating and creating smart and joyful content for young Africans and the world.