The topic of how young Nigerians navigate romantic relationships with their earnings is a minefield of hot takes. In this series, we get into what dating across income brackets is like in different Nigerian cities.
After eight years in the streets, 34-year-old Michael Adebayo* finally decided to repent from his ashawo ways and settle down. He found his perfect match — where he’s a reckless spender, his wife is financially prudent. Now, he tells Zikoko how he’s enjoying married life on a ₦2.3m monthly income.
Average monthly income
₦1.9m salary; an average of ₦400k from investment and forex trading profits
Occupation and location
Oil and gas engineer. Lives and works in Uyo, Lagos and offshore
Monthly bills and recurring expenses
Black tax: Around ₦360k
Rent: ₦400k (annually) for a two-bedroom apartment
Vacations: Around $10k (annually)
Savings: ₦960k converted to USD in mutual funds
Electricity bill: ₦30k
Feeding: ₦80k on average, but sometimes, it can get as high as ₦200k when they need to cook in bulk and stock up
Miscellaneous: ₦400k; any leftovers go into the mutual funds
*His remaining income goes into forex investment
How did you meet your wife?
We first met in school and crushed on each other. People said she was a good girl. Me? They called me ashawo boy, and our mutual friends said I should carry my ashawo somewhere else, so I locked up. Then, she went and had a boyfriend. But seven years after I graduated, we met again at what I can only say was the right time, and there was no looking back.
Slow down a bit
Haha, okay. So in uni, I was in final year, and she was a fresher. Then after school, we lived in different cities — me in Uyo, she in Abuja — so we only kept in touch once in a while. Last year , she relocated to Port Harcourt, and suddenly, we were much closer. She was single, I was single, and the distance was only a one-hour drive compared to flying from Uyo to Abuja.
I think she always knew I liked her from way back, and she liked me too. But, omo, I was “Mikano*” in school with a “hoe” reputation — she wouldn’t touch that with a nine-foot pole. When she met me again after all those years, I’d become a more put-together “Mr Michael*”. It was just right. I was tired of the streets, so we ended up together and dated for a year. God win.
LOL. What made you sure about committing this time?
My guy, it’ll sound cliché, but I was just convinced in my spirit. Everything that happened while we dated convinced me even more. I was free around her, learning and becoming a better person. We were both willing to change things about ourselves without needing the other person to push. I improved myself knowing it’d make her happy, and her happiness made me fulfilled. Omo, we just fit, abeg. We learnt from talking about things, resolved fights quickly and were very open about everything.
How much does your wife earn?
She earns ₦200k, but she has a forex investment that does a healthy extra ₦200k on average, each month. This was also what got me because my attitude to money changed after I met her. I saw this woman’s savings, what she’d done with her income, and heard her plans — she who hadn’t even earned up to what I had at the time. She’s such a hardworking woman, and that’s why even though we have our plan as a family, I work every day to ensure she meets her personal targets. I told her when we got engaged that I’ll die happy just knowing she can look back at her life and see I contributed to her growth.
Aww. So how do y’all run finances these days?
Bruh, my wife is the financially prudent one, so she manages the money. When I wanted to settle down, financial responsibility was one of the key traits I looked out for in a partner. Because, if you leave me, we go enjoy all the money to the end. All my savings (around 40% of my income) goes to her, and we have a joint account she manages. She also contributes 30% of her income to our USD savings and keeps the rest of it. I tease her and call myself “big woman husband” because she get money, abeg!
How much do you budget for relationship sturvs?
I wish we could go out more often, but not many places have cool aesthetics and good food in Uyo, so we mostly make do with indoors. We have shows we watch together, like The Flatmates, The Office and Brooklyn Nine-Nine. After work each day, we eat together, watch our show as long as we can, do some more work or study, gist and sleep off. Once every two months, we book a hotel to get away and enjoy the room-service treatment. And we spend an entire weekend chilling and clubbing. Akwa Ibom is a cheap place, so we don’t spend more than ₦100k over three days.
Earlier this year, we spent three weeks in Europe — Milan and Rome in Italy, Ibiza in Spain, Paris in France and Madeira, Portugal. We spent about ₦1.9m on flights. Hotels and sightseeing took about $3,700 because I wanted to spend money. I convinced madam to calm down and let me splurge. Then again, I’d made a huge profit from an investment, so I had extra convincing power. We stayed in suites with sea views at hotels in the city centres, food and drinks were all-inclusive. Shopping took another $3k. Costs could’ve been much less, but we just had to close eye and enjoy ourselves.
$3k on shopping ke; what did you buy?
Shoes, bro. Sneakers. Perfumes. Ah, don’t forget enjoyment black tax. I had to get something for everyone at home: my parents, her parents, siblings, etc.
We intend to travel out twice a year henceforth, on a $10k budget. Flight prices have gone up, but we try to hedge against inflation by saving in dollars. We’ll spend a lot less for our trip this December sha because madam said we should start saving for japa. But even though, we’ve decided the experience counts, so we must still go somewhere.
God, abeg. I don’t wanna be a mecha —
LMAO. It’s important to mention that the key thing for both of us is the experience and bond it builds between us. Our relationship was better after our vacation. We learnt so much about each other. Sometimes, always being in the same or familiar territory doesn’t give you a chance to question your relationship. The trips gave us the chance to experience our relationship differently, and the memories we created definitely strengthened our bond.
Plus, bro, we know say once pikin come, story go change. For gifts, I’m the giver, but she’s learning quickly too. She bribes me with turkey and juicy meat — gifts of love I can’t say no to, abeg.
(Wipes tear) What kind of conversations do you have with your wife about money?
We’re very open about finances. She knows how much I earn to the tee, and vice versa. We have an Excel sheet in which we track our spending (not to the tiniest details, of course).
We’ve discussed plans for kids and their welfare, which is also why our savings are dollar-denominated. I’m more of the risk taker while she’s more financially prudent. This dynamic makes us a team because we have the balance required to make the best choices of where to put money. We’ll know if it works over the next few years, I guess.
We also discuss black tax. How much goes home to my people, her people, people who ask for loans, etc. We’re very much open with these things. She’s the one who helped me set aside at least ₦50k every month to help people out. Once we’ve surpassed this figure, omo, it’s till next month to whoever asks — except in rare cases of emergency.
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Has the income gap ever been an issue?
Oh, yes. Initially, she believed because I earned a lot, I never listened to her financially prudent advice. Or sometimes, I would randomly talk about something in a way that rubbed her the wrong way because of [her] finances. But we resolve most of our issues with communication and financial openness. Also, we’ve both had to adjust to accommodate each other’s differences and bite our tongue on some occasions. There are times when I wanted to say, “Omo, spend this money naaaaa.”
What’s your ideal financial future as a couple?
Our hopes, plans and prayers are to get to a point where we both have investments that take care of ours and our kids’ needs whether we’re working or not. So if it takes, theoretically, ₦5m to take care of our needs and enjoyment, we have investments between us that cover at least 75% of it. Of course, we’ll have to adjust our lifestyle and hope there’s no mad medical emergency. Our plan isn’t foolproof or set in stone, and as we experience more and grow together, we’ll adjust.
Lovely. In the short term though, how are you planning for that life?
We have savings from our income, mutual funds, crypto (yeah, I know e dey red, but #wagmi), forex and a couple of other investments yielding different returns. We’ll continue to explore other ways to “aspire to perspire”.
Do you have a financial safety net?
There’s one ₦10m like that — some bonus they gave me in my first year at work. I just carried the money and dumped it in a bank account somewhere.
Most people would say you’re doing well, and it’s sweet to be a big boy in Naija, so why japa?
Honestly, first and foremost, children. It’ll give them a better start. Again, the “big boy” bubble can be punctured in a day. Bruh, one crazy government policy can wipe your entire safety net, one accident on a bad road that could’ve been fixed, etc. I mean, I know a counter-argument is nowhere is immune to bad things. But some bad things can be prevented yet we actively encourage them with the kind of leadership and society we have in Nigeria.
Also, big boy earning in naira is earning less and less each year due to inflation. I have bosses with wards abroad. Convert your naira to the galloping dollar to pay fees, and no amount of salary increase can match it.
Let me add that in my younger years as a Lagos boy, I absolutely loved the chaos, but not anymore. Living in a quieter city has killed that love. And when I travel abroad, I experience a kind of sanity I want long term.
In all honesty, the indices seem easier — we’re still young, not a lot of family burden, and we have enough experience to make an impact in any organisation we join abroad — so japa is the way. It’s only a matter of time.
If you’re interested in talking about how you manage money in your relationship, this is a good place to start. We’re willing to keep your identity anonymous.