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.
Today’s subject is a guy who knows how to be the life of the party and the workhorse too.
What was the first thing you did for money?
I organised parties in university. I started in 200 level, 2007. My first party flopped like hell. Then I realised the clubbing dynamics of Lagos nightlife. Before, we were running after the public school guys. That didn’t work, so we started running after the private school guys with money. The second party cost me zero naira to organise. I made ₦376,000.
That’s interesting. Where did the money come from?
Basically I went to the club and offered them a certain type of percentage. So I said hey, we are willing to let you guys keep all the money from drinks and 10% from the gate (fee). Then we went to meet a new and upcoming club within the school too and said hey, are you willing to do a collaboration party? They agreed.. So most of the costs for running around, printing IVs and stuff like that, I kind of like moved that cost to them, including the transportation and running around costs.
And for me in my own crew, it was myself, two siblings and my girlfriend – family.
Zero costs incurred.
Yep. I continued for a while until I finished uni in 2010. I tried to continue, but I realised that I had lost the connection and the crowd. Most of the people in my set were gone. When you go back to school, it’s like Uncle Agbaya, what are you doing?
Did you have a stash at the time?
₦800k+ in my account. In typical baby boy fashion, that’s when I decided to move out. I moved in with one of my friends, and he was the turn-up lord. It was a lot of money then, but –
–Aha, the but.
Under six months, the ₦800k was remaining ₦100. Initially, you’re partying, buying foodstuffs, girls are constantly coming and eating, and then the babes start reducing when the money is going down. That’s when I went back to the house like a prodigal son, and started looking for work. I haven’t stopped working since.
Your first job. What was that like?
₦55k a month. During NYSC. I got a job while I was serving – it was an administrative role in a consulting firm. In fact, I used part of that money to buy Blackberry Bold 2.
My salary became ₦109k after a year, so what did I do? I joined the office ajo, sold my Blackberry and bought a car.
How much did that cost?
₦300k. After selling by Blackberry, I was using one kpalasa – in fact, it was my mum that gave me the phone. But I was driving a car, hahaha.
I’m trying to make sense of your cashflow at the time. What was it like getting by on ₦109k, fuelling a car?
Here’s the trick, I was doing consulting and most of the time we had to go outside Lagos, I was getting ₦7,500 per day stipend. Another ₦5,000 laundry – this was receiptable though. I remember earning up to ₦252k a month. I was 22 and still serving at the time o.
What type of conversations were you having with your fellow NYSC people?
None. One time, they told me to come and sign register for my ₦9000-something allowance, the woman said ‘you’ll lose it o’. I said ‘take it ma’, hahaha.
I was outside Lagos at the time o, earning more than that in two days.
Mad o. Do you miss those days?
No I don’t, hahaha. It’s been an interesting career. I was promoted thrice in three and a half years, climbed from ₦55k to ₦159k.
What were you doing right? I mean, the obvious thing is “I worked hard, I focused on my job, I did my best” but what do you feel you were doing, that everybody that was working hard wasn’t doing?
To be honest I’m not sure. I knew I was very good at work. I knew I was very good at whatever I was doing. But I think something always stands out – I’m extremely decisive. So if I decide to do something – and this could be bad though – I go for it, whether I break fences or make enemies. In my last job, my strongest point was the ability to achieve business goals. That’s what my manager always said. And everybody likes people like that in their team. Because once you’re able to achieve the target, that’s it. You always get favoured.
Anyway, back to service. I finished in 2011. But by the end of 2014, I was earning ₦372k. I had changed jobs. But the hack is the perks.
Tell me about that.
What I was actually taking home was ₦452k. At this new job, I was working on special projects. That meant that sometimes I was working on partnerships, other times, talent scouting and acquisition. I did that till 2016. I left at ₦490k, and then I took my first pay cut ever, my choice. So basically, I took ₦7.2 million per year instead of waiting for a few months and climbing to 9-point-something.
But I just knew that I was going to be stuck where I was. I knew I was doing the wrong thing. I knew I wasn’t in the career line that I wanted. So I hit the reset button.
There was no story to it. They sent me the offer. I looked at it, and I said yes. There was no whining.
There are certain things that are important to me at different points in my life. Like when I moved after three promotions, I moved for money. Solely for money. Not career. And then when I moved out of money, it was for me being able to build my career.
And when I was getting married, I married someone who was contented as well. That meant no spousal pressure. I got married at 27, by the way.
Interestingly I saved more with that pay cut.
The working environment changed. I wasn’t as invested in depreciating assets. When you work in the bank for example, you spend so much on buying suits, buying shoes, buying watches and all of that. But where I moved to, it was mostly t-shirts –
Ohooo, a startup.
Yeah. I mean, I’ve always been a saver, but I started saving more when I got into tech.
So, were you a consultant?
No. Now I was still actively in a special projects role in management. 2017, 550. Beginning of 2018 I was earning 603.
5,250. Wait, 4,250 first, then 5,250 after 3 months.
That is clearly not naira, and there’s no outcome where there aren’t a lot of zeros here.
Hahaha, dollars. Net. I went from a ₦9.6 million per year package in January to 22 or so.
How does a person go from – what, ₦55k? – to ₦22 million in less than a decade?
It’s actually interesting, thinking about it hahaha. I’m laughing because I’ve never sat down to reflect. Maybe whenever I feel sad again, I should just…
Think about how far you’ve come.
Yeah. Maybe you should start charging people for this. But after me sha.
I realise now that at every point, I’ve never really felt like I should have been earning more. Basically, I’ve always been extremely content.
You know, what I was earning in mid 2014 is equivalent to what I’m tithing now.
Wollop. Start again.
It’s a little more that what I earned, but you get it.
Someone bring me a choir!
Hahaha. I’m not sure if this is related, but I always keep my living expenses low. For example, my living expense hasn’t grown significantly since I was on ₦9 million a year. Also, I don’t think of my income as just mine. I think about it as a unit.
Ah, you and your wife?
And kid, the real oga, hahaha. That kid chops the most part of the income. So household income is currently at ₦2.5 million a month.
I’ve been wanting to ask a married person, do you run a joint account?
No we don’t have any joint account. We keep it separate, but we have a system. Take for instance, if we want to buy a car, we put all the funds together and buy that car. Regardless of who earns what. So that’s kind of how we operate. If we want to do investment for Treasury Bills, it’s done for the family.
Not as individuals.
Yeah. I tend to pull in most of the funds, but for the family still. That’s how I see money, because anything can happen any time.
At the end of the day, the money belongs to the unit. It’s just that one person has more earning power as a unit.
So let’s break down monthly expenses.
As in, all your expenses?
Including rent. I remove rent monthly, lock it in a savings, set a maturity date, then I give the landlord yearly.
So, let’s break down the ₦450k.
We have things we take care of. I pay the rent, she handles feeding. Sometimes it climbs to ₦500k.
So for my last rent, I managed to save up to 1.8, even though rent was ₦1.2 million. That meant that for the next month, I didn’t even touch my salary.
It’s a little over 450, but I have some side investment that pays me ₦100k. That covers extra stuff. But ₦450k is the unshakeable running cost, all things being equal.
Incredible. So, ₦450k out of 1.9. What happens to the rest?
Investments, savings, some of them go into stuff that might come up but mostly investments.
You have ₦1.45 million that you can do anyhow. Your potential lau lau budget.
Let’s create a scenario of how you spend the ₦1.45 million.
I leave the rest to stay denominated in dollars. I have a monthly savings budget, a monthly investment budget minus your rent. I juggle a bunch of investments: treasury bills, mutual funds, and dollar investments.
I’m always looking for investment opportunities, but medium risk. I prioritise medium risk and low risk investments. I don’t do the high risk because I’ve probably not had enough time to sit down and understand it.
What’s something you wish you could invest in, in Nigeria, more easily?
I’m not sure. Two things around that; before, I was the kind of person that’ll be like Nigeria will be great. But more and more, it’s chipping away from that confidence. And when you start to have kids, you start to kind of like lose hope and…
And start thinking about their future.
Yes. So by this time now, it’s more or less about how much investments can I do abroad.
Your true country?
Yes my true country. So that the day I decide to… You know, Nigeria is actually my true country, I really love Nigeria. So did many of the people in my circle who have gone. I don’t think I want to just yet. I don’t think I’ve reached that point just yet.
You were saying something about the investments that helps you pay for the ₦30k.
On the side consulting; income can come through those avenues. It used to happen frequently but now, I spend more of my time at my current job. The thing is, if you want to be seen as a performer, you need to be able to block out the noise. And when you start to do side gigs, it can become noise. I feel this needs my focus 100% till I’m able to build something.
I feel you.
And there’s no urgent request to increase income right now.
How much do you feel like you should actually be earning?
Once in a while, I struggle with imposter syndrome. And I’ll say sometimes, I don’t think I should be earning more than 12 million, a year. If I was going to get promoted in my last job, which was what happened in June, I would have been earning 12m. This job is the quantum leap.
What is something that you really want but you can’t afford?
A house. I don’t have plans for it yet, but I have a picture of the kind of house I want. It’s so clear. A terrace house. I can see it, but I don’t have a strong desire to get it now.
You have pension and health insurance, right?
Yeah, plus car and home insurance. I’m flirting with the idea of life insurance, because tax wise, it reduces my tax liabilities.
If you have a life insurance, the amount that they use to calculate your income tax goes down.
Just for bants, when was the last time you felt really broke?
I think it’d have to be when I was earning 550k. But broke for me is not when I run out of money, but when I run out of pocket money.
What is something you honestly wish you could get better at?
Reading. And if I’m able to focus the way I have focused every other part of my life in getting better at reading, I won’t see what happened as a quantum leap.
I have a very poor attention span. Meaning I can be very excited for a while, which makes it difficult for me to pick up a book and read. I read articles and management reviews though,
Because they help you get better at work.
On a scale of 1-10, happiness levels.
I’ll say seven. Money is fickle, and that uncertainty is where the remaining three sits. I’ve been lucky, but I also believe that luck is when preparation meets opportunity.
I worked hard to get here, without a doubt.
Check back every Monday at 9 am (WAT) for a peek into the Naira Life of everyday people.
But, if you want to get the next story before everyone else, with extra sauce and ‘deleted scenes’, subscribe below. It only takes a minute.
Every story in this series can be found here.