Money: What I Wish I Knew 15 Years Ago


I’ve been meaning to do this for a while. Following the recent economic upheavals in our nation, many have desperately searched for ways to hammer. Some have been unfortunate victims of get-rich-quick schemes.

I wish someone had told me fifteen years ago what I’m going to tell you now about money:

1. Money is seasonal. It comes and goes. This is not my first recession. I’ve worked for over fifteen years, so I’ve seen at least two major “recessions” in Nigeria; times when my clients tightened their belts, prices of basic goods & food skyrocketed and my standard of living plummeted. But the interesting thing is this – before the times of lack came, there was a period when money just seemed to flow. New jobs came, new ideas came and with them, a steady stream of income. It is what I did in those times of plenty (whether I invested or not) that determined how much I suffered during the bleak times.

Pay attention to your seasons of plenty. Don’t waste them. I am ashamed to say that I wasted a few and regret doing so.

2. Adopt the 10% rule from your first salary or income. Anyone who has read Rich Dad. Poor Dad or The Richest Man in Babylon, already knows about this rule. Whenever money comes into your hands; whether salary, income or gift, pay yourself first. In the same way Christians remove tithe upfront, also remove at least 10% of your money for investment purposes.

Now this is key – take the money out of your account and put it in an investment vehicle that you cannot easily access or liquidate. Even if it’s N5,000, take it out. Never wait until you build money up to a significant amount before you invest it.

I remember a few years ago, I was looking for an investment vehicle for some money I made. A banker suggested Government Treasury Bills (if I wanted safety). If you’re more adventurous, you can also invest in mutual funds like the StanbicIBTC Money Market Fund with as little as N5,000. This will satisfy the desire to take out investment money from your account immediately it comes in, no matter how little.

3. Invest in what you know. Don’t invest in something because everyone else is doing it or because someone told you about it. If you don’t understand something, don’t invest until you independently learn about it. Also ask questions and talk to more than one expert to get different perspectives.

I remember when Bitcoin (and other types of cryptocurrency) seemed to be in the news all the time. Some Nigerian sites advertised that you could buy from them. After conducting my due diligence, I discovered that the real value of cryptocurrency lies in a concept called blockchain. Essentially you have a digital wallet, so anytime you buy or sell crytocurrency, there is a way to globally verify the value of your holdings. Many Nigerian sites offering cryptocurrency do not integrate into this global wallet system. They are not global dollar denominated exchanges. They are Naira denominated secondary sellers who build in obscure fees. Globally, cryptocurrency is still mired in legal questions and for now it cannot be used in everyday markets. It is primarily used on the dark web. I have also written about “help schemes” like MMM before.

The point is, do your due diligence and ask questions.

There was a time I wanted to invest in land and an expert advised me never to get involved with “omo onile” or individuals. This was because I was new to buying land and didn’t have the required knowledge. Instead, he advised that from time to time, Lagos State and established property companies (with track record) would announce land or property for sale. He asked me to look out for opportunities like that. I shared this with a friend and then we heard about a joint venture between Lagos State and a new property development company. Because Lagos State was involved, we knew land registration documentation would not be an issue. The property company was new, but the MD had led another well known company for several years, so we took his credibility into account. That investment has tripled in value, three years later.

I invested in agriculture, again, on the advice of an expert and because it aligned with what I already knew and understood about agriculture. I share about that investment in a follow up article.

4. When you travel, don’t just go shopping and forget your life. Take advantage of being in a foreign country to learn about investment opportunities there. But to take advantage of them, you will most likely need a foreign bank account.

Many countries allow you to open an account even if you don’t live in that country. The US and UK allow it and charge a token monthly sum if you’re non-resident. All you need to open the account is your Passport, an opening balance (any amount is fine), an address in the foreign country where you usually reside when you’re visiting (like a friend’s or family member’s place) and proof of your address in your home country. (I used my Nigerian bank account statements as proof of my Nigerian address.)

Having a foreign account allows you to build up foreign exchange for the time when you’ll need it. For example, if you decide to buy a house abroad, there are benefits and concessions that are available to you when you have a foreign account. You can also invest in mutual funds through your foreign bank account. Furthermore, when you travel, should your Nigerian bank card disappoint you, you have a back-up foreign card to use when you go shopping. And, you can open a foreign PayPal account which allows you to receive funds, unlike the Nigerian one.

It is important that you read the terms & conditions for your foreign bank account and adhere to all rules. Don’t be dodgy.

5. Stop giving your time out for free. Unless you’re sowing a seed (in which case, God will reward you) or making a charitable contribution, God will hold you responsible if you waste the gifts and talents he had given you.

I give a lot of information out for free on social media but for me, it’s a seed and my way of giving back to society. But, I get paid for public speaking and social media promotions. I have also written books I plan to sell commercially. What gift, talent or capability can you exchange for commercial value? If you’re a blogger, have you registered for AdSense yet, so you can start earning forex income?

6. Be careful about investing in companies you do not understand. (This is similar to point 3.) Even if the person is your bosom friend or family member, say no. As long as you don’t understand the business model, don’t touch it.

With businesses I understand, I usually operate this model – I get invited to join the board in exchange for my “sweat equity” in lieu of cash. Let me explain. I give my ideas, brain, experience and networks in exchange for a slot on the non-executive board or some shares in the company. Serving on the board allows me to observe the company and if after a year, the company is being well run, I can then invest cash. I worked for my money. Therefore, I never part with it irresponsibly.

I hope all these points will help you. Feel free to share this post and ask questions via email. Also read my follow up posts on agricultural investments and how you can invest one million Naira. If you would like to be informed of investment opportunities from time to time, kindly join this email list.

Pay attention to your seasons of plenty. Don't waste them. Click To Tweet Money is seasonal. It comes and goes. Click To Tweet

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