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Smart Money with Arese: Nigerian Women & Money – Part 1 | For the Stay-At-Home Mum

Arese Ugwu



This month I’ve decided to write a 3-part series called Nigerian Women & Money. One article each week. Part 1 is for the Stay at Home Mum: run your home like a corporation. Part 2 the Single Woman: Be a Boss, Build an Empire. Part 3 Working Mother (9-5er/ entrepreneur): Be Superwoman.

My friend Oyinda once said that in Nigeria, when it comes to managing their finances, most women are raised to go from depending on their fathers to depending on their husbands. I found this quite profound as it meant that in most households, men are taught to hustle hard but women are taught to marry well. This is essentially what Chimamanda Adichie was saying in her TED talk.

However, in modern day Nigeria, if a woman isn’t smart about her money, any sudden life changes could mean an inability to adapt quickly. Unfortunately, women are more vulnerable financially when it comes to divorce, death of a husband or loss of a husband’s income.

I’ll never forget the numerous stories growing up about women with several children who lost their husbands to sudden illness, accidents or other women.

‘Poor woman her husband’s relatives didn’t even wait till his body was cold in the ground before they threw her out of her home, because their brother’s property was now theirs’.

‘Did you hear that Mrs. Bamidele’s husband has married his mistress? He has moved her and the kids out of their Ikoyi home to a self-contained in Eric Moore towers’.

The thing, the women in these stories had in common was being financially helpless, when life threw them a curve ball because they were unprepared. We never think it’ll happen to us but the bitter truth is that sometimes, life happens and it’s important to be prepared.

Financial intimacy – ‘ Shine your eye’

I heard an incredible story once; about a woman who was a stay at home mum with 5 children when her husband died. She managed to pull herself by the bootstraps and take over the running of her husband’s distribution company. I often wondered if she was successful because she was exceptionally smart or because he discussed all his transactions with her while he was alive. Perhaps it was a combination of both.

Unfortunately, ‘Oh I don’t need to know about our money matters because my husband takes care of everything’ is a sentiment often expressed by many stay at home mums. While its great that your husband supports you financially, you should ponder on the following. Will our family be able to maintain this lifestyle if anything happens to my spouse? Will my children be able to go to the same schools they attend now? Will I have the means to pay rent every year?

Ask questions about your family’s financial future. What are our assets? Do we have any debt? Do we have an emergency fund? Is there a will? Do we have life insurance? The last thing you want to do is start learning about your financial situation when you are in shock.

Coupled with the fact that our society can be very susperstious when it comes to talking about wills and what will happen if? Men often don’t talk about work because they are afraid they will bore their wives with the details.

Take an interest in his business. Your husband is more likely to share the details of the ins and outs of his money with you, if you can hold an intelligent conversation about it, give some insight or add value. Educate yourself about his industry, watch the news, and know what is going on in the world. Not everyday ‘Fashion police’ or ‘African magic’, sometimes CNN and Channels news.

Run your home like a corporation.

Folake is a wife and a mother of 3 beautiful children. She gave up her lucrative banking career a year after she got married to focus on raising her kids because the stress of both parents working rigorous hours was starting to take its toll on her family.

She was fortunate because her husband’s income was sufficient to maintain their lifestyle and he provided her with N200k to run the household and N100k to look after herself every month. So she was ‘chillin’.

Unfortunately, four years later, her husband lost his job and he was adamant that she not, go out to look for work. Even though she fought him on this for a while, it was a frightful prospect. She had been out of the game for so long that it would be difficult to rejoin the workforce with outdated skills, especially in such a tough job market. She thought about starting a small business but they did not have enough capital to risk, while their financial future was so uncertain.

It took her husband almost 8 months to find a new job and the last three months were especially difficult as they had to borrow from friends and family just to make ends meet.

Months later, when things were finally back to normal, Folake decided that despite the fact she wasn’t earning her own income, she didn’t want to be financially helpless, if her family was ever in this situation again.

She realized that although her husband is the captain of the ship, she is his lieutenant and she needed to play her position. She respected his wishes, that she remain a housewife but felt she needed to take control of the aspect of her family’s finances, she had some power over.

She took 3 important steps

Tracking Her Spending
Using her bank statements, she began an exercise to track her expenditure. This helped her determine exactly where her money was going and by categorizing her spending, she was able to highlight her problem areas.

What she discovered surprised her. She was not an extravagant person but according to her statements she spent 40% of the income that came to her on grooming, bags, shoes and gold jewelry. She made a decision to reduce her expenditure on these items because when her family was facing difficulty and she needed to start selling off what she thought were valuable assets, she was disappointed to discover that she could only sell what she had acquired for a fraction of the cost.

She also decided to cut spending on food by limiting the things she bought at supermarkets that could be bought in bulk in the market at a lower cost.

Created A Budget
Folake realized she had never really had a budget. She used to think that as long as her spending did not exceed the 300k her husband gave her she was fine but after their mini crisis she realized it was important to create a budget that cut her spending by 20% so she could put it towards her financial future.

Started an Investment Portfolio
After 6 months of saving, she went to speak to an investment adviser to see how she could get a better return on the money she was saving. Her portfolio was structured as follows. 30% in fixed deposits, 20% in Treasury bills, 30% in Mutual funds and 20% blue chip stock and earned an average annual return of 9%.

Even though she didn’t earn her own income, by taking these steps she had created Plan B for her family and that helped to relieve some of her financial anxiety.

Looking after our kids is the most important role a woman will ever have. So, if you’ve made the decision to give up working to stay home and give them your full attention. It is a lifestyle choice and I applaud you for it. However, it’s important to have hands on approach to your family’s money matters in whatever capacity. Either by being fully aware of the financial decisions being made on your behalf or by taking control of the aspect of your finances you have jurisdiction over.

Arese is the author of the bestselling financial chick lit The Smart Money Woman. She is also the founder of a personal finance blog tailored to the African millennial. Arese serves on the boards of House of Tara International Ltd and The Nigeria Higher Education Foundation as a non-executive director and is an associate member of WIMBIZ (Women in Management Business & Public Service). Arese Ugwu has an M.Sc. in Economic Development from University College London (UCL) and a B.Sc. in Business and Management from Aston Business School, Birmingham. She is also an alumna of the of the Lagos Business School, INSEAD Abu Dhabi and The London School of Business executive education programs. . Follow on Twitter: @smartmoneyarese and Instagram - @smartmoneyarese


  1. Bellemoizelle

    October 3, 2014 at 11:14 am

    This is well scripted ,I do not plan on being an housewife anyway even if my future husband is rich….We will be on a 50/50 ratio ………..Thank you Arese!! .La vie est belle…………..

    • Gorgeous

      October 3, 2014 at 2:58 pm

      I beg to differ on the generalization of how Nigerian women are raised. My father did not raise the male children and female with different expectations. In fact, the women in my family are even more successful than their spouses. The first time marriage was even mentioned to me was last year, and i am in my 30’s. By two cents. 🙂

    • ijay

      October 3, 2014 at 11:17 pm

      The moment you realize what this article is about, the better for you. Did you say you are in your 30’s? What a shame!

    • Miss d

      October 4, 2014 at 9:25 am

      I totally agree @gorgeous. I think this ideaology is coming from being around the wrong women. If u adk me all the women i know work just as hard as their husbands do if not more. Full time jobs maybe 2 or 3 businesses on the line. Any woman who is fully dependent on her husband in this age hasnt smelt the roses yet

    • onye

      October 3, 2014 at 5:27 pm

      I know which kain one be don’t get a job when the man is so proud he doesn’t want his wife to work

  2. Funmi O

    October 3, 2014 at 11:53 am

    Great article. There’s only so much “God forbid” one can do; it’s smart to prepare for the storms of life. I think that point about debt is very sound because most creditors won’t understand “he didn’t tell me he borrowed money”. Transparency is crucial in marriage so everybody should be on the same page to avoid nasty surprises down the line.

    I also think we should look at the realistic definition of stay at home mum, especially in Naija. Many of these women are entrepreneurial. They might not work in a firm 9-5 but they buy and sell clothes/costume jewellery, do small scale catering etc. Such small scale businesses can be run out of the home to raise a little income. Catering, dress-making or any hobby that can be monetised are all viable options that don’t need fancy premises and can keep some change coming in. It’s perfectly ok to have one major breadwinner but it’s not everytime you want to buy pad, credit or milk for the baby that you must ask oga for cash. Even the smallest cushion against total dependence can prepare the household for these unfortunate circumstances.

  3. funGirl54

    October 3, 2014 at 11:55 am

    love this ! great advice. God bless you

  4. Mummy.

    October 3, 2014 at 11:56 am

    God bless you Arese.
    This is soo thoughtful of you, nice write-up.

  5. Rynyx

    October 3, 2014 at 12:21 pm

    i just slapped back into reality. Oh God, some scary truth revealed again. I am currently at a cross road in this area, I think I just found out what to do. Well Arese. you don’t have the slightest idea what you have just helped me with. thank you.

  6. OGD

    October 3, 2014 at 12:48 pm

    Thank God for women like Arese. I am inspired.

  7. Arese

    October 3, 2014 at 1:10 pm

    Are you married Arese?
    realcrushonyou2 at gmail dot com

  8. Emma

    October 3, 2014 at 1:15 pm

    [email protected]
    always on point!

  9. Been There

    October 3, 2014 at 1:25 pm

    “My friend Oyinda once said that in Nigeria, when it comes to managing their finances, most women are raised to go from depending on their fathers to depending on their husbands.”

    The beginning of your write-up is so biased. so i will like to assume your friend must be in her fifties or does is not in touch with realities regarding marriage and finances in today’s Nigeria.
    what percentage of Nigerian women are in the workforce or even in business?
    and the harsh realities of women earning as much and even more than their male counterparts, may also lead them to marry husbands who are not as financially capable as themselves. i don’t know which part of Nigeria you live in but alot of women are hustling hard and are breadwinners at home. at the same time society prefers she does not announce that role. so save me this sanctimony.

    • oj

      October 3, 2014 at 4:22 pm

      haba! i am 25, i live in nigeria, lagos to be precise, and i’ve heard my age mates say such things. they have no intention for working hence they’re luking for a guy with filled pockets to marry.

  10. Joan85

    October 3, 2014 at 1:26 pm

    I’m not married yet, but I’ve bookmarked this article. Really sensible and useful advice.
    Thank you, Arese. 🙂

  11. Junebug

    October 3, 2014 at 1:33 pm

    Thanks Arese! Really great article!

  12. efe

    October 3, 2014 at 1:36 pm

    Nice one Arese. Can you recommend investment adviser(s),Need one urgently. Thank you.

    • ebun

      October 3, 2014 at 6:28 pm

      hi efe, u can check up index investment advisors lmited.. its somewhere in VI. My friend is one of deir clients nd i can say they knw deir onions.

  13. TheBOAH

    October 3, 2014 at 1:51 pm

    Well written piece Arese!
    I believe a woman needs to maintain her financial independence especially after getting married. And the financial plan you mentioned is a great way for someone who isn’t working to eventually achieve that. I love your writing style… I’m sold! Definitely recommending your blog.

  14. Gold-Yna

    October 3, 2014 at 1:53 pm

    Nice one Arese, May God continue to bless you. Inspired

  15. jedalo

    October 3, 2014 at 3:08 pm

    Am glad i took time to read this. Av gained some. tanx for sharing

  16. newbie

    October 3, 2014 at 5:06 pm

    lol…you had me at Not everyday ‘Fashion police’ or ‘African magic’, sometimes CNN and Channels news…..
    Really good article though, content is on point, style too…and I didn’t miss your credentials nor the plug for your firm 🙂 😉 Top banana

  17. osasodia1

    October 3, 2014 at 5:45 pm

    Good article, wil use the tips here to work more on my finances n plan for d future. Thanks Arese.

  18. Tincan

    October 3, 2014 at 5:57 pm

    Top Banana indeed. This is such a good article, much to learn… Thanks.

  19. missedel

    October 3, 2014 at 9:01 pm

    Nice piece. Anxiouslywaiting for the ‘single woman” article.
    I’m 21 and still in search of a job but even while I was in school, I made efforts to have extra income besides what I received from my parents. I’ve always been financially independent and hope to continue on this path.
    Thank you Arese!

  20. Rose

    October 4, 2014 at 7:25 pm

    Very useful information here. Thank you.

  21. Lerato

    October 5, 2014 at 8:32 am

    Good read. Will save this page

  22. Dami

    October 6, 2014 at 11:31 am

    Decent article. I really don’t get housewives and see the “job” as a waste of potential but to each their own. Your statement “Looking after our kids is the most important role a woman will ever have” is faulty. Please note that not every woman wants to have kids. Also, there are many more roles a woman (or a man) can have that can impact millions of lives. So please, never generalize in that way. It is mean and dismissive of the millions of women that do great work sans children.

    • Tincan

      October 8, 2014 at 10:52 pm

      I think she was referring to women with children.

  23. D

    November 4, 2014 at 6:53 pm

    So I read the entire series after reading this particular article. First, let me say I am EXTREMELY Happy someone is saying this. I am often amazed at the way many people not only women look at finances. People go into business without any research or thought process. No one studies the market, it see the services they intend to offer are even needed. They are tired of their 9-5 job because it is too much work not realizing that pursuing your dream is actually just that, Work and even more work as you put in more hours than 9-5 and sometimes you might not even get “paid” i.e run at a loss for the hours you put in as opposed to working 9-5 and still getting paid irrespective of the status of business that day. Women spending all their hard end money, helping iya kowuwu and aunty silifa, or buying that lace and gele with the gold that mama Nneka just brought in from dubai. The latest things people spend on these days apart from the shoes, clothes and cars is them vacations, paris today, Tin can island tomorrow with no thought of investment or the future. I have told my husband any family member that comes to us asking for help financially to start a business be ready to give me a business plan and talk through the entire business plan and that includes me, myself and I..
    I started earning money right out of high school but I wish someone had taught me the things I had to learn on my own in my 20s. I would be better off today. Until my final year in college the concept of saving and investing was foreign to me and I worked full time all through my 3rd and final year in college.
    For the single mothers I would say start out saving by opening an account (a checking account/current account to begin with if you don’t have enough to open a savings account) other than your primary one . I am not a single mother but that’s was how I started. No matter what I would not touch it, once the money went out of my actual account, I totally wiped it off my mind as far as I was concerned that $$ did not exist that was the only way I could save. Then I got enough to open a savings account and it is the same thing. Then you progress to investing although I am too much of a pessimist to invest all my savings so I save some and invest some.
    I apologize for the epistle but this is a topic I feel passionate about. I could actually go on but I will stop here.

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