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Smart Money with Arese: Nigerian Women & Money – Part 3 | For the Working Mother



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.


If you are a workingwoman, trying to balance raising a family with a 9-5 job or running a business, ‘Area …I hail you o’ because it’s not easy, and I think women definitely don’t get enough credit for making this work.

The first superwoman I had the pleasure of meeting was ‘Mama Arese’, my mother. She made finding the balance between being ‘a hands on’ mother and pursuing a career look effortless. She retired as a general manager at a bank in her 30s, then transitioned to becoming an entrepreneur, who ran several successful businesses including an after school programme for primary school kids, selling and promoting art for young artists, all with 4 kids under her belt. So I inevitably grew up thinking, I could do it all.

As I try to raise my own daughter, I realize now that, she may have made it look easy but it certainly wasn’t. Every time I complain about being stressed I remember that, in the 90’s, with no mobile phones or Internet my mother managed to juggle a career with raising 4 kids, staying on top of our educational progress (her attention to detail, especially when it came to homework, is unparalleled), attended all PTA meetings and never missed visiting day when we were away at boarding school.

It could be argued that technology has made it easier for female entrepreneurs to find the balance between raising their children and establishing a successful career; but I often wonder if, what we gained in entrepreneurial spirit we lost in money management skills.

My mother certainly knew how to stretch N1, so even though my father always held it down, the extra income she brought to the household was the difference between eating Nasco cornflakes and Kellogg’s variety pack or being enrolled for after school activities, ballet, recorder and piano lessons.

A few things working mothers should think about when it comes to their money.

Your dream MUST feed you.
I often get asked, especially by women, how do I save and invest when I barely make enough every month to pay the bills? There are no easy answers but the simplest answer is, the only way to attain wealth is to earn more and spend less. It doesn’t matter whether you earn 50k a month or N1m. You have to have a strong command of the money you do earn and constantly be looking for more opportunities to earn.

It seems easier said than done but the key lies in unlocking your purpose. Figuring out what you and only you can do that nobody else can, matching it with a work ethic that is unparrelled and a strong commitment to constantly improve your skill set in the area.

Okay maybe, it sounds like big grammar to some, so let me put things in perspective. 10 years ago, saying hello my name is Sade and I’m a make up artist would have sounded ridiculous to most people. ‘This one wants to die in penury’ or ‘my friend go and find a real job’. Today whole industries have been created and it’s not uncommon to find makeup artists who earn more than bankers. The government did not create these industries; they were harnessed and cultivated by people who were committed to turning their passion to profit and constantly developing their skills to take things to the next level.

Making sure your dream can feed you is not about running to the new ‘it’ industry. ‘oh I heard Dorrane beauty is making money from this makeup thing!’ Sista, you sabi paint face? Do you have the skills required, and are you prepared to do what it takes to excel in the industry?

For your dream to feed you, it’s important to align your passion with your skill set. Your purpose must be something that solves a problem and people are willing to pay you for. You have to work out what your revenue model, cost structure and business processes are.

Be your own hero!
In my opinion, through very strong cultural messaging and the fact that Nigeria is a patriarchal society, women think about money in a very distinct way. Even when a Nigerian woman is earning her own income, she doesn’t see it as her role to invest in the family’s financial future (it’s the man’s job), so her entire income is ear marked for spending not investing.

For example, Fadeke works in a bank. She earns N200k a month. Her husband earns N500k and looks after most of their expenses. However, like many working mothers, she has several competing needs and responsibilities none more or less important than the other. From, contributing to the children’s welfare to looking after dependents from the extended family but these are all activities that do not necessarily bring in a future income or provide financial security.

So unfortunately, even though she is working hard, day in day out and enduring traffic, she becomes a revolving door for her money because her net worth does not improve. The money comes in and it goes out and she has no assets or financial security to show for all her hard work. Even though in the back of her mind she thinks she’ll invest one day. She subconsciously relies on her husband for her financial security.

If you run a business or work a 9-5 job, have a husband and children, finding a balance can be very difficult. The stress alone could mean you are spending a decent amount on childcare, drivers and after school activities for the kids just to make things work, so it’s very easy for your spending to get out of control and for you to forget the big picture.

Even though you rely on your husband to think about plan A, as a mother who works, you are plan B for your children! So, before you send that money to the village or buy more jewelry ask yourself the following: do you have an emergency fund? (Savings for 3-6 months in the event that your family loses its primary source of income) Do you have health insurance? Life insurance? What would happen if there is a fatality or a child is seriously ill and needs emergency care?

Working women need to build up their own assets independently. (Start saving towards land, buy blue chip stock, mutual funds or treasury bills).

We need to take responsibility for our financial security; start being smarter about our spending decisions and making sure that our hustle has purpose.

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. Rynyx

    November 4, 2014 at 10:54 am

    Finallyyyyyyyyy. I was about to come and rant about why this was taking so long and there it was, excited much. God bless you Arese. This makes a lot of sense to me. I am more than determined to make smarter financial decisions if not for any reason, for my kids. but its not easy, just seems like there are expenses waiting to compete with plans to save. I work from 9 to 6, there is barely any time to even look for something else to add and expand my streams of income. pheeeeewwwww. thank you again Arese.

  2. Berry Dakara

    November 4, 2014 at 11:36 am

    Thanks so much for your insight and the articles you’ve shared. May I make a request for one extra article: Part 4: For the Single Mother/Widow/Breadwinner Wife…?

    Thanks 🙂

    • nikky

      November 4, 2014 at 2:41 pm

      i was just going to say this as these rules don’t completely apply if you are a single working mother with no other source of income apart from your earnings… please i humbly request for an article targeted at this group so that we can also be bosses or build empires as you obviously have great wealth management advice… Thanks

    • anonymous

      November 4, 2014 at 3:00 pm

      i concur

  3. kenny

    November 4, 2014 at 11:55 am

    l love every bit of this piece….. am a working lady, i believe in investment and am working towards it…. i try as much as possible to account for every penny i spend. Thanks Arese, and your career profile is super lovely

  4. Tope Banks

    November 4, 2014 at 12:13 pm

    Thank you so much for this write up. It is important to be financially free and independent as a woman regardless of how much money a man may have. There are too many stories of women who become a shadow of their former selves when hubby dies just because they didn’t take responsibility with regard to their personal finance.

    Tope recently wrote Side Hustle:How to make money online series

  5. yommy-yum

    November 4, 2014 at 12:55 pm

    Thank you sooo much Arese.

  6. Sylvia

    November 4, 2014 at 12:58 pm

    Wow! what can i say… I’m so overwhelmed with this article. Thanks so much Arese for this detailed piece. God bless you with more wisdom.

  7. Kuka Zeba Sadia

    November 4, 2014 at 1:20 pm

    This nice idea, thanks but what about we the young ladies too?

  8. mobola

    November 4, 2014 at 2:51 pm

    Arese lovely article but please i have a peculiar case,i do not waste money,i can account for evry kobo i earn but i have been married for close to 10yrs and still ttc,so every kobo i earn goes into ivf treatment,so am not even saving at all,i have business ideas but i do not feel i should grow a business when i still need to sort this bit out,is there a way i can successfully save even when am doing fertility treatments of close to 1.2mm

    • Fati

      November 4, 2014 at 9:49 pm

      I am ttc as well but not ivf-Ing though. I think now that the kids are not yet here ( and insha-Allah they will come) is the time to begin your side business and implement those ideas you have cuz once the kids come it becomes harder and another reason why you can’t yet start your business. There are so many things I do I now and I am achieving now that I know would have taken much longer to achieve were there kids in the equation so I just spend my time now achieving and prayerfully the kids will come and when they do we’d be ready to take care of that responsibility. Also they say it’s easier to conceive when you are not stressing about it so maybe embarking on your business idea will take your mind of it and relieve the pressure and boom! When u r not “watching” it will happen 🙂

  9. ada

    November 4, 2014 at 3:03 pm

    Arese! well done for this article. May God bless you. its high time women started doing things for themselves rather than waiting or day dreaming that their partners can do all for them.

  10. Emma

    November 4, 2014 at 3:05 pm

    Thanks for this [email protected] Arese.

  11. N. M.

    November 4, 2014 at 3:28 pm

    Thank you so much Arese, this has opened my eyes to a lot of things. God bless


    November 4, 2014 at 4:30 pm

    Arese, i so love your write-ups; But is it possible to write an article once a week? I always wait for them so eagerly.

  13. Michelle

    November 5, 2014 at 2:53 pm

    Hi Arese, you are so brilliant! Thank you so much for this write up. I follow you on twitter and instagram and I have learnt so much from you. Thank you BN for these amazing articles you keep posting, You guys are simply the best.

  14. Inem

    November 13, 2014 at 1:46 pm

    Hi Arese, I absolutely love this article. I am married with three kids,have a regular job 8- 6pm, practice private consulting after work hours or over the weekend (you’ll be surprised how potential clients often adjust their timing to fit yours especially if your good at what your selling!) AND own a boutique!! Its a GREAT plan B for the kids but to be honest I don’t know how mutual funds or treasury bills work

    • oreke

      November 30, 2014 at 8:15 pm

      Thank you Arese for these insightful series. I think the rule apply to both sex. I don’t know about treasury bill and mutual fund but because I work in an insurance company, I realized how important saving and planning is and how it help safe guard the future. Most Nigerians have not key into this and most are also skeptical but until you realize you can make as much as 78% on your investment with an insurance policy, and how easy it make life easy for your dependants in case life happens, then you will know it is important to have one.

  15. lovin moi

    February 17, 2015 at 5:47 am

    Just what I needed! May God bless u for this,after deciding how i’ll spend my hard earned money this yr,all of a sudden I feel like shopping and buying,neva knew the urge will be this strong but now i’m DETERMINED to STICK to my plans cos it’s not about what I make but about how I use it. Arese, it’ll be nice if you talk about d mutual funds and trust,dont know anything about it!

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