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

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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

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