Dear Naija Professional, You’ll Be Fine Regardless

Modupe Ogunyemi
5 min readMay 7, 2020

I’ve been increasingly concerned about my people in corporate Nigeria as they navigate these COVID-19 times. True, the effect is reverberating globally but Naija dey fear person because there is practically no safety net, no government welfare to fall back on.

The startup scene is really in the eye of the storm at the moment. Even though some startups still raised millions of dollars recently, the ride hailing companies are battling both the fallout of new government legislation and the curfew. Then there’s Andela’s latest news…and so many other ripples that didn’t even make the headlines.

I know a lot of people in the Lagos startup scene. So this is cutting quite close to home. Eyin temi, these are unprecedented times but I want to assure you that you will get through this. How do I know? Because I’ve been there, done that. If you’ve been working for more than a dozen years, chances are you’ve encountered many different scenarios.

This thing called life ehn, e no get manual o. We are all just trying to figure it out.

As you’re trying to figure out this period, I’d like to share some of the principles I’ve learnt and which have worked for me over the years.

1. Build your own safety net

Financial discipline is a life saver, period. As simple as this sounds, there are many people who either don’t know or simply don’t apply it. My Father used to say, if you can’t save on a small salary, you will never save on a big salary. It’s not how much you earn, it’s how much you keep. I have found this to be the pure, undiluted truth. You must have a portion of your salary that you close your eyes to, come rain come shine….just no touch am! People have told me ‘ehn, it’s easy for you to do because you don’t have bukata’. They forget I learnt this principle from someone who had 5 kids and plenty other people he was actively fending for. The thing about discipline is, you will either take the pain or find excuses. It’s your choice.

The first thing you should do when you get a job is to save up a minimum of 6 months worth of expense funds. In Naija, always assume anything can happen so save aggressively.

2. Keep your fixed costs low

As a rule, fixed costs such as your annual rent should not be more than 30% of your annual income. Anything above that, you’re living above your means. I would personally advocate for keeping your annual rent equivalent to your 1 month gross salary but I know that might not be possible for some salary brackets. If that new estate na where your eye dey but the rent is above 30% of your annual income, dude na to close your eye ni o. Don’t forget you still have other recurrent expenditure: you still have to fuel your gen, your car etc. You still have to feed yourself and you still have to save. I can’t overemphasize the importance of savings. It is the difference between losing your job and remaining afloat till you get another one OR losing your job and having to beg people for money immediately. Save bro, save!!!

3. Know the difference between availability and affordability

I like to explain this principle with an analogy. Let’s say you have N50M in your bank account. That is all the money you have, nothing else anywhere. You really want to buy that lovely black Range Rover. You’ve inspected it, osha pranpran, lol! The price is N45M.

Do you have the money for the car? Yes, you do. Can you afford the car? No, you certainly can’t! It will be foolish of you to empty your account on a depreciating asset when your village people are not dancing azonto on your destiny, lol. How much earnings are you going to make on the car? Is it a business investment? Guy, just negodu dia. If on the flip side, you had say N200M, you have a more comfortable float within which to make that purchase. I personally would not buy unless I had N500M but that’s just me, I’m a little extreme with my percentages, lol. But all in all, learn the difference between having the money for something and being able to afford that thing. Very important!

4. Avoid unplanned purchases

It’s very common in Nigerian offices to have people come sell wares. The sellers encourage you to buy on credit and pay at the end of the month. Sometimes it’s even your colleagues who are selling stuff on the side. It’s the Naija hustle and I love it. However, I don’t buy and I don’t sell. I avoid awin like a plague!! You see, the thing about buying on credit is that you may quickly lose sight of what you can afford and what you can’t because you’re not paying the money immediately. If you’re not disciplined, you may also be buying things that you don’t really need. So if my colleague is selling something that I want, I buy and pay immediately. If I not, I ask the person to bring it at a later date in which case, I have enough time to evaluate my purchase intent. My people, avoid gbese in all shapes and forms please.

5. Learn how to make money work for you

So, you improved your financial discipline and you have solid savings in the bank. Well done! The next thing is to learn how to invest and turn 1 naira into 10 naira. I am not talking about binomo, MMM or any of those magic money doubling schemes o. Remember how long and hard it took you to amass these savings? Remember how much you had to deny yourself? Ehen, no carry am go do s’ogun d’ogoji o! If it sounds too good to be true, it probably isn’t true. Learn about proper investment vehicles such as financial instruments, capital assets etc. Always do your research before you go into anything. And even as you invest, manage your exposure. Do not over-extend yourself by emptying all your cash into it. Always keep a cashfloat because God forbid emergency, if anything happens and your investments are illiquid in Nigeria, you’re so on your own. Remember, some of the best investments take time to bear dividends. Don’t go hungry while waiting and don’t lose patience and miss out on a good investment either. Everyone’s talking about Warren Buffet today but they forget he started investing over 70 years ago. Research, be patient and Godspeed!

In doing these things, you may of course be teased by friends and colleagues. I pray you have enough strength of character to stay the course and know that you’re not living your life to impress anybody. If things go funny, those same people encouraging you to jaiye ori e will be the first to mock you. So biko be wise and all the very best!!



Modupe Ogunyemi

I’m a cocktail of: digital strategy, media & marketing, product management (I’m actually PMP certified), filmmaking (yes, I have produced a Nollywood movie)