In part 2 of this interview Mrs. Nimi Akinkugbe talks about her career in personal finance and trying to balance life as a mother and career woman… click here to read Part 1.
You have managed to make finance easy to understand and relatable. Can you tell us why mastering your finances is so important for everyone especially where there is so much focus on material acquisitions.
Often people tell me that it is impossible to save from the little that they earn or that they just skip the finance pages because it is “too complicated.” Money matters impact all aspects of our daily lives and my goal is to use my articles and speaking opportunities, television, radio and our games including the Monopoly Board Game, to de-mystify the subject of personal finance. We seek to break down the concepts in a simple, practical and engaging way, particularly for those without any financial inclination.
We live in a very ostentatious society; indeed from my experience and observation, we must be amongst the most materialistic communities in the world! This puts an enormous amount of pressure on us all to want to “keep up with the Jones.’ This has become even more pronounced with social media, where you can see what everyone else is doing, as well as what everyone “appears” to doing. I often say, “The Jones’ are broke” and if you continue trying to keep up with them you will be broke.
There is nothing wrong with acquiring wonderful possessions if you have built up assets that make it possible for you to afford to buy the things that you love. I love a beautiful handbag and it is nice when income from your working assets can purchase a wonderful bag for you. What is dangerous is when you are borrowing or spending all that you have to fund assets that cannot appreciate in value. Everything is simply not what it seems to be, so the critical thing is to have clear goals that you are working towards and stay focused on them. That way, you won’t be so easily derailed in trying to keep up with others.
I know for some people the pressure to “keep up with the Jones” has to do with the kind of friends they keep. What are your thoughts?
This is why it is so important to be conscious of the company that you keep and select your friends with wisdom. Who are they? What do you do together apart from having fun and enjoying great company? Do you build each other up? Do you encourage one another? I ask these questions to young women because it is so easy to be attracted by the empty glitz and glamour and wanting to belong. Personally, I have over the years built and nurtured relationships with some wonderful ladies. Some from my childhood, teens, work, and family; I think these female friendships are important and necessary for every woman. They literally can be your life jacket when things are rough and celebrate with you when things are going rather well. I cherish those friendships and never take them for granted. We encourage and build one another up.
Great advice. Now one of the mediums you have used to make finance relatable is your customized version of the Monopoly board game. Tell us a little about how that started.
Regarding Monopoly, there is no personal finance instruction in the Nigerian school curriculum and without any knowledge of the basic principles of personal finance, young people are forced to meander through their financial lives, a process which can become pronounced in adulthood. It was during my banking career, observing how people behave with money, that I first embraced the idea of creating an all-encompassing personal finance board game that would support my personal finance interventions. I truly believe that if individuals are financially responsible, this leads to economic empowerment of the family, the community, and ultimately the country.
By a stroke of good fortune in my son’s final year at Harrow School, the school launched its own version of Monopoly. I was so excited as I had before then only known about the London Edition. Harrow School Enterprises Ltd directed me to “Winning Moves” who are licensed by Hasbro, owners of the Monopoly brand, to produce customized editions of Monopoly in Europe, The Middle East and Africa. After a long period of negotiation and a strong Business Plan, Bestman Games Limited was granted exclusive distribution rights to create customized African editions of the Monopoly game. It has been a very exciting journey thus far with the game being widely embraced.
This year, with the support of Lagos State Ministry of Education we have embarked upon an exciting initiative setting up Personal Finance Clubs in schools in the state. It is amazing seeing how much the children are learning and putting into practice. The Lagos Edition is one of the tools used to engage them as they learn basic concepts of personal financial management through play.
Apart from your version of Monopoly does Bestman Games have other products?
Yes we do, one of such is the Bible Game our own proprietary game in both board and digital form, as it is a great way to share The Word through play and engage children in an exciting way. Growing up in a Christian home made it easy for us to embrace our belief and reliance on God. My Christian faith is at my core; I cannot imagine a life without it.
How grateful I am to my parents to have had that solid foundation which I rely upon every day. They were very deliberate about making family prayers a fundamental part of our daily lives. As a child I remember finding it rather tedious as they were long and drawn out; and we had family prayers at 7am and 7pm like clockwork!
It is more difficult for parents nowadays to raise children in the knowledge of God with all the societal influences and pulls. Indeed that is why we decided to create The Bible Game, an engaging way to teach the Bible.
Now a lot of people spend more than they earn and often find themselves broke and frustrated. What habits can one employ to help them be more responsible financially, invest wisely and save more?
There is no magic formula for financial security. A lot of this has to do with having dreams and goals that you wish to achieve, then developing the discipline to do what it takes to make your dreams come true. It is often said that if you can’t save when you earn N50,000 a month, you won’t save when you earn N500,000 or N5,000,000 a month! Building wealth that will last comes from focus, discipline, sacrifice, consistency and over the long term. One of the most accessible investments are the Mutual Funds. With a low barrier to entry at just N5,000, one can get started.
I do realise that things are really tough and sometimes your income is just not enough; that is where you have to be creative about how you can earn additional income. This is where your skills and talents come into play. What are you good at? What can you do outside your day job? I truly believe that we all have some talent, some expertise that people will pay for. The onus is on us parents to uncover those talents in our children from as early as possible; they begin to manifest as early as 3 to 4 years old.
Over the years I have observed that for many women there is a disconnect with their money. Many sit on the sidelines out of fear or a lack of understanding about money matters. Even accomplished successful business and career women are often not meeting expectations regarding their finances. I give this area much focus with periodic seminars; there is one coming up on the 25th of this month (Register here ).
It is so rewarding when I receive messages from people who tell me that their financial life has been transformed and they are on the road to financial security since they started following our platforms.
Awesome; now lets leave finance and talk about you, how do you maintain your core and feed your spirit, soul and body?
I’ve found that my hobbies and pastimes are very useful in managing what can be extremely stressful existence. It is important to have at your disposal some activity that you love and that relaxes you yet energizes you at the same time. Two such areas in my world are music and gardening; for me they are therapeutic, wonderful forms of relaxation; pastimes that give me an enormous amount of pleasure and peace.
My love for gardening came from my mother. She was a talented gardener and all her gardens were breathtaking. How I wish she could see my garden now. I work hard and absorb much stress. The beauty of gardening is that if you invest some loving care, time, patience, and resources, very much like your money matters, your garden will repay you by growing more and more beautiful each day.
I try to play the piano, which I started learning at the age of 4, for at least 30 minutes every day when I am home, and listen to various genres of music all the time including some wonderful music composed by my children. I invest time and resources in my passions for music, gardening, boating and travel. These pastimes give me so much pleasure but they don’t just happen; it takes planning, effort and money to be able to achieve most of things that you wish to accomplish. They also require the investment of time.
Of course we all know the health rules; sensible diet exercise, enough sleep, prayer but it’s easier said than done. For much of 2018, I felt rather stressed and not at my best; it is important to listen to your body’s limits and to also realise that as you get older one must be much more conscious of what works for you and what doesn’t in terms of your lifestyle and what you eat.
In terms of exercise, I have an excellent trainer, Toks Ademola, who visits 3 times a week if I don’t manage to create an excuse to cancel!
I have always been someone that doesn’t really know how to just be; I’m always doing something. I am now making a conscious effort build in rest and relaxation. Just being in my home is one of my special pleasures. I am deliberately building on important facets of life; getting enough sleep; making up on lost sleep at the weekend, sailing on Lagos Lagoon, quiet time reflecting and tending to my orchid garden.
How do you cope with extremely busy social life that Lagos is known for?
I am not very comfortable in large crowds and so as far as possible I try to avoid the huge events that have become a way of life here. Even if I attend, I tend to escape very quickly, but only after I have had two scoops of party jollof rice; I have developed quite a penchant for it!
I do believe our social commitments are out of control and I am now trying to be more selective about what really matters and if my spending 5 hours at a social event with 1,500 other people in attendance will actually add any value at all. I have learnt to value my time and existence and learning to say “no” politely is one of the best ways to do this. Evaluate the numerous invitations and engagements, and the value you will be adding as well as the value it will add to you. There are more effective ways to support a friend or family member.
Now, one area many women struggle with is balancing career and family. How did you balance early motherhood with your career?
With some difficulty, I must admit. Motherhood is my most fulfilling role but comes with its own unique challenges. My eldest son suffered from asthma as a child and I remember anxious overnight stays sitting up all night with a nebulizer at First Consultants Medical Center. Then in the morning I donned my business suit to go to work. My husband was very hands-on and we shared their activities; that took much of the pressure off me.
Our children’s Grandparents have been amazing and continue to play an important role in their lives. Our children have always loved their company and benefitted so much from their wise counsel. I am also very fortunate with my siblings who have also provided tremendous support with our children.
I think support systems are critical for women as we juggle the many balls of life. Apart from family, i always tried to ensure that we had responsible, intelligent, educated adult staff to help us mind them. I am often alarmed when I see women hire children to manage their children. It is dangerous for both their own children as well as the hired help that should be in school.
I have never ever achieved the proverbial “work-life” balance; as we juggle so many balls every single day, and I dropped my fair share and that is ok as long as each area gets enough attention. I have embraced the idea of juggling and dropping some balls, picking them up and moving on especially after I became a more experienced mother. Sometimes I feel women strive so hard to be “Super Woman” and miss out on so much in terms of fulfillment and enjoying one’s own life. I learnt after years of micromanaging, over-planning and over protecting, that my children thrived when I stopped trying to impose my own dreams on them, but rather encouraged them to discover their own essence. At times it felt like exams were literally life or death matters; yes education matters but the excessive pressure that we put on children is quite damaging and not appropriate for all children.
I’ve also learnt that if you excessively molly coddle your children you do them a huge disservice and make it very difficult for them to be self-reliant. As you create wealth, be careful about over-indulging your children; you may make it impossible for them to succeed. Our children are adults now and we are very pleased as we observe the way they continue to evolve.
A lot of young women apart from being unsure of what path to take in life have issues with self-esteem. What advice do you have for them?
You will be surprised to find that from time to time all of us women, even the most seemingly self-assured go through periods of self-doubt and low self-confidence or self-esteem. Social media makes it much worse.
I think family and girlfriends have a huge role to play in giving the support one needs. Nowadays families are just not spending time checking in on one another; everyone is on their devices. That face-to-face interaction is where you can sense how one is feeling and try to do something about it.
Your friendships matter hugely. Like I mentioned earlier I have been very deliberate about the choices that I make when it comes to friendships. I try to surround myself with people that encourage and support me and I am able to do the same. This is huge help when I am feeling vulnerable or unsure of myself.
I try to avoid relationships that are very one-sided or that constantly drain you. Ask yourself; how do you feel after spending time with a friend? Better or worse? If you constantly feel worse, it may be important to rethink spending so much time with the person.
Even as you are conscious of how you are feeling, it is important for us all to be more conscious of depression and loneliness that so many people are going through so let’s all be sensitive, even as you reconsider relationships. I am so grateful and proud of my friend Betty Irabor for the powerful work she is doing in this area since she launched her book “Dust to Dew.”
As regards trying to determine the path for you, some people are very fortunate and very early on, they know what they should do with their lives. Most people don’t and that’s ok. The key thing is to try to identify what you love to do and give it some attention. You must be practical though; does it pay the bills? You don’t have to like what you do all the time. Even in a job that you don’t enjoy, with the boss that you don’t like, there are huge lessons to learn from the experience that will equip you for the job of your dreams. No experience is wasted.
Very true, on a final note as we enter the new-year and a new decade, do you have a few parting words?
There is that old cliché, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail.” A new year is an exciting time for reflection and renewal. Reviewing how you’ve done in the past year but more important is what you need to do in the new-year to be better. We often are tempted to write down far too many goals and New Year Resolutions. Just pick a few and give them some focus; and if you don’t achieve them all that’s ok too!
Don’t forget money matters! Your financial goals should be at the core of your goals, as most major goals that you wish to accomplish come with financial consequences. It starts from building your financial security one step at a time so that when you no longer wish to work, or can no longer work, your money will work for you.
Thanks Aunty Nimi it’s been great learning from you.