7 Money Lessons I Learned From My Mother
All that I am, or ever hope to be, I owe to my angel Mother- Abraham Lincoln.
I wasn’t born into wealth or privilege neither did I win the lottery of being born in the United States. I migrated from Nigeria to the United States in 2004.
For as long as I could remember before I migrated, it was always my mother and me – minus a few aunties and uncles who came to visit or stayed with us periodically in our makeshift two-bedroom rented apartment.
I call it a makeshift because it was really a one-bedroom we demarcated and turned into a two-room apartment.
“Ogechi”! My mother called out to me from her room in our two-bedroom apartment.
“Sit down”, she said as soon as I walked in.
“What do you think about buying a house or a car? She asked.
I pretended to think for all of two seconds.
You see, we didn’t live in a great neighborhood and I had to take the bus everywhere. Daily.
Nigeria is a hot country and we lived in Lagos; the most populated city. Chasing and catching the bus every day under the scorching sun was exhausting.
But more importantly, I wanted to be able to impress my friends with my mum’s (more like my) car. In my mind, we would finally join the ranks of car owners; to me, owning a car equaled wealth.
“Let’s buy a car”, I replied with the seriousness of someone who had weighed both options deeply.
“Really? A car? If the landlord evicts us from this house for no reason are we going to move into the car?”, my mother joked.
“We need more space and a place of our own where we’re not at the mercy of anyone”. Okay? She carried on.
Five and half months later, when I returned home from boarding school, my mother, a civil servant bought a 3 bedroom and 2 bath fixer-upper for N1,000,000 (a million naira), fixed it up a little more and whisked me away to a slightly better neighborhood.
It was the year 2000 and I was 14.
How HomeOwnership Worked in Nigeria- At The Time
Homeownership in Nigeria is very different from America. In America, getting a mortgage is the most popular method for the average person to become a homeowner.
At the time, Nigeria was primarily a cash-based society, and taking out a mortgage for a home was uncommon. This meant in order to buy a home (or any big-ticket item like a car), you’d have to save up for a while.
An alternative is a private creditor agreeing to an installment payment which usually ended up causing more headaches for both parties down the line. Goodluck enforcing a private contract in a third world country where people don’t have social security numbers.
Back then, most homeowners owned their homes outright because they paid cash.
7 Money Lessons I Learned From My Mother
My mother has since passed away in 2009 and I took some time today to reflect on my financial journey and all the money lessons I learned from her since it’s Mother’s Day today.
Most of these money lessons came from the one conversation above (and action that followed) which has influenced me greatly for the rest of my life.
1. Know The Difference Between Needs and Wants:
A need is something you have to have to survive while a want is a desire for something.
I wanted a car but we needed our own house so we wouldn’t be at the mercy of a landlord. My mother, the original OneSavvyDollar understood this difference and made the smart decision to invest in our need.
She rode the bus every day to work but had her own roof.
We joined the ranks of outright homeowners and looking back now, is a much better position to be in.
2. Prioritize Assets Over Liabilities:
To elaborate on point 1 above, a car depreciates over time while a home appreciates especially when we’re talking about Nigeria. Plots of land that sold for small sums decades ago are now selling at 5x more today. Building the actual home will cost a fortune too right now.
My mother paid N1,000,000 (a million naira) plus renovation costs for the property in 2000. That was 20 years ago.
If I decided to sell the same property today, I would have a profit. On the other hand, had she purchased a car in 2000, it would probably be non-existent by now.
While a new car is great in the moment, it loses 10% of its value once you drive it off the lot and drops significantly after a year.
It’s best to prioritize acquiring assets that pay for your liabilities.
3. Keep Your Children in The Loop
My mother shared details of the property with me during the process. I was only 14 at the time but she was sure to keep me in the loop. She showed me the paid in full receipts and paperwork which I still have till today.
In many households, parents don’t talk to their children about money for various reasons ranging from wanting to let them be kids, not knowing how to bring up the conversation or not knowing what’s age-appropriate.
Having periodic money conversations with your kids is crucial.
Let them know how much things cost especially when it’s a big-ticket item. Show them the bills once they become teenagers. Explain what it took for you to acquire any big-ticket item.
I intend to raise my children this way.
4. It’s OK to Start Small
As a financial educator, I always encourage my students and people in the OneSavvyDollar community to start small.
It’s okay to save and invest a little at a time. Most of us make the mistake of waiting to save and invest because we feel we don’t earn enough. By enough, I mean six figures or any other amount that makes you feel comfortable.
Looking back now, my mother wasn’t a high-income earner; I mean we didn’t even have a car but she made her money moves regardless by saving consistently and investing in a starter home.
Start small consistently.
5. Always Think Long Term:
My mother was determined to make a roof over our heads permanent; she was always thinking ahead.
It’s often difficult to think long term when it comes to building wealth. By nature, we are wired to focus on our immediate issues, and wealth-building doesn’t seem immediate to many of us.
It never appears important until it’s too late.
As humans, most of us would rather live in the moment because life is too short and YOLO (you only live once). It’s true, life is short. However, life can also be incredibly long and it’s equally important to make long term plans as well.
You can YOLO responsibly.
6. The Importance of Transferring Wealth to Your Children:
I’ve read horror stories of parents leaving a mountain of debt and bills or racking up credit in their children’s names only to be discovered down the line usually when death occurs.
No one came out of the woodwork when my mother passed away to demand monies owed.
My mother lived according to her income and transferred wealth to me. I intend to do the same for my children.
7. The Only Person to Impress is Yourself.
I wanted a nice car to impress my friends at the time without knowing their family’s financial situation. Did they borrow money privately from friends and family to drive that nice car? Did they own their own homes?
I will never know but wanting to impress my friends or anyone else should have been the least of my worries. It’s easy for us to think the grass is greener on the other side. Most times, it isn’t.
Trying to keep up with the Joneses will leave you broke. The goal is to be rich not look rich.
My mother’s act of buying a home was (and is) a big deal. A single mum, a civil servant with only a high school degree who was also responsible for her parents, 7 siblings and I bought a house in a major city (Lagos) after saving up her money for years.
I’ll admit I didn’t fully appreciate the impact of her actions at the time because I had to do without a lot of things I wanted at the time to accommodate buying the property.
I was also briefly upset that I still had to ride the bus in the scorching sun everywhere and wasn’t going to be able to show off to my friends.
I’m now a real estate investor after buying my first home at 21. When I connect the dots of my life, my mother planted the seed that led me to the path of wealth building, and to her, I’m eternally grateful.