On money and happiness

Happy Valentine’s Day! I’ve been writing this entry for ages; how nice that it’s finally ready to go on February 14!

If you’re a Nigerian who doesn’t come from a moneyed background, and if you’re having difficulty finding a decent job that allows you to buy more than essentials, the connection between having money and finding love may come up. One of my Nigeria-based male friends told me how some women don’t consider him dateable him because he doesn’t have a car or an extra income for anything other than the occasional meal at a restaurant or more regular casual outings at a local eatery. His father passed away almost two years ago and he’s the oldest of five children. He’s hustling, you see, and the title of Girlfriend of a Hustler isn’t one that women are clamouring for according to him. But he’s hardworking, educated and ready to marry…what’s a guy like him to do? (The answer for the past years has been to Stay Single and Keep Hustling).

My example when it comes to the importance of money in a relationship is my parents’ story: They met in Nigeria, both of them from very humble backgrounds (both grandfathers were farmers, I’m not sure if my paternal grandmother had a career outside of the home and I’ve said a few things about my maternal grandmother before, mother of eight children, former buka owner). Both of my parents had their secondary school diplomas, and my dad had worked for six years after graduating because he could not afford to go to university.

After my dad told my mom he would marry her (and she eventually realized he was a good man), they had a registry wedding and my dad’s dream getting further education came true: he earned a full scholarship to study in the USA, and my mom joined him soon after. He worked as a dishwasher at the cafeteria of the school he was attending, and my mom worked in the kitchen at the same school while she earned her college diploma. I’ve heard my parents reminisce about those days and their hectic schedules of work and school and not seeing each other and the pittance they earned but you can tell those early years cemented their relationship in some ways.

They had two cute babies (first me, then my sister), were able to go back to Nigeria and have a more fun wedding celebration, and approximately 10 years later my family moved to Canada so my dad could further his education, again with a full scholarship (proud daughter alert). My dad finished his PhD and was looking for work, the father of four children ranging in age from a year old to 10 years of age. Nothing was coming up so he worked in a warehouse moving heavy stock around for an hourly wage and he sold vacuums door to door for some months while my mom was a stay at home mom who also worked in the fast food industry. My dad was able to get a job that was in his field, but it was a six-month contract that kept getting renewed; he didn’t have job security for many years but God was faithful: we never went hungry, we never wore ragged clothing and we always had a (rented) roof over our heads. My mom always found time to braid my sister’s and my hair and to cut my brothers’ hair, so we always looked good. We had one car for six people, and for the first 10 years that we lived in Canada, it was a used car. I remember one car in particular had such a bad looking body due to rusting that I refused to be picked up from school lest my friends see the car. When they were able to buy a new car they drove it for 13 or 14 years until it died and they replaced it with a slightly used one.

We knew not to ask our parents for brand-name items if there was a lower-priced, high-quality, non-brand-name version because my dad would tell us very frankly that we could not afford it. Because we were older, my sister and I were more aware of the family’s tight budget. Nine years after my dad graduated, my parents bought a 22-year-old house which they are now halfway through paying for.

My parents did not pay for my university education, nor that of my sister: we worked during the summer months to earn the bulk of the tuition, and worked part time during the school year to earn the remainder. When we needed help, they’d help us, but we knew it wasn’t money that they had lying around because like many Nigerians they are supporting extended family members, so we always paid them back (eventually).

My parents’ relationship and my family history taught me that not having much money is not a legitimate reason to put off choosing a life partner (or having children as the case may be). I’m sure every man in love wants to be able to buy his wife a lovely ring to propose with, and wants to buy a beautiful house in which to live, but sometimes the budget demands that he buy a plain ring (or none at all) and live in a rented apartment (or single room) for some years before upgrading. My siblings and I did not suffer being raised the way we were. There are some people I know who think if they can’t afford to buy their kids new toys regularly or if their kid can’t wear designer clothing, then they cannot afford to have children. If they can’t afford a tropical vacation every year (or two) or if they can’t buy a house, or if they can’t drive a Nissan, Lexus, BMW, or Benz, they can’t move to the next stage of their relationship.

My own family situation has taught me is it’s having people to play with (as kids) or relate to (as adults) that makes one’s life rich. Despite my parents’ humble home and life, they have so many people who love being invited to their place to eat homemade Nigerian fare. The friends don’t care that my parents have 12-year old furniture and a second hand bookcase in their house. They don’t care that the floors of their house creak sometimes when you walk in certain areas, that the carpet isn’t as fresh as it used to be, or that the place could use a fresh coat of paint.

Also, you can find joy and make good memories with simple things. My parents always encouraged a love of reading in us and we would take family trips to the library when we were younger. Because of that my sister and I know our local library inside out, and there are librarians there who remember us from over 15 years ago. We may have never flown out of the country except to visit family in Nigeria, but we took many road trips and even had fun sharing hotel rooms together. This is not the picture of a family who suffered but a family who had (and has been blessed with) enough.

I’m still a big fan of the library!

Both here and in Nigeria, it’s easy to get caught up in the whole “keeping up with the Joneses” mentality that is so common in this world. In our Yoruba association, for example, there are members with vanity license plates (their last name usually) who change their (luxury) cars regularly. Others make sure you know where they work (and they want you to make the connection to the salary they’re pulling in). Some will correct you if you address them as Mr. or Mrs. when they have a PhD, because for them this is part of the prestige (while my dad on the other hand never calls himself Dr. So-and-so). On blogs you’ll see people dropping names of car brands and designers in a way that implies they hold a lot of stock in the brand (though I have to admit I’ve always been sensitive to name dropping. Maybe some are sharing brand names just to provide more information). A lot of people are in a lot of debt, all for the sake of appearances.

But I’ve digressed a bit. My main point is what my friend from the beginning of this post told me after sharing his woes about dating: just because he doesn’t have money now, doesn’t mean he won’t have money in the future, and for him, money is a means to an end and in his case his “end” is having enough to care for his family and impact others. No grand plans for having a stable of more cars than he can drive or wearing designer clothing just for the sake of wearing a designer. People and the relationships you create with them are what really enrich your life; if all you have is your money, chances are you won’t be happy for long. It’s an attitude that suits me just fine…in fact I should give him a call and see if he’s still single, or if a smart woman has snapped him up!

Do any of your parents or relatives have a similar story? Do you have a story of marrying someone that others may have looked down on due to their financial prospects?

36 thoughts on “On money and happiness

  1. very interesting. my senior sister (from another mother) married a guy, that had just the basic education and nothing much to his name. Today, he is the MD of one of the top four banks in nigeria. So i learned a long time ago, that prospects was the key thing to look out for

    P.S why do parents abroad not pay for their children's education???i'l check back for the answer

    • Your question is a good one. I imagine that different families have different reasons but in our family it was because my parents' combined salary simply did not leave enough to cover post secondary education for the kids once you pay all your monthly bills and taxes to the federal government. Thankfully the system is such that from the age of 14 you can be working and saving slowly toward the day you will need to pursue further education.

  2. You render me speechless!!! I think you have eloquently enunciated the issue and i see your heart written all over this. I admire your perspective, dear and I am a witness of how generous you are because you have put money in the right perspective.

    Tell you parents they've done a great, great job at raising you!!! Your personality is compelling…i love you to bits my friend!!! :)

    • Awww, Jabz! Thank you. I honestly thank my parents for the solid foundation they have given me…the best part is when I get a little bit…mercenary and start talking about (for example) my dream wedding ring, they are quick to remind me of the value of a huge diamond where there is no love and respect! hehehe

  3. Ohhh OK I am! Hi GNG!!! My parents had a cool life in Niaja when I was little but then we moved to the UK when my Mum needed specialised medical treatment! Chai, see wahala! My parents and I are the epitome of non-brand good life. In fact the way my Mum has raised me, I'm wary of designer names and think of all the other things that money can get.

    When it comes to romance and finace, I feel really sorry for men when I see the demands that are placed on them just to date someone. I just read a newspaper article where a couple took their 200 wedding guests to KFC and I thought, 'a Nigerian couple wouldn't do that!!'.

  4. …cotd.

    Don't get me wrong I like my creature comforts and money is what makes them possible, but I would rather start of with a man who has the ability and skill to work his way up, than a guy my age, who has money from God knows where? Do women stop to ask themselves questions like…."If I'm 28 and he is 28, and we are both on our first jobs and our parents are not multi millionaires, then where is this money I'm expecting coming from?"

    PS I truly enjoyed reading your parent's story.

    • I can definitely relate to how you were raised. You make a good point in your last sentence: when you're younger it's a bit ridiculous to expect your agemate to be so much better off than you financially when he's not dabbling in sketchy things.

      I hope your mom is ok now.

  5. GNG…truth be told, these days things are not easy. In the days of our parents, mothers may not need to work and family will survive, but now, every extra income is valuable.

    Now there is the part of marrying for money ie being vain and inconsiderate. Anyone marrying for money is basing their love/marriage on something that does fulfill or last. There is also the part of marrying a man with potentials – if my husband had proposed when we were in school, I would have said yes because I knew he had alot of potentials though I had not started seeing the money.

    That being said, your words really touched me "My own family situation has taught me is it’s having people to play with (as kids) or relate to (as adults) that makes one’s life rich…." cos your story is quite similar to mine.

    Happy Valentine's Day.

  6. So this was an awesome post, but I think you are confusing not having money with not having prospects.

    A Nigerian girl/woman will happily date a Nigerian man with no money BUT WITH THE PROSPECTS/POTENTIAL/ETC TO BE SUCCESSFUL IN THE REASONABLY NEAR FUTURE.

    A Nigerian woman will not date a Nigerian man with no money and who has no hope of ever moving up in life.

    There is a difference.

    I think it's great that your parents were able to get through everything they did but I think there is a HUGE difference between your parents' generation and my generation.

    There is nothing romantic about struggling for your children's school fees in my opinion. I do not want to do it because I have experienced it and the hell of constantly worrying about where school fees will come from is something I will avoid by all means possible for my children and I am sure there are many Nigerian women out there that will back me up on this.

    There is nothing shallow about wanting financial security in a partner. This does not mean Oya come and be rich so that I can relax and sit down from morning to night. It means that I want a partner that can at least meet me on an equal level financially and through our combined efforts we can reasonably afford to live a life of reasonable moderate comfort.

    There was a Nigerian guy I knew once. He was always complaining about how he could never get a girlfriend. Guess what? He dropped out of Uni and wanted to be a rapper. Every other word out of his mouth was Bitch this and Nigger that. He also had no other job. He used to spend most of his afternoons writing rap lyrics or loitering in front of his friends house and occasionally smoking weed with his friend or going on joyrides around Abuja.

    He didn't have money, but that's not why girls wouldn't date him.

    The real problem was that he didn't have prospects.

  7. I LOVE this. Its almost like the story of my life. My testimony is still aa work in progress. And thanks for sharing, owning up to your humble beginnings is a thing of great pride: )

  8. Oh, this is good. Many of my uncles in Naija are experiencing this. The one that got married last year really had a hard time convincing his wife-to-be's mother that he would be able to take care of her daughter, though he had a job. It took a long time before she finally agreed to the marriage. It's not easy for them at all cause they have to to all the bride price stuff and all the things that the family requires…

  9. In fact, this post is excellent. Just because someone doesn't have riches now does not mean he won't in the future. The key to a dateable man is someone who is hardworking and is taking steps to achieve a big dream…someone who isn't ready (and will never be ready) to throw in the towel. Beautiful post, GNG.

    I admire your parents' love story.

  10. Thanks for sharing your parents story, it was so apt for Vals day. I agree that having prospects is the most important thing, as well as having a partner who loves and supports you through thick and thin. After all, one can start with someone rich and they can lose everything in a day. What then? So yeah, money should not be a factor in choosing a partner, but rather someone with a good work ethic, who is ambitious.

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  12. Great story and one I can relate to. My parents had a similar story in that my dad worked in a factory and my mom stayed home to raise is kids. We never wanted for anything and if we were "poor" I had no idea. My parents are great at making things stretch and work. My mom sewed our clothing and it was great to always have custom clothing. We always had great food as my mom is a fantastic cook and we ate lots of excellent Grenadian food. I loved my childhood and do not think money is a precursor for a necessarily happy life with a partner. I personally have no desire and intention of getting married or having kids but this would never make me eliminate a partner.

  13. You know, every woman must have some part of her that hopes that if she hangs on long enough, she'll meet her Prince Charming who is handsome and rich lol. I suppose nobody really wants to suffer. But then, if you marry a guy for his money, how are you so sure that in 5 years he won't loose it? What then?

    I loved your post! There's just something really cool in hearing about a stranger's personal life- maybe it's the amebo in me? lol.

    Adiya

  14. Oh how timely this is! I love this post GNG, like every other, but I so feel you on this one..I could NOT agree more. Oh yes I have married someone others have looked down upon because he had nothing more than the clothes he wore when I met him. We are still struggling and it is hard to see his confidence taking a daily beating since it's nearly impossible for him to land a stable job. We are searching right now in fact. But I so believe in everything you say, and how important it is for you to say it, esp to Nigerians since appearances seem to be so ***** important. Its an endless competition in these parts among the nigerians on who has the most and most people lie about it (or are in deep debt) anyway! This is so wrong and surely should be debated more. Sorry, I'd like to write more of my opinions but I have no time at all today..Didn't really have tme to even read but I kept my appointment waiting to do so, lol. All the best to you GNG, and Yes, Do call the guy :-p ( And belated happy valentines day)

  15. There were a lot of home truths in your post! I think money is important in a marriage as finances can be a source of strain on the relationship. But like other commentors mentioned, the prospects of the man is important. A man may have money because have no prospects. I'd rather go for a guy with good characters and ambition, that is what will make a marriage successful.
    ps i like this new commenting system

  16. Hi GNG.very interestung read.I really love your parents story.so touching.You know my story as well.I won't date anyone who is not comfortable as most naija guys turn out to be gold diggers.when dey don't have a dime dey keep confessing love but once they start getting comfortable it torns out dey are too good for you.my ex who didn't have a dime and I kept supporting turned his back on me once he had a few coins in his pocket and said he's not mentally ready for marriage.I always get angry whenever I think of all the money he borrowed from me without paying back and the ones I gave him as well.He's married now and works with a multinational.was it not prospects I saw when I stuck to him even when he had nothing so for me o dats my take I will never marry below me.I have learnt my lesson.

  17. Hi GNG. I'm Malaysian but had found your blog in my quest of gaining more understanding to my (then) Nigerian fiance (now husband). Great stuff you have here! I especially enjoyed your entries about your quest for love and nigerian culture!
    My husband is a nigerian abroad in his search of a career in professional football. To the general society here, he belongs to the category that's been looked down upon – African in Malaysia, in general, suffer a terrible reputation of being internet scammers, drug dealers and cassanova. He can't find a job here as the government is strict about issuing expatriate visa, especially when it comes to Nigerians. There are so many discriminations that many had resorted to scamming to make a living, and earning big. Not my husband. He is still working on finding a team to play and had never given up his daily training for anything at all. To make money without resorting to unlawful activities, he took up the work of a barber and has managed to gain a following of some loyal customers that'd sustain him thus far. We'd struggled a lot financially especially for the legality of his stay. We'd managed to register our marriage on 31st January 2011, 2 days after our daughter turned one. Our road is still long but I do appreciate that he'd stuck to making a honest living as difficult as it had been for him. We'd also savings for our girl's education and planned to save monthly in order to invest either in business or other forms. Of course he is not exempted from supporting family back home and I'd witness many a times, how the money he'd sent had been used not to his intention. He's been away from Naija since mid 2007 and had not managed to return as both our income are barely enough to cover the bases for now. However, your parents' story is wonderful and inspirational: gives me the hope that we would make it one day too and I and our girl would finally meet his family!

  18. Lovely story about your parents! I do not believe money is unnecessary, it does help, but it should not be the primary reason to hitch up. There are ladies who wrongly do that. But the guy you mentioned could have other things wrong and not just his money. Who is he looking for too? Rich girls, 'aristo' babes? There are LOTS of Naija girls who date and marry 'poor' guys everyday.

  19. Hi GNG.very interestung read.I really love your parents story.so touching.You know my story as well.I won’t date anyone who is not comfortable as most naija guys turn out to be gold diggers.when dey don’t have a dime dey keep confessing love but once they start getting comfortable it turns out dey are too good for you.my ex who didn’t have a dime and I kept supporting turned his back on me once he had a few coins in his pocket and said he’s not mentally ready for marriage.I always get angry whenever I think of all the money he borrowed from me without paying back and the ones I gave him as well.He’s married now and works with a multinational.was it not prospects I saw when I stuck to him even when he had nothing so for me o dats my take I will never marry below me.I have learnt my lesson.Don't get me wrong sha money is not really linked to happiness but still the guy should have something or else you may not know the real him as certain xters are hidden that you may not see and they will fully manifested later on when he is comfortable though not in all cases.That's my own opinion anyway

  20. Great entry. Really enjoyed it. Please keep writing regularly!

    I have a similar story myself. However I acknowledge (and I wish you had) that in countries like america and canada it is much easier to make ends meet even when you don't have much money than it is in nigeria. Nigerian incomes pale in compairson with what the average dishwasher in new york gets. I know lawyerts who earn the equivalent of 200 dollars a month in lagos! Yet the price of goods in naija don't match the incomes. Also times have changed since the days our parents got married. Education was a bit better and cheap in those days. Skools weren't as strike ridden as they are now. Also, living in america I have access to free libraries. Scholarships. Student loans. Welfare. Etc. Things that don't exist much in naija. So can u really blame people who don't want to marry poor? I just got back from naija after a year of living there and while I was so grateful for the experience I had in america (with my part time jobs as a kid and my scholarships to college) I realized that I couldn't compare apples to oranges. Nigeria is only know starting to have the multiple fast food chains that provide jobs for people but the pay is abominably dismal. Plus the culture of putting ur teenager to work hasn't caught on yet. There's a long way to go. But let's not think the 'struggle' in north america is the same as it is in developing countries in this age

  21. Hi GNG.very interestung read.I really love your parents story.so touching.You know my story as well.I won’t date anyone who is not comfortable as most naija guys turn out to be gold diggers.when dey don’t have a dime dey keep confessing love but once they start getting comfortable it turns out dey are too good for you.my ex who didn’t have a dime and I kept supporting turned his back on me once he had a few coins in his pocket and said he’s not mentally ready for marriage.I always get angry whenever I think of all the money he borrowed from me without paying back and the ones I gave him as well.He’s married now and works with a multinational.was it not prospects I saw when I stuck to him even when he had nothing so for me o dats my take I will never marry below me.I have learnt my lesson.Don’t get me wrong sha money is not really linked to happiness but still the guy should have something or else you may not know the real him as certain xters are hidden that you may not see and they will fully manifested later on when he is comfortable though not in all cases.That’s my own opinion anyway

  22. Hi GNG.very interestung read.I really love your parents story.so touching.You know my story as well.I won’t date anyone who is not comfortable as most naija guys turn out to be gold diggers.when dey don’t have a dime dey keep confessing love but once they start getting comfortable it turns out dey are too good for you.my ex who didn’t have a dime and I kept supporting turned his back on me once he had a few coins in his pocket and said he’s not mentally ready for marriage.I always get angry whenever I think of all the money he borrowed from me without paying back and the ones I gave him as well.He’s married now and works with a multinational.was it not prospects I saw when I stuck to him even when he had nothing so for me o dats my take I will never marry below me.I have learnt my lesson.Don’t get me wrong sha money is not really linked to happiness but still the guy should have something or else you may not know the real him as certain xters are hidden that you may not see and they will fully manifested later on when he is comfortable though not in all cases.That’s my own opinion anyway.

  23. I have a very similar upbringing and thru the rough years God has provided for us…we never went hungry and we were well-kept…so I couldn't agree more…True LOVE transcends material things and money!

  24. I think this was a very good post. However, I think that it is a guy that is lacking in prospects that most Nigerian girls don't want to touch with a 10 feet pole.

    Also, I think that people should always be truthful to themselves. If you love the pants off a broke brother but are inclined towards material things then that relationship is doomed from the start. Did you ever watch Mansfield park? The heroine's mother told her tearfully in their sitting room cum living room which was overrun by rodents and snotty children "…Remember, I married for love". Poor mum was desperately unhappy about her situation and did not want her daughter to follow her footsteps.

    That said, I have no absolutely no problem with your post. I just wanted to (humbly) introduce some balance.

  25. WOW! Your parents are wonderful.
    This money vs love ish is an issue that has always been there.
    some marry for money some for love…each to his/her own.
    But when you marry for money…please ensure you buy the best beddings and duvet money can buy…'cos that may be what will keep you warm most of the time…the rich also cry!
    Love in my opinion is good and should be the foundation for a great relationship…then I find myself asking…is love alone enough for marriage?Love is a beautiful thing…money helps express it better lol(don't know where I heard it from) but the absence of money is not the end of the world…like I always tell people…your life is NOW…live it like its golden!
    Love rules over money any day…as matter of fact, they are not even on the same level…they shouldn't even be compared!
    Love is everything while money is only a means to an end! it is what it is.

  26. Thanks for sharing GNG. Its always good to knw your childhood wasnt so different afterall.

    I wouldn't say just marry a man with potential, but one who has a purpose too. Some men have potential – are smart, have the right degree, etc etc but are just plain lazy or want to take the easy way out. May they not see me.
    And of course like No Limit said – Love. Love makes the not-so-good times bearable.

  27. Great post GNG. Money isn't everything, but women have to shine their eyes to ensure they don't end up with feckless work-shy men. A man that is hard-working would eventually make it in life, sooner rather than later. I love your parents' story, sad thing is that the younger generation are not willing to endure, they want everything, and they want it now. Love is essential, money (or the prospect of it) has its own part too. Yes o, call that your friend :)

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