My Money Mistake is a weekly PiggyVest series that explores the worst money mistakes real Nigerians have made, and the lessons they learnt from it.
For this week’s episode of My Money Mistake, we spoke to a 36-year-old taxi driver who stole money from a joint bank account he shares with his wife. He talks about losing the money to a scam, and the toll it took on his marriage.
Could you tell me your biggest money mistake?
In 2017, I took all the money from our joint account without telling my wife. Before we got married in 2015, my wife was reluctant because I didn’t have a steady job, and she didn’t want to be with an unemployed person.
I assured her that I would work hard to take care of her. I thought this investment was a step in the right direction.
Why didn’t you just tell her?
I knew she wouldn’t agree and might even try to stop me. Also, I wanted to surprise her with the returns from the investment.
How did she not know you took the money from the joint account?
I was the one who suggested we open a joint account. She didn’t have a phone number, so I only registered my number. That means I was the only one getting the credit and debit alert.
At first, I would print out our transactions, but after a while, I stopped. She didn’t mind because she was the one with the ATM card. When she got a phone, we didn’t update her number on the account.
What was the agreement for the joint account?
We agreed to put all our earnings there and then plan the month around our budget. I would get the card, withdraw money and give it to her for business and other household expenses.
If you were unemployed, how were you able to contribute to the joint account?
To be honest, my wife was the one putting in more money. Her food business was raking in about ₦35,000 to ₦40,000 every day. She sold food at the mechanic junction during the day, and at night, she would sell akara and fries (yam, plantain and potatoes) at the same junction.
I worked contract jobs as a builder, painter, carpenter and plumber. The jobs weren’t frequent, so in a week, I might make only ₦40,000.
So, your wife was basically the breadwinner?
Yes, but I managed the money. She recognised me as the head of the family and left the running of the finances to me. I took out the capital from the sales and made weekly deposits to the bank.
When did things go bad?
I had a taxi driver friend, Sunny*, who tried to make me join Taxify (Bolt). He was a driver with them and often spoke about making ₦20,000 a day with a few trips. I didn’t have a car, especially not one that met the specification of Taxify.
So he shared a page on Facebook selling second-hand vehicles for cheap. He told me his cousin ran the business, so it was legit. To be fair, the prices were great for the cars on display. I saw a silver Toyota Camry 2008 1.8 LE going for ₦780,000.
Sunny urged me to grab the offer, that he would have taken it himself if he had the money.
What did you do?
At the time, my wife and I had managed to save ₦738,520 in our joint account. I reasoned that if I got the car, I could make returns in a few months. That was all the motivation I needed. I messaged the page, spoke to their rep, and paid for the car.
Wait. Just like that? Did you inspect the vehicle?
I didn’t. They made it look like there were other willing buyers, and they were only considering me because of Sunny. So, if I didn’t pay soon, I would lose the car. Sunny even lent me the ₦50,000 I needed to complete the cash.
Why didn’t you make a down payment first?
My wife wanted to expand her business, and that was going to cost ₦120,000. If she took that money, I wouldn’t have the complete money to buy the car.
Wow. So you took her savings without her permission?
My money was there too, but yes.
What happened next?
They stopped picking my calls after a week of assuring me that they were sending the car down. I called Sunny, and he asked me to relax, that I wasn’t their first customer. After two weeks, they blocked me. Sunny stopped picking my calls. When I went to look for him, they said he sold his car and travelled.
This is terrible. How did your wife find out?
I had to pretend for those weeks I was waiting. There was no money in our account at all, and she needed money for her business expansion. I started borrowing — without her knowledge — to fund her business. When that wasn’t enough, I started stalling withdrawal visits. I even started hoarding the ATM card, so she didnoesn’t find out.
One day, she got tired and went to check the ATM herself. She isn’t literate so she got someone to help her check. When the person told her there was no money, she called them a liar. When she confirmed there was no money, my wife almost ran mad.
I came home, and she had packed her things and left with our daughter to her village. For two months, I didn’t see my wife.
How did this matter resolve itself?
Her family begged her to forgive me. I had to travel to her village several times to beg her. She later came home but insisted on having a personal account. For the longest time, things were not okay in the house. She would leave and not tell me where she was going. I had no say in her business, I couldn’t even talk because of shame.
But thankfully, the spirit of God arrested her after our pastor spoke to her. Her business started picking up again, and I got a job as a plaza security guard. That was before I started working as a taxi driver.
Were there any red flags when all of this was happening?
No. I trusted Sunny. The fact that he lent me the extra cash I needed made me trust him even more.
What’s your biggest regret from all of this?
Using my wife’s money like that. She’s a good woman, and I should have told her. Maybe she would have caught on to the scam.
What’s your biggest lesson from this?
Don’t buy anything on Facebook without checking them properly. Also, let your spouse know what you are up to with money. Their advice might save you from making a mistake.