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 32-year-old photographer who used the funds for expanding his business to settle a family dispute. He talks about what the decision cost him, and why he never puts anything above his personal growth.
Could you tell me about your money mistake?
I started photography in 2017 to support myself since I couldn’t find any government jobs that matched what I studied, Geography. After two years of saving at least 50% from every gig I did, I was able to raise ₦908,750.
That’s some aggressive saving. What was the plan for the money?
I had so many. I wanted to expand the business, set up a small home studio, buy LED lights, backdrops, modifiers, batteries and two lenses.
With just ₦900k?
Inflation has spoiled everything now. The set up would have cost me ₦30,000 with my carpenter; the lights I wanted with the stand were ₦200k; backdrops were ₦20,000 each, and I was getting four; and modifiers and batteries were significantly less.
The bulk of the money would have gone into getting lenses and employing an assistant.
So, what happened to these plans?
Family. Within the extended family, my father and his brother had a court case over a land dispute. They had purchased lands close to each other but my father started building first. A few months before the house was completed, my uncle accused my father of building on his share of land. That’s how the family feud started.
But how did you come in?
The case was looking unlikely to favour us, so we decided to settle out of court. That meant my father had to pay ₦1,180,000 to my uncle to compensate for the piece of land he built on.
It was either that or they demolished some parts of the building. I couldn’t allow that; my father spent most of his pension and life savings on that house. So I stepped in.
How much did you give away?
₦880,000. My dad and mum came begging, saying their labour would soon be in vain. They said they needed me to save the family from disgrace. I had some reservations, but this was my family.
When I sent that money, virtue left my body. I suddenly became cold. These were two years of my life gone. Even worse? It was over some dispute that didn’t concern me.
How did they source the rest of the money?
My mom brought ₦100,000, my siblings pitched in like ₦50,000, ₦20,000 and my dad was able to raise the rest from some debts he had around. Everybody did what they could.
But you carried the bulk of the work?
Yes, I did. It didn’t take long for me to regret that decision.
Three months after I sent the money, I got a gig that I wasn’t properly equipped for. Someone recommended me as a photographer for a wedding, and I oversold my capacity. The money was significantly huge to me back then for a single job. I took the job on short notice without a proper plan.
How much was the pay for the wedding?
It was ₦400,000. They gave me 70% of the money and told me I could get my ₦120,000 balance after the event. I hired some equipment, paid two external photographers to be my assistants and covered the cost of logistics to the venues. By the time I was done calculating, I was running at a loss. I still had to dip into recent earnings to cover for the wedding.
One of the photographers bailed, and that affected production. It was so bad I had to forfeit the 30% balance. Ended up paying for most things out of my savings and losing a client’s trust.
What do you wish you did differently?
I wish I contributed less. In a bid to come through for my family, I failed myself. If I had spent the money on my business, I would have been ready for the job. I might have been in a better position to help my family down the line.
How did your family even know to ask you for that much?
The case had been dragging for months, but the hurry started when I told my elder brother I had some money for my business. I suspect he told my folks, and that’s how they were able to make the money requests.
What was your biggest lesson from this?
I never put anything above personal development. I understand that some people are noble and can give up everything, but that isn’t me. I’m only one man, and there’s only so much I can do as a person. I can’t help anyone if I’m struggling. I’ve applied that motto when dealing with family, and it has worked for me.