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 59-year-old entrepreneur who’s millions of naira in debt. She talks about losing over ₦3 million to scammers while trying to make money to help her sick husband.
Could you tell me your biggest money mistake?
I’m a 59-year-old entrepreneur with a heart for risk, so you can imagine how many money mistakes I’ve made in my life. But there are three big ones that come to mind.
Let’s start with the first one.
In 2017, I joined a business forum that promised to teach me how to make money. It cost me ₦100,000 to sign up, and they offered tips about different kinds of money-making ventures, from stocks to bonds to cryptocurrency.
The man who led it seemed to really know what he was talking about. I heard he was a big deal abroad before he decided to move back to Nigeria and teach people how to make money like he had.
That doesn’t sound too bad.
It wasn’t, at first, until it was time to invest in cryptocurrency. They kept saying it was the future, and I believed them. I initially planned to invest in bitcoin because it was the most popular one, but they said bitcoin was unreliable.
They told us about a woman in America who was working on a new coin that would surpass bitcoin, and if we invested in that one instead, we’d be able to get in from the ground up and make a lot of money.
I don’t like where this is going.
I gathered ₦1.5 million and gave it to them to invest in the woman’s unreleased coin. My daughter recently helped me calculate how much I would have made if I had invested that money in bitcoin instead. I almost cried.
[In May of 2017, bitcoin was worth $2,000. Today, it’s worth over $55,000.]
Wow. What about the woman’s coin?
It was never released. She turned out to be a scammer, and the last I heard, she’s still on the run from the American police. I lost all my money, and that wasn’t the last mistake that forum caused me to make.
Before I realised the cryptocurrency investment was a scam, they introduced me to forex trading, too. So, while waiting for the coin to be released, I decided to try my hand at trading. I put in $1,000 to see what would come of it.
Some people in the forum were making money, those who had the time and patience to be trained properly, but I was struggling — I would make $1 here and $2 there, nothing more.
So what did you do?
The leader of the forum offered to trade for me, so I gave him access to my account. On the very first day, he lost about $500. I called him, and he said the trade was affected by some news that broke in America.
He said he could make the money back, so I let him try again.
Ah. Did he?
The next day, he lost the rest of it, and he gave the same excuse. He promised to pay me back the $1,000, but he hasn’t to this day. He has even stopped picking my calls. And I know how much I struggled to gather that money.
Wow. So, this was your second big money mistake? What was the third?
It was something called Swiss Golden; I learnt about it from a friend I made in the same forum. You had to bring in people, who in turn had to bring in people, all for the chance to buy and sell gold bars.
That sounds like a pyramid scheme.
I know that now, but I didn’t realise it at the time. It seemed legitimate, and I needed a way to make money. I invested about ₦400,000 and invited a few of my friends to join, but it crashed before I could make any profit. My friends lost their money, too. I felt very bad.
Why did you need money so badly?
I needed something to help with all the hospital bills that were coming in.
Hospital bills? You were sick?
No, my husband was. He still is. None of his siblings or friends ever offered to help him, and I never wanted a situation where we would need to pay for drugs or a test and couldn’t afford it.
These investments were my way of trying to make extra income. I didn’t know they were what would drag me into a worse mess than I could have ever imagined. I didn’t expect what I saw at all.
How much would you say you lost in total?
I lost well over ₦3 million.
Damn. How did these mistakes affect your finances?
It affected them a lot, but I’ve refused to let the losses break my spirit. I had just started a fish farm around that time, but I couldn’t grow it because the money I was meant to use to buy the feed was what I used for the investments.
I’m also in debt because I had to borrow money to pay my husband’s hospital bills.
How much debt, if you don’t mind me asking?
About ₦2.5 million left. I’ve been paying it off little by little, but it’s been hard. I can’t remember the last time I bought something nice for myself. I’m not even an extravagant person, but these investments really brought me low.
I’m so sorry. What lesson did you learn from these mistakes?
I’m no longer investing in things I don’t fully understand or trusting the words of people I hardly know — I had to learn this the hard way. Right now, I’m sticking to tangible things I can buy and sell. That’s the one I’ve always known.
I recently opened a small shop where I sell dry fish and fried fish. It’s going well.