Mrs. Enitan Ayoade is not someone you can easily say no to. She comes at you with this infectious passion about whatever it is she is talking about that you are sucked in and nodding your head before you know what hit you. When she asked me to come to speak with the parents and teachers of Akpata Memorial School in Oko Oba at their yearly Independence Day event, I was delighted to honour the invitation not just because of the passion to which she spoke but because I knew it would be an opportunity to share with fellow Nigerians who are going through challenging times on what they need to do to manage their personal finances.
On D-Day, I got a pleasant surprise of my year by meeting in person the famous Mrs Akpata (Proprietress of the Akpata Memorial School), who I have heard so much about but never had the fortune of meeting. It so happened that my brother/sister-in-law went to the school, and I also got married in the school main auditorium. She greeted me as if she had known me for years and even before I sat down in her office she said, ”I had always wanted to meet you once I heard about the title of your book”. You can’t imagine how that felt. Very quickly, I settled down to start grilling her with questions after questions. I wanted to know what has been the secret of their success and how they have been able to last as long as they have been. Mama told me the stuff that we in the corporate world typically spend millions on to engage consultants who will come to bamboozle us with lovely PowerPoint Presentations and charts. She spoke of the need to have passion if you want to succeed in the education sector. She emphasized that if you want to succeed in the school business, you must be ready and willing to wait it out for at least 5 years before you can start thinking about making a profit. She echoed the need for a long term financial plan and preparation of yearly budgets with targets and benchmarks to mirror this plan. She told me of the need to ensure that her stakeholders are also co-owners of the business, which is why she allocates part of the shares to teachers, parents, and consultants. She described team-building sessions with her teachers and the need to train them and invest in their development. Mama said Akpata memorial trains their teachers. I asked, Yearly? She replied, “Every Term”. I went Wow! Needless to say, I went there to teach, but I ended up being taught by this great Nigerian Icon.
The topic of discussion was 'Impact of Money Issues on Marriage and Families'. This was indeed a very timely topic, as I know many couples are struggling with their finances and some seeking solutions to help them manage their personal portfolios. I started off by talking about why money has now become a very important topic in the sustainability of marriages and families. Alaba Fadase from Riby was on hand to assist and she was particularly helpful in mining some of the statistics we used.
First, we looked at the statistics of divorce. Here we must admit that there is a lack of statistics at the National level in Nigeria but we were able to glean bits and pieces of data from private surveys that seem to be consistent with what we see in the Western world. Let’s look first at the statistics of divorce for couples married within the 1–10 years bracket.
- In the US, 1 out of every 2 marriages will end in a divorce. That’s a 50% divorce rate.
- In the UK, that percentage is 42%. This translates to 13 divorces per hour in the UK.
- In Northern Nigeria, it is estimated that 1 in 3 marriages will fail within the first 3 years. This necessitated a State Governor (Kano to be precise) to sponsor the wedding of 250 couples with the caveat that they would need governmental consent before they can even divorce.
Now what makes these statistics interesting is the root cause of what is causing the break-ups. The initial thinking was that issues of infidelity and adultery were the main cause of divorce. At least if you read divorce news in the papers that is what you will tend to believe. Not realizing that newspapers will typically filter stories and report on those with the potential of more readership than those which don’t. Besides, what sells more than reporting about a marriage dissolved by the sexual exploits of a spouse? The reality, however, is different. In the UK, for instance, 1 out of every 7 marriages divorce as a result of infidelity and adultery. That’s just about 14%. I can bet my lunch that the figure is much lower here in Nigeria. Conversely, the number one cause of separation among couples is actually “Communication” and the biggest communication issue couples have is “Communication around the subject of money”.
It is indeed interesting and profound because what the data tells us is, for some reason, couples are willing to forgive infidelity but find it difficult to overcome their resentments and insecurities regarding money. In simple terms, money could hold or break your marriage. It’s that simple.
There were a couple of other statistics we looked at. One had to do with the – Financial Issues that cause couples to worry.
- 76% of couples worry about planning for the future – They are rightly concerned about what the future holds and if they will be able to maintain or improve on their current lifestyle in the future.
- 62% of couples worry about covering current financial expenses – It is interesting that most couples worry more about the future than they worry about the present. Maybe that’s because they are already thinking or in the process of doing something about the present. Am really not sure, but it is interesting stats.
- 56% of couples worry about getting out of debt – Most middle-class couples have their lifestyles funded by debt either in terms of heavy mortgages, jewelry or other wasting assets like cars, furniture, etc. With the current state of things, especially as it relates to declining purchasing power, many have real reasons to be worried.
One other interesting data we looked at was – The financial habits of couples.
- 14% - Spending more than they earned.
- 28% - Spending on unnecessary things.
- 23% - Had no savings at all
How last bit of statistical data we looked at was – How couples viewed their relationship from a financial perspective.
- 34% developed a financial plan BEFORE getting married. – This is very understandable because most couple planning their wedding would, of course, sit down to plan their wedding expenses. 34% of the time, these plans will spill over from the wedding day expenses to their financial plan post marriage. But what is interesting in this stat is not that 34% plan, it is that we have 66% of couples intending to live their lives together who do not plan at all.
- 29% believe their financial baggage is too difficult to overcome – Basically, these are the folks on the verge of giving up on the marriage. They do not see a way out to ease their financial responsibility. Some just go AWOL, others resort to calling it quits on the marriage as a way of easing their financial burden.
When you put all these statistics together, it tells a definite story. The story of the importance of Money to the survival and sustainability of marriage. Like I always tell my friends, every decision you take as a married couple has a dollar sign beside it. That means it is as much a financial decision as it could be an emotional one. So in as much as “Emotional Intelligence” is very key and paramount to survival of a marriage, “Financial Intelligence” is also key if not more important. You cannot escape it.
I was able to spend three hours of a very exciting interactive session with Mrs. Akpata, Mrs. Enitan Ayoade, her husband Mr. Seye Ayoade and the wonderful parents and teachers at Akpata Memorial School Oko Oba (Now Akpata Montessori School). It was as much a learning experience for me as I hoped it was a learning experience for the participants themselves.
We ended the discussion on a very positive note – You will make Money this Year! Money will not make you.
Somebody Shout Halleluyah!