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You don’t always have to own a business to get rich

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Arese Ugwu is the author of ‘The Smart Money Woman’. She runs financial platforms providing financial literacy targeted at young African women, and a financial show in Nigeria called ‘The Bridge’.

Biggest money mistake: Failing to diversify my investment portfolio institutionally has been my biggest error. I had always been very particular about diversify in terms of asset class, but at one point, a substantial portion of my net worth was in one financial institution and when that company suffered legal troubles followed by severe losses at the capital markets, all my assets were tied up. As a result, I had to begin the process of rebuilding my portfolio. Always spread your investments across a few institutions.

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Secret to my success: This has been my resilience. I have had my fair share of obstacles; sometimes I feel like my life has played out like a movie, but one thing I am proud of is that I have kept on moving despite the size of the obstacles. It is always important that whenever a door is shut in your face, you find a window or build your own door.

My saving method: The most effective way to save is to create systems around your money that remove you from the equation. I always say that being in the personal finance field does not mean I am perfect with money. I succeed with money because I create systems that help my money work for me without my interference. I am naturally an impulsive spender, so if there is money in my account, I will find ways and justifications to spend it. To avoid this, I pre-allocate my income to different money goals and accounts that I have limited access to, no ATM, no Cheque book, and no internet banking to access. Then I set a certain amount in my lifestyle account.

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If I could start all over again: I would stop being so fearful and believe that even if things fall apart, they will eventually fall into place. Nonetheless, I wouldn’t change anything about my journey. Everything I did and didn’t do has brought me to where I am now. I have earned my battle scars and I am stronger for it.

Entrepreneurship vs Employment: I believe in people being entrepreneurial in their thinking whether they work a 9 to 5 job or run their own businesses. In the past, we had favoured employment over entrepreneurship and now we force-feed and sell the lie that the only way to become rich is to become an entrepreneur. This is why many people are starting subsistence-styled businesses with zero structure and low ability to scale. Mark Zuckerberg started Facebook but Sheryl Sandberg is the Facebook COO who brings structure to its operations. Why aren’t we telling people it’s okay to be Sheryl Sandberg too instead of telling them to be Zuckerberg only?

Biggest milestone: Self-publishing my financial book and watching the kind of financial influence it has exerted on people is my most proud milestone. I remember there was a huge economic recession in Nigeria when I decided to publish it. Many people tried to talk me out of it saying it would not be commercially viable. I proved them wrong, and went on to found a distribution network that reached my targeted audience irrespective of the fact that there are no nationwide bookstores in Nigeria as there are in other nations. It is from this book that I have gone on to establish a Pan-African brand that is now going global.

This feature on Arese Ugwu was first published in the Saturday Magazine.

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