Simple ways to prevent banks from taking your money

Hardly a day goes by without someone screaming on Twitter about their bank taking their money even while doing little or no transactions. Trust me, Nigerian banks are optimized for money making but hey, who said you can’t beat them at their games?

Here are simple steps you can take to take control of your money and minimize how nicely you get shaved by our Sashe bankers.

Get yourself a savings account because current accounts are for dummies

Banks can charge an account maintenance fee of up to N1 for every N1,000 that danced across your accounts. If you are the type doing well on your Instagram side hustle, banks will quickly strip you bare.

On the flip side, the ordinary savings account with any Nigerian bank is so optimized that it can do practically everything a current account will do save for getting an overdraft and being able to write cheques. Even then, these two features ain’t that important because banks don’t give loans that easy to start with; and nobody writes cheques again.

It really makes no sense to keep a current account except you are some form of dinosaur.

Cancel your debit cards 💳

Yes, you heard me. Debit cards are so yesterday. But hold up, I assume you are a typical Nigerian that has bank accounts with three different banks. So, cancel all your debit cards everywhere save the most reliable of them all (I wish you good luck deciding which that is). This saves you from the bank digging holes every other month to take card maintenance charges. And on top of that, they could charge you for the SMS sent to inform you that they just charged your sorry ass. Savage people!

Interestingly, card maintenance is free for current accounts, but the account maintenance will/could wipe you out.

Cancel your SMS alert

Yes, again, you can cancel your SMS alert. Any banker who said you must have an SMS is either dumb or lying. Either way, they ain’t supposed to be a banker. The Central Bank said if you are the type that hates the ding-dong of SMS notifications, you can cancel it if you have an email alert and sign an indemnity (Section 10.10 of The Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-Bank Financial Institutions, January 1, 2020). It’s right there in the regulation but hey, this is Nigeria, who reads when you can spread rumors?

Is there a downside to this? Not that I know of. Are emails very secure? F* nope! But then SMS messages are worse than emails. Why? Because they sit unencrypted and open all the telcos that they passed through. So that fancy OTP of yours is waiting and begging to be read.

One last thing on SMS, beware of banks that send you multiple SMS for a single transaction. The scam works this way; you want to transfer N50,000 to some random dude; you get an SMS for the amount you have sent, and another SMS for the N52.5 transfer charge as well.

Stamp duties

Too bad, nobody can help you out with this; every account gets charged once the transaction is over N10,000. At least, turn the SMS off so that they don’t make potholes in your bank accounts.

Open another savings account

Are you aware that your dead-ass savings account pays about a 3.75% interest rate? Never seen it before, I guess because you rock your account like a Twitter DM. And when banks are now offering 1.8% on fixed deposits, it’s mad not to rock this baby.

By a quirk of Nigerian banking regulation, bankers must give you 30% of the MPR, which is 12.5% as of May 28, 2020. But but but, if you make more than four withdrawals on your savings account within a month, irrespective of your balance, just kiss the interest on it goodbye (Section 1.2 of The Guide to Charges by Banks, Other Financial and Non-Bank Financial Institutions, January 1, 2020).

A simple way around it, open another savings account, which your bank would gladly oblige, put your excess funds in there, and spend the tashere in the main one. And don’t let the devil tempt you to go there more four times in a month.

Disclosures 🙊🙊

I still have three current accounts with Access, UBA, and Fidelity banks. I’m nowhere practicing what I just preached. But then I didn’t complain of banks taking charges off me because the money they make gets paid as bonus to my friends, and I force them to take me out for drinks where I ruin them by drinking more than all the charges they have taken from me for the year. Sweet revenge.

I used to be a banker where I made a truckload of cash from these same charges I just complained about for the banks I worked for; they paid my bonuses, and my friends who paid for SMS alerts, dragged me to different clubs to ruin me. Karma goes round.

Getting my Clones to do the Work

If I could clone myself into 5 other annoying DejiOlowes, today would have been the day I would place the orders for new mes.

I woke up this morning not wanting to do anything, but hey, I have to work – else I won’t be able to get food on the table. But come to think of it, what if I had clones, they would have gone to work, slaving their miserable lives on my behalf while I get on the next flight for a late summer vacation.
Who could resist such?

So what if I could clone 5 of me, what would they be doing?

DejiOlowe1 would definitely be going to work. I mean, he needs to hustle for the money all of us would spend. He would be warned to behave himself, not get distracted, no drinks after work, and just be a chilled dude. In fact, he would clock in more hours a week than Elon Musk.

DejiOlowe2 would be the nice dude, working the phone; calling family and friends, visiting relatives, and doing charity work.

DejiOlowe3 should go back to my first love – researching medical devices and esoteric stuff. He may get back to the Ph.D. that I abandoned in 2011. There was also an abandoned photonics experiment that he must pick up and finish. Oh, I forgot about the meta-genetic algo optimization that he has to work on as well.

DejiOlowe4 and 5 would start a startup together. Not sure what they would do but hey, they better get going because they need to make a humongous amount of money for all of us to spend down the line.

If only I could get an extra DejiOlowe to be working the gym while the real me gets 6 packs, that would have been the icing on the cake. Drooling.

And the real me? Probably lounging around, I will control the bank accounts and I set spend-limits for the other hapless DejiOlowes. If 4 and 5 do a good job, then I should travel the world and visit all the exotic places I have always wanted to go. Bora Bora tops the list.

Damn, I need to get out of bed!

Dreamers are losers. Ideas are worthless.

I grew up lacking so many essential things like Lego toys, common sense, understanding further math, etc. but I never lacked dreams or ideas. I had them by the dozens. After all, dreams and ideas are free and require no permission from hawkish parents or even from the government. I tucked into them and generated dreams and ideas like a real dream machine.

Unfortunately, dreams and ideas didn’t get me anywhere because everyone had them too. And the dreams were getting them nowhere. Dreams are free; ideas can be plucked from anywhere; both useless and worthless.
Sounds counterintuitive, isn’t it? Everyone says, follows your dreams! Guys with ideas are courted and loved. So why the gripe?

My rant isn’t to diminish dreaming or ideas but to put them in their proper perspectives. So, before you start wondering who stepped on my toes this morning, hear me out.
Dreams and ideas aren’t constrained by physics or reality and would never be. If you ever watched Tom and Jerry, you will understand that.  Additionally, ideas and dreams are free, anyone with half a brain can conjure them up. I spent the majority of my childhood imagining myself as a superhero, and it was an excellent time – I can bet you spent yours with similar ideas.
But why are dreams and ideas so useless if we need them for innovation? Why am I valuing them down to nothing when to be called a man without a dream or ideas is worse than being called impotent? I mean, if you are not actually impotent.

There are also good and bad ideas – bad ideas being so many out there so why isn’t the good ideas worth something?
Let’s check out what happens in farming.

Send down the rain!
Rain and moisture are so important to agriculture that without it, a nation is imperiled. Just ask the Mayans, an ancient culture of South America, that was destroyed because of drought famine. But then, rain itself isn’t food! The fact that it rains doesn’t mean crop would suddenly appear in farms. For there to be food, farmers must till the ground, plant appropriate seeds and then let the rain do its job.
The value of rain to agriculture is so important that sometimes some fly planes to seed the sky with silver iodide, just like the way applying Robb or onions to your eyes let loose some crocodile tears. Gosh, I hate the kitchen!

Follow your dreams
In all the time I have spent mentoring others, I haven’t met a single mentee who doesn’t have dreams or ideas. We all have them by the dozens. What sets many back, however, is that they dream on and never wake up.
Many people find it hard to believe that dreaming itself means nothing and ideas are worthless if they are not put into use.

For example, I know gazillion friends who want to improve on their careers, yet they would never fix their CVs, network with potential employers or even take the time to understand the new roles they would love to play. That’s dreaming, and it wouldn’t amount to anything.
Not taking action to actualize dreams applies to me too – I have been talking about different side businesses that could bring little income each month. I have planned, discussed and ideated. Of course, if I don’t start it, risk my savings, it would never come to fruition and by January 2018, who am I going to blame for it?

Ideas are worthless
I recently asked a few friends who run their businesses what they could do to take their companies to the next level – I mean, who doesn’t want to achieve unicorn status. Even though I talked to them at different times, they all have the same ideas.
The sad part was, none was putting any of those ideas into action.
We complained about customer service in banks – for any banker reading this, do you know any bank who doesn’t tout customer service as a strategic imperative? Every bank does, but not every bank puts it into action. What a meaningless exercise.

The Conclusion
Dreams and ideas are only useful when combined with action and purpose. Do you want to be successful? Stop dreaming, start acting on the few nightmares you have had, and even the sky wouldn’t be able to contain you – just ask Elon Musk at SpaceX.

The stone the builders rejected – RIP Mohammed Ali

As a kid, I used to have a t-shirt with Mohammed Ali on it and I loved it so much until my rotund stomach couldn’t fit in anymore.
Growing up, I was regaled with different stories of Ali by my grandmother who felt there wasn’t any greater boxer than he was. Even when Mike Tyson came on the scene, his erratic behaviors ensured that he never amounted to anything important with my grandmother. I’m happy he’s cleaned up though.

But Ali wasn’t always the greatest. He was hated by his country and his life made miserable just because he wouldn’t want to be drafted into a war that is ranked as one of the worst ever. He fought for his conviction much more than he fought in the rings.

The lessons from him are very simple:
Never give up on your conviction even when it’s not popular.
If you are good in what you do, the world will come around to appreciate it – Psalm 118:22.
Rest in peace Mohammed Ali – you will always be remembered and send my regards to grandma up there if you ever happen to bump into her.

Is Postgraduate Education of Benefit in Nigeria?

“Why would you offer me, a Banking Officer, the same grade that I was before I went to school, despite my Masters from the University of Liverpool?”

I looked at the dude like he just fell out of the sky and gate-crashed into a nudist camp. I swore under my breath; what the heck?

“Dude, that’s the best we can do for this role. Based on policy and work load, this function can only be for, at the highest, a Banking Officer”.

That exchange happened some years ago with some younger colleague who wanted to get back on my team. That same scene has played over a zillion times across a billion hiring offices nationwide.

He grudgingly took the job but he hated me (he was always giving me side eye) for it.

Before you label me the evil boss, probably jealous of the guy’s achievements, hear me out.

The quest for higher education is an insatiable itch for a lot of Nigerians and when our universities went tits-up, we started hustling for foreign degrees. I reckon it’s as itchy as being broody, if you get what I mean.

After 6 agonizing years studying Electrical Engineering, at which I thoroughly sucked, I left school and promised never go to back again. University for me was boring, horrible and we lived in terrible conditions. In those days there weren’t private universities so you either went abroad (only few did as the economy was, em, no comments) or go for top notch Federal Universities.
If you are going to eat toads, go for the ones with eggs.

But just after a few months, I started dreaming of Masters and PhD. I tried to do some bits at UNILAG, but they were arrogant and uncoordinated. Considering I like to be the only arrogant person in the room, I couldn’t stick that. In fact to add insult to injury, I was asked to do 1 year of postgraduate diploma before I could enroll for a Masters in Information Technology. Àrífín!

Lumbering along in my career, I saw so many people, with crushed expectations and broken hearts, who had spent many years earning high quality Masters at top notch schools, being asked to take the same levels or sometimes something less than they earned before they went for higher education. I asked myself – is it worth it?

In the defense of the employers, the lack of regards doesn’t come from inferiority complex (as some have been accused) or lack of understanding (that’s also an accusation) but from asking a simple question – how does your Masters/PhD give you an advantage in delivering superior results in the specific roles than the gorímápás that didn’t bother leaving their desks? Employers pay for output not for robes and mortal boards.

This annoyance was most prevalent in banking but also happened in Telecoms, FMCG, general Commerce, etc.

My itch for higher education didn’t disappear but I advised myself with wisdom – go when you are newly promoted and senior enough to manage the slowdown.

I finally summoned courage to do my Masters at a ripe old age (I was the oldest in my class) but foolishly chose a tough brain-cell killing Masters in Engineering. It almost turned to the worst mistake of my life but after boasting to my colleagues that I wasn’t going to come back to Nigeria if I didn’t knock out a distinction, I read so hard my eyes fell out.

But then I still paid dearly for it. I ended up spending almost 5 years on a single grade. Do I have regrets about the Masters? Absolutely NOT! Do I have regrets about hanging around like an aborigine on a single grade? Absolutely YES! Could I have done it a bit better? YES!

By the way, not all schools are born equal. I know alumni of Ivy League Colleges and other expensive schools fare better. But then truth be told, many of them already have the advantage, connections, money, bla bla, to land the good careers in the first place and the schools are just an extension of the exclusive clubs they belong to.

If you like, you can count this as the rant of a sore loser.
After all is said and done, I have come to the following conclusions:

  • There is nothing better than education.
  • Higher education may not do much for your career unless it’s very highly specialized. For example, if you are going to work in fancy UN style organizations, a PhD is a must.
  • MBAs are too generic. If you must get one, go to a top-notch school. Start saving now.
  • Go to school when your career has become stable and you have established credibility.
  • Nobody trusts your MBA when you have never worked before. It’s like calling yourself a military General just after NDA – either you are a joker or a clown.
  • Nothing substitutes for a good school. It’s foolish looking for a cheap school just for the sake of higher education.
  • Long distance learning is WAY HARDER than being in class! If you see anyone go through it, respect them.

I guess my opinions may be wrong or maybe my experiences are different from yours. If you have had similar or diverse experiences on this, kindly share below.