“Isn’t it strange?
The way things can change
The life that you lead
Turned on its head”- Ache (James Carrington)
Life has a way of humbling us…
It’s weird how things change; from feeling empowered, secured, and being on the right track to feeling helpless and vulnerable. I was proud of myself, I felt pleased with how much I had achieved over the years. I felt confident giving my peers financial advice and introducing them to investment opportunities. Life has happened and has left me exposed and questioning myself.
“It’s different now
The power that I used to feel
Has faded out
Lost sight, lost hold of the wheel
And I wonder still
Is this life what you had hoped it would be?” – Nothing is lost (Luca Fogale)
Life has humbled me. I’m no master at Personal finance. Lowkey, I feel like a failed portfolio manager. In my 2020 Year-end review, I wrote about how proud I was of myself for being bold enough to take on more risk. I thought I was now a master at the game, playing with cheap debt to make more money, not knowing safety was what kept me all these years from losing money.
After several years of intentional saving/investing, I lost money early this year. I should have taken this as a warning sign to listen to the fear I had all through last year that I was going to make bad investment choices and lose money. The money lost in January wasn’t significant enough to ring the alarm bells.
Things got worse.
Life schools you…
Following the crash in Treasury bill rates in December 2019 (which had a ripple effect on money market conditions), investors who had otherwise built their portfolio on safe instruments branched out to more risky alternative investments. I settled for Agritech. I had been watching the industry space since 2018 but never invested because I was about Capital preservation over higher returns. I started with small amounts in early 2020 and finally settled for two of the best agritech companies.
I remember reading through the Nairaland agritech thread and feeling sorry for persons lamenting that so and so farm has let them down. I always felt good about myself, that I did due diligence.
But things changed.
I had set the minimum amount I needed to have to survive an extended gap year. I did the maths, drew up projections, I wasn’t sure but the investment in agritech looked like a very good way to achieve it.
I fell into the trap of replicating a monthly income that’s either higher or equivalent to my current monthly salary. I wonder where I got the idea that one must earn monthly to survive. (This is what being addicted to monthly salary does).
Truth is, you can make a bulk sum once or twice a year and be fine. It’s a matter of you knowing how to budget and plan your finances. I guess the entrepreneurs are better at this. But I’m not going to be hard on myself, all I have known since childhood are weekly allowances and monthly salary, time to learn and adjust.
I got carried away and invested 30% of my savings in the company, forgetting that a company that’s survived for 10 years can be destroyed in a month due to mismanagement. One day in church, I had this idea that if I arranged my investments with one of the agritechs in a certain way, every month I will earn ROI close to my current salary. This made me feel set. Like I had it all figured out. Heck! I felt I could drop my resignation letter any time and still be fine.
Turns out the company has been using short-term funds raised from crowd-funding to execute long-term projects. Based on my due diligence (which I confirmed a bit too late) all the agritech companies adopt a level of Ponzi (Peter to pay Paul) in their operations. The company is currently illiquid and my funds are stuck with them. I don’t want to believe the funds are lost (I haven’t been able to wrap my mind around this thought). They are a going concern and still in operations. They also have bankable assets and can attract investors, but then time value of money is a real thing.
Life makes you question things…
Asides from feeling like I had failed and realizing I had not gotten personal finance on a lockdown as I thought, I had moments of confusion. This was the year I started paying tithe on interests from investments, yet it’s the very same year I’m losing money back to back.
Everything began to feel like a test. I still don’t understand how the year I decided to pay tithe on passive income has turned out to be the year I will be suffering such great losses. I legit repeated to myself that I’m not Job and I don’t want this test.
I was playing scenarios in my head on how to recoup through less risky alternative investments until another company recently registered by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) sent a bombshell mail out of the blues. There were no warning signs. I knew this was the final lesson. I wiped out every scenario or plan for recouping. I surrendered and told life – hear me now universe, I have heard clearly and I have learned.
Third investment in the year going south. At this point, I felt jinxed. I broke critical rules about investing, but I did adhere to diversifying. I didn’t understand how they all seemed to be crashing at the same time.
This was either a test or life’s misfortune or a result of poor investment decisions. Truth is, even though we diversify, over diversifying across several instruments won’t maximize your funds. That is why I was comfortable putting 30% of my savings in the agritech company I trusted fully…but here I am today. Sigh*
I was lamenting to my colleague, Olaitan, about my financial woes. I told her about getting the arrangement for the agritech investment in the church. She laughed and said, sometimes when we say some prayers and think God has answered, we should check well as we might just be the ones answering the prayers ourselves. She then shared how at the beginning of the year she prayed that God should help her improve her earnings; both from salary and passive income. But now, the two companies she invested in (her first time investing) have both failed.
I didn’t know if I was to cry or laugh. Sad thing is, I’m the one who introduced her to these two firms. Now I’m crying, not for her alone, but for all colleagues and friends I thought I was helping.
Life breaks and rebuilds you…
“It takes a lot of strength to be able to keep all the different parts of your life separated, not letting an issue on one part affect another…” Okeoghene Sunday Tom
Being an adult means you have to show up even when all you want to do is curl up in bed all day and not face the world. Even when you are at your lowest, you still have to push yourself to function, to be there at your desk, and make conversations you don’t want to have. The show must go on.
You push all you are feeling to the back and carry on. Your world is falling apart but you just have to fight through the haze till you have enough time to allow the emotions to come to you. You process it all, taking all the time you need.
I have since taught myself how to say it’s just money and then move on. Yes, the money hanging (I still don’t accept the money is lost) is a significant part of my total savings and also the one that generated the most passive income monthly, but that’s not what kills me. It’s the process of rebuilding that scares me the most. The realization that it would take me a long time to save this amount again breaks my spirit.
I later realized I made a mistake while calculating my total exposure to the agritech company. I introduced my folks to the agritech scheme and I took a commitment to shoulder the risk on their principal. So absorbing their liability puts my exposure at 47% of my total savings.
I went through my records and realized where I am now after discounting the total sum is slightly above where I closed 2018. That’s two and a half years plus of hard work and savings. I have learned and sworn off alternative investments but this is how I built a significant part of the amount. How then do I recoup?
June has been tough. I thought the first quarter of the year was rough, but this month alone has broken me. I wanted to disappear, to have the world move on and leave me behind. I kept the tithe I was yet to remit on passive income in my account for days. I was lost, dazed, and confused. I didn’t want to see money or read anything about finance. I drew strength from Job 13 vs 15a – “though He slays me, I will yet trust Him”.
I’m thankful for friends who let me rant, that let me pour out my frustrations. I’m thankful for Mina, for being there to hold me that Friday night it all came crashing down when all I could do was murmur repeatedly how my head felt dizzy and it felt like I was losing it and didn’t think I could go on.
I’m thankful for life, for breaking me and teaching me lessons I need to learn before my gap year. I’m thankful for this opportunity to pause, to see things clearly, and the humbling experience to realize that in one second everything can be lost. I thought I had it all figured out, but life has shown me that I was probably headed for disaster.
Yes, I enjoyed great cash flow but how sustainable was it? I’m thankful this happened while I’m still in employment. I don’t even want to imagine if I had resigned and started my gap year and this happened.
I have been knocked down and humbled by life. I’m navigating through new territory. Life has given me a lesson on loss. I used to feel good about myself whenever I read Nairalife column on Zikoko. Reading how fellow millennia are handling their finances. I always felt this sense of pride, but now, reading the column leaves me missing when things seemed perfect. I don’t feel secure anymore.
At times, my head tries to process everything that has happened, but I catch myself either stunned or laughing in disbelief. Some days I’m strong and feel like I have got things under control, but then there are days when it hits all so different and I don’t feel okay.
“And the freedom of falling
A feeling I thought was set in stone
It slips through my fingers
I’m trying hard to let go
It comes and goes in waves
And carries us away” – Waves (Dean Lewis)
I’m not fully okay yet, but I know I’ll get through this. I’ll feel every emotion this phase brings. I’m not going to run from it. I’m going to seat with all I feel, process it, and grow through this. This is an eye-opener, a walk through reality. I’ll welcome it and learn in moments of quiet realizations.
I found comfort in going through these online resources on how to move on from financial loss, I think they will be also helpful to anyone who is going through the same.