By Sarah Jaravaza

Arese Ugwu is a respected financial experts, and has gained respect both in Nigeria and internationally. One of her successes is her book, ‘The Smart Money Woman: An African Girl’s Journey to Financial Freedom’. It was published in 2016, but an acquaintance recently recommended it to me. I decided to share my review of the book as it resonated strongly with me in 2019.

Money can often be a difficult topic to talk about. Whilst our parents aspire for us to be doctors, lawyers or accountants, they do not often get the chance to teach us the basics of financial literacy. The result is that many of us as adults find ourselves in financial difficulties. At times, we can end up spiralling in debt. Ugwu’s book is a handy financial manual. Ugwu’s style of writing is refreshing and the book reads like a classic romantic comedy with solid financial advice embedded in the pages. Ugwu teaches us how to budget, plan for debt, invest and she uses the challenges her protagonist Zuri and her family and friends face. I enjoyed her witty analyses and the background information that she gave on being a young, independent woman in Lagos. It was also comforting to share many of the same financial challenges as Zuri, the main character. How many of us are earning a decent salary, yet there seems to be too many mouths at the end of our money? How many of us envy that friend who buys designer clothes all the time, yet we are making do with clothes from our local budget store?

My key take home message from this book, was the importance of planning. All organisations have a vision and mission statement and one of Ugwu’s challenges was to define your vision and mission statements. These will help you to identify what you need your money for, and how to better prepare for those goals. It’s not enough to say you want to buy a house. You need to do your research, see which properties you can afford within a given period, and then get to action. The guide moves seamlessly through financial basics, such as budgeting, setting up an emergency fund, identifying investment options, generating more income and finally becoming a smart money woman.

I do not always like self -help books, but I managed to read this book easily during a few hours one morning. I had begun my financial journey earlier in the year by designing a budget but I feel that this book will help me to make further progress. My final lasting impression from the book, was that you cannot achieve financial freedom in isolation. You need a strong network of connections, and if possible, a mentor to guide you along the way.

You can follow Arese on Twitter @smartmoneyarese