Meet Bola Sokunbi, a financial expert who is passionate about helping women get their money issues right. In this enlightening interview, she discusses the probable financial traps that women fall into and how they can be avoided.
Tell us about Bola and how the journey to Clever Girl Finance started?
My full name is Mojibola Onada Sokunbi and I am a certified financial educator and money coach.
The journey to Clever Girl Finance started shortly after I had my twins. At the time I was working a considerable distance away from home and I wanted to be able to spend more time with my children. I had also started to feel a sense of unfulfillment at work – I loved my job working in technology strategy but it wasn’t what imagined myself doing long term over the course of my career. I wanted to do something that I was passionate about and that really mattered to me.
So I started brainstorming and writing down every idea that came to my mind in regards to what I could do (based on the things I love doing) and everything I came up with, in one way or the other, revolved around money and helping others and so I decided to take what I did in my corporate career – strategy and consulting – and apply it to something I was passionate about – financial success and Clever Girl Finance was born.
Once I figured it out, it made perfect sense because money and succeeding with my personal finances is something I am very focused on and something I talked about with my friends all the time before I ever even considered stepping out on my own.
At what point of your life did you fully realise the need to be financially knowledgeable?
I realised very early on in my teen years that I needed to be financially knowledgeable from observing my mother and the decision she made to be financially independent after she saw many of her friends struggle financially after a divorce or a husband’s death because they relied completely on their spouse for their financial well-being. My mother was determined to never find herself in that situation and so took it upon herself to be my family’s backup plan even when my father was able to comfortably provide for our family.
Fast forward several years – my family had gone through a financial downturn when my dad had to retire 15 years earlier than planned. Despite the setback in my father’s finances, my mother stepped in and paid for my college education (include my living and travel expenses) in Europe and America in cash for the 5 years I was in school. She was able to do this because she made plans. That was pivotal for me.
You’re focused on helping women live debt free lives, why women in particular?
Well as women when it comes to our finances, there are some major factors that impact our ability to build wealth over the long term. For instance;
- We generally earn 20% less than our male counterparts who do the exact same jobs are us (many times in the same office).
- Many of us take time out of the workforce to have and raise children which translates into slower career advancement and lost income.
- We are generally more giving than men by nature – we typically think of ourselves last after our significant others and children.
And those just a few factors that impact our finances. With that being said, statistically, we live longer than men on average which means we need more money to support our lives over the long term than men do.
My focus on women is to make them aware of these facts and teach that despite these financial “disadvantages” we can still build wealth and be financially successful as long as we recognise what it is that we need to be doing.
What are some of the lessons you think women can learn about building wealth and living financially stable lives?
It’s important to understand that building wealth takes time which means we need to save and invest consistently over time. Many people make the mistake of waiting until they can earn more before they save and invest but playing the waiting game means you lose time and the ability for your money to work for you over time through the power of compounding. Start where you are with what you have no matter how small and over time you’ll see your money grow plus when you earn more you can save more. It’s all about establishing the habits.
In your own estimation, are there key differences in the way men and women relate to their finances?
In addition to what I already mentioned, as women, we sometimes tend to attach a lot of shame to our financial mistakes. However, financial mistakes are normal – even the wealthiest people in the world have made them, what matters is the lessons we learn and how we chose to move forward.
Women are also more conservative when it comes to taking financial risks or making aggressive investments which means our money may grow at a slower pace over time but this is good in a sense because on average, we don’t lose as much money as men do 🙂
What are some of the money myths women have, and how can they be overcome?
The biggest myth is that money is complex but the truth is that it really isn’t. Like any subject you study to pass, money management and investing are all things that anyone can learn with a little time and committed effort to learn.
What is your overall vision for Clever Girl Finance, and how can women in particular benefit from it?
I’ve created Clever Girl Finance to provide women with financial guidance, financial tips and budgeting tools to inspire them to pursue their dreams of financial independence (through their careers, business or both) and turn those dreams into realities. My vision is for Clever Girl Finance to become a recognised authority in the finance world for women.
Let’s talk about you, what have been some of your own money mistakes, and how did you overcome them?
I’m proud of my many money mistakes because they have taught me a lot of lessons but one of my biggest money mistakes would be my very large (actually epic) “former” designer handbag collection that I acquired after I got comfortable with the fact that I was saving a ton of money and was earning a 6 figure salary.
I’m a huge handbag girl but at the time same time I’m also a huge advocate of “cost per wear” and I had a bunch of handbags that cost a lot of money that I never really used. Over time, I got rid of them and put the money I earned from selling them (luckily I was able to sell most for well over what I paid) towards growing my investment portfolio. I’m very much still a handbag girl but with a considerably smaller collection.
What is your biggest money/financial accomplishment?
One of my money accomplishments that I’m most proud of was being able to save over $100,000 in the three and half years right after I graduated from college in 2004 even though I only made around $40,000 starting out after taxes. I set a challenge myself to see how much I could save in a short period of time and I did it. I share this because as a young college graduate earning an income for the first time, there were a ton of distractions from shopping to travelling to hanging out with friends all the time but I stuck to my goals.
What are some of the realistic ways that women can stay out of debt?
Spending within your means is really the only way. Keeping your expenses below your income and focusing on widening the gap between your income and your expenses is not only how you stay out of debt but how you build wealth. You can do that by cutting back on the expenses you don’t really need, earning more money or doing a combination of both things.
Creating and sticking to a budget each month will help you stay on top of things. If you currently have debt, then you want to build your debt repayments into your budget and pay back as much as you can each month. Don’t get caught up with minimum payments – they will keep you in the debt cycle forever.
If you weren’t doing Clever Girl Finance, what would you be doing?
I’d be working in technology – I love innovation in technology and I worked in the industry in technology strategy and consulting for over a decade. I’m a tech girl. I’m hoping to implement a tech aspect to Clever Girl Finance in the future and so I’ll be to work on my next favourite thing outside of money – technology!
Where do you see yourself in 5 years?
Five years from now I see my self making a bigger impact in the lives of more women through Clever Girl Finance on a much bigger scale as I continue on my mission of financial literacy for all women.
As a mother, what tips would you give other mums to build generational wealth for their children?
Start saving for your children when they are born. Also, it’s very important to teach them the value of money and what financial responsibility means from a very young age. Avoid handing rewards to them just because they want it. The lessons you teach them will be reflected in how they manage money in their teen and adult years and will set them up for their own financial success and also ensure that whatever financial legacy you’ve built for your family continues down the line.
Is “making money” and “building wealth” the same thing? Which is more important?
They are two completely different things. Making money is really just how much you earn and that’s it. Just because you earn a large amount of money doesn’t mean you are rich. There are countless examples of people with multi-million dollar incomes and zero net worth. Building wealth is less about how much you earn but more about what you do what you earn – saving and investing over time is how you get to wealthy. Building wealthy is certainly more important.
If you could change one thing in the world, what would it be?
Conflict that causes the unnecessary loss of lives. It breaks my heart to see it.
The Leading Ladies Africa Series is a weekly interview series that focuses on women of African descent, showcases their experiences across all socio-economic sectors, highlights their personal and professional achievements and offers useful advice on how to make life more satisfying for women.
It is an off-shoot of Leading Ladies Africa, a non-profit that promotes women empowerment and gender inclusion for women of African descent.
Do you know any woman of African descent doing phenomenal things? Send an email to [email protected] and we just might feature her.