#TMOC5: Getting Started with Your Finances

This is a compilation of the first session in TMO Conversations 5.0. It was held by Damilola Ishola, a chartered accountant, in a closed Telegram group of over 200 participants. Feel free to share with others.

What is Personal Finance?

Personal finance is the process of planning and managing personal financial activities such as income generation, spending, saving, investing, and protection. 

Personal finance is about meeting personal financial goals, whether it’s having enough for short-term financial needs or even long-term plans.

The same way two different people might not have the same wants or needs is the same way two people might not have the same personal financial goals.

How Do You Get Started?

I’ve divided the ‘how’ into four easy step and they are;

1. Self -appraisal

2. Goals 

3. Execution 

4. Monitoring and reassessment

Let’s start with the first one:

1. Self- Appraisal

Appraisal is the official or formal assessment of the strengths and weaknesses of someone or something. Appraisal often involves observation or some kind of testing.

The first step here is self-appraisal, because without proper evaluation of one self, failure is inevitable. 

The way you evaluated your skills and interest before going to science, Commercial or Art class or before choosing that course to study in the University is the same way you need to appraise yourself before getting started with your finances.

There are specific questions you need to ask yourself as this will help you know the next step to take:

1. What are my sources of my income? (could be a 9-5, your business, pocket money or monetary gifts you receive regularly)? 

The truth is there is nothing you’re getting started on if there’s nothing coming in (income) in the first place.

2.  Are there ways to increase my income? There are so many people here with skills or talents that can be monetized but are not using it. 

Some of us here can put our thoughts together beautifully, do you know there are people willing to pay you to write stories for them? Some of us can cook so well, do you know there are people ready and willing to buy your food or pastries? Some of us are really fashionable, you can start selling that fashion idea you have and the list goes on and on.

Look at your environment I’m very sure there’s something you can do to increase your income. 

While some of these ‘side hustles’ can be really demanding and expensive, some are not so stressful. 

It’s also necessary you consider other factors like availability of time, health status, environmental factors etc.

3. Do I have terrible spending habits? We really need to be careful with our spending habits. I’ve seen where students receive their pocket money and decide to use half or more on Ice cream and Pizza.

See, having a good financial habit is about balancing things up. No one is perfect and we keep learning. There are several more questions we need to ask ourselves, the list is inexhaustive.

2. Goal Setting

Setting of goals comes next after self-appraisal. At this stage you know what you’re earning, what you can do to increase or at least maintain your earning, where to cut down on your expenses etc.

Now, what exactly are you trying to achieve? Do you want to save up to learn those skills? Do you want to dedicate a particular amount of your income to saving and investing (I’m aware someone will be taking us on this tomorrow)?

Everyone has different financial goals as we are in different stages of our life. Whatever your goals are, they have to be SMART before we can consider them as a goal.

SMART is an acronym that stands for  Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely.

Let’s take them one after the other


Well defined, clear, and unambiguous

Who: Who is involved in this goal? You, You and You. It’s all about you.

What: What do I want to accomplish? What exactly do you aim to achieve? To have a consistent saving? To be able to pay your bills as they fall due?

When: When do I want to achieve this goal? Now? In the next 6 Months? In the next 2 years? The earlier you start the better, start with anything, start with what you have.

Why: Why do I want to achieve this goal? What is really driving you? It could be because you don’t want to depend on your parents any longer or because you have responsibilities on your shoulders now or you just want to be financially responsible. Please know and own your why.

Let’s move to letter ‘M’ of SMART


This is talking about the specific criteria that measures your progress toward the accomplishment of the goal. 

A SMART goal must have criteria for measuring progress. If there are no criteria, you will not be able to determine your progress and if you are on track to reach your goal.

To make a goal measurable, ask yourself:

How many/much? If your goal is to save, how much are we looking at?  Don’t just say “my goal is to save” rather say “my goal is to save 10,000 naira every month”.

What is my indicator of progress? How are you measuring your goals?

Following the example above, you can break that N10,000 per month into bits you want to save per week. 

You can decide to save N2500 per week, that way you can measure and monitor your goals.

Moving to the ‘A’ of SMART


Must be attainable and not impossible to achieve. A SMART goal must be achievable and attainable. This will help you figure out ways you can realize that goal and work towards it.

Do I have the resources and capabilities to achieve the goal? If not, what am I missing?

Moving to the ‘R’ in SMART 


Within reach, realistic, and relevant. This is very similar to the point stated above.

A SMART goal must be realistic in that the goal can be realistically achieved given the available resources and time. Emphasis on available resources. There’s no need sugar coating anything. You can’t say you want to save N10000 per month when the income you get per month is N10,000.

A SMART goal is likely realistic if you believe that it can be accomplished.

Ask yourself:

  • Is the goal realistic and within reach?
  • Is the goal reachable, given the time and resources?
  • Are you able to commit to achieving the goal?

Moving to the ‘T’ in SMART.  


With a clearly defined timeline, including a starting date and a target date. The purpose is to create urgency.

  • Does my goal have a deadline?
  • By when do you want to achieve your goal?

Now let me set a goal using SMART. 

On December 1st, I will open a cowry wise account. In order to be financially responsible, I will save every week. Every week, I will aim to save the sum of N2,500 and by the end of April 2021, I will have realized my goal if I save N50,000 over the course of 5 months.

Try it!

3. Execution

The third point is Execution.

Now you have a SMART goal, it’s time to make these goals a reality. Using the example above, oya open your cowry wise account, this is week 1, save your N2500.

Make your budget, determine to do everything possible to achieve this goal you set. It’s not just about writing those goals. You can write the most beautiful goal but without actions or executing them, it’s void.

4. Monitoring and Reassessment.

Now that you’ve started executing, you need to start monitoring to make sure you’re still on track. 

Reassessment is also necessary; you may realize along the line that the goal you set is not realistic you are allowed to go back to the drawing table to reset or adjust your goal as the case may be.

Using the goal we set above, in a certain week, you might be unable to save up to the N2500 you planned on saving. You should ask yourself why.

Was there an unnecessary expense I incurred? Is my goal not realistic? Is there a way I can earn more so as to achieve my goal? Etc. 

Please, do not beat yourself up if you’re unable to meet up with your financial goal.

This brings us to an end of my session.

 This is a practical class; I expect that while this session was ongoing some of us already started answering the personal questions asked. 

If  you are really serious about getting started with your finances, I expect you get a note and answer all these questions and also set your goals.

Financial management requires skills that are useful in other areas of your life too.

When you can be committed, consistent and dedicated to your financial goals, there’s a high possibility of you transferring these characters to other areas of your life. Being financial responsible is a journey and not a destination. 

You have to be willing to learn, relearn and unlearn per time.

Most people have the excuse of not knowing how to start. Now, I believe you know how to start and by the end of these three days you’ll fully understand financial management.

You really don’t have any excuse now. START NOW.

We hope you learnt something from this. Share with others and don’t keep the knowledge to yourself. There are other sessions from day 2 and 3 and you can follow the #TMOC tag on our site to catch up.


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