In Summary
  • She asked the right questions when Saccos became the next big thing after sewing machines.
  • She queued longer in the banking hall so she could get the two cents on savings accounts.
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My mother was a primary school teacher for 34 years. She retired in 2008, just as my little sister was sitting her final primary school exams. It was a beautifully timed curtain call to a passionate career.

She is now a farmer in our shagz in Kaplong.

She survives off her pension; it’s deposited to her account every month.

My mother didn’t earn much as a primary school teacher (any fool knows this as well as you and I do). The Teacher’s Service Commission is known for many things but not chunky pay cheques.

I once found of one of her payslips – I don’t remember how – and kept it in a shoebox where I keep other items of such sentimental value.


What stood out for me then, as it does now, isn’t the malnourished figures in there but what she’d been able to build to financial health with the little she made. That disconnect was as fascinating and it was inspiring.

She invested in land, chamas, money market funds, the stock market, insurance policies, a couple of small side-hustles that taxied on the runway but never got airborne (because of my Ol’Man. You must know how the fathers of that generation thought about side-hustles. At least mine did).

And she talked about money. She didn’t talk about it sooner than I’d have wanted but she talked about it anyway. That’s what counts. What counts even more is that she walked her talk.

Here are five of those teachings she handed down to me:


My mother always said that as a woman, it’s important to have your own money in your pocket.

Having your own money earns you a degree of independence to call some shots in your own life. It also earns you a stronger voice, a respectable place on the table and dependability as a person.

And there’s no such thing as small money or big money. Money is money. Money makes things happen.

I see it for myself now. It’s in the little things, such as wanting to go buy myself a pair of shoes from Veteran House, then going in and leaving with shoes, sexy dresses and one of those pants in crazy prints and colours. Or getting a wax or pedicure. Or a pricey meal.

I also see it in the big things. Like when GB and I have a huge project to invest in as a couple, and I’m comfortably able to bring my own money to partly finance the project.


Back then they didn’t have the blessing of Internet or short courses on personal finance management. Yet my mother somehow learned to manage hers and the household’s money. She demystified it.

She began with the simple principle of budgeting. Of knowing how she’d spend her money before it fell into her hands.

Then when she came to teach in Nairobi, she had her ear to the ground. She picked up tips from the insurance salesmen who constantly knocked at her school’s doors.

She sponged from the mamas in the neighbourhood as they chatted loosely while undoing each others’ braids or deseeding peas and maize cobs, maybe hanging laundry.

She asked the right questions when Saccos became the next big thing after sewing machines. She queued longer in the banking hall so she could get the two cents on savings accounts.

It’s 2019 – we have the resources on the tips of our fingers to become self-taught money managers. If not, you know where to go to sit a class.


I always knew it was my Ol’Man’s money that kept the family afloat. Monthly shopping, food, clothes, utility bills and whatnot were all settled from my Ol’Man’s sweat.

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