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A woman’s makeup box and an automobile toolbox have two things in common. They each contain multiple tools and each tool serves a purpose in time that can be the difference between a glam or a drab day.

What is the most important tool in a Nigerian woman’s makeup bag? Is it the perfect shade foundation, the highlighter, the set of makeup brushes, tweezers, powder or the waterproof mascara? Some of these tools we use daily but others we use occasionally. The same goes for access to credit in your financial literacy tool box. Every time women talk to me about their financial options, I tell them that financial literacy is important in fully maximising your potential as a Nigerian woman in this decade. Financial literacy is basically learning and accessing financial tools; saving, investing, credit/loans, insurance, e.t.c to improve your life.

To maximize the benefit of financial inclusion, you need to learn and have access to all of the tools in the financial literacy box. Most people save (well….), many more have recently started investing but credit is still an area that a lot of people still have a lot to learn about. As access to credit continues to grow in Nigeria, it is important that you understand how to use it before you make a decision to either skip it, or use it periodically.

Credit Myth: Successful people do not need loans or credit
Contrary to street opinion, most successful people use this tool. Jayz rapped about it in his song “The Story of O.J” off his 4.44 album. He said “You wanna know what’s more important than throwin’ away money at a strip club? Credit. You ever wonder why Jewish people own all the property in America? This how they did it” and then at the beginning of the next verse he said “Financial freedom my only hope. F*** livin’ rich and dyin’ broke”. The Jewish families in America own a lot of property and influence because of their financial literacy and their ability to take advantage of the power of credit.

Credit Myth: There is an advantage in applying for more than you need.
Understanding how to use loans/credit can provide you a means to additional capacity whether as a career chic or a businesswoman. A key thing to remember is that a loan/credit is not an income, so if you are taking it too regularly, flexing with it or using it to meet your daily needs, you might have a problem. A loan used properly is a tool to do more to increase your income. lenders will only give out loans that they believe a borrower can repay, and you may end up in more trouble if you end up with repayment terms that are beyond your means.

Credit Myth: Applying for a loan is complicated and time-consuming.
Applying for a loan is really not as scary as it sounds. In Nigeria today, you can get quick loans at great interest rates that will help you grow your business or meet your career needs. There are even loan partners that are women focused.

How can a loan help a career chick or a businesswoman?
As a career chic access to informed credit can help you take professional exams and courses you might have to save for months or even years to be able to afford. It can also help you start a small side hustle and watch it grow. Your regular salary is an advantage and allows credit companies and banks feel more confident in offering you credit.

One of my personal missions is the success of women led businesses in Africa by providing small loans and financial literacy that can empower them to grow. Women in Nigeria have problems accessing credit, but things are changing.

Working with women in business, I have heard statements like “we need new machinery to meet our current demand but I am saving to be able to get one in 5 months”. Can you see the immediate problem in that statement? As a business owner focused on time-bound growth and profitability, you shouldn’t have to wait for 5 months to seize an opportunity currently at your doorstep. This mindset shift is what financial literacy addresses which helps change the approach to business loans. It is time to look at credit as a business decision supported by growth data and not a fear factor never to be considered.

What about the cost of a loan?
The question I ask is- What about the cost of staying stagnant and not maximising opportunities. More than the fear of an interest rate, there should be an awareness that there is an interest rate for staying as is and choosing to only operate within your capacity. Understanding the potential ROI backed by data is a good criteria for taking that business-focused decision. No matter what the interest is 0–100 percent, the ROI motivates you to see in real terms what you are missing and guides you on the interest rate.

In this “Becoming” and “made of more” era, More than ever before, more women are harnessing all the treasures they have inside and some of them might require extra capacity including credit. Whether it is growing that business, taking that professional exam to get on in your career or trying out that organic skincare line, you should be on a journey to growing your finances as best as you can.

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