The first time I heard of Vex Money was as a freshman, or in Nigerian parlance, a Jambite in the University. I was curious about what it meant, so I asked for an explanation. Back in the university, Vex Money referred to the money that a thoughtful girl takes with her when asked out on a date. It was especially important when the fellow in question was someone you had just started dating. The purpose of Vex Money was to act as insurance against any unforeseen event, and give the lady in question options on the course of action to take if the unforeseen did happen.

You might ask, what can possibly go wrong on a date? A lot. The fellow in question might forget his wallet (whether truly or as some sort of gimmick); you don’t want to be the one washing dishes for God-knows-how-long to earn the meal you have just thoughtlessly consumed. You don’t want to be the one left with a bill you are incapable of paying when the fellow runs away after conveniently going to use the John. Vex Money at least gives you the option of paying for your own meal and claiming that you were just sharing the table with a friend whose meal you had no intention of paying for. Let’s assume that the fellow pays the bill, but tries to con you into spending the night at his place with one ruse or the other as some fellows are wont to do just because they bought you a meal, Vex Money gives you options. Depending on how much you have, you can offer to pay him back for the food, or at least, tell him off and pay for a taxi back to your place. The decision to spend the night at his place should be yours to make, and not because you have been caught with an empty purse, a paper-weight ATM card and no means to go back home.

As it was in my university days, Vex Money is still important, and even more so now. As it is in the animal world, where vultures can smell the scent of the dying or the mortally injured and swoop down to pick the carcass, sometimes without waiting for the prey to die, so it is in the human world. Some people have a knack for identifying people, particularly women, in trouble, so they can swoop down and devour them, taking advantage of their weakness or need. Simply put, Vex Money is a little money or asset you have set aside for the rainy day, while praying that it never rains.

Why is Vex Money more important now than when we were in the university? It’s because the stakes are now higher and life is still largely unpredictable. You could lose your well-paying job or business, boyfriends can leave you, fiancés can dump you and go marry someone else, husbands can lose their well-paying jobs, they can stop loving you and spend all their money on a mistress, divorce you after you have given them three kids and the best years of your life, or turn out to be chronic wife beaters, leaving you with two options: leave them or die. Husbands can die intestate, and if they die leaving behind a will, they might will their fortune to their brothers. Even when a good husband dies leaving behind a will providing for you and the kids, wills can still be contested. That’s life – stuff happens!

So I want to ask you, since we all agree that stuff happens, do you have your Vex Money? Do you have something kept aside that can tide you over the rough patch when life throws you a curve ball? Do you have some savings, Treasury Bills, shares, a piece of land, a talent? Are you living life thinking that that ideal situation will remain like that forever? Employers can be unfair and even fraudulent, leaving you with the short end of the stick after you have served them so well. The best businesses can still fail. Boyfriends, fiancés, husbands can stop keeping their promises. Love wanes and sometimes dies. A man’s money flows in the direction of his love, and when love wanes, so do the financial favors. Fair is not always fair. Never believe that just because you spent your entire savings taking care of someone, be it your siblings, your husband, or even your children, that they will come to your aid when you hit a rough patch.

Do you have a few months salary saved – cash or assets – that you can live on for a while if you lose that job? Do you have a little money saved from the good years with your husband that you can use to start a little business if he loses his job, divorces you, or dies? Do you have enough to pay the children’s school fees for at least one term in the event that your husband dies and you need time to sort out issues? Are you still in that abusive marriage, praying that he doesn’t finally kill you just because you have no Vex Money and therefore think you can’t leave? Are you a divorcee, a widow and you find yourself trading sexual favors with men that you ordinarily wouldn’t talk to on a good day, just so that you can feed your children and pay their school fees? Have you lost your job and the friends who promised to help you in any way possible, are suddenly too busy to see you? Or they want a little feel, a little something before they can help you? Are you there, wondering how possible it is that that same husband, sister, brother, friend that you spent most of your money on when you had that cushy job, now treats you worse than yesterday’s newspapers?

Ladies, it doesn’t matter if you have the most secure and well-paying job in the world – keep your Vex Money, if you have the most caring husband in the world who will live to be a hundred years – keep your Vex Money, if that friend is better than ten sisters – keep your Vex Money, if your children are the most loving and responsible – keep your Vex Money, if you helped a quarter of Lagos to get a job and so shouldn’t have a problem getting another if you lose your job – keep your Vex Money. Whatever it is that you think you have – keep your Vex Money.

I do understand that it can be rather difficult holding on to savings in the long term without giving in to the temptation to spend it on something – sometimes on a very worthy cause in the here and now, as opposed to saving it for an eventuality that may never occur. The following are a few ways to invest your Vex Money and to ensure that you have access to it:

Besides getting a formal education, learn a skill that can earn you some income if your primary source of income fails. These include hair making, baking, bead-making, soap-making, fashion designing, etc. These may not – especially at inception – keep you in the manner you were hitherto used to, financially speaking, but they will ensure that you have access to money for the basics, while trying to get back on track.

Invest in real estate. This is not just the preserve of the rich. You can actually buy a piece of land somewhere far away for a reasonable amount of money and wait. Chances are that as civilization slowly catches up to the area where the property is, the value will rise and you would have made a pretty penny when you do sell. However, a note of caution: make appropriate enquiries before buying real estate so as not to be duped. Also note that depending on the state of the economy, real estate may not be easily realizable; it may take a while before you can sell it. It is therefore advisable that you do not put all of your savings in real estate. Invest some of your savings in investment classes that can be easily turned to cash.

Invest in shares. For the purpose of Vex Money, profit is not the main objective in investing in shares. The main objective is the preservation of the investment over time, with the desire for the shares to be easily convertible to cash when needed, and that the investment has at least appreciated enough over time to cover loss in the value of the local currency occasioned by inflation. In investing our Vex Money in shares, we should limit our investments to shares of first class, dependable companies who may not necessarily have rapid share price increases in the short term but are safe in the long term, and whose share price increases, over time, are sufficient to make up for the effects of  inflation.

Invest in Treasury Bills. Treasury Bills are technically risk-free investment vehicles with a guaranteed return rate. The down side is that being a short term, easily realizable investment vehicle, there is the risk of converting the investment to cash and putting it to unintended use. The upside is that it is easily realizable and is technically risk-free, thus a necessary investment vehicle in a person’s investment portfolio.

Vex Money is like insurance; it’s nice to have, doesn’t really seem important when you don’t need it but can be life-changing – and not in a good way – if you need it but don’t have it.

On the bright side, if you still have that well-paying job, thriving business, generous boyfriend, loving husband, dependable friend, adorable sister, responsible children and there are no curve balls in sight, start building up your Vex Money and PRAY that you will never have to use it. PRAY that at life’s end you can bequeath it, and more importantly, bequeath the concept to another woman who will bequeath it to another and then to another.

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