Some get their biggest money lessons from failed businesses, others from thought-provoking books penned by renowned authors such as Paulo Coelho. However, I got mine from a romantic relationship that ended in 'premium tears'.
It started with a meme. An innocent yet funny enough meme that grabbed my attention. The meme listed down 10 ways to look younger and it read as follows;
As you've probably guessed by now, I somehow ended up falling in love in Nairobi.
It is important to make it clear that I have nothing against Nairobi women/girls/them/they or whatever ticks your gender box. My only bone of contention is - or rather was, with one particular girl and her name was Carol.
The superstitious reader would point to the name 'Carol' as a major red flag based on the unfounded belief that 'Carol' is the female version of 'Kevo'. But I've never been one to believe in common stereotypes.
I had just landed my first job following my undergraduate degree. My pay cheques as a cashier at a top-tier hotel aren't anything to write home about.
However, at the time, I was untouchable and went about my day-to-day activities like a young man who owned the world. Being the first time I was actually earning and covering my own bills, you understand why I had developed Kiburi level Manchester United fan.
I found it very hard to understand why my peers were not killing this beast called 'adulting' as easily as I was. Yep, I was that guy. The never-fun-at-parties guy.
Coming from a family whose head was a banker, I inadvertently picked up on some key money lessons - which, now that I think of it, have been serving me to date.
I knew that budgets were a thing, saving is good, planning for expenses in advance is good, etc. I had the basics and genuinely thought I had everything I needed in order to conquer the world.
That's when I met her.
As Mike Tyson once said, everyone has a plan until they get a straight punch to the face.
Carol was just that. An energy-sapping, spaghetti-legs-inducing punch to the face that had me re-examining all my previous beliefs.
I find it rather poetic that we met in a banking hall. You'll get the poetic bit once you get to the end of the story.
She stood out like an Ingwe supporter smack in the middle of a crowd of rowdy Gor Mahia fans.
I used to think that the slow-mo thing that they do in movies when a guy sees a girl he likes was hogwash, until that fateful day.
I could swear that it felt like time stood still and some cheesy 90's r&b track was playing in the background the moment I first laid my eyes on her.
Just like in the movies, my smitten brain immediately told me that she was way out of my league. I'm talking thousands of kilometers from my league.
In retrospect, I should have probably presented myself as myself from the get-go. A hotel cashier who was barely making enough money to sustain my sybarite lifestyle.
However, I didn't.
I was inexperienced in this animal called dating. All I knew about this particular animal came from what I saw in movies and heard via music.
This explained my belief at the time that money or the illusion of money was the answer to everything.
It also explains why I presented myself as a finance manager at a 5-star hotel. A cashier just didn't have the nice ring to it that I thought I needed.
And just like that, I had embarked on the unenviable journey of digging my own financial grave.
The thing with living beyond your means is that it always catches up with you in the end. It may not be today or 5 months down the line but it always catches up with you.
Someone once said that truth may be stretched thin, but it never breaks, and it always surfaces above lies, as oil floats on water. This is very true when it comes to financial truths.
Carol, like myself, had expensive tastes and since I chose to slap myself with a 'manager' title, I had to play the part.
The problem with lying, or stretching the truth as most who do it like to call it, is that the longer it goes on, the harder it is to untangle yourself from the web of lies.
I had read hundreds of articles touching on money and relationships and noticed a common theme among all of them - Money is the number one source of conflict in all relationships.
There are things that need to be discussed from the get-go such as financial status, financial expectations, goals, etc.
However, I just couldn't bring myself to discuss money with Carol. Call it stupidity, call it naivety, call it blind love, or all the above.
It got to a point where I was now deeply embedded in all the mobile loan apps available on the Google play store. I needed the money or thought I needed the money to keep the relationship going.
At some point, I even defaulted on some of those mobile money loans, which led to an average of 5 calls and 10 messages a day.
My financial health was in the ICU but for some reason, I couldn't bring myself to face my issues head-on.
It was just easier to ignore all the red flags altogether.
The problem with sweeping financial issues under the rug is they are guaranteed to erupt when you least expect it.
By this point, Carol and I had already had a couple of fights centered on money. I had acclimatized her to the 'soft life' and my well was as dry as dry can get.
The vicious debt cycle, threatening phone calls coupled with the challenges that come with relationships had turned me into a bitter person.
What most people don't know is that financial woes arising from irresponsibility can mess with your head to a point where sleep becomes hard to come by.
You may get into bed at 10 pm yet stay up as late as midnight just tossing and turning as your brain works on overdrive to try and solve your gazillion problems.
Lack of adequate sleep then in turn made me grumpy and I'd snap at anything.
Everything I was earning at the end of the month went into servicing debt and by the first week of each new month, I was usually already running on fumes, thereby forced to borrow again just to get through the month.
Carol had finally had enough and so had I.
I no longer enjoyed my own company so it made a lot of sense that she decided to walk away.
It hurt. I won't lie.
During those first few weeks, I had the 'This is what she does to me after all I've done for her mentality'.
But it soon turned into acceptance after some serious soul-searching and self-reflection.
I asked a few friends I trusted for help in terms of getting my finances out of the ICU and I was pleasantly surprised to see how willing they were to help with no strings attached, and no judgment.
As hard as it is to ask for help, especially when it comes to money, having a friend or two who can be trusted is a lifesaver, quite literally.
If you only take away one thing from this entire story just know this - relationships and money cannot be separated. It needs to be part of the conversation from the get-go.
I cannot stress enough on the importance of honest money conversations with your loved ones.