How running personal new businesses led two retirees into poverty and how to avoid their mistakes

Success they say is shy; it won’t come by watching and folding of hands, doing nothing. In other words, success only comes after action but rather unfortunately, in this part of the world, we do watch too much and for too long hence, success most times eludes.

I’ve seen someone going around town with a live hyena dressed like human; guess what? Lagosians thronged to watch. But what values do they derive from such? How do you describe those that would not only watch the street performance of a hyena but will even throw some coins and naira notes at the man and his hyena on display? It’s funny how that Nigerians will not hesitate concentrating on all sorts of irrelevancies but when it comes to the essentials? My people easily do brush aside.

The English Premier league is followed with passion by many just for discussion purposes only. To some, the attraction is home movies. It is excellent to relax but the earlier you realise that ‘watchers’ have never been rewarded in the game of life and you move from being just a watcher to becoming an Actor, failure is sure in the waiting. Please note that even in study of Statistics where observation is recommended at the commencement of experimentation, it is meant to lead to precise action. The bible does enjoin to watch but the same verse and in fact the very next comments say ‘and pray’. You have perhaps watched and cared less of your finances enough, you have watched and stayed long in poverty for too long; isn’t it time to act? When Drogba or Ronaldo plays soccer as Actors they are compensated, ditto Baba Suwe in his formal dressing and funny acts. No one will ever pay you for being a stander-by to watch, no, not the nature, definitely not life. My friend, don’t watch your future slide off without repairs; don’t wait till the future catches you unawares; take action for the next phase of your life as you begin your retirement plans today.

Hello, do you know your future and your retirement is nearer than you thought? Just calculate how long you’ve worked and see how long more you are left to work? But most painfully, we live without giving this deep thinking. I was lost in thoughts where I sat at an event recently. It was an invitation to an event in celebration and compensation of long serving and deserving staffers. While others including the awardees were lost in the merriment, I was lost in deep thoughts. The fact that wall clocks constituted the major gifts items as awards to these long serving staffers of the company got me the more concerned. Wall clock and a plague, LCD television with a plague? Hmmmn.  My concern was not in the values but the significance of the items particularly the wall clock. In the midst of the joyous moments to the awardees, a popular Yoruba saying came to my mind, it says, ‘when the head of yam is being shown to a stranger, it is a sign that it is time to go’. Wall clock as awards is significantly to impress on the awardee by the organisation it’s over or that the time is nearer an end than the beginning.

How I wished these awardees could just read my mind as I sat all alone; how I wished I’ve got the opportunity to tell them that their days are numbered in the organisation. I took time to observe and can see an irony; many of these people who started with the company back then are still largely low financially while the company keeps growing in leaps and bound. This might not be your exact story but I guess you can learn a salient lesson here that no organisation is structured to accommodate an employee for life; it is always a case of ‘soldier go soldier come while the barrack remains’ so the question is, where do you go when the company or that office is no longer fit for you? This category of worries had often propelled a number of employees to think of starting a form of business enterprise to retire to; this they attempt to operate while still in active service through a third party but sadly enough from experience, this had being their undoing. This and other reasons why retirees are poor is where I desire we dwell this week.

BUSINESS IN RETIREMENT: This piece is predicated on the fact that many are poor today in retirement, not for mere ineptitude but are circumstances of the environment. Some retirees are today living in penury not because they never made efforts but because of failed attempts at establishing one business or the other shortly before retirement.

Mrs Aladesanmi was a Retiree of Union bank plc in 1993. With her gratuity, she started a mini supermarket. She started well but packed up in less than two years. Today, she lives from hands to mouth. A retired army General relocated back home to our village mid eighties to establish a tomatoes processing firm, he was out of business in less than a year. The man, who was a member of the supreme military council in his hay days lived an ordinary life till he died with virtually nothing left for the many children. I have also seen a few retirees who are doing so well in business so, what are the differences?

My uncle- Dauda retired from the services of Nigerian customs and excise as a comptroller with so much cash. Apparently because he still felt strong, he felt he could still engage in a business activity so he got lots of proposals from church people, old associates and such. Of all these, uncle preferred the one from brother Kingsley which was on going around the country to buy palm kernel, timber and cashew nuts as the case may be for exportation. The business proposal was so attractive such that anyone can fall for so the business took off but note that this was never an area my uncle had prior knowledge or experiences so he depended solely on everything that is called Kingsley to survive. The business sure started well with about three exports with lots of profits after which series of complains and excuses began to pour in with huge loses in the process, until the relationship got soured and the partnership dissolved with Uncle’s gratuity with it. He was ten years in retirement few weeks ago with thanks to God for the gift of life. Kingsley now resides in Ghana living the good life we were told but uncle is partially blind living on the mercies of his children overseas.

What were the errors in uncle’s attempt? Firstly, he attempted to start a fresh business with his gratuity. From experience, a retiree doesn’t have the energy, temerity and concentration to birth a new business owing to old age. Businesses are better birthed when the strength is there; in other words, you can be working somewhere and yet run a parallel business to later resign to pursue if you are young enough but the probability that you will survive well starting a business at age sixty is slim as you would have no choice than to leave others with major decisions which may ruin the business owing to insincerity on the part of Nigerian workers. A retiree also doesn’t have the time required to nurture a business to maturity for every business no matter how much you are starting with would naturally take its curve to stabilise at which period the retiree might be closer to the grave besides, new businesses would require a measure of hunger and deferred gratification from the founder, the period of retirement is meant to reap deferred gratification and not to further defer it hence, it is not advisable to start a fresh business when you are retired except with and for your kids.

Secondly, my uncle started a business he knew nothing about thus depending absolutely on the knowledge of others. Please note that the man on whose knowledge you are depending can only use you as a stepping stone as he will soon quit to start on his own with profits from you. If you must start a business at all, it must be such that you know so well such that you would not rely solely on the ideas of a third party. Thirdly, uncle injected his entire gratuity in this business because he was convinced and believed in it. Please learn not to keep all your eggs in only one basket no matter how potentially profitable the venture looks. From my years in business, I can tell that every venture is risky. Ask our business people in this country and what you will find is that the numbers of businesses they embarked on and failed are more than the ones where they succeeded which are the ones we see. Lastly, please note that running business in Nigeria requires a special skill for our country isn’t a place where you can just wake up one morning to start a business thinking of quick survival. From what I know of government workers, the simplicity of life that they have exhibited in working for the government before retirement can’t just work in Nigeria’s business environment however, I would recommend that you think well ahead on what to do, the how and actually start on a low scale like five years before retirement.

Though I would still have to touch on this at a later date but let me quickly state here that some professions might not require so much of your gratuity to start for example, if you were in the police, you might choose to establish a security outfit. If you are an Accountant in government, it might be appropriate to establish an audit or tax consulting firm at retirement. This suggests that if you are still in active service and reading this, you might have to think of additional and professional certificates to help keep you busy at retirement besides, keep good track records, high level and exceptional professionalism and build network while in active service for all these would help you find clientele when you eventually set up on your own. Good luck. Meanwhile, be free to express your views at


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