Book review: The Smart Money Woman

The smart money woman

The Smart Money Woman: An African girl’s journey to financial freedom is a book that uses fiction to teach women about personal finances. The book was published in 2016 by the Matador, an imprint of Troubador Publishing Limited.

Book review: The smart money woman

About the Author

The book was written by a Nigerian woman called Arese Ugwu. Arese is the founder of, a platform where she teaches concepts of personal finances to African millennial. She is also a host of a personal finance TV show called ‘Your Life Your Money’ and has spent years working and gaining experience in wealth management.

Arese has been instrumental in shaping the new narrative on personal finances in Nigeria and Africa as a whole. As if that’s not enough, she was a 2015 finalist for the Access Bank W Award for Young Professional of the year. She holds a masters in Economic Development from the University College London (UCL) and a Bachelors in Business and Management from Aston Business School, Birmingham. She is also an alumna of the Lagos Business School, INSEAD Abu Dhabi and the London Business School executive education programs.

Through the Smart Money Movement, Arese hopes to change the African narrative of poverty through financial education, inspiring Africans to manage their finances better in order to cultivate the next generation of African billionaires. And she wrote the Smart Money Woman book as one strategy of realizing this dreams


The book is set in modern day Lagos, a city in the heart of Nigeria, West Africa. Through this book, we see Lagos as a city where appearances matter and people are judged by value of their possession, the quality of the clothes they wear, the places where they hang, friends they keep, where they go for vocation/holiday etc.


The book follows the story of a Nigerian babe called Zuri.

To the outside world, Zuri has it all. She has a well-paying job (N600, 000 after tax), she lives in one of the best neighborhoods of Lagos, drives a Mercedes car, her wardrobe is filled with expensive designer pieces, she frequently goes out to the most expensive restaurants in town, and she goes to holidays abroad. Just looking at her, you would be ‘I want to be like her’.

But Zuri’s reality is far from the picture people have of her.

Yes, Zuri earns good money on her job as a junior executive at a real estate firm, and yes she doesn’t have the responsibility of taking care of her extended family but Zuri is broke.

The story actually starts with Zuri like this:

I can’t believe this is happening to me! Zuri panicked as she shook her head and stared at her account balance.

As the story begins, we see Zuri as a woman who lets life happen to her. She doesn’t plan her life, her finances or anything until she finds herself deep in debt. Her rent was due, her car had broken down, her doctor told her she had develop fibroids and needed an operation (which wasn’t exactly cheap) and on-top of it all, she was at the verge of losing her job because she was no longer giving it her all.

Zuri was forced to acknowledge her situation.

We follow her throughout the book as she begins to critically analyze and track her money and eventually taking charge of her finances. When the book end, it’s clear that Zuri is well on her way to achieving financial freedom.

What I love about the Smart Money Woman

These are some of the reasons why I really loved reading this book:

Zuri did not take the easy way out

Faced with such money woes, she could have easily blamed it on other factors, refusing to take responsibility of the problems she had created herself. She could have easily have just gotten herself a rich husband to settle it all for her. But she didn’t. She faced her problems headon and created the life she wanted for herself. I find that level of taking responsibility and maturity endearing.

Zuri’s wasn’t the only one who become a smart money woman in the book

Zuri wasn’t a lone wolf of this story. She had a squad of friends– four amazing women who each had their own bad money habits and levels of money ignorance. Through the book, we see each of the women acknowledging stereotypes that are holding them back as women in achieving financial freedom. We also see all of them tackle their money fears, conquering their money ignorance that was holding them back.

It has a bit of romance

Even though Zuri does not get herself a rich boyfriend to rescue her, Zuri still gets some romance in this book. In her journey Zuri meets a wealthy and confident man called Tsola and the two fall in love. Truly, a cherry to top of a cake!

Exercises at the end of each chapter

I love that while Zuri walks her journey towards financial freedom, Arese tries to take the reader through the same steps in the reader’s personal life. She has included exercises to be completed at the end of each topic by the reader which helps the reader acknowledge their own truth when it comes to finances.

Final thoughts on the book

In short, I love this book and I recommend it to anyone (males and females alike) who would like a deeper understanding of personal finances. Arese, has in this book, presented fundamental principles about finance in a way that is humorous and realistic, a way that will surely guide the African millennial towards achieving financial freedom.

Maybe that is why, Africa’s richest man had this to say about the book:

An entertaining way to learn about money… ushering in a new narrative of Africa, especially of the African woman in the 21st century – her perspective, her ambitions, her journey, flaws and all, but wholly hers.

Alhaji Aliko Dangote, GCON, Chairman and CEO, Dangote Group

Related: 3 Money books to set you on the right path towards financial freedom

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