If you're just joining in, I'll recommend you read my previous NSE series posts.

image: trak.in

Today, I'll be explaining how a stock gets it's price. And as we know, we consider our stock purchase a good investment only when we see the stock price going up and not down. So an understanding of what makes a stock's price go up or down is very vital.

As a quick recap.
There are 3 ways to own a company -- you start/inherit one, you buy a company's stock, or you buy a company's bond.
We've got preferred stock and common stock. It's the common stock that is being traded on the stock exchange. Hence, whenever I write stock [with no adjective] I mean common stock.

When a company wants to go public, it's bankers value the company's assets (buildings, equipment, bank account, intangibles, etc) and value it's liabilities (mostly debts). Then, they deduct the liabilities from the assets and name whatever value they get as the company's book value. Then they do some financial modelling magic to calculate the lifetime earnings of the company and then discount it to today's cash. They call that the company's valuation. It's that amount they quote to the public to buy at. They can split it to 100 million units and sell to you & me. That's what's is called an IPO. Initial Public Offer. The good part is that they also give you a free prospectus detailing nearly everything about the company, especially the book value that shows what money the company should really be exchanging for. But these bankers are marketers at heart. They put up fancy billboards. They change our favorite tunes to advertising jingles. They almost brainwash us via radio, TV and internet adverts. And even though we can see the truth in the prospectus, we still believe the future they are painting for us and buy into the IPO.

After the IPO, the other professionals (the ones that make their living reading financial statements) come in. They focus on what we ignored, the financial numbers. They run series of calculations. They make future projections. They compare the company's numbers with that of similar companies. They come up with their own valuation of the company. And God help us if it's less than what the IPO guys gave. The same marketers that lead by example, buying into the stock, will be the first to dump the stock and crash the price to what the stock market professionals think. Then after a while the company's stock price stabilizes.

So what makes a stock's price go up and down?
It's the stock market professionals, the guys who are full-time stock traders. They are like car dealers. Professional car dealers have a near perfect idea of what every car is worth. Whenever they see a car being sold for less than it's worth, they buy it instantly and move the price up to the market price. But their biggest effect lies in the fact that they are constantly scouting for such offers. They make it nearly impossible for you and me to find those cheap car offers. They are constant buying them out and moving the price to what they think, thus, setting the market price.
And that's how the professional stock traders operate. They have this idea of what a stock should be sold at, and force everyone to trade at that price. 

To understand how stock price goes up and down, you will need to understand how the professionals determine a stock's price. It's part science, part greed and part fear. Though you can always get the science part right (which is why I'm here) and be able to predict it's effect on stock prices, you can't always get the greed and fear part right. So in the end, you can't always predict stock prices.

A stock price will go up if the professionals believe it's worth more than it's selling for, and it will go down if they believe it's selling for more than it's worth.

Why did the 2008 stock crash happen?
It was simply because the greed and fear part dominated.

Today, I'll be explaining stocks.

I'll start with it's different names that confuse a lot of people -- shares, stock and stocks.

Shares are the units of a financial instrument. In our case, we'll say -- Shares are the units of a stock.
That takes us to -- what is a stock?

Stock is the capital of a company raised through the issue and subscription of shares.
And you say stocks when you are talking about several companies, each having it's own distinct stock.

The Nigerian Stock Exchange has a listing of over 170 stocks [or companies].
I have investments in 3 stocks -- GTB, Julius Berger Nigeria and Total Nigeria.
I have 24,680 shares of GTB stock.

I hope now you'll never be confused when you see shares, stock and stocks in any document.

Companies have two types of shares -- common/ordinary shares and preference/preferred shares. 

image: tradestation.com

Common or ordinary shares are the shares of a company that you can easily trade on the stock exchange. They are the ones you see in Punch Newspaper's NSE stocks price and activity page. They are the ones you trade when you open a stock brokerage account.

The preference/preferred shares are not easily traded. You often buy them directly from the company's issuing house. I almost bought one in 2008, it was First Inland Bank's preference shares. It was selling at N9.50 per share.
And it had the following specifications (which ordinary shares do not have) --

  • A fixed dividend of 9.25% per annum on the offer price of N9.50
  • The dividends are to be paid after tax (unlike bond interest payments)
  • The dividends have preference over that to paid to ordinary shareholders. That's if there's anything left to pay them from.
  • The dividends are non-cummulative. If for any reason the company couldn't pay this year, there's no payment carry-over. You shouldn't expect the missing year's dividend to paid another year. It's every year to its own.
  • You can convert [30% or less] the preferred shares to ordinary shares on the 30th of April of every year, for the next 7 years.
  • The Issuer can call the preferred shares anytime after the next 7 years. Meaning you'll be forced to sell the shares back to the company anytime after the 7 years tenor of the shares.
Common shares don't have any of such characteristics. And that's the simple difference between a common share and a preference share.

N.B. You will often see Common Stock and Preferred Stock, but I went with Common shares and Preference shares so as not to confuse you as regards the clarification between shares, stock and stocks. In reality, all a company's shares are grouped into common shares and preference shares. The common shares are collectively known as the company's common stock. While the preference shares are known as the company's preferred stock.

Yeah, we are progressing!

When it comes to financial securities investment, stocks and bonds matter a lot.
And in today's post, I'll be helping you understand stocks and bonds. What they really are.

image: blog.mumbaitrader.com

There are different ways to own a company: you can start one yourself; you can partner with a friend to start one; and you can buy the stock or bonds of a company. And for most of us, buying stock or bonds are the easiest way to own a company, at least a piece of a company.

Occasionally, we see a company growing very fast. And its bankers advise it to float an IPO (Intial Public offer). They come up with a mind-numbing valuation of the company and break it down into million units of shares. They sell a part to the public, you and me. Every share of the company you buy is a portion of the company. If you are extremely rich, you can decide to buy all the company's shares and make it your family business. That's if the board of directors let you.
Buying a company's stock is owning part of the company, it's like becoming a limited partner with less legal rights.

Then when the same company sees a huge business opportunity and wants to quickly cash in on it, it may float bonds for the public to buy. Bonds are like loans, [often] from the small guy to the big guy. You as an individual are lending money to a multi-billion naira company. And that's simply what buying bonds is.

Now to the less obvious.
We can break down the ownership of a publicly traded company into three different classes --
  1. Bond Investors
  2. Preferred Stock Investors
  3. Common Stock Investors
Bond Investors are regarded as senior owners and lay a prior claim to the assets of the company before both the preferred stock and common stock investors can enforce their claims. Likewise, the preferred stock owners are superior to the common stock owners.
If for any reason the company has to shutdown and its assets be sold off. The bond investors will first be satisfied, then preferred stocks investors and lastly, the common stock investors. In most cases like this, nothing reaches the common stock owner.

In practical terms, if you buy the bonds of a company, the only way you'll lose your investment (if you don't trade it at a discount) is if the company closes down completely (nowadays, it's also called restructuring).  But as a stock owner, you either jump ship before it's too late or watch all your investment vaporize.

On the other hand, if the company is doing extremely well and growing revenue to the sky. A bond owner will not get more than he was promised. While a stock owner will reap almost all the rewards.

And that is why bonds are viewed as conservative investments, and stock as very risky. But the reality is that a company that is healthy enough to fulfill its bond obligations will most likely be faring very well in the stock market, while a company whose stock is getting seriously bashed might end up not meeting it's bond obligations (except in some crazy exceptions).

In conclusion, when it comes to buying bonds, you are better off sticking to government bonds. If there is a company you believe it's bonds are investment grade, you should rather consider investing in its stock (except it's overpriced). So in reality, use the bond ratings of a company as an indicator of the company's health, to see if you can continue with your plan to buy it's stock. 

I'm assuming you've read NSE #3: The Magic of Compound Interest

In this post I'm going to revisit Compound Interest. It makes all the difference in the investment world.
With a working knowledge of compound interest, all you'll need to become very rich is just lots of time and no [very] bad luck (you don't even need good luck). And I'm telling the unvarnished truth.

image: dominatethegmat.com

Compound interest is when your interest generates interest. When every naira you gain works as hard as your initial investment, to make you another naira. And it's the most profitable knowledge in the world of finance, if used right.

If I invest N1,000,000 at a simple interest of 10%, after 20 years I'll have N3,000,000.
If I invest the same N1,000,000 at a compound interest of 10% for 20 years. I'll have N6,727,500.
The difference is a whooping N3,727,500!

How do I apply that in my day to day investment life?
If I'm to pick between a 10 year FGN bond with a coupon rate of 15% and a face value of N1,000 selling at par (at par means at full face value, in this case, N1,000); and GTB shares at N25 per share, dividend rate of 7% and dividend growth rate of 10%. It's only the understanding of compound interest that will enable me make a good comparison.
N1,000,000 invested in the FGN bond will equal N1,000,000 gotten when the bond matures in 10 years + N150,000 paid to me every year for 10 years. Totaling N2,500,000. The interest I get is simple interest.
If I invest the same N1,000,000 in GTB shares at N25 per share. I will get dividends worth N1,274,994 in the same 10 year period. And if GTB shares are still selling at same N25 after 10 years. My total cash flow on sale of the shares will be N2,274,994.
As you can see, I'm able to translate the two different investment opportunities into numbers I can compare more reasonably because I understand compound interest.
In this case, I know that investing the N1,000,000 in GTB makes the better sense. GTB has a market beta of less than 1. It will take an unprecedented catastrophe to make the share price remain at N25 after 10 years. And I have used highly conservative assumptions. GTB's actual dividend growth rate has been more than double the rate I used in this example. Though, I'll incur more transaction costs in buying and cashing out of the GTB shares than FGN bonds, it's insignificant compared to the sure part of the gain in sight.

Now that's fairly complex. But that's how it works in reality. Nearly everything builds on your working knowledge of compound interest.

A working knowledge of compound interest is very vital. Whenever you are presented with an investment opportunity, the first question you should have answered is whether the returns are in any way compounded or not.
If I'm to pick between a quarry business and a pure water business. I'll be less excited about the quarry business. The quarry has a fixed output (like the FGN 10 year bonds), I can't increase the absolute output by reinvesting my earnings into the business. It's like a simple interest investment. 
But I can easily increase the quantity of pure water I pack (for almost forever) by reinvesting my earnings in the business. This is the business version of compound interest. But it's often referred to as scaling. Ability to increase your turnover without having to start from scratch [again].

Finally, compound interest changes the way you think. It makes you understand the time value of money. I prefer calling it the money value of time. All you need to become a millionaire is not a huge salary someday, it's prudent investment today. Because with compound interest, N100,000 becomes N1,000,000 in few years if you find great investments.

I intend to begin an intense series of posts on Investment -- bonds and common stock investing. But before I start, I need to set our perspectives right, as regards investing.

Oftentimes, we consider buying stocks and bonds as an alternative to leaving the money in a savings account, or a quick way to double our money. We hardly view buying stocks and bonds the same way we view starting a business or partnering with a friend to start a business.

In today's post I'm going to set our perspectives right.

image: lerablog.org

While in the University, whenever a student dies, especially a final year student, we often lament the fact that he was a final year student more than the reality of his death. You'll hear people exclaim, "Oh, after all the years of investment and hard work to get here. And he was just 2 months from graduation. Oh, what a terrible world." 
We all view the 20+ years of our lives spent in the four walls of a learning institution, reading for and writing exams, as an investment. And it's true. Nowadays, at the age of one, a child begins [pre-]school, moves to kindergarten, then nursery school, then primary school, then secondary school, and finally the University. And some spend close to a decade in the university, doing postgraduate courses after their undergraduate study. And why do we readily do this? Because we see it as an investment.

Once in a while, we meet old friends who have gone on their own. They now run their own businesses. You rub minds and they tell you that going on your own is always worth the risk, that the long-term returns and ease of life is better than anything you can get from any company. You begin to consider investing in a business idea you have. You take it so seriously that you begin taking special training, going for seminars, getting a mentor and buying relevant books. And why? Because we know that running a biz is no small task and one needs to build up to it.

Unfortunately, whenever we think of investing in the stock market or buying bonds, we see it as a hit or miss venture and not something to take seriously as a masters program or an entrepreneurship course. We hardly read 2 good 600+ pages book on it. We don't take finance courses for the sake of investing in the stock market. Why? We've got the wrong perspective on financial investments.

Buying shares is as much a serious business as setting up a Drug manufacturing company. At least, that's how serious I take it. I have my entire life-savings in the stock market, and I'm not a bit worried. Why? Because I see it as a business. I build up to it. I stretch myself more than I did to get my undergraduate degree. For once in my life, I'm putting my head where my money is. Every knowledge I gain is having a direct impact on my [stocks] business. Like a real business, I have had losses and rebounds. I have gone through the basics and history, I have studied for it harder than I did to get my CCNA and OCA. And I know that it's not enough. A business doesn't grow on knowledge. It grows with experience, deliberate plan and actions. And after reading over a century span of great books and MBA finance textbooks, I've found that it's just like being a core Telecoms engineer. You take a long arduous path to becoming one, but everyone outside thinks you're a special being, and that you do magic daily. Or being a doctor; no one even argues with you; you are next to God to a lot of people. And that's the way we all view Warren Buffett and other successful professional investors. 

The truth is that Malcolm Gladwell is right; you've got to pay the 10,000 hours due to be great in anything. You can't think your way out of it. Knowledge can never take the place of experience. But experience built on the wrong knowledge will take you nowhere. 

So what is the right perspective on investing?
It's a long term thing, like running a business.
It requires lots of man hours and brain work, more than doing a masters.
It requires sound knowledge of finance, financial accounting and macro-economics.
It requires dedication in cash, time and study.
And if you think you're fit enough for it, then get a note book and a dedicated pen 'cos I'm going to show you all I know. And be free to look out for faults in them. 

Above all, you'll find the finance and investment world very interesting.

Yippee! I can successfully prepare for the coming year, 2014. Why? I have achieved my 2013 new year resolutions. Or goals, sounds better. 
And in today's post, I'll show you how I did it. How I achieved all my 2013 goals.

1. I made 3 new year resolutions.
To achieve a new year resolution, you have make a new year resolution. So that was where I started from. In January 2013, I didn't just make 1 new year resolution; I made 3. 

I told myself that I was going to read more books that I have done in any year before, and about only the things that interest me. Unfortunately, my work training materials do not interest me and I was faithful not to read them. I read investment books, finance books, Excel programming books, self-development books and biographies of great men. I also read the manuals for my Microsoft tablet, my shirt and my N3,500 phone. I always read the manuals of things I buy.

I also told myself that I would grow my part-time biz. Now, I have more work offers than I can handle. If things keep getting better, I'll resign and be my own boss full-time.

Finally, I told myself I would become more outgoing. This was the only goal I didn't achieve the way I intended, I was planning to become an extrovert. I did become more outgoing, but ended up as an online extrovert. Not the offline one I was intending. Anyway, goal achieved.

2. I made plans for achieving the goals
I subscribed for online courses on coursera. I bought lots of books this year. I read for more hours than I sleep. And I write, which requires an enormous amount of reading. 

Most people don’t know my day job, but they all know that I’m a Microsoft Excel Consultant. Google “Microsoft Excel Consultant in Nigeria” and I’m nearly all you’ll see.

I'm out nearly every Saturday and Sunday. This year, I have had more busy weekends than work days. 

3. I enjoyed the journey
I didn't do anything that didn't interest me. I made sure I enjoyed the journey to achieving my 2013 goals. Every single day this year has been a new day. No two days were the same. If I have to tag this year, I'll say " 2013, my year of me." This year, I have been 100% me. I didn't try to please anyone. I didn't try to look good before anyone. I didn't care about people's opinions. Everyday, I think up a new idea or old idea, and work on it. 

And one of my favorite quotes this year is -- The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time. Abraham Lincoln

We all want to be a hero, at least, somebody's hero.

In today's post I'll be sharing with you the sure way to becoming a hero, a real hero. 

image: thecalmzone.net

Since none of us really care about the definition of a hero and being a hero is more of a heart thing, I will skip my usual elaborate definition. I will just go straight to steps you need to take to become a real hero.

1. Be Real
This is no play on words. To become a real hero, you first need to be real.
Let go of people's expectations and be the real you. Learn to express yourself consistently. Don't let friends push you into living a double life. Don't let anyone make you feel you are too low. Don't let anyone kill your self-esteem. Be real, the real you.
Everyday, I see lots of people trying to be who they are not. 20 year old John forming foreign accent on phone to impress a girl. 50 year old Ahmed who has never said "I'm sorry" to any of his children for over 20 years. 24 year old Lara who wouldn't pick her mum's call while amidst friends. 60 year old Ngozi who keeps talking about things that never happened.

To be a real hero, you need to be real.

2. Have Charisma
Charisma is that strong positive influence the people we admire have on us. 
I have read Apostle Paul's epistles over a hundred times this year, partly because I read 3 chapters of the bible daily. Whenever I read his letters I often feel the words, like I'm Tertius, hearing him dictate it to me to write down. My mind conceives an image of an old lean man with a bald head, speaking some of the most powerful words I have ever heard. 
Charisma is what made Adolf Hitler a god to other Germans at the start of the World War 2. 
Charisma is what helped Obama become the first black president of the US.
Charisma is what makes a man special.
And you, my friend, can have that charisma. Buy and read How to win friends and influence people. Practice, practice and practice. And soon, you'll become a man of charisma. 

Sounds simple? 

3. Outlive Yourself
Spend your life on things that will outlive you. Your family, a noble cause, a big goal, or as a go-to-guy [always helping others].

Finally, a word of caution. Don't take this hero stuff too far; don't make it an obsession. The truth is when you die, whether the nation goes on a 1 year mourning or only your kinsmen mourn you, you won't notice the difference. In fact, you won't notice at all. But if you live right, you will always be someone's hero.

I have read a lot of books on goals -- how to set goals, following through with strategies and achieving the goals. 
But I learned the right way to pursue a goal from only one set of books -- biographies. 

After reading biographies of about half of the past US presidents, reknowned scientists, great military leaders, business gurus, and artists; I found out that there is only way right way to pursuing a goal.
It's, probably, the one thing Socrates, Abraham Lincoln, Andrew Carnegie, Michelangelo, William Shakespeare, Aristotle, Isaac Newton, Steve Jobs, Barack Obama, Walt Disney, Wolfgang Mozart, Ludwig van Beethoven, Martin Luther King Jr, George Washington, Thomas Edison, Johannes Gutenberg, Mahatma Gandhi, Madame Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Joan of Arc, Pablo Picasso, Leonardo da Vinci, and Aliko Dangote all have in common. They didn't give up on their goals.

And that's the only right way to pursue a goal -- to never give up. 

Michangelo once spent 40 years on a project.

Abraham Lincoln went through a lot professional and personal setbacks before becoming the US president. 

Thomas Edison was good at failing; I think he was better at it than succeeding.

Andrew Carnegie toiled his way up. Right from the lowliest job to becoming the 2nd richest man in world history.

Leonardo da Vinci is the man with the longest resume. He was a professional in almost every field. 

Joan of Arc was a woman with no equal among men, in valour and in exploits. France will forever worship her.

Steve Jobs built the world's most innovative company from scratch, and twice. 

Aliko Dangote works longer hours most of his staff. 

Giving up is not in their dictionary. And that is the only right way to pursue a goal, any goal.

Titanic failed not because it sank, but because it wasn't rebuilt. Someone gave up. Noah's Ark was a success because Noah didn't give up. He kept rebuilting it.

You can have all the expertise, experience and money like the guys who built the Titanic, and still fail. But if you have just the determination Noah had, even with lack of expertise, technology and experience, you will achieve your goal.

Never Give Up.
My colleague at work was working on an Excel document, it was an official document and he needed to get it printed out right. But Excel kept splitting the document into two pages and in a very annoying way.

So I helped him out. And today, I'll be sharing the how-to. Someday, when you get into a similar situation you can be sure to come back to this post for straightforward help and not let Excel frustrate you.

I have made a sample file for today's demonstration.

As usual, it's a random sales data table.

When I click on Print, the Print Preview shows me 2 pages. It has split my table without my permission.

But I want it all on one page.

Here's how to force Excel to put everything on one page.

From the Print Preview page, click on Page Setup

You'll see a dialog box like the one below

You need to change the Scaling from the default of Adjust to 100% normal size to Fit to 1 page(s) wide by 1 tall

And that's all!

The print preview will now show everything on a single page.

So, now you know how to force Excel to print your document on just one page.

Yeah, I'm giving you a bonus tip.
If you have so many tables in the Excel sheet and you want to print only a particular table. Or you want to print just a part of what you have on the Excel sheet. All you need to do (before even going to Print Preview) is to set Printing Area.
And here's the how-to.

Select the portion of the Excel sheet you want to print.
Go to Page Layout and click on Print Area, Set Print Area.

And that's it!

Print Preview will only show the selected range you set as the Print Area.

Congrats! Now you know how to make Excel print your documents the very way you want.

"You can decide to ignore reality, but you cannot ignore the consequences of ignoring reality." Says one of my favorite quotes.

And today, I'll be sharing with you a reality you shouldn't ignore -- M2M.

M2M stands for Machine to Machine, and in practical terms, it is the technology that enables you to pay your DSTV subscription online, and without calling DSTV or doing extra thing, your DSTV subscription renews [automatically].
M2M is machine communicating intelligently with other machines to make life extremely easy for you. In the DSTV example, the Quickteller payment program (a machine) debits your account and posts payment on behalf of your DSTV smartcard account to DSTV, then another machine at DSTV processes the transaction and matches it with the bouquet you're subscribing for, activates it for you and set-up a 30 days expiration timer. In fact, once Quickteller is able to ugrade their system to do automatic billing, you'll never need to worry about your DSTV subscription expiring. And that's one of the very many examples of M2M helping make your life smarter.

Unfortunately, in Nigeria, we always catch the wave of every technology after it's prime. Blackberry became popular in Nigeria only when it was already dying in other countries. ATM that has been in extensive use since 1970 just got to Nigeria more than 30 years after.

I posted my final year project online (the entire design and source code) and it has gone almost viral, lots of Indians have been downloading it and giving it a thumbs up. It was a M2M project; everyone that saw me test the final device was blown away. It could turn your house into a smart home. You can travel for a whole year and it would switch on your security lights every night and switch them off every morning. It could switch on your air conditioning system 30 mins before you get home on a hot sunny afternoon. It could switch on your water heater 10 mins before you wake up. It could verify if any of your home appliance is on or off, and notify you via an SMS. This is very useful for panicky mums who want to be sure that Junior didn't forget to switch off the cooker before leaving the house.
I even have a pending offer with an ICT company in Cotonou that is interested in building a home and industrial security focused version of the device. The problem is I have this funny problem: I end up working really hard for a thing or an opportunity, and when it finally comes I just walk away (I don't turn it down and I don't take hold of it, I just act indifferent). Maybe any of you experience that too, or I'm alone.

That's just one of the cool ways M2M is changing our lives. There are now M2M systems that automatically generate a grocery list of items you're are running low of and order them on your behalf. Unfortunately, most online shopping stores in Nigeria do not provide any API for a programmer (like me) to make it possible for such M2M devices to pass orders directly to those shopping sites. 

But in developed countries, M2M is already big in the healthcare sector. You can safely leave your 90 year old grandpa at home and be sure to get frequent updates on how he's doing. And an alert whenever something unusual happens. It's that big. 
What's currently in the works, is smart travel. You and your car will be able to know the traffic state of your preferred route to your destination, and also be given suggestions of better alternate routes. Your car will automatically know where the nearest car park is and even the parking spots that are vacant.

M2M is the next big thing in consumer technology. 

We all want to be regarded as creative. Even the gateman of a luxury apartment in Ikoyi tries to add a personal touch to his monotonous task of closing and opening a gate.

image: thepinstripedsuit.com

But how can you become very creative?
Well, that is what I'm going to show you in today's post.

A lot of us believe being creative means being inquisitive, always asking questions and never being satisfied with whatever answer we get. If that is true, then lawyers are the most creative people on earth. But we know they are not; we often see them as the most rigid and annoying people on earth.

Some of us view being creative as always going the extra mile, getting every detail right. But it's not correct. That's simply being a perfectionist.

Most of us view being creative as having lots of ideas. Unfortunately, it's just the first step to being creative, and it's not even the major step. Everyone has got ideas, and lots of them, but not everyone can be referred to as being creative.

To be creative means to attempt new things always. It starts with having ideas of new things to try, but it's until you put life into those ideas, and daily, that you can be rightly called creative.

So how can you become truly very creative?

1. Become the guy/lady with ideas
My favorite part of the award winning cartoon, Antz, is where Colonel Cutter remarked that Z was an ant with ideas (on hearing from Princess Bala that Z has died).
Two of my favorite quotes are -- "An invasion of armies can be resisted; an invasion of ideas cannot be resisted." and "You can't stop an idea whose time has come." Both are credited to Victor Hugo.
Once you become the guy with ideas; always looking beyond the obvious and seeing things in new ways, you've begun the amazing journey to becoming creative.

2. Turn the ideas into actions
This is the main part of being creative. We don't remember people for the fine ideas they never expressed. In reality, it's only actions that count, even though they are a product of your thoughts.
Being creative is more of action, turning those lovely ideas into actions.
You need to become less self-conscious. Never let only the fear of people's opinions stop you from doing anything. If you've got a great idea, the type you really want to try out, and after thinking hard about it, the only thing standing against your doing it is people's opinions; just do it.
That was how I turned my idea of learning to swim into reality; I ignored all the opinions I got and took my first two swimming classes in a big river. But I made sure I was surrounded by human fish, guys who have been swimming since birth. I had everything well thought out.

3. Make it a habit
Have a to-do list that is long term focused and stick with it. Force yourself to do something new, not everyday, but spread across several days. Something like writing a short novel. You wouldn't want to write a novel everyday, but you can make it a daily goal to write at least 100 words in that novel everyday. This forces you to work on more valuable ideas, ideas that are long term focused.
Maybe you've got a great business idea, or a valuable skill you'll like to build a business out of. You want to host your own TV reality show; you want to start a health and fitness club; you want to start a consulting biz; or you want to do a complete career change. You can make a daily goal of doing something new towards achieving it, even if it's as little as reading how someone else did it.
Make a habit of turning your ideas to actionable goals and slowly pursuing it. And soon you'll begin to enjoy everyday and see each day as a new day.

And those are the steps to becoming very creative.

Yeah, you need to start planning for your retirement.

Retirement is the point in your life when you'll look yourself in the mirror and say, "I can't do this anymore." 
For some of us, the company we work for will show us that mirror, as soon as we hit the age of 65. And for the rest of us, life itself will someday show up as that mirror. Either way, now is the time to start making up for that day. And I will be sharing with you all the makeup kits and palettes you need to look good and prepared for that day.

image: afrikangoddessmag.com

1. Have a Retirement Savings Account (aka Pension Account)
Having a pension account is a must for every working adult. And that includes people running their own businesses and those working as consultants. Go to Stanbic IBTC and open an Individual Retirement Savings Account, then implement a standing order to transfer a substantial amount into it every month.
A pension account is specially designed to provide you enough money for life after retirement. If you're like me, whenever you look at your RSA monthly statements, you feel like it's money that you want to invest yourself as you don't think it will ever be big enough to sustain you after retirement. Then you need to fix it, and not by withdrawing it but by voluntarily contributing more to it. I noticed that my pension account has been growing faster than most of my investment accounts. After researching the cause, as I know that it's run more like a fixed income mutual fund, I found out that the reason is because pension funds are exempted from a lot of tax and transaction charges. They are able to grow one's money faster than a mutual fund with similar portfolio.
And thanks to my boss, who explained how he diligently negotiates his pension package, I will be sure to ask about my pension package in a new job, and probably renegotiate it.

Bottomline: Have a pension account and always negotiate a cool pension pack (a 2 for 1 is great; employer comtrubutes N2 for every N1 from your gross salary)

2. Don't get caught in the wrong job
If you work at a job that you hate, and is also stressful and not well paying, you are increasing your chances of life showing up as that mirror before you are ready.
And for some, it might be working at a job you love and that pays well, but the company is dying. That was what my first job was like. Some smart guys bailed out of the company before it was too late. For some of those caught up in the retrenchment net, it was their own mirror.
Unfortunately, you'll have little control over the economy and whether your job will always be in high demand. But you should be like a sailor, steering your career ship. Don't get too close to the rocks before you begin steering. Learn to listen to the winds, and what news they carry. Learn to read the signs in the cloud. And as a Nigerian, your social security ends with your right to vote. 
Pay and keep your tax documents, nothing destroys years of hard labor as fast as tax trouble.

Bottomline: Be gain(and)fully employed till your retirement.

3. Get your family work done right
For you it might be setting up a proper next of kin, (re)writing your will, having a life insurance, setting  up an education fund account to cater for your children's university education, saving for a home, and building a proper family.
When you retire, your new colleagues would be your grand kids and old friends. If you don't do things right (and now), your grand kids won't want to see you and your old friends will desert you. 
Retirement is fun only if you have an extended family you love and that loves you back. And now is the time to start building the type of family you like to retire into. Even if, for you, it means marrying someone you can live with for a day without arguing. Because when children and more shared properties come into the mix, you guys may end up arguing every single day for the rest of your lives. And I don't think there's anyone that will like to spend his retirement arguing non-stop.

Bottomline: You've spent your life working with colleagues you didn't choose; it's time to start choosing/building the people you'll want to spend life after retirement with.

And those are my three tips for preparing for your retirement.

Got any tip you'll like to share?

The Eko Atlantic city is an artificial city Lagos is creating by filling the shores of the Atlantic Ocean around Bar Beach. It's going to be big enough to accommodate close to half a million inhabitants (you can triple that 'cos this is Lagos, even Lag Bus carries thrice it's intended passengers). It's funded by lots of banks and private investment firms.

But why do I say we need it?
Hey, it's very obvious. Lagos is over populated, everywhere in Lagos is choked with people. We need to move some of them across the ocean. Even if there are the usual unintended catastrophes, like some part of the china made land disappearing overnight. It's a sacrifice for progress. The type we are all accustomed to. 

The truth is there is nothing wrong with this project. Singapore has lots of artificial cities, even their 5 star airport is built on reclaimed land. Projects like this are being done since the 1970s (even before), the technology is already robust and well tried. They are as safe as a bridge, a well-built one. And it's already giving us lots of positive attention in the investment world (which is what I like the most about it). 

I have been reading about the project and the lands/properties on sale. If I win a lottery today, I'll seriously consider owning something there. I heard land there is way cheaper than in VI and Ikoyi. There will be 24/7 electricity. Underground water pipes. Underground drainage system. Underground electricity distribution system. And maybe underground trains too.

Today is Monday, and to put you in an upbeat mood, I'll be sharing with you the pictures of Eko Atlantic City.

I can't wait for them to finish. I need to pose beside some of these buildings for photographs.

Fashion mistakes are like measles, the earlier in life the better.

Unfortunately for me, I didn't make enough fashion mistakes while growing up, so I ended up spending my first 3 years after university making one fashion mistake after another. After the final interview for my first job, the interviewer called me back and gave me fashion advice. The only consolation was that he gave me the impression that I would be hired. I became more conscious of the way I dress and look. But I was getting so many incorrect fashion advice that I ended up learning what not to do only after being embarrassed for doing them.

Read the statement in the image above? That's one of my former senior colleague's favorite -- Dress for the job you want and not the one you have. And it's has become a sort of a life mantra for me.

So here are the timeless fashion lessons I have learned and you should abide by --

1. Always match the color of your belt with that of your shoe.

2. Match the color of your socks with that of your trousers. It's not a must, but you can never go wrong doing this.

3. If you want to wear a tie, then wear a jacket (a blazer or suit).

4. Always get clothes that are your exact fit. Even if it means asking your relatives to quit sending you clothes. In fashion, fit ranks way higher than style and quality. People that matter do not care if your shirt is N50,000 once it does not look like it's yours.

5. Close your eyes and get a very high quality grey or navy blue suit. Avoid suits that are made of polyester, they are a big no no, it will always make you look odd and cheap at formal events. Get suits made of wool. Except you work in a bank and need a suit to wear to work every day, do not get your suits from Oshodi or Marina.

6. If you wear a chain wristwatch, make sure it's fitting and not almost falling off your hand. It's a wristwatch and not a knuckle-watch.

7. If you don't want to create unintended unimpressive impressions, do not wear a french cuffed shirt without wearing a jacket.

8. Don't use your suit's jacket as a blazer. They are not the same.

9. Don't hang car keys, ID card tags or phones on your belt. It's not what a belt is meant for, and it makes you look like an office assistant or official driver.

10. If you decide to wear a pocket square (which is a very good thing), don't wear exact color and pattern as your tie. And you can never go wrong with a white pocket square.

11. Have at least a black and a brown belt. And matching shoes too.

12. Always choose quality over quantity. Quality makes you look smart and saves you money in the long run; it could even earn you a promotion.

And those are my 12 commandments of fashion.

Then here's a bonus. 
If you're on a budget lifestyle like me, here is a great trick. After doing a lot of observation and costly experiments, I found out that you could get a trouser from Oshodi and no one would be able to tell it apart from a trouser from Twice As Nice store. You could also buy a great N6,000 shoe. But you can never buy a shirt at Oshodi that will look like an original Hawes & Curtis or Thomas Pink. 
I have a N11,750 Perry Ellis Portfolio trousers, and I'm the only one that can tell it different than the N1,800 ones from Oshodi. I have seen N45,000 shoes that look exactly like the N6,000 ones I bought at Oshodi. But my H & C shirts, my TM Milan and John Francombs have no look alike in Oshodi, Ikeja and Marina. They give a look and cut that is far superior to any you can buy at Oshodi or Marina, and even make every other thing you wear look expensive. 
Finally, shirts are the first piece of clothing people notice on us. Buying a very high quality and fitting shirt is a very good investment. I've never heard people saying, "That's a nice trousers!" but I can't count the number of times I've heard, "That's a nice shirt!"

Know any fashion rule I'm missing? Please share.