May 24, 2024

KT Business

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Ex-investment banker and YouTuber who was homeless at 18

6 min read

Born in Nigeria, then sent to the UK to be fostered from the age of three months to eight years, Peter Komolafe returned to his birth country for a decade aged eight.

Settling back in Britain in 1998 after a brief period of homelessness, he carved out a successful career in investment banking before launching his own financial investment YouTube channel in 2020.

Currently the resident financial expert on Steph’s Packed Lunch and also a best-selling author, he lives in Shropshire with his girlfriend Elona.

What’s in your wallet?

I don’t typically carry cash. I’m in Monaco right now visiting friends and relatives, so there’s about €40 in it, but typically I have none. As we move towards a wireless, tapping economy that can be a bit of a spending trip up as you don’t necessarily process that something will cost you £25, compared to if you’re actually handing over cash. If I’ve been over tapping, I’ll set myself a challenge, where I’ll keep £40 cash in my wallet and try to make it last the week, with no tapping. It helps to regulate my spending.

Are you flashy or frugal?

I’m in the middle. Going to work can be stressful, especially if you’re self-employed, so it’s important to treat yourself sometimes. My little escape is my Odeon cinema membership. Or I put money aside for holidays, so it’s accounted for. I try to take a pragmatic approach, as that sort of spending is what makes the nine to five worthwhile, but I’m not super flashy. I’m a more goal orientated spender and less spontaneous spender than I used to be.

Do you own a property?

I own the house we live in, in Shropshire. I recently paid off a chunk of the mortgage and the goal is to pay it all off in the next couple of years. I only got on the property ladder in my mid-thirties and I’m 44. My next step is to buy some investment properties.

How was it for you growing up?

My experience with money growing up was all negative. It was pretty much non-existent. I was fostered from three months to eight years old. My first lesson about money was remembering the smell of the amazing dinners at the neighbour of my foster family. I was used to eating spaghetti or fish fingers on toast and I thought, “OK, my neighbour can afford better meals than we can”, so I subconsciously developed a scarcity mindset.

When I went back to Nigeria, we had no money, no water, no electricity and often didn’t eat for two or three or days. I didn’t know where the next meal was coming from, but scarcity became the norm. I just thought, “Some people have money. We don’t. This is how the world works”.

I then returned to the UK in October 1988, aged 18, with the £50 my parents had given me to survive, and I slept in a place called Bottle Alley on the seafront in Hastings for two or three weeks. That’s when I realised that money was really important, and that money meant security and it gave me the drive to better myself financially so I could never get in that situation again.

Have you ever struggled financially?

Definitely. At 18 I had no idea how to manage money. No one had ever told me, which is why I ended up homeless, freezing and spiralling into debt. I used to go to Tesco’s, write a cheque for more money than I had in my account to pay for food, and I ran up thousands of pounds of debt, which took me fifteen years to clear.

How much were you paid for your first job?

A random act of kindness got me off the streets. I was on benefits when someone told me to go for a job interview with a building society in Eastbourne. I said, “I owe banks money, they’ll never employ me”, but the lady who interviewed me said, “my customers will love you”, and I ended up being very good at explaining how money works.

I started as a cashier on twelve grand a year. Then in 2012 I started working for an investment bank in Canary Wharf for £28k as a telephone boy, even though I had no degree. I worked very hard, then five years later I was on the executive team earning more than £100k a year.

What’s been your most lucrative work?

My YouTube channel. I create content to help people navigate their finances and it’s been the catalyst to everything including getting my book The Money Basics published, Channel 4’s Secret Spenders, then being the financial expert on Steph’s Packed Lunch. Should Martin Lewis be looking over his shoulder? He’s incredible. He’s brilliant but he’s a consumer champion which is not necessarily what I’m about.

I’m more passionate about getting people to use the money they’ve saved to move forward financially. I’m by no means a millionaire, but since 2015 my income has always been over six figures, but I’m self-employed so I keep things on a tight budget.

Do you invest in shares?

I do even though I only learnt about them aged 32. I wish I’d known earlier. My portfolio is good. It’s stable at the moment. I don’t invest in fads or get rich schemes. Investing is meant to be boring, and it’s supposed to be steady Eddie. The stable companies worth investing in don’t go from zero to hero overnight. It takes years or decades, and you can grow alongside them. You should invest with your head not your heart. Emotional investment isn’t logical investment.

What’s your best investment?

Buying Tesla shares. I got into a little bit late – I actually bought the car before I bought the stock – but early enough. My initial £2k investment is now in the five figures. It’s done very well.

Money weakness?

Wagamama. In the past month I’ve gone two or three times a week, which is really lazy, but I love it. I can’t resist the ramen.

What’s your greatest extravagance?

When I was working in Canary Wharf, I bought some really stupid stuff. I spent a thousand pounds on a pair of Giuseppe trainers, thousands on suits, but the milestone for me was a Rolex for about fifteen grand. It’s a lot of money, but at the time I was out of debt, and it was symbolic of how far I’d come.

What’s your best for retirement: property or pension?

A combination of both. I’ve got a number of pension pots, but the plan is to pay off my mortgage, invest further in rental property.

Will you be splashing out over Christmas holidays or watching your pennies?

I’ll be in Dubai with my girlfriend Elona for Christmas and New Year, but it won’t be hugely extravagant.

What are your financial priorities for 2024?

Looking at how I can grow the business more so I can reduce my mortgage further.

For more information visit www.peterkomolafe.com

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