Meet Ken and Mary: Nigerian Immigrants who Became FI with 2 kids

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FIRE is only for privileged people. FIRE is not doable unless you’re a DINK (double income no kids). We get this pushback all the time. Well, today, I’m going to introduce you to a couple who are neither of those.

Meet Ken and Mary, the founders of, who became financially independent in 2017 at age 34 with two kids. They live in the UK but they both came from Nigeria and grew up with parents who struggled and gave them something that I know all too well—the immigrant mindset.

I first met Ken and Mary in 2019 at the London premier of Playing with FIRE and then we connected again at Chautauqua this year, with Ken as a fellow speaker. It’s very easy to relate to them because they understand what it’s like to grow up poor, struggle as immigrants and, to quote Ken, realize that “there’s no one coming to rescue us.” I wanted to interview them to find out how it was possible to overcome the scarcity mindset and the immigrant/black tax to become FI while raising a family.

Would you like to just start and introduce yourself and tell us a little bit about your story?

Ken: Yeah, sure. We’re Ken and Mary from And we also publish on a YouTube channel by the same name. We started writing in 2017 and we’re a husband and wife team, but we do other bunch of things for our Academy.

Mary: We also run the Financial Joy Academy where the aim is to help 10,000 families achieve Financial Independence. And so the way that we guide them through that is through a series of courses and master-classes with guest experts like yourselves. And also, we run masterminds where we get people in a hot seat each week. A mastermind could be on property investing, blogging or running a YouTube channel.

We also run accountability sessions when we pair each member with another accountability partner. We also do fortnightly coaching calls where they get to send in questions and then we answer them live on a zoom call.

One of the unique things about you two is that you work on this together. So, what’s that like? How do you do this without killing each other?

Ken: Well, yeah, I guess. A bit of background. Mary and I’ve been married for 11 years, that’s worth mentioning. And we’ve always had this vision of doing something in the future together. We didn’t really know what it was going to be, running just happened to be one of the things we do together. Other things we do together include parenting, you know, and we just enjoy each other’s company.

Mary: There’s that love and mutual respect that we have for each other and we respect each other’s spaces as well. So, we understand when the other person just needs their own space, where we have our own time to ourselves. So we respect each other and we have boundaries where we shut off from work mode to kind of husband and wife mode and we tried to not let our work life seep too much into our personal world.

What do you say to all the critics of the FIRE movement who think the only people who can do this are double income, no kids?

Ken: I’d say first of all, we’re proof that you can do it with a family. But the thing to know is that the extent to which children are expensive is driven by the choices that we make. And so we’ve had to be very deliberate about what choices we make relative to parenting our children whilst also prioritizing our vision, our goals, our dreams and stuff that we want to achieve and not let the fact that we have children stand in the way of ultimately achieving our goals.

Mary: Yeah. And I think that the fact that we decided we wanted children and we wanted to also work towards Financial Independence meant that we were more intentional about creating more streams of income to support that choice.

Ken: And working on our careers and stuff, leveling up and supporting each other. Sometimes I’d have to work long hours and Mary might be at home with the children. It was a joint effort, we’ll just bring different things to table and vice versa.

Another thing that people criticize about the FIRE moment is that it’s a space mostly for privileged white males. Are you a privileged white male?

Ken: *laughs* No, no, no. Mary and I are a Black family, Nigerian heritage, living in the UK. I was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria, and I then emigrated to the UK at the age of 14 and started at ground zero with no money, and moved with my family as a way to start a new life.

Mary: I was born in London to immigrant parents who immigrated to the UK in the late 70s to study and to make a better life for themselves.

Ken: Yes, the both of us had this vision of trying to create better lives for ourselves compared to our parents. So when Mary and I met, we met at a property investing seminar! It was a weird place to meet your future partner, but what was interesting about that was that we met knowing that our mindset were quite similar. That helped us become friends, and as we started to date and stuff, we realized that we wanted quite similar futures.

We wanted to become Financially Independent, we wanted a family, we wanted to not live life paycheck to paycheck. We didn’t want to work like our parents until the age of 65 or 67 and still be struggling. So all those elements meant that even with our quite challenging backgrounds economically, we still felt this was a possible thing to achieve.

Mary: Yeah. And going back to growing up, I saw my parents struggle and they had to work around the clock night shifts, early morning shifts. They were barely at home and they had to budget. We didn’t do holidays. We didn’t have fancy cars. We didn’t go out to eat. It was literally just my parents trying to survive and give us the best kind of childhood, which they did. We had a very good childhood. It’s just that I saw my parents always struggle paycheck to paycheck, and we didn’t want that for my life.

Ken: My mom had three jobs. She would work round the clock washing dishes, cleaning, and factory admin jobs. Anything that meant that she could put food on the table for us. All those things just basically meant that we wanted to change the game, not just for Mary and I, but generationally for our children.

Is there anything about your background that you think actually helped you become Financially Independent?

Mary: Yeah, I’d say that for us, we definitely didn’t feel like there was any entitlement or that necessarily that the state would help us. If anything, there’s no one coming to rescue us. So, I guess it meant that we had to work maybe twice as hard and I guess we had more of a drive because we didn’t want to be dependent on a system that we knew we couldn’t really rely on for our financial security so I guess that gave us like more of a drive actually.

Ken: Yeah. And I’d say tied to that, when you’ve come from a place of lack, you want to change your life, for me I envisioned this burning flame of desire. You really want to change your life. When you’re in that position, you have to look at playing the game very differently from everybody else. You have to really look at like this game knowing that all these other people here are running a completely different race to me.

Like, I need to literally get into my own lane and play this game differently. That’s why Mary and I have to be slightly unconventional. We had to look at exploring side hustles, we had to really work together and rely on one income and take your other income and invest.

That meant that FI didn’t happen in 20 years or 15 years, but under 10 years for us. That came from a place of deep lack. But also from a place where you believe that through doing deep work on your inner person, that there’s a rewiring going on with your mindset, and you believe very strongly that you are going to be one of those people who emerge actually crossing the finish line.

So, for me, I’d say that element of our struggle, almost reframing your struggles was actually a big thing for us on the journey.

One thing that you talked about at your Chautauqua talk that I found fascinating was what you call the Black Tax. Can you guys talk about that and how you managed to overcome it?

Ken: So, the Black Tax is a term that originated in South Africa, and it referred to money that black or other persons of colour provide their families every month outside of their own living expenses. Usually out of obligation, and it’s caused by continued economic imbalance that can be traced back to apartheid and slavery and so on.

What does this term mean for us practically? Mary and I have Nigerian heritage, and what this means is that there’s an expectation culturally that when you’re living somewhere that the world sees as very successful, like the UK, US, or Canada, there’s an expectation. You almost become like the bank account for the people back home and there’s an expectation that you send money back monthly.

You have people on payroll, essentially, and the challenge with this is that it creates an environment where people stop thinking of themselves. And on your journey towards becoming financially independent, you do need to think of yourself because if you don’t, again those dreams just remain dreams and plans never become a reality. And so, it’s really about having this balance of: “How do I achieve my goals whilst navigating the cultural dimension of things like the Black Tax?”

And so, for us a big part of that was first of all, trying to shift away from the way our culture presented things. I could get a call from some cousin who I haven’t spoken to for over a decade, suddenly they remembered me. And so, they’d be like “something’s happened” and then suddenly they wanted money and so it’s about shifting the expectation. So, for example rather than just send money, how about I teach you a skill set that actually makes you money, right? How about I show you what we actually go through to make money?

There’s an assumption that because you live in the UK that you’re just minted. The money just flows, you’ve just got money all the time! And so, we’ve had to really fight that cultural expectation, and we’ve seen it affect people around us, family members, our parents even. It continues to affect our parents even today.

Mary: So, my mom is the first in her family to migrate to the UK, and same as my dad. He’s the first in his family. My dad has eight siblings, and those siblings have many children, same as my mom, her siblings have many children and there was an expectation for them to be sending money to support them, their school fees, hospital fees.

If there’s any problems with my grand-parents home, it would be my parents responsibility to send money back to fix it. And even like Ken said, we’d send money to our relatives to maybe open up a shop or go to university. And then we’d find out that actually, the shop never opened. They never did go to university. But they’re still requesting money, so it’s really tricky, and it’s hard. It’s an emotional blackmail.

This interview went super in-depth, especially the discussion about the unique challenges facing immigrants, so we’re going to turn this into a two-parter.

To learn more about Ken and Mary’s journey, be sure to check out their blog, their Youtube channel, or Instragram.

Have you ever had to deal with friends or family members emotionally blackmailing you into sending them money? How did it affect your FIRE journey, and what are some of the ways you deal with it? Let’s hear it in the comments below!

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32 thoughts on “Meet Ken and Mary: Nigerian Immigrants who Became FI with 2 kids”

  1. Fascinating, especially the part about the Black Tax. As a white man married to a black woman from Jamaica, it is something to which I have become accustomed. It’s not the financial demands that upset me, but how much it eats away at my wife as so much is done thorough feelings of obligation and guilt, and she gets little gratitude in return.

    1. Hey nick
      It must be hard for you and your wife to send money to her family.
      I’m not sure families in the home country realize how hard it is to pay bills up here in Canada and the US or the UK and still be able to send money home! I live in Toronto and after bills are paid there’s not much money left! Haha!
      I feel for anyone who’s in your shoes! Not easy at all!

      1. On the flip side, there is no doubt that we are massively better off than most people in the likes of Jamaica and Nigeria. The key is finding the right balance

        1. We’re better off, but more is required. In the U.S. a car is mostly a necessity. And we often overpay for things simply because you can’t get a super frugal version of some things. I’m thinking about housing. A lot of times, you cannot get a small studio apartment, because they’re zoned out of existence. Sure you may have a nicer place, but you’re effectively forced into paying for amenities you may not want or need because they’re considered standard. Just one of many examples. But people in poorer countries don’t understand that.

          1. The lack of understanding is really realizing that things that people in poor countries consider to be luxuries are viewed as necessuties in developed countries. As the ild saying goes: a luxury once experienced soon becomes a necessity.”

  2. Blogger, Youtube channel, academy, etc.

    Sounds like these folks aren’t retired. So I question the RE part — and even the FI part.

    Maybe they’ve just switched careers ?

    1. Doesn’t that apply to most of us?

      Kristy and Bryce aren’t retired in the conventional sense either. What matters is being able to chose how, where and if you work.

    2. This Crescent moon turd seems to always pop up to discredit people at every turn. Why do you even bother reading their posts. Move along fool..

  3. As an African, Black Tax is something that eats away at you. I already know that I am my mother’s retirement plan and there is no getting round it, society and extended family will make you a Pariah if you hint that you are not able to provide for your folks. However, I have decided to look for solutions instead of wallowing in pity. I have certain investments that are solely meant to help family but no one knows about them. I never show that I have any sort of money, they all think I’m broke. It sucks but if I want to achieve any sort of financial independence boundaries must be set and the only family I help are those with no other recourse. Your wedding, not my problem, your dowry, not my problem- hence being known as the broke one in the family. I have seen my parents put other people’s children through school upto university but no gratitude is given, it is taken for granted. I vowed growing up that that would not be my future or the future of any children I may have.

    1. Really interesting stuff. We have lots of friends who are also dealing with this, and the answer always seems to come back to “setting boundaries,” in whatever form that takes.

      Good job on managing to pull it off!

  4. When I moved overseas to study to become a nurse, I worked 2 full time jobs to pay for my study and send money home as is expected from Indian culture. And it continued after I became a nurse. One day I just said no, there were threats and people who stopped talking to me as a result. It’s just something that is expected of us who are living in a better country

  5. I knew at least one detractor was in the neighborhood. Anyways, the RE part means….doing whatever they love doing…with passion…whenever they want, wherever they want, however they want and “if they want”….without depending on some autocratic (or nice or a sharp) manager at some company they work at who tells them how to do their work, what to do..and when to do it…in order for the helpless employee(s) to get their next paycheck. If only the detractors focused on their “job” (instead of scouring the web wasting their time), they could be on their path to FI…instead of maligning those who have already achieved it. The FI folks don’t ‘depend’ on their side hustles to live (unlike employees waiting for their paychecks). They do the side-hustles not because it brings in money. They do it because they believe in what they do..and as a bonus, they are getting rewarded.

  6. Black Tax sounds like Filial Piety allowance that we have in Asia. Some families show gratitude, some families will emotionally blackmail you. It depends on each individual and how much they want and can afford to give.

  7. So that’s what it is called…, Black Tax.

    I am sure there is a version of this in every non-first world nation. How my parents got around to this was rather than them providing for their extended families and relatives back home, they just eventually sponsored them over. They often said it was a much cheaper alternative than sending $$$ back home.

    However, I have to concur with Ken and Mary…, they will NEVER learn either and all you are doing is promoting their “bad habits” so kudos to the both of them for reframing the situation and teaching their love ones back home the underlining fundamentals. Unfortunately, I agree that without the proper skillset, the scarcity mindset of a foreigner simply does NOT work and it will eventually fade away in the background especially when you expose an immigrant to the forbidden fruit of a consumerism driven society we live today (such as a first world nation) where nearly everything is deemed accessible. To the untrained individual, the exposure to the free-world is much similar to drug addiction and the pressures of the YOLO, FOMO and “Keeping up with the Joneses” effect begins to overwrite their overall sense of logic. This reminds me of the show I use to watch “Breaking Amish”. The assimilation is a success and nothing about them from before exists so even asking them to reflect back to their olden ways and exercise a scarcity mindset will likely yield a proverbial withdrawal syndrome.

    I have seen this way too many times…, it is a hard habit to break.


  8. Guys, we’re so honoured to share our story on your blog. Thanks so much 😊.

    We had incredible time hanging out with you both in Colombia and can’t wait to host you in London and take you out to a local Nigeria restaurant for some spicy food.

    Much love from us ❤️

    P.s. To add to an earlier comment, we’re not retired at all. We are FI but do what we love today with our time, which includes running our blog, YT channel, etc. What we have is so much more time freedom as our work week is at most 15 – 20 hours a week as we have the support of a small team of freelancers. The rest of our time is spent on family life with our children and extended family, learning and having fun e.g. travelling, etc.

    Thank you all for reading 🙏🏾

  9. The black tax is not just an immigrant problem. It’s a native-born American problem also. It’s a family problem for most who are financially successful/responsible and others in the family are not. I’m black, born in America, retired from the US military and work as a military contractor. I started investing in mutual funds 27 years ago with contributions of just $50/month. Educated myself on personal finance and increased my contributions over the years. I made a lot of mistakes along the way but I never stopped those contributions. I’m FI but absolutely cannot share my financial success with my family because of constant begging. I assist my mother financially but that is it. She worked hard raising me and my brother and I’m very grateful for her. But many in my family are selfish and greedy. I refuse to help people who blow their money. I have tried to educate them on personal finance but it gets twisted and they think I’m a family bank. I had to stop educating and now play the stealth wealth role. It’s a shame but I have no choice. Life is too short to deal with that drama.

  10. Really interesting interview, and I’m enjoying the “hey, we have that too!” discussion in the comments.
    My dad and his parents/siblings emigrated from the Netherlands in the 1950s, and Dad moved from the family farm to the big city, because he had the most marketable skills. I’ve only recently learned from my mom that he was sending money back to family to pay for the farm, even though we were living below Canada’s (generous) poverty line! And the rest of the family lived in Canada, and knew how things were! I guess it’s a duty thing…

  11. Interesting about naming this a black tax. It’s not really that as this exists in every single culture in every area of the world. And that includes wealthy countries like the UK, US and Canada. Too many people generally (yes, I’m generalizing) no matter their socio-economic status have a sense of entitlement. They actually believe others are indentured to them in financial and non-financial ways. For really no reason. And they do it through emotional and psychological blackmail. It’s totally appalling and disgusting. I’m of caucasian European descent (1st generation Canadian) and I can say that this “black” tax (or is a “white” tax? Purple? Yellow? Red? Olive? Fusha? 😂) is just as prevalent in my family. Thankfully, my generation in the family does not abide by it and my parents generation is weening themselves off of it. These losers asking for money are just moochers and the best thing to do is say no. I do agree with the helping some to fish mentality but that’s as far as it should go. The moment you say no to giving money, you see how fast these moochers disappear. I appreciate the effort it took for me to become financially independent. It also makes me appreciate that these so called blood kin are nothing more than bloodsuckers who would throw you under the bus without a second thought.

    Great interview guys! I enjoyed it very much.

    1. I entirely concur. It’s not just an ‘immigrant’ problem. It’s not just an Asian “Filial Piety” expectation or a ‘Black Tax’ (though I’ll readily admit that presumptions, expectations and demands are much more prevalent in some cultures). But the prior poster is quite right in saying, “It’s a family problem for most who are financially successful/responsible [and who have] others in their family [who] are not.”

      My husband and I are white middle-class and made it on our own without help or loans from others. He was the first of his family to put himself through college. Ever since, he has been called upon to support others: most acceptably, his mother after his father passed away (including debts she ran up again after we paid her prior debts off); less acceptably, to support his sister who never sought education or anything but minimum-wage jobs but still had a passel of kids, and then to help buy her a house, and also to pay off her debts periodically, and finally to pay for her final illness/hospitalization and her funeral expenses; to make loans to nephews and nieces, grandkids and great-nieces/nephews, most of whom did not pay those loans back, when they found themselves in challenging circumstances. And on my side of the family to loan a big chunk to a hard-up eldest brother (formerly wealthy) who never (as yet) paid it back.

      We have learned the hard way to draw boundaries … such as never loaning more money to anyone who has not already paid off a prior loan. Never giving money for anything but the purposes of education expenses or other self-empowering investments. Never to provide ‘luxuries’ but only for dire necessities such as a true health emergency — situations not of the person’s own making or borne of their foolishness or laziness or sense of entitlement.

  12. I don’t think people were saying you could only FIRE as a DINK, but instead as significantly more household income then average. And as a CFO of a Venture Capital Investment Management business, I would guess over 300K per year

  13. Well, seems like in some ethnic groups, depending time in history where those immigrated to Canada must be in a few years very rich.

    There was expectation by relatives on my immigrant parents when I grew up in Waterloo. I remember my parents arguing over this ….my father a restaurant cook (whole life) and mother housewife with a family that grew to 6 kids.

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