Financial Flu

It’s that time of year again in the southern hemisphere. The days are shorter, the nights are long and cold; dressing gowns and woolly jumpers have replaced sunblock and shorts. Another thing that is common in winter is the flu, so this article published on MoneyWeb seemed particularly apt for the season.

According to the article, a recent financial wellness survey carried out by Sanlam highlighted that 73% of middle-class South Africans experience financial stress.

This was described by the survey “as emotions associated with the difficulty an individual or household may have in meeting financial commitments due to a shortage and/or misuse of money.”

A quarter of those experiencing these worries expressed that they were stressed continually about their finances, and cited the most significant causes as: short-term debt, such as car and credit card payments; extended family obligations; not being able to save; not having enough for any emergencies; and school or university fees.

Viresh Maharaj, CEO of Sanlam Employees Benefits: Client Solutions, rightfully pointed out that this would be considered an epidemic if we were referring to a disease. “If this was the flu, then 70% of South Africa said they’ve got the flu at the same time, it would be headline news.”

In South Africa, the middle class is the backbone of the economy and pays a substantial part of the country’s tax. A lot depends on this sector, so these levels of stress are concerning.

Conspicuous consumerism, as well as demanding economic conditions, have been labelled as the key culprits of this financial stress. The advertising industry has created “a culture of consumption on steroids” that needs to be addressed. Maharaj also ascertains that “while the National Credit Act includes various checks and balances… it doesn’t address the fact that being able to pay for something is not the same as being able to afford something.”

The findings from the survey suggest that many middle-class South Africans may struggle to meet short-term goals, which may have a knock-on effect of limiting their capacities to ensure they have enough funds to properly provide for their retirement. Many individuals seem to be focusing on immediate financial concerns, and socio-economic constraints mean that the retirement funding issue isn’t being resolved. In the survey, over 60% of respondents “said they would work beyond retirement age, while 73% said they would reduce their current standard of living.”

However, you don’t have to be part of this statistic. Now’s the season to get your flu jabs before the holidays begin and arrange a meeting to discuss how to structure your financial portfolio so that you don’t have any unnecessary financial stress – now or in the future.

Protect yourself from any kind of flu this winter by seeking advice and taking the appropriate measures to ensure your long-term financial wellbeing.