Business & Finance

At the heart of strike action: Money and Financial Education

Let me first start off by saying that this article does not condone nor support strikes in any way. This is not a debate about whether or not strikers are paid too little or about what a living wage is. How much is enough? R10,000pm, R15,000pm…maybe in excess of R20,000pm – who decides how much is enough and on what do you base the benchmark? Asks Nigel Willmott, CFP® professional.

My concern is more about what unions, employers and government are doing to help educate people about money. It is all very well that people get paid more, my concern is what people do with the money that they earn, no matter how much they earn.

Just because you may earn more doesn’t mean that miraculously your life will change.  I have watched the media coverage of the strike action, listened to what the strikers have had to say and listened to their demands. Yes, maybe some of what has been said about living conditions and living wages in some instances may be true but what I have not seen much coverage about is how people [and the strikers] go about their daily lives, and how they use [and often squander] money.

Many of the strikers [miners, truckers, textile workers and so on] are heavily indebted. Many of the strikers and indeed the South African population at large are beginning to rack up dangerously high levels of unsecured debt and credit. Yes, some may argue that because they earn so little they need a little credit to close the gap at the end of the month.

Maybe so, but many people exhibit poor personal financial habits in the first instance such as “I want it now”, gambling, greed, materialism and so on. Many people land up in debt because they have abused money. Our debt predicament is often self-inflicted and as we are not prepared to change our lifestyle or our bad habits then we just spiral further into the debt trap.

Who can then turn around and blame the employer when you are equally guilty of not looking after yourself financially by doing what you can in the bargain? It is all very well blaming the employer for your predicament and blaming the past and everybody else under the sun but at the end of the day Joe Public South Africa is also going to have to take half of the blame for the predicament that he/she is in.

So when we waste money on material objects, booze, social addictions, gambling, second and third girlfriends, mistresses and so on, are we going say that it is the employer’s fault? Certainly not, we are going to have to get honest and say, “It also starts with me”.

The South African public desperately needs many life skills. Personal financial life skills are one of these critical life skills that are needed. If people, as a start, could just master the art of running a successful personal household budget by managing their income and their expenditure then we would start to see a decrease in the dependency on credit. If we wean ourselves off our dependency on credit and we begin to free up cash flow then we can begin to move forward and save. By saving and investing we can begin to set short, medium and longer term financial and life goals. This is when we begin to break the poverty cycle and we begin to achieve financial freedom.

Make personal financial education a priority. Remember, financial freedom, in part, starts with you. Take a good hard long look in the mirror – are you perfect and faultless or are there things that YOU can do right now to make a difference in your life?

Financial Freedom is not about how much you earn but more about how much you have left over at the end of the month.

Nigel Willmott CFP® is the Managing Director of motivate | today, an independent holistic financial life skills company focused on the financial education needs of employer groups, universities and schools.

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