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Celebrities don’t live as large as you think

Personal Finance

Cassper Nyovest and Pearl Thusi are living their best life. And looking at their social media, you’d be forgiven for thinking that their best life is also their most expensive life.

But the partners in #ConspicuousSaving don’t live as large as their legions of fans might think, and they have spent the past month putting a more realistic spin on their days – and giving some really useful cash-saving tips.

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Actress and model Pearl Thusi is one of the faces of Sanlam's #ConspicuousSaving campaign.

It’s not a way of life Nyovest plans to give up anytime soon, even when National Savings Month comes to an end. “Use your money wisely. Saving is always a good idea,” he advises.

“I was saving before and I will still save. I use my money very well. I don’t always splurge. There are a lot of things I really like, but I don’t live a life I can’t afford,” Nyovest says.

Living within your means is key. If you have always spent your money faster than you earned it, you can actively and consciously change that.

“Don’t live up to the pressure,” Nyovest advises. “Don’t end up in debt for the sake of looking rich or trying to earn respect through trying to spend money. I think people should live within their own means and go at their own pace.”

And always put something away for a rainy day.

“It can be very important for the short term to insure against a shock,” says Annamaria Lusardi, the founder of and academic director at the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center and adviser to the US Treasury. “My recommendation is always to have a little bit of savings. Of course, you don’t want to starve today so you have something for the future, but it is important to have at least a little bit of savings to face shocks, so we can shield ourselves.”

Saving is hard psychologically, because we have to give up consumption. But draw up a budget, cut costs where you can, take some cost-saving tips from Thusi and Nyovest, and first pay off your debt. Then start your savings plan.

“The problem is our modern economy/society is not an economy/society that is neutral. We are bombarded each day with messages to consume, to spend,” Lusardi says. “On top of this, we are bombarded with this message that consumption makes us happy.”

But saving brings wealth and that gives us financial freedom, which brings an even greater happiness.

It’s a lesson Nyovest learned at his grandfather’s knee.

“I come from a family of entrepreneurs,” he says. “My grandparents had a supermarket, like a spaza shop. They were the first people to run a business or to have any kind of money that I had contact with. But they would never spoil us. So we could understand the importance of money and entrepreneurial skills. When you are young and you have role models like my grandparents, you look at them and you want to mimic and imitate them. I learned a lot from them having their own business and being their own boss.”

Living within your means and investing in your business to grow it is another lesson he learned.

“My grandfather comes from Malawi. He walked here with his friend and he had nothing; he started from nothing and he built an empire – he had two tuckshops and owned taxis. I took a lot from that. I took it from his story of coming here with nothing and building his empire from nothing.”

On #ConspicuousSaving, Nyovest says: “I have learned you never know enough. When it comes to using money, I have learned there is a lot more to learn. You can always get wiser about your spending.”

Getting wiser is something Nyovest does by watching what others do. He has followed in the footsteps of American stars like Jay-Z and Kanye West, moving beyond being a musician into establishing a record label, merchandise and fashion, building his own brand.

Being a similar example in South Africa is a role he takes seriously. “Legacy is very important to me. I move carefully because I know that I am building a legacy. I have a certain way that I want to be remembered and I take pride in my brand and in my story and I respect it a lot,” he says.

“The biggest problem, especially with our black celebrities who ended up dying as paupers, is that they never had examples or information. They kind of freestyled the whole thing.

“We make a lot of money as musicians at the beginning of our career, but once the money stops coming in, you get frustrated and you spend your money all the way back down to where you came from.

“There are many examples. They have played a great role in my life. They paid a great sacrifice. I look at them, as they taught us about how not to spend money.”

Nyovest won’t mention names out of respect, but jazz star Hugh Masekela admitted to having blown around $50 million in his career. Brenda Fassie went broke after spending all her money on drugs, although she managed a comeback.

It’s not only a South African problem. There are plenty of celebrities who lived the high life who have gone bankrupt or died broke:

• American singer Willie Nelson declared bankruptcy in 1990, owing the government $16.7 million in unpaid back taxes and fees.

• Can’t Touch This singer MC Hammer filed for bankruptcy in 1996, $13 million in debt, after earning more than $30 million in the 1990s.

• Boxer Mike Tyson earned more than $400 million in his career, but after living large he filed for bankruptcy in 2003, with debts of $27 million.

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