Don't end up in a debt trap like Boris Becker

By Elize Botha Time of article published Jul 15, 2019

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Former world number one professional tennis player Boris Becker has been forced to auction off items from his illustrious career to pay off his debts. 

The former athlete was declared bankrupt in 2017, and, as he failed to pay his creditors, his valuable personal belongings will be sold off.

Becker, who, at the top of his game, was earning millions of rand a year, found himself in this dire situation after excessive spending and borrowing to fund an allegedly lavish lifestyle.

Anyone can fall into a debt trap. With the rise of social media and consumerism, there is a lot of pressure to buy the things we “need” to appear successful.

Some people feel the need to try to keep up with the Kardashians or Khumalos, but spending money on items that you cannot really afford, instead of saving or investing your earnings and servicing debt, can easily lead you into a debt spiral.

The best way to regain control over your debt and financial situation is to establish how much money you can put away each month by following the 50/30/20 budgeting rule.

This means that 50 percent of your salary should go to your living expenses, 30 percent towards servicing debt and 20 percent for formal savings and investments. Also, be sure that when you do create debt, it is for assets, such as a home, and not to service clothing accounts or buy the latest model of car.

Every person is unique, and their relationship with money is often complex. However, you need to be realistic with your financial goals as you must still meet your monthly financial obligations. Therefore, you need to establish how much you can afford to spend on servicing debt every month without harming your overall saving and investment goals.

The first step is to analyse your pay slip so that you know exactly how much money you have after income tax and deductions such as medical scheme and pension contributions every month.

Make a list of your fixed expenses, such as your mortgage bond and car repayments and variable expenses, such as groceries and entertainment. If you are in a position where you have a lot of debt try to put as much extra money that you can afford to pay it off quicker.

Essentially, you should also pay off debts with high interest rates first.

Elize Botha is managing director of Old Mutual unit trusts.


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