Essential money lessons from my mother

File Image: IOL

File Image: IOL

Published Aug 24, 2021


By Christelle Louw

Moments of wisdom shared between mothers and their children often occur when one least expects it, such as over an informal cup of tea.

That is how it was with my mother, who shaped me into the person I am today – a mother myself, a financial advisor, and a proud citizen. My mother’s wise teachings set me up for success in many aspects of my life, particularly in how I view my purpose and responsibilities in the world – much of which relates to how I view (and manage) my money.

Our mothers’ wisdoms – and in some cases the lack thereof – can shape how we live and relate to the world in emotional, intellectual, and even financial ways. Our mothers influence us both consciously and subconsciously from our earliest stages of childhood, and can affect our views on finances without us even realsing it.

“Do what I say, not as I do” is not the best approach in this instance, as growing up with a mother who actively assists in managing finances and discusses budgeting with the family openly is likely to inspire children to ask more questions, and become financially savvy.

1. The meaning of money

When it comes to money, it is not about how much you have that counts. What counts is what it enables you to do and be. The same goes for investing – the number of zeros does not matter as much as what you do with it and what it enables you to do. It is important to understand how you think about money and use it as an enabler rather than a stumbling block.

2. Think about more than just yourself

Older generations of women often neglected themselves in their pursuit to serve others, especially in terms of their finances – whereas some women are now going to the other extreme focusing mostly on their careers. Balance is key. Enjoy life, chase your passions, and enjoy your profession – but don’t neglect your family and friends on your professional journey as it will chip away at your happiness.

3. Independence is best managed through mutual respect

Setting financial goals is an important discussion that requires buy-in from your life partner/spouse and family to help achieve your goals. It’s also important to revisit these goals as things change over the years and your responsibilities grow. In my career, I have witnessed many women who realised too late that they should have prioritised their savings, investments, and planning of their legacy.

4. Limit debt

Possibly the most important financial advice my mother gave me that I have since passed on to my children: do not borrow money to fund lifestyle expenses unless it is absolutely vital and unavoidable. Rather save up for your big-ticket purchases like cars, holidays, etc. Borrowing from a credit service provider will result in you overpaying for these lifestyle expenses, which in turn prevents you from optimising your savings. During my career, I have rarely witnessed emotional spenders become financially independent.

In your financial planning, set aside an emergency fund for unforeseen circumstances and always aim to be at least one month ahead of expenses in your savings plan, where possible. Start investing as early as possible in life and don’t get lost in your life’s journey with the pressures that come with your profession, family and friends. Keep your eye on your life and financial goals.

5. Marriage regime is important

Being aware of your options and mindful about how you marry is another essential lesson to be discussed with our children. Older generations mostly married in community of property, but this often led to women becoming financially dependent on their husbands and in some cases, financially disempowered. In today’s world, it is advisable to marry out of community of property, not only for young people, but also for older people who may have already accumulated their wealth, and are marrying again much later in life. Before getting married, speak to someone with experience in legacy planning to find out all of the options available to you and how you can be protected.

6. Save more and spend less

As women we’re still too often leaving the savings and investments side of the household finances to our spouses or partners. This might not be the wisest long-term approach, especially if we consider that most women live longer than their male partners. As women we also need to learn to save and invest more, and spend less for our own long-term well-being and that of our heirs.

7. Expand your investment horizons

Women are often most comfortable in the more traditional asset classes of property and cash, but in the current economic climate this may not necessarily be the wisest move. If all your money is invested in cash, you won’t be able to beat inflation. We need to be open to explore other asset classes and investments that bring us better long-term return on investment.

8. Educate yourself and learn to trust expertise

In my career I have seen many widows who had never managed their finances, being left in the vulnerable position of not knowing how to manage their inheritance or who to trust for advice – the finance and investment world is foreign to them; they do not know what options are available to them or best suited to their specific financial goals. It is never too late to educate yourself on these matters, but it is highly recommended that you seek advice from a trusted financial advisor at a reputable wealth management organisation to assist you on this journey – this will ensure that inheritance is not lost due to fear and uncertainty.

9. Women are good at big picture thinking

Women are often better at big picture thinking and financial strategy than they give themselves credit for. It’s important for women to embrace bigger and longer term thinking about taxes, investments, estate planning and more. It is very hard to make the best of your retirement or to leave a legacy for your children if you don’t plan for it. The most important thing to remember is to make the time to deal with your finances and financial future before it is too late.

10. Money and happiness

My mother was a Latin and English teacher and when I think of her I am reminded of the Latin quote: “…she is not happy who does not realise her happiness…”. My mother taught me that happiness is an internal enabler and money is an external enabler – you can have the latter in abundance, but still not be happy. If we pursue fulfilment and purpose, then happiness and financial security are sure to follow.

In conclusion, take control of your own life and financial destiny and you will reap the rewards for it. Ironically, this is how we create intergenerational wealth. Financial self-care is a selfless act at the end of the day.

Christelle Louw, Advisory Partner, Citadel