Thami Buti is a 24-year-old South African actor. He is among the 46% of South Africans between 20 and 50 years, who have no savings at all. 

He's probably one of 90% of people who will retire with less than 50% of their income. Especially as Thami is also a millennial and it's common knowledge that Gen Y is supposedly synonymous with insufficient retirement savings. He's also probably never looked at disability or income insurance, despite an inability to earn an income being the biggest risk a 20-50-year-old faces.

Except none of this is true for Thami, because he's had a conversation with himself – at six different ages - in Sanlam's new educational campaign.

In Sanlam's Conversations with Yourself campaign, Thami gets transformed into a 20, 30, 50, 65 and 80-year-old (actor Hlumelo Mzimkulu plays the 10-year-old) called YOU. And over a series of conversations, these characters in their different age brackets sit and share wisdom on life’s "what ifs". 

Disrupting the traditional approach to "finance talk", the central idea is this: what if you could learn everything you need to know about life, from yourself?

What if 65 year-old you could tell you - at age 20 - to stop buying so many cappuccinos and to invest more into an RA? And 30-year-old you could ask you at 80 how many kids you have - and how you afford to give them the lifestyle and opportunities you want for them?

Sonja Sanders, Head of Marketing and Client Experience at Sanlam Personal Finance, says each of the seven Conversations with Yourself films uses humour and insight to broach a different topic –and presents the accompanying product solve. 

"For example, the Conversation on Life and Retirement tackles retirement in a completely new way. Planning for retirement is often not a priority when you’re young. But what if you knew only 6% of South Africans are able to cover their monthly expenses once they retire? And what if you could ask your 65-year-old self whether you are one of the 6%? Would 20-year-old you still take that year off? Would you at age 30 still buy that flashy car?"

Using banter to bring home the fact that today's decisions will define life when you're older, the script takes a notoriously low-interest topic and makes it relatable.

The same goes for the highly sensitive topic of death, which no one wants to talk about - undoubtedly a problem in a country with an average age of death that stands at 64 years, and where 40% of the workforce is more likely to have cell phone insurance than life insurance. 

Sanders says: "Conversations with Yourself takes an idea we've all had to the next level: the wish to fast-track into the future to see if our lives worked out the way we expected. Ultimately, you are your own partner in life. Everything you do now either benefits your future or jeopardises it. It's often too daunting to imagine one’s future-self. But Conversations with Yourself connects the future to the present, and makes the experience real and impactful."

South Africa's problematic savings culture has been well documented. In the retirement space, Sanlam's Benchmark research has identified millennials as the generation most at risk of having insufficient savings, mainly due to their DIY approach to money matters, their mistrust of financial service institutions and the fact that they don’t identify with retirement as a goal. It’s a generation known for overconfidence despite their poor financial literacy. Millennials prefer self-directed advice - so what better way to deliver it than through a "conversation with yourself"?

"As Wealthsmiths TM, Sanlam wants to empower people with the knowledge and tools to enable them to make positive financial decisions today. This should set them up for success both now and into the future. Conversations with Yourself helps people to appreciate that the planning they do today has significant implications for their future self. Ultimately, the campaign uses progressive storytelling to share a story to which any generation can relate. The story of you," concludes Sanders.

* Visit conversationswithyourself to watch the films and start your own conversation.