3 women share their financial freedom tips
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It is inspiring to see women empowering themselves and others, especially when it comes to financial independence – something that was seen by many as the exclusive terrain of men until not too long ago.
Women’s Month highlights the many great achievements of women across sectors but one often overlooked area is that of personal finances. This August, take the right steps to secure your own financial freedom with advice from three women who are paving their way to financial security, one good decision at a time.
Mother of one Keabetswe Mafafo started her retirement savings journey at the age of 26. That was too late, she says. "I should have started from my first paycheque."
There was no one around at the time to advise her, says Keabetswe, which Is why she is now on a mission to help others get on track early. She believes that a lot of people are hesitant to start saving because they are afraid they will get caught up in a scam. Her advice to them is to “get yourself educated, get more information — the sooner the better.” Following this path is how the young mother has set herself on course for financial freedom. Now, she says, she looks forward to being able to “relax and not have to stress about anything" when she retires.
Being on track to retire comfortably puts Keabetswe in a better position than more than half of the women in South Africa. The 10X Investments South African Retirement Reality Report 2020 (RRR2020) found that 53% of women didn’t even have a retirement savings plan in place.
Women might not be able to magically level the playing field with men, but Keabetswe prefers to focus on the things she can control in her journey to financial freedom. “If you have discipline, a goal and a plan, nothing will stop you from getting where you want to go,” she says.
Take charge of your money
After many years of poor performance, Felicia Roman realised her investments were only growing by the contributions she was making. The problem, she admits, is that she “never paid too much attention”.
When she decided to have a closer look at her investments, she got a nasty surprise at how bad things were, and now hopes to spare others a similar experience. She emphasises that investors should not entrust their life’s savings to companies simply because their names are familiar. “Take control and take charge. Don’t always believe in brands that you have been familiar with and brands that sell you a solution. I was with a brand for many years and the only time I heard from them was at the point at which I told them I wanted to move my money."
She points out that it is not that difficult to inform yourself. “The beauty of new tech means you sit in your bedroom, you can sit watching TV, and Google everything.
“While you may feel overwhelmed at first, just keep in mind that an investment in knowledge always pays off.” Besides, she says, it shouldn’t take a “degree in finance” to understand your investments. Using technology won’t just help you find the best service provider, adds Felicia, client platforms, will help you stay on top of your investments.
Having a clear understanding of her financial position puts Felicia in a small cohort of women in South Africa. Only 25% of women surveyed for the RRR2020 reported that they felt they were doing well financially while 27% said they were not sure how they were doing and 47% felt they were not doing well.
Don't rely on your partner to take responsibility for your finances
Sarah-Jane Wagg, who spent 15 years working in senior roles in the finance industry around the world, says it is too easy for women in a “patriarchal society like South Africa” to hand responsibility for finances to men. At the end of the day, she says, it is a personal choice but she recommends that women at least “look at doing it yourself, at taking control”.
Her advice is, however, the same for men and women when it comes to selecting a retirement fund provider: You need to look at performance as well as costs because then “you will get more of your money going back into your pension fund and growing for your retirement”.
Sarah-Jane is right. High fees are a significant contributing factor in South Africa’s retirement crisis. Seemingly small regular charges against savings compound to leave a large hole in people’s pensions.