Lesego Mpete. Supplied
Lesego Mpete. Supplied

OPINION: Dealing with family financial obligations

By Lesego Mpete Time of article published Jun 6, 2019

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For most people, family obligations are set based on your family traditions and values.

Obligations can range from lobola to looking after your grandparents when your parents have passed on, or looking after a niece/nephew/grandchild. It is important to remember you’re living your life.

Your extended family's needs and wants may be misaligned to yours. So consider your overall financial position, including your survival and safety money needs, before committing to funding family obligations.

Sometimes we need to revisit tradition and set a path for our children to prosper without guilt. But how do we even begin to set our personal family standard when it comes to family obligations?

Discuss your responsibilities with the family dependants looking to you for funding. Have honest and open conversations about expectations and what is possible. In some families, talking about money is taboo; but it is advisable to disclose to your parents your actual earnings and how you plan to contribute to the extended family household or family obligations. Be specific as to the rand value you can commit to the family.

Manage expectations by being specific in what you can contribute. Create a budget specifically for family, decide on the contribution amount, and allocate it to various areas in the house to cover what is needed. Don’t create false expectations around what you can provide for the family.

If you have your own financial goals set out before you commit to family support, these conversations will run much smoother.

Life triggers need to be considered. For example, when deciding to get married, evaluate all aspects of the wedding, including customs in your partner’s culture, such as lobola. They don’t go away, so plan for them up front.

Have an honest and open conversation with your future partner around lobola expectations, and together set out a plan to manage your expectations. Don’t underestimate the power of conversation and planning ahead!

Never over commit yourself in respect of your family contribution. Don’t be taken on an emotional guilt trip. Contribute what you can. Remember the rand value you set. Furthermore, refrain from committing to funding broad household expenses. Be specific as to what obligation you will carry.

Taking loans to meet family obligations is a no-no. Don’t spend money before you earn it. Commit based on what you are earning.

There is an unspoken notion around what a person earns being perceived as their value, and I think it’s for that reason that what a person earns is a taboo subject. Some people think that by informing family members of what they earn, the family will be entitled to all of it.

Both of the above issues can be resolved by having open and honest discussions around money and financial wellbeing in the family.

We understand we need to look out for each other as a family in the spirit of “Ubuntu”, but we also need to start having financial goals as a family. We should be asking ourselves: what does our family’s financial future look like? In changing the discussion, we start to work towards a common family goal.

Lesego Mpete is an employee benefits consultant at BDO.


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