I grew up in what I would call an average South African household. Another person would call it middle class and that’s still very relative depending where and how you grew up. I never felt as though we were wealthy but I also wouldn’t have described us as having been poor. That’s what we would call Middle Class right?
Rationalising affordability growing up
I’ve rationalised our economic status according to what my parents could afford for us growing up. As a child, whenever I would ask my dad to buy me a new toy, he never responded with “no we can’t afford this” but instead, would say, “it’s not on the budget for this month’s pay day, we can put it on the budget for next month”.
However, I also recognise that there would be no reason for him to say no completely as I never made expensive requests of him. I mean, my most expensive asset as a child was my small collection of Barbie dolls. I only received one Barbie doll a year and that was on my birthday.
I believe the challenge from my father to wait a month before buying me what I had requested was his attempt at teaching me how to handle money and not really about affordability. In hindsight, I can’t say that the lesson learned was linked to financial literacy as it was to the lesson of patience. I can now save up and wait to buy something expensive but I’ve never said to myself, “you can’t afford this Lesego”. A blessing and a curse I tell you.
Being setup for financial success
As an adult, I’ve had a hard time with finances and this includes managing my money. I think my lack of financial literacy is attached to how my family spoke about money. Debt seemed normal – my mother had a few clothing store accounts and I learned the word “loan” quite early in my life.
My father however, was very careful with money. He hated debt but potentially saw the need for mother to have some independence over how she managed her own money. I only ever heard my parents talk about finances a couple of times and if I’m being honest, in those moments I felt as though there was an imbalance of who had the final say based on who brought in the most. It made me feel uncomfortable.
Let’s talk about money baby
Talking about money has never been a strength. You can see how this weakness can present a problem when it comes time to negotiate a salary, interest rate on credit or even simple things like asking for a discount. I do believe that I may have bought my first car at a higher price than I should and potentially the interest rate was much higher than most.
Also, budget isn’t a word that I use quite often and saving is something that’s always happened as a bit of a happy accident. Look, let’s be honest… I also don’t know how I’ve survived as an adult for as long as I have. But, I’ve been working to change this.
Financial literacy vs financial freedom
The first time I became aware of my own financial inadequacy was shortly after having moved to Dubai and having to work out how much I really needed to survive. Trust me to only have worked this out after I had already accepted a job transfer to the UAE office and had already landed in the country. *sigh
Let me tell you something about the land of oil and Arabs, sh*t is expensive, especially the necessities. Once I’d paid all my bills and worked how much I would need to have for groceries, I realised I wasn’t left with much to have fun. Life became real. I had to make it work. I did ok for the most part but I think my saving grace was deciding to save up – no matter how small the amount would be.
I’ve since learned how to live within my means, to always look for bargains and also to ask for a discount whenever I can. I believe these three things have helped get me on the road to financial freedom. However, I realise there is still so much to learn, including how to secure a second income stream. I’d love for you to join me on this journey of becoming financially free.
Join me on my journey
Through this blog, I will seek out financial advice from those who know better and also talk about most commonly made mistakes among us young black professionals. Let me know in the comments section if there is anything that you have struggled with personally. Maybe you are a well equipped to help guide us, please also leave a comment and we would love to connect.