Pre­cious words of WIS­DOM

Maya Fisher-french speaks to three suc­cess­ful women about their money, ca­reers and ad­vice to young peo­ple who are just start­ing out

CityPress - - Business -

As these three suc­cess­ful, in­de­pen­dent and pow­er­ful women share their wis­dom around fi­nances and ca­reers, they have two things in com­mon – they all wished they had started sav­ing from an ear­lier age and they all be­lieve that suc­cess lies in learn­ing.

Asked about her big­gest fi­nan­cial re­gret, Hazel Ler­man, the di­vi­sional direc­tor of sales and dis­tri­bu­tion at Lib­erty Life, says: “If I had my time over, I would have started some type of sav­ings plan or in­vest­ment from my first pay cheque.”

Prem Goven­der, who runs her own fi­nan­cial plan­ning com­pany and is the chair of the SA Sav­ings In­sti­tute, shares this sen­ti­ment.

“Like all young­sters out of univer­sity, I didn’t see the need to bud­get and take charge of my fi­nances from day one, but I am grate­ful I learnt timeously that sav­ing and in­vest­ing are habits, and life­long ones at that.”

Goven­der says her sav­ings at­ti­tude changed when she re­alised that by sav­ing be­fore spend­ing, she was pay­ing her­self first.

For City Press edi­tor Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee, putting a debit order in place was the best way to kick-start her fi­nan­cial plan.

“I wish I had started sav­ing ear­lier. I’d al­ways thought it im­pos­si­ble given my re­spon­si­bil­i­ties – un­til I got it done with a debit order. You learn to stop miss­ing the money.”

Speak to any­one older than 30 and you will find that al­most every­one wishes they had started putting money aside ear­lier, that they had not wasted money in their younger years, but al­lowed it to grow and pro­vide them with op­tions and choices later in life.

It seems this is one les­son that is learnt through ex­pe­ri­ence. If there is one prom­ise you need to make to your­self on Women’s Day, it is to take your first step to­wards fi­nan­cial free­dom by putting a plan in place.


For Haf­fa­jee, good fi­nan­cial ad­vice from a young age helped change her at­ti­tude to­wards money. Through the years, she has fol­lowed ad­vice on how to get her fi­nances in order in­stead of wast­ing money on “frip­peries”.

“The best ad­vice came from three women, nat­u­rally,” laughs Haf­fa­jee.

Like many univer­sity stu­dents, fashion was im­por­tant to Haf­fa­jee so she opened fashion store ac­counts and maxed out her credit card.

“A bank man­ager at the time sat me down and gave me a good talk­ing to about the cost of credit. She made me pay off debt and taught me how to. I keep a sin­gle card now. That, and the ad­vice that you need very lit­tle in the way of ma­te­rial goods – although I will con­fess to a Yup­piechef habit – have made me less re­liant on credit,” says Haf­fa­jee.

She be­gan read­ing money books by US au­thor Suze Or­man, which built on the ad­vice her first bank man­ager gave her. “Then I met a great ad­viser who taught me the stages in life you need to be pre­pared for,” she says.

One of the main rea­sons we don’t take the first step to­wards fi­nan­cial free­dom is be­cause we of­ten don’t know where to start. We need some­one who can men­tor or guide us – a trusted ad­viser can be the dif­fer­ence be­tween be­ing con­tin­u­ously in debt and hav­ing a well-struc­tured fi­nan­cial plan.

For Ler­man, buy­ing her first home was the best fi­nan­cial de­ci­sion she ever made.

“In­ter­est rates were high at 26%, but I took the plunge. You have to get into the prop­erty mar­ket as soon as you can.

“Own­ing one’s home is an im­por­tant pri­or­ity and there are sac­ri­fices you have to make,” says Ler­man, who be­lieves there is never a “good” time to buy. You have to do your re­search, cre­ate a bud­get, save for a de­posit and then buy.

Ler­man also fol­lows the “no debt” rule. “It is im­por­tant to be­come debt-free as soon as pos­si­ble. Other than a house and a car, if I can’t af­ford it, I don’t have it.

“I don’t buy on credit, I save and pur­chase when I have the money. I also never travel on credit. It’s more sen­si­ble to stay home – not easy but wise.”

Buy­ing a home is a smart fi­nan­cial move as long as it is prop­erly planned. If you buy a home you can’t af­ford, it can end up drown­ing you in debt. This is where start­ing early with your fi­nan­cial plan can re­ally put you on the right path.

By start­ing early, sav­ing to­wards a de­posit on a home, tak­ing the time to do a bud­get and un­der­stand­ing ex­actly what you can af­ford, your home could be the best in­vest­ment you ever made and not a fi­nan­cial night­mare.

For Goven­der, her chil­dren’s ed­u­ca­tion has been her most valu­able in­vest­ment. “We sent our chil­dren to the Univer­sity of Cape Town, one of the best uni­ver­si­ties in the coun­try. The ex­po­sure and op­por­tu­ni­ties they got there were price­less.”

Goven­der, who is from KwaZulu-Natal, found the cost of send­ing her chil­dren away to univer­sity ex­tremely ex­pen­sive and a huge drain on the fam­ily fi­nances.

But she says it was worth the sac­ri­fice now that both of them are pro­fes­sion­als with the po­ten­tial and skills to earn good salaries. “This will en­sure that we as par­ents never have to worry about their fi­nan­cial well­be­ing,” she says.

A good ed­u­ca­tion for our chil­dren is not only a gift we give our chil­dren, but our­selves. It hope­fully means we will not have to sup­port them in our later years.

But it is im­por­tant to re­mem­ber that the cost of a child’s ed­u­ca­tion should come from your liv­ing ex­penses and should not be at the ex­pense of your re­tire­ment funds. Rather drive a smaller car, take fewer hol­i­days or live in a smaller home to fund ed­u­ca­tion costs. If you don’t take care of your own re­tire­ment, you will end up re­ly­ing on your chil­dren fi­nan­cially.

This will make it dif­fi­cult for them to ed­u­cate their chil­dren.


When it comes to her ca­reer, Goven­der also places a great value on her own ed­u­ca­tion, hav­ing stud­ied for a Mas­ter’s de­gree in tax­a­tion.

“I wish I had done this ear­lier rather than waited to do it when my chil­dren were off my hands. But I am glad I did it – it has done won­ders for my ca­reer as an ac­coun­tant,” she says.

Haf­fa­jee be­lieves her suc­cess has come from con­tin­u­ous learn­ing. “At the Weekly Mail, my first jour­nal­is­tic home, I learnt it was good to learn as much as you can. Of late, I find my­self learn­ing a lot from young peo­ple – wis­dom and skills can come in youth­ful pack­ages. Be­sides that, I’d say my curiosity, in­sa­tiable as it is, has of­ten worked well for me.”

Ler­man agrees, say­ing: “You have to keep learn­ing for­ever.” She stud­ied a BCom at the age of 36. “Although I stud­ied later in life, when I did, I grad­u­ated cum laude as I was do­ing it and mak­ing sac­ri­fices for all the right rea­sons. It cost me time, en­ergy, money and a so­cial life, but it opened up so many doors.”

In­vest­ing in your­self through ed­u­ca­tion and learn­ing ex­pe­ri­ences should form part of your fi­nan­cial plan. Fur­ther ed­u­ca­tion im­proves your abil­ity to earn and it can open new ca­reer paths for you.

If you take time off work, cash in sav­ings or take out a loan to com­plete your stud­ies, you need to make sure you re­cover fi­nan­cially by com­mit­ting a por­tion of your higher earn­ing po­ten­tial to pay­ing off those loans or re­plen­ish­ing those sav­ings. Use your new earn­ings po­ten­tial to grow wealth – not things.


“If I had to ad­vise young women to­day, I would tell them to grab ev­ery sin­gle op­por­tu­nity,” says Haf­fa­jee, who adds that hu­mil­ity is key in learn­ing – never as­sume you know ev­ery­thing and never be afraid to ask.

Goven­der’s ad­vice to pro­fes­sional women is that an un­der­grad­u­ate qual­i­fi­ca­tion is not suf­fi­cient.

“Post­grad­u­ate stud­ies def­i­nitely set you apart from your peers and are key to en­sur­ing you climb the cor­po­rate lad­der with spe­cialised skills, knowl­edge and – above all – con­fi­dence.”

Ler­man says: “Work hard, learn all you can, pro­duce re­sults. Aim to be­come a sub­ject mat­ter ex­pert – own your ca­reer and in­dus­try. You can do this through read­ing ap­pro­pri­ate ma­te­rial to keep you in­formed and also by find­ing a good men­tor.” She rec­om­mends build­ing a net­work. “It’s amaz­ing how much you learn from oth­ers, and be will­ing to share.”

Ler­man’s fi­nal words to all those start­ing on the ca­reer path is: “Save from your first pay cheque; you will thank me for this ad­vice one day.”

PAY OFF DEBT Fe­rial Haf­fa­jee

START EARLY Hazel Ler­man

SAV­INGS HABIT Prem Goven­der

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