Woman On Top – Mapalo Makhu
Mapalo Makhu, Woman and Finance founder, on making people’s financial dreams a reality and preaching jargon-free money gospel. Can we get an AMEN!
When author, money columnist and founder of Woman and Finance — a personal finance blog — Mapalo Makhu took to the stage at the recent #JSESheInvests, guests commended her uplifting style of money talk. The event, organised by the Johannesburg Stock Exchange, was geared towards encouraging women to invest in each other, as well as sharing pivotal money and investment lessons. “There are 12 months in a year, so make time to learn something new about money every month,” said Makhu, who also kept reminding attendees that they were not broke, but pre-rich. You’re Not Broke,
You’re Pre-Rich also happens to be the title of her debut book, set for release in early October. The style of writing, she says, is very conversational. “I hope that people find it an easy read because I believe that money education should be simple. I also think that the financial industry is to blame because they make things complicated and intimidating,” explains the 31-year-old.
IN THE BEGINNING
During an unplanned gap year after matric, Makhu challenged herself to start reading any and everything that wasn’t a Mills and Boon novel. This new resolution saw her reading Robert Kiyosaki and Sharon Lechter’s
Rich Dad, Poor Dad, which she says altered the course of her life, and further inspired her to pursue a career in financial investments instead of her initial passion, Media Studies. “I suddenly became interested in learning how money worked,” she explains. This was also a path that introduced her to more finance gurus, so much so that she aspired to be the Suze Orman of Africa at one point. “Suze Orman is one of my financial muses, even though I disagree with some of her old-school money theories,” she shares. “For instance, she believes that it’s impossible to retire at a young age, whereas experience and reading up have taught me that with careful planning and patience, wealth is very possible.” A lack of patience, Makhu believes, is what’s standing in our way of being millionaires.
A self-confessed average student in high school, she recalls suddenly being an A student during her University of
Johannesburg days — a pure result of passion trumping everything else. Makhu, who has just over five years’ experience in the financial services sector — first as an Accountant and then later as a financial advisor — has stuck to her guns when it comes to staying on a career course that will see her educate women about money.
It is this same passion that has served as her career compass throughout. “For instance, there was a point where I’d quit my job as an Accountant then went into a kids’ party planning business with my sister, which was doing relatively well. When I started looking for formal employment again, I resorted to reading the job description instead of the spec. I had learnt that there was no point in jumping from job to job without ever stopping to ask if the job was aligned to my career goals. I was quite clear about wanting to join a company where I would indulge my passion for getting women excited about financial literacy,” she says.
Her next job offered exactly that and became an invaluable learning ground until her unplanned and hastened resignation in 2016. “I’d already started Woman and Finance while on maternity leave. When my then employer offered to buy it from me, saying they’d much rather have their employees fully committed to the company instead of their own projects, I knew I was onto something great,” she says. Not wanting Woman and Finance to be turned into just another marketing tool, she jumped ship and has since been committed to growing the platform and establishing herself as a sought-after financial speaker.
Before hitting the big time with her speaking engagements, Makhu would give talks at churches, schools and then her own events — something she believes prepared her for the big stages.
As someone who understands the backstory to the financial industry’s product offerings, she says she still gets nervous when addressing a room full of financial experts. “Sometimes, I get the feeling that people wonder what a glammed-up young woman like myself knows about money. I love it when people doubt me based on my looks, only to change their minds after hearing me speak,” she jokes.
Makhu is very generous with her money wisdom too, making sure to intersperse money lessons and hacks throughout the interview. For instance, she says, parents shouldn’t waste their time with education policies, but rather invest in tax-free savings accounts or global accounts.
In her money coaching sessions — something that’s decreased due to her growing business commitments — some of the first questions Makhu asks clients are, “What is your money goal? What informs your decisions around money?” A lot of our money woes boil down to a lack of discipline, which Makhu says won’t mysteriously disappear until we do the internal work. “If you avoid making decisions about your money, you will forever work for and chase money — and be trapped in the rat race. It’s important to pause and think about your money goals,” she adds.
GROWING BEYOND MEASURE
One of the lessons Makhu learnt while penning her book is that, the best way to do something is to lock yourself down and just do it. “I literally wrote the book in a couple of months and it is 60 000 words long,” she chuckles, reflecting on how manic the process was. She continues: “I would take my son to school, come back home, start writing, do other stuff or work, prepare dinner, make sure everyone is fed and happy, take a nap until 10 pm, wake up and write until 4 am.”
Makhu also has the pleasure of sharing her money wisdom through writing columns for various publications — among them City Press newspaper. In fact, her writing commissions have grown so much that she’s had to bring a writer on board to help with that side of the business. Next on her cards, is building a strong team to move the business forward. “I’m approaching big financial corporations, offering to help them communicate simply and better with their existing clients. It’s nothing like I’ve ever done before but I’m super excited about it,” she shares, adding that she never waits for the perfect time to start. “I never start things when I feel that I’m ready. Opportunities find you in the midst of ‘doing’, not while you’re waiting.”