Meet the 2018 Money Makeover candidates

Maya Fisher-French
2018-10-14 07:13
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Follow six ordinary South Africans as they take up the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge and  participate in a money makeover boot camp. The next six months will test their resolve and see them face tough decisions regarding every aspect of their finances – when to cut the apron

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strings on your adult children, letting go of a costly investment and knowing when to say ‘no’ to financial demands. Personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French is sharing their stories with you and will hopefully inspire you to start your own journey

Each candidate has been allocated their own Absa financial adviser who will help them organise their finances and reach their personal financial goals. The candidates will be required to complete certain financial tasks and will have to stick to the budgets set out for them to win incentive prizes or to be selected as the ultimate winner. 

City Press will follow the candidates’ progress in #Trending on the first and third week of each month, as well as online.

Samke - Making the right decision with a new pay cheque


Samke is 26 years old and works in Gauteng as a financial controller. She supports her parents and a young girl they adopted. Samke has just started a new job with a better salary, creating an opportunity to start making good financial choices.

Like many young people, Samke made the mistake of taking on consumption debt without understanding the impact it would have on her: “Not getting any financial education from a young age made me vulnerable to all the offers I would get from financial institutions. No one offered to teach me about different investments or savings plans, but I was always offered loans. In a way, it made me think that I could afford the ‘new’ lifestyle I was living as I had been a student and money to me was a dream.”

Samke's big dream:

“My biggest dream is to be debt free. More than anything, that is what I want right now. I should be able to afford a car on my new salary, but I can’t because of the debts I need to settle. I leave the house at 5.30am every day to get to work by 8am.”

Samke's worst financial mistake:

“I got caught in the MMM pyramid scheme. At the beginning, I got back twice the amount I invested, so I borrowed money and put more in. Then I lost it all and had to pay back the loans.”

Steve, Samke's financial adviser:


Steve Williamson has been a financial adviser for the past 15 years, and has worked with Absa for the past 10 years.

“I consider myself very fortunate in the fact that I love what I do – a job in which I get to meet and help people to address their financial needs and become an integral part of their financial success. I feel privileged that people trust me, and I strive every day to justify that trust.

“For Samke, helping others is very important, however, without disposable income, she cannot attain her goals. She cannot help others until she helps herself and gets her financial affairs in order.”

Bafo - When good debt becomes bad debt


Bafo is 35 years old and works for a local municipality in the Eastern Cape responsible for local economic development. He is unmarried, has two children and supports his younger sister, who is studying at a tertiary institution.

Over the years, Bafo has taken on expensive debt, mostly for developmental purposes such as building a house and paying for education. Although each of the loans appears relatively small and manageable, once you add them up, they are a major burden on Bafo’s finances.

“I want to participate in this programme because it will guide me on how to spend, save and pay creditors who make me pay too much money. I want to settle my accounts so that I can be financially free for the rest of my life and sleep properly at night.”

Bafo's big dream:

“My dream is to become a business owner who leases cars. Once I am finished the Money Makeover programme, I want to be able to save R10 000 each month.”

Bafo's worst financial mistake:

“My worst financial mistake was to take several loans that make up a huge amount when you combine them.”

Sizwe, Bafo's Absa financial adviser:


Sizwe Ntshekisa has been in the industry for the past five years and recently joined Absa Private Bank. He is a BCom graduate and holds a postgraduate diploma in financial planning.

“I take pride in my work as it challenges me every day with different client needs and objectives. This is where I use my knowledge and expertise to find a solution for my clients so they can achieve their goals.

“Bafo is currently facing a challenge of not sticking to his budget as he has a plan to reduce his debt to meet his obligations. The first task is to get the latest outstanding balances from his creditors so we can create a repayment goal. We also need to do a financial plan for him and the family – as the breadwinner, he needs to make provision for his dependants.”

Nkosi - Taking control of property debt


Nkosi is in her early 40s and works for the environmental affairs department in Pretoria. She is not married, has a 24-year-old son and is guardian to her late sister’s 18-year-old. Neither child is studying nor working, and are fully dependent on her. Nkosi has taken on a lot of debt, partly due to her lifestyle, but also to build up a property portfolio. Her five properties are pushing her to the edge financially and she needs to figure out if these properties are working for her.

“I have never done a budget, I just know what goes off my bank account. By participating in this programme, I hope I will be able to minimise my debts and be able to properly manage my finances.”

Nkosi's big dream:

“To settle all my debts, and be financially free so that I can start my own property investment business. I also need to find a solution for my son’s financial dependency.”

Nkosi's worst financial mistake:

“I bought a car that I later realised I didn’t really need and couldn’t afford. It opened a big financial gap when I tried to sell it. People would compliment me on the car, but I wasn’t sleeping at night. My other mistake was overcommitting to two new properties.”

Funi, Nkosi's Absa financial adviser:


Funi Nemanashi has been a financial planner for five years, the last two of which have been at Absa.

“My job entails analysing my client’s financial position and providing the best financial advice to meet their financial needs, which entails ongoing research to keep up with new trends in the field. It can sometimes cause sleepless nights, and be challenging yet exciting at the same time. It is rewarding as I know that, at the end of the day when my client leaves my offices, I have offered them the best financial advice and solutions. I have added value to their daily lives.

“Nkosi is scared that she will be pushed to the edge financially as both children are entirely dependent on her and the debts she has acquired may push her to the edge. She needs prudent financial planning to come out of financial distress.”

Amanda - Recovering from a tragedy 


Amanda is in her late 40s and lives in Paarl with her three children. A year ago, her husband died unexpectedly, leaving the family with no financial support or life policies. Overnight, Amanda became the only breadwinner, providing for her children with her salary as an accountant. Amanda needs to find a way to keep her family as stable as possible while staying afloat financially.

“I don’t think that I am spending my salary correctly on the stuff that matters, so I would appreciate some guidance and perhaps other surviving parents can learn something from my example. I hope to achieve financial freedom and the knowledge that this family of four is going to make it!”

Amanda's big dream:

“Proving that it is possible to make your salary last until the next pay day. Retire comfortably and have good health to do all the things that I am putting on hold while raising my children, like travelling.”

Amanda's worst financial mistake:

“Selling the one-bedroom flat that I owned when I was retrenched in 1999. Also selling our three-bedroom townhouse in Table View when we moved to Paarl in 2004 and not buying a property immediately in Paarl. We have not been able to enter the property market again.”

Riette, Amanda's Absa financial adviser:


Riette Visser has been a financial adviser since 2008 with Absa, and previously worked as a financial adviser assistant.

“I am passionate about my work. I love being an adviser – helping and teaching others to reach their goals. I am so excited about helping Amanda to reach her goal. The outcome of our meeting was to list priorities that need immediate attention and implementation. We are going to redraft the will to make provision for her specific needs. We also listed 10 items that she needs to investigate so that she can make decisions about her monthly budget, which will be discussed and/or implemented at our next meeting.”

Tamsin - Managing finances in the gig economy 


Tamsin is a freelancer and mother of two based in Cape Town. Although she is married, she and her husband have separate homes as they both have children from previous marriages. Tamsin’s challenge as a freelancer in the film industry is irregular lump sum payments rather than a regular salary. She is looking to build her web design business to provide a more regular income.

“For most of my career, the film industry has dropped large and intermittent sums of money into my bank account, giving me the illusion of wealth and success. Although I have known this all along, and managed to ignore it, I live well above my means. If I wish to be truly wealthy and financially independent, I need to do everything I can to focus my energy on achieving this goal.”

Tamsin's big dream:

“To experience the true fruition of my hard work with the manifestation of wealth from all the businesses in my life, and my own wise steps to live carefully and save my money and grow my wealth.”

Tamsin's worst financial mistake:

“Not paying attention to my money and spending money like it grows on trees.”

Leighanne, Tamsin's Absa financial adviser:


Leighanne Decker has been in the financial services industry since 2009, joining Absa last year. As a single mum of teenage twins, her job gives her flexibility.

“I adore what I do – meeting clients from diverse backgrounds who each have very individual stories. My goal is that clients leave my office better educated than when they arrived, whether I conclude business with them or not.

“Tamsin is self-employed and has three streams of income. While her accounting for each of these businesses is fantastic as she knows what expenses and what income is received for each stream, her personal and business expenses are intertwined. I have suggested that she pays herself a salary each month into a personal account and then run her personal expenses from this account.”

Thuli - Do not increase spending when your salary increases


Thuli works for an NGO and was transferred from Cape Town to Pretoria three years ago. She and her husband earn relatively good salaries, but she has acquired a lot of debt. She has investment properties that were supposed to provide additional income for retirement savings, but which currently only help cover the bills. One of the financial challenges is that her husband has been unable to transfer to Pretoria and is still living in Cape Town with one of the couple’s four children.

“There is nothing I can really say I have achieved financially after 30 years of working. I would like to change this and be a mistress of my financial destiny.”

Thuli's big dream:

“I would like to have my family under one roof again. I would like to finish my MBA by March. My first goal is to start an emergency fund. Once I have cut down my debt, I would like to plan to retire comfortably at the age of 63.”

Thuli's worst financial mistake:

“Buying two new expensive cars within three months.”

Leola, Thuli's Absa financial adviser:


Leola Jooste is a BA graduate and holds a postgraduate diploma in financial planning. Leola has been a financial adviser with Absa for the past six years. She is passionate about her job and enjoys helping clients meet their goals and build their wealth.

“It gives me great pleasure to see my clients reach their goals.

“After conducting an asset and liability statement and budget statement, it is clear that Thuli has a lot of debt, which is keeping her from building her wealth. We will be looking at her property investments and their returns to determine if they are building her wealth. One of our main priorities will be to look at her loans and credit cards – there are more cost-effective ways to get this reduced. We will also be looking at affordability to increase her retirement savings.”

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