“I learnt to talk to my husband about money, took my family on our dream holiday and my sons have learnt about budgeting”
Mmabatho shares her life journey that brought her to the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Competition as well as the milestones she has achieved in the last six months:
As an individual I do have my own weaknesses. When I entered this competition, it was an opportunity for me to face my weakness and improve my family life.
I believe that every challenge has a starting point. My financial challenge did not start with my first pay check. It all started when I became a teenage mom, two days before my grade 12 exam, fifteen years ago. I did not have any qualifications or a bank account, the only thing I had was my ID document. When my son was 3 months old, I was a first-year student at university. I studied for four years, the only income I had was a social grant. I didn't have an educational plan or savings account for him. My late grandma took care of him while I was still studying.
I got my first job when I was 22 and already my son was 5, getting ready to start school. As a young mom I felt pressured that my son didn’t have a place to call home. I did not think twice when I took a home loan at the age of 24 without a deposit. At the same time I started paying his school fees and assisting my grandmother financially. My financial weakness started when I wanted to make up for the years I was absent during his life.
I started very late to save for his educational plan and I had no other choice but to save more money for him. In 2010 I got a new job and cashed in my pension without thinking twice. A few years later I realized that I wanted to take my retirement at the age of 55 which meant I had to catch up what I cashed in by taking a retirement annuity which took more of my salary and which increased annually by 10%. All of these decisions were to try and correct my earlier mistakes.
Life continued and I got married and had two more boys. Immediately after the birth of my second and third sons, I took out an educational plan for them without discussing it with my husband. I did not want to be talked out of it, based on the experience I had with my first son of not starting to save early for his education. I also took life cover without discussing it with him so that there was money to provide and protect them should something happen to me.
But with all these commitments I was always broke and my husband didn't understand where my money goes. I tried explaining to him without disclosing the amount. It affected us in such a way that we failed to plan for a family holiday. The transition from being a single mother to a marriage was not easy, especially when it comes to finances. Since day one when I started working all I knew was how to provide and protect my child.
The Absa/City Press Money Makeover came at the right time for me. It helped me with the transition from being a single mother to a marriage when it comes to financial responsibility.
When I wrote my will I had to provide in equal parts to my kids when allocating shares on my assets so that none of them will ever feel he was loved more than the others, thanks to the Money Makeover competition.
The Money Makeover competition, for the past 6 months, was to me more than just a competition - it was a second chance to rewrite my life story. It presented me with an opportunity to rethink carefully where my financial challenges started and how those decisions are affecting me now as an adult. The best thing was to be able to find a way of preparing for the future while enjoying the present moment.
One of the achievements that I never expected when entering the competition was how it would help my husband and me with our financial roles and responsibilities. My Absa financial advisor Gerrit de Jong, made us write down and implement our financial roles in our marriage. We no longer assume that one person has extra money or one is misusing his/her money.
I am at that stage where he knows when I need money for petrol without me asking for it. Now we are both at peace with the fact that should something happen to one of us financially the other will make reasonable adjustment to their lifestyle and provide for the kids.
Both my last sons are under the age of 5 and at the beginning of the competition they would say “But you having your wallet so why are you not buying”. But now they do understand when mommy says “I don’t have money for ice creams or for new toys”. When it comes to the older one I also notice a difference when he is asking for things. He no longer says “can you please buy this for me”, he starts by saying “when you have money please buy this thing for me”. He now understands that one needs to have money first before buying anything.
My dream was to go for a family holiday along the coast; I wanted to pay cash for it. With the help of the Absa/City Press Money Makeover competition, we went to Ballito for a three night holiday in February 2018 - a dream did come true for us as a family. It felt so rewarding seeing my boys playing at the beach.
I want my kids to travel so that they can have an open mind about life, have choices about what they want to do when they grow up and learn to appreciate their country. I am at that stage in my life where I acknowledge that I do have debts that I have to pay, however, every extra cent I get I will travel with my family to a place we do not know because no one knows how much time we have as a family to be together.
What stood out for me during this competition is making sure you are prepared when life happens. I went for a major surgical operation, at the same time my husband’s meter taxi business was not doing well. We managed to survive all those things without creating more debts but by adjusting our spending.
During this competition period I did not get a salary increase, but we went on holiday, paid cash for it by just implementing the budget. I now know that my challenge was not on the income I received but on how I was using it. I learned to say ‘No’ to the people I love when it comes to spending my money on them without planning to do it before.
With all the things I learnt during the competition, I do believe going forward I will be able to do things better and teach the kids the value of money. I acknowledge that the competition was for 6 months, however I will continue to consult with the financial advisors when we are not sure of something. My request to Absa and City Press is to make a girl child aware that teenage pregnancy has financial implications which if one does not plan properly, will affect them in their adult life.