Being a millennial in South Africa puts one in a very interesting position, because – both economically and culturally speaking – the country is one of a handful that is in quite a unique situation. On the one hand, we have undeniable access to a lot of western media and cultural influences – we grew up on American movies and TV, listening to American music while being carted around in foreign car brands. And so, a lot of our expectations of adulthood (which markers we should hit and what our lives should look like in general) have been influenced by a culture – and economic structure – which is not our own. On the other hand, however, SA is an undeniably developing country, which looks more like the developing world than the developed, with more people below the breadline than above. So, what does this all mean? Well, for one, it leaves many of us in the position of expecting a first-world experience – and that ease of getting started as an adult – in a third world context. This can make things difficult when you’re not one of the privileged few at the top of the financial food chain.
It makes things like being able to be okay with growing slowly, understanding fiscal responsibility and knowing when to say ‘no’ that much more challenging. Especially as millennials because our parents didn’t grow up in the same world as we did. So, in a number of ways, we’re the ones who have to guide ourselves.
One of the ways in which millennials, in particular, suffer in this country is getting our cash to stretch from one month to the next – and it’s no surprise when we’re taught that it’s almost a right of ours to party every weekend, get takeaway coffee every day or grab that Uber when the bus stop is right around the corner. But, it’s something we’ve got to learn because this is a developing nation and things are not as easy for us. And, at the end of the day, bad financial planning in this context can really make or break you. Especially when you consider the fact that it’s currently estimated that 14 million citizens are millennials – that’s 27% of our population – and we’re all competing for the tiny resource pool this country has.
In addition to that, millennials worldwide are working with strikingly different economic realities compared to that of our generation’s predecessors – our incomes are lower, we have fewer assets and we accrue more debt, earlier on. It also takes us longer to find stable employment, with many in our age group struggling to find work or participating in what’s referred to as the ‘gig economy’.
We get that this must sound stressful. But, fear not, because we’re here to help. There are a few changes you can make on the daily to ensure that you do put yourself in the best position to succeed, and a lot of those changes are easier to make than you might think:
It’s an oldie but a goodie. Saving a small portion of your monthly income will benefit you in the long run. It will also give you a sense of security you’ll soon learn to love, and, trust us, you’ll thank yourself when you’re in the midst of an unexpected rainy day.
Keep It Simple
Many of us tend to fall into the trap of what’s called ‘lifestyle inflation’. Instead of spending every cent you’re earning on a lifestyle that reflects it, try keeping your basic essential costs as low as possible. This will ensure you make it through the month comfortably.
Protect Your Health
Who knew that exercising and eating well could save you cash? But, when you think about it, taking care of your health now can save you the cash you’d need to fork out down the line if any health issues were to arise. In this case, an ounce of prevention is almost literally better than a pound of cure.
Get Rid Of Debt ASAP
For many, entering young adulthood is made even more stressful by the fact that you might be saddled with things such as student loans or university fees that have yet to be paid off. If you’re able, try to settle these debts as soon as possible – even if it means taking a lifestyle knock for a while. The sooner this debt is taken care of, the better as being debt-free will make life easier in the long run.
You might think that investments are only meant for older, more settled-down people. But, the truth is that you can start small and start young, investing small amounts of your income in stable or ‘blue-chip’ stocks. This will ensure that you have extra income down the line and it might just help you grease the wheels of your life when you need it most. Of course, investments are a tricky business, so if you’re completely in the dark, seek financial advice before taking the plunge.
This might be the strangest point on the list, but seriously – wouldn’t it be great to not have to spend cash on what you want, but rather trade something you don’t need for that new asset? And it’s not as difficult as you might think: Online forums such as Facebook Marketplace are a great place to start!
Try Meal Prepping
One of our biggest pitfalls: we spend way too much money on takeaways. An easy way to cut what can often be a significant portion of your spending down to size, could be to start using your Sunday evenings wisely. Use the time to cook and then refrigerate your meals for the week. Even if you just start by making your lunches, it’s something that could save you hundreds, if not upwards of a thousand bucks a month. So, yes, as everyone keeps telling us: Times are tough. But, luckily, your future is in your hands and, as a young adult you can start making financial decisions that will help keep you afloat in the years to come. Remember: Getting what you want is not always easy, but with the right frame of mind, you can make sure you stay on the path to achieving the life you’ve always dreamt of living.
Words: Arlin Bantam | Photography: