How SA women can take back their power through financial independence
"Do not leave or delegate financial decisions to a partner," a financial expert warns.
How SA women can take back their power (iStock)
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A shocking 51% of South African men believe that it is acceptable for them to hit their wives if they refuse them sex, burn or cook the wrong type of food, argue with them, go out without their permission or neglect the children.

This according to a 2018 report by Statistics South Africa titled, "Crime against women in South Africa".

Additionally, the South African Medical Research Council (MRC) reported that more women are murdered by their partner or ex-partner in South Africa than in any other country in the world.

This may be due to findings that reveal that despite reporting abuse, women appear to choose to stay in abusive relationships.

Financial constraints

Domestic violence researchers Jason Whiting and Jaclyn Cravens identified reasons why women stay in abusive relationships, and one of these is financial constraints.

Many of the women they interviewed referred to financial limitations, often connected to caring for children. Others were unable to keep jobs because of the abusers control, or because of physical injuries.

According to Jayne Wood abused women stay because logistically it is easier than leaving. Many abusers withhold money and resources from their spouse and some refuse to let them work outside their home.

These women then feel they have no place to go, especially if they have children.

Also read: Is your family poor, middle class or rich? Find out here

Take back power

Managing Director of Old Mutual Unit Trusts Elize Botha believes women can saves themselves and take their power back through financial independence.

“Achieving financial freedom and independence should be a priority for every South African woman,” she told Parent24.

She says that with our country’s increasing prevalence of divorce and domestic violence, coupled with the current tough economic environment, it’s critical that women feel empowered to make sound life decisions and secure their financial futures independently as well as together with their spouse or partner.

Also read: Are you paying your nanny a living wage? Probably not

Emergency fund

An emergency fund is a vital tool that women can use to protect themselves from unforeseen circumstances.

Botha believes that every woman should have an emergency fund to draw from outside of their spousal or household finances.

“Money can become a means to facilitate an escape from an untenable or at-risk situation,” she says.

“Women should therefore take charge of their lives by having quick access to funds for any type of emergency. The best savings vehicles for emergency funds are, among others, seven-day call accounts, unit trusts and tax-free savings accounts,” she says.

One step at a time

If you are not the main breadwinner in your household or your only source of income is from your partner , it is critical to find the means to start saving money, in your own name, and as soon as possible.

Options include regularly saving what you can from any income, asking for money as birthday gifts and selling unwanted goods.

“You need to save regularly, even if you can only afford small amounts. Review your budget regularly and, where possible, limit your spending on luxuries to instead put some of it away,” advises Botha.

Avoid debt

Botha explains how overspending and using expensive credit to buy the things you don’t need will put you into debt.

Accumulating debt, typically in the form of personal loans and credit cards, is also the gatekeeper between you and your financial freedom.

“What people don’t realise is that the real secret to financial freedom is keeping your living expenses as low as possible,” Botha says.

“Constantly increasing your credit limit as your income increases only serves to keep you further away from financial freedom. A good rule of thumb is never to spend more than you earn,” she says.

Set realistic goals

To achieve financial freedom, you need to invest and build wealth. This means starting with an income-generating investment such as a unit trust that will grow your wealth.

The aim is to generate an additional income that can at least be as great as your expenses. Saving enough money to be financially free may feel like a ‘long shot’, but the first step is always the hardest.

“Without a clear goal most people will find themselves spending rather than saving,” Botha says, “An understanding of your intrinsic values is essential to find the resolve to achieve financial freedom.”

When you are working towards something that’s important, she adds, you are often more willing to work harder to reach your goal.

"Women should arm themselves with financial knowledge or seek advice from an independent financial advisor. Do not leave or delegate financial decisions to a partner," Botha concludes.

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