When you read that nearly 75% of the middle class experience financial difficulty and a similar percentage are in debt, it is time to worry.
Add to this the economic difficulties the country is going to experience flowing from the ratings downgrades and it will not be just the poor who will suffer but many middle class South Africans will also find themselves in a crisis.
The “phony war”
In the Second World War, the winter of 1939-1940 saw no activity but in the spring Nazi Germany blitzkrieged Europe and all hell broke loose – the “phony war” was over. It seems inevitable that our own “junk status phony war” will soon be over.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that the country has successfully weathered the first month or two of the downgrades. Remember that only our US Dollar denominated debt has been downgraded and this amounts to ten percent of South African bonds. The rating agency, Moody’s, has yet to decide whether or not it will also downgrade us to junk status. Even if we don’t get a downgrade from Moody’s now, it will probably come in the latter part of the year.
There are several rungs in the ladder below junk status. When this happens to a country its economic growth, currency, unemployment and investment show further declines. If South Africa takes no action to improve State Owned Enterprises and corruption, we will face such further downgrades.
6 steps to take and avoid
Lock down for the lean times with these –
- Don’t take on more debt to supplement monthly living. This amounts to postponing a day of reckoning which more debt will only worsen.
- Budget carefully and understand your spending patterns. For example, analyse the times when you spend unnecessary money and consciously avoid these occasions. Make a plan to cut spend and be disciplined about it.
- Plan to live below your current means. This may sound daunting but will enable you to become frugal. Some simple planning around your habits and strengths (if, for example, you are good with your hands, maintain your own car and home) will help you achieve this.
- If you succeed in either breaking even or saving money, think how it will improve your morale – just think of not waking up at 3 a.m. with a knot in your stomach as you worry about money.
- Learn to distinguish between a want and a need. Once you have done this, reduce or cut out things you want.
- The most important thing is realising your situation will get worse unless you cut costs. Then you must have the willpower to implement living frugally.
Employers: Help your staff through this
Why not share these ideas with your staff – not only can it help them navigate these choppy waters, but it will improve morale and productivity in your workforce
This article is a general information sheet and should not be used or relied upon as professional advice. No liability can be accepted for any errors or omissions nor for any loss or damage arising from reliance upon any information herein. Always contact your financial adviser for specific and detailed advice. Errors and omissions excepted (E&OE)