When Rona hits your wallet

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Whilst we may try our best to keep our bodies safe from the flu – we may overlook the sluggish money myalgia that can hit us around this time too! You might have financial flu…

Every winter our communities are hit by different strains of coronavirus (root of the common cold and flu). COVID-19 is the latest strain that initially impacted our health systems, and then quickly affected our financial systems and virtually every other area of society, politics and the economy.

As with our bodies where some of us are more resistant than others and show very little symptoms, our financial situation may be more or less resistant to financial flu. We might handle financial stress very well, and bounce back quickly, but some of us may not.

People around the world are currently under financial stress – which will lead back to physical and emotional stress too.

This typically shows up in the difficulty an individual or household could have in meeting financial commitments due to both a shortage and/or misuse of money.

Many of us with financial flu may find that we are stressed continually about our finances, specifically around things like: short-term debt, car and credit card payments; extended family obligations; not being able to save; not having enough for any emergencies; and school or university fees.

Being able to list these different stresses helps us talk about them and deal with them, one at a time.

In 2017, Sanlam’s Benchmark survey cited that short-term debt was the biggest source of stress. Not much has changed.

Viresh Maharaj, CEO of Sanlam Employees Benefits: Client Solutions, rightfully pointed out that this stress would be considered an epidemic if we were referring to a disease. “If this was the flu, then 70% of South Africa said they’ve got the flu at the same time, it would be headline news.”

In most countries the middle class is the backbone of the economy and pays a substantial part of the country’s tax system. A lot depends on this sector, so these levels of stress are concerning.

If you are feeling like this resonates with you, and you’re showing similar symptoms, one of the conversations you might like to have is around conspicuous consumerism, as well as demanding economic conditions. The advertising industry has created “a culture of consumption on steroids” that needs to be addressed. Maharaj also ascertains that “while the National Credit Act includes various checks and balances… it doesn’t address the fact that being able to pay for something is not the same as being able to afford something.”

The findings from the Sanlam survey suggest that many middle-class citizens may struggle to meet short-term goals, which may have a knock-on effect of limiting their capacities to ensure they have enough funds to properly provide for their retirement.

Many individuals seem to be focusing on immediate financial concerns, and socio-economic constraints mean that the retirement funding issue isn’t being resolved. In the survey, over 60% of respondents “said they would work beyond retirement age, while 73% said they would reduce their current standard of living.”

However, we don’t have to be part of this statistic. Now’s the season to get our financial flu jabs and build up our immunity to making costly financial decisions. Protect yourself from any kind of flu this winter by seeking advice and taking the appropriate measures to ensure your long-term financial wellbeing.

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