By Chuma Kave
Growing up in an environment that was and still is surrounded by lack, poverty and to whatever life offers, I was fortunate enough to grow up in a home that was considered ‘affluent’ in rural standards. Any home with a teacher, nurse, policeman or a store was considered affluent and commanded certain respect within the community. Mama, as single parent, raised us within this environment… to be confident, driven and refuse to conform to standards, norms and expectations of the village. Even though we were rural educated, she insisted we believe in education and its possibilities, to never allow the walls of the village to block our view and insisted we read books, magazines and newspapers from an early age.
Mama tried everything to raise us well as men of value, character, ambition and purpose. In all this love and deep appreciation of what Mama did, sometimes I feel there’s one lesson I missed. Money! Sometimes I wish Mama could have explained further on why she always said “I’m scared of debt” or “I never want to see a credit card;” on why she always insisted, whatever time of the month, that “there’s no money.” This I never understood. And, when I finally got my own money I realized, in my own way or world, that actually credit cards are cool. Little debt won’t hurt and quick loans are easy cash. I found the concept of budgeting absolutely tedious, and tightening the belt unreasonable. This was exciting up until what was small turned big, and was cool became a burden. I wish Mama could have told to me that:
- Credit cards do not give you free money
- Quick loans don’t mean quick payback
- Budgeting is a friend to any man who loves his money
- Understanding bank charges and credit cards rates is not rocket science
- Living within your means is knowing yourself
I am in no way blaming Mama for all my irresponsible actions. The danger of debt, financial illiteracy and lack of interest in how money actually works is, I believe, what keeps us or communities in the pit for too long, if not forever. It’s difficult to deny that there’s a link between financial illiteracy and this huge extent of poverty we’re currently witnessing. Even young professionals with good jobs are one pay cheque to poverty and young entrepreneurs squander their profits within a year or two of existence.
John Hope Bryant, founder of Operation Hope says “to not understand the language of money, financial literacy… in the 21st century, clearly an economic age, is to be an economic slave.” We have to put a stop to raising another generation of economic slaves through financial education at home, schools and universities. It is going to be difficult for struggling families to teach their kids about something they’re not familiar with, so it becomes vital that through schools and government initiatives we instill a culture of financial literacy among our youth.
The National Credit Act should be commended for protecting and shielding us from going way under but now it’s time we introduce programmes that will keep us above and raise youth that are financially sound, capable and free… to build on what the organizations like the National Savings Institute, KZN Finance Department, Operation Hope SA have been trying to achieve. Personally, this was a hard lesson to learn and journey to recovery has never been this exciting.