A Man, a Dream, & a Money Machine

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It isn’t easy to leave your homeland and make it big in the tough streets of London, but here’s a story of a South African whose can-do attitude turned an innovative idea into a money-spinner. Sadly, he didn’t get to see the revolution he started, but his legacy holds lessons for us all

By Alec Hogg

In my year since arriving in London, I’ve met some really impressive South Africans. And many very successful ones. The Calvinistic work ethic, can-do attitude and cultural affinity makes my countrymen well suited to this great cosmopolitan city.

But one of them stands head and shoulders above the rest. A visionary and an inspiration who I was privileged to get to know as a friend. But, sadly, someone no longer around for one of our lengthy chats.

I met Jeff Paterson through a pal who had moved to London to expand his horizons. While scouting around he’d came across a couple of fellow Saffers who were in the early stages of revolutionising the retail currency exchange market. And he wanted to work for them.

My pal wasn’t actually employed by Fourex when he arranged our meeting, but encouraged me to come along. I took my microphone and spent a fascinating hour learning about the business called Fourex, which Jeff and business partner Oliver du Toit were building into today’s world beater.

Like many great business ideas, Fourex was based on the dream of replacing something expensive and wasteful with a cheaper and better alternative to everyone’s benefit. The business model was a combination of what academics term “disruption” and “shared value”.

The idea was sparked by the serial entrepreneur duo’s travels. They were irritated that most bank notes and coins they brought home were worthless except in the country where they were issued. When local banks did ordain to accept some notes, they charged hefty fees to exchange them. Money changing kiosks dotted around High Streets are even worse.

So for six years Jeff and Oliver collected bits of money from all over the world and charged some of the smartest engineers on earth to develop the technology.

The result was their ATM-like machine that exchanges 30 000 different notes and coins, no matter where they come from, into Pounds, Euros and US Dollars. Okay, maybe not old Zim Dollars. But pretty much everything else.

Today as you walk past a queue at one of the many Fourex machine scattered around London, it seems such an obvious business idea. But until 18 months ago, apart from Jeff and Oliver, nobody else seemed to believe it could work.

So the two of them invested everything they owned, borrowing where they could and encouraged each other to keep going after yet another potential investor wrote them off as crackpots. What seemed so obvious for them just couldn’t gain traction with the cynical majority.

Then Jeff hit on the idea of entering Virgin’s high profile “Pitch for Rich” competition. But getting attention required votes. So the Sandringham High Old boy called up Radio 702 and told John Robbie, who loved the story of the two London-based Saffers who wanted to change the world.

He interviewed Jeff on his breakfast show and listeners made an impact, contributing enough of the 685 000 votes to get Fourex into the competition’s final nine.

After that, Jeff told me, it was up to the judges. But this time he got tell the story to fellow entrepreneurs who lapped it up, just like Joburg’s radio listeners had. Fourex triumphed as the Best “New Thing”, one of three Pitch To Rich categories, the big break they needed.

The prize of £50,000 came in handy, as did the counselling from the head of Richard Branson’s family investment operation. But Jeff said it was the marketing spinoffs that really counted. After the long drought, potential investors started knocking on the door. They opted for South Africans, tying up with Larry Lipschitz’s Genesis Capital Partners. And the rest should have been happily ever after.

Excepting that real life rarely has a fairytale ending. On the one hand, Fourex’s future as the dominant player in its field is assured. But Jeff’s wasn’t. Soon after the Virgin competition he was diagnosed with cancer that required the amputation of his leg.

A week after the operation he was travelling around the London underground checking up on the newly installed machines. But it was only the start of his battle.

We met shortly afterward that and became friends. Jeff possessed a zest for life, an enthusiasm for learning and a gloriously open mind that made people warm to him. He was a seeker, ever probing, always asking questions, obsessed with getting to the truth.

He tackled cancer the same way – head on, refusing medication which promised only to prolong his life at a lower quality. Jeff took up the challenge of beating the disease, switched into investigation mode and experimented with everything from pulse machines and frequencies through to diets and meditations.

Jeff promised to let me write his story. But only after he’d conquered the disease and given the world one more gift, a cure for cancer. There were some notable successes. But in the end he just ran out of time. His strong body had been too weakened by the quest. But in all of that he never lost his sense of humour. And towards the end, gained the gift of peace.

Like everyone else who got to know Jeff Paterson, I’ll miss him. My pal, who got the job and thus worked closely with this gifted entrepreneur, says that his passing has left a huge hole in the rapidly expanding business. And in many lives as well. Because people like him are rare. Leaving footprints that never fade.

* Alec Hogg is the founder of Biznews.com.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Cinderella and the Quest for a Blesser

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Money is the single biggest reason why so many fairytale marriages end unhappily ever after. But the underlying causes are complex, and bring the story of Cinderella right into the modern era. So what, then, is the best way to make money and a relationship work?

By Maya Fisher-French

After a talk I had given at a Women’s Day breakfast, a woman in her early 30s came to chat to me about an issue that faces many financially independent women.

My talk had been about the “Cinderella Complex” and a woman’s unconscious or conscious desire to be cared for by a man.

I’ll call her Thobeka. (It’s not her real name, as is the case with all the other women in this story.) As a single mother, Thobeka said that unlike many other women in her situation, she was not convinced that a man would be a Blesser, a term used to describe a sugar daddy.

Thobeka’s issue was that she had worked very hard to become financially organised and to support her child on her own. “I don’t have debts and I have investments. What if I meet a man who is a spendthrift or arrives with debt?”

Money is a minefield that couples have to face and navigate between the roses and racing heartbeats. Considering that money is the biggest reason for divorce, how you handle money as a dating couple could be a predicator of how you will manage money as a committed couple.

A couple of years ago I had a conversation with a family friend, who in her early 20’s, had started to date a guy quite seriously. Angela’s concern was his money attitude. He always split the bill when they went out and never offered to pay in full.

She faced the challenge that as she was several years younger than him, her earnings were not on par with his. So going out for dinner several times a week or the choice of venue could put substantial strain on her budget if they went 50/50.

I suggested to her that she be honest and tell him that while she loves going out for dinner with him, she can only do what is affordable for her. If there is a fancy restaurant he would like to go to, he would have to foot the bill.

The relationship continued long enough for them to move in together. They set up a budget where she contributed a percentage that represented her earnings relative to his.

But she couldn’t handle his budgeting and financial prudence, she wanted to be more exuberant and spontaneous. Ultimately the relationship ended, and here is the rub – she is now dating a man who loves spending money on her. As a classic Cinderella, she found her Blesser and is very happy about it.

Ultimately, relationships are about personalities. A couple made up of a spendthrift and a saver may find a perfect balance where the spendthrift is protected from their worst financial mistakes, but the saver learns to enjoy life a bit, as long as both appreciate what each other is bringing into the relationship.

Someone who loves spending money and someone who loves having money spent on them will also find compatibility, unless the money, or credit line, runs out.

For others, the difference in their money attitudes may just drive them insane, or can be used as a power-play in a relationship – especially if there is a difference in the earning power. As they say, “he who holds the gold, makes the rules”.

In another conversation, Carol had recently married and the newly-weds moved in together. Both were on their second marriages with grown children and had gotten used to living their own lifestyles. Her husband earns a modest income and has simple tastes and needs while Carol is financially very well off and enjoys the good things in life.

After moving into their new home Carol starting buying new furniture, making minor renovations and generally spending money. Within a couple of weeks, she noticed that her relationship was not going that smoothly, especially in the bedroom. The problem was the shift in power that her money created.

The reality is that while most women do not have a problem with a financially successful partner who enjoys spending money on them, for some men, a financially stronger partner can make them feel emasculated. This is going to be a challenge in many relationships, as more women become the main breadwinners.

Some women like Carol will want to spend on their partner, women like Thobeka will be afraid that a financially less astute man will bring her down and women like Angela will still want a man who can spoil her. So when you fill in those online dating questionnaires, the most important attribute may just be a synergy in the way you view money.

*Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

The Anatomy of a Scam

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When it comes to investing your hard-earned money, beware of any scheme that seems too good to be true. Because the truth is, it probably is, as many people discover to their cost. Here’s one real-life example.

By Maya Fisher-French

There are so many rogues out there using charm and manipulation on desperate people looking for better returns. Tammy is one such victim and she kindly and bravely, shared her story in the hope that it acts as a warning to those who still do not believe that when it seems too good to be true, it really is.

“I really never thought it would happen to me, I thought I was fairly financially astute. How wrong I was,” Tammy says about her experience of being fleeced to the tune of hundreds of thousands of rands in a Ponzi scheme.

As with most schemes, it all started with a referral from a family member. “My mother one day started telling me how a very good family friend of ours was making a lot of money off an investment.”

Both Tammy and her mother had money invested in unit trusts, but the returns the friend was getting were so much better. Too good to be true – as it turned out.

The family friend in question had a neighbour who claimed to be a futures trader. “Our friend had given this trader almost a million Rand and had been receiving monthly payouts of around 19% a year on the investment – that was just in interest not the capital. We all thought, ‘what a find!’ and invited him to our home. He sat in my lounge in my humble apartment and met my kids. He was informed that I was giving him some of my life’s savings. He understood what this R150 000 meant to me,” says Tammy.

Her mother had told so many of her friends about this great ‘Futures Trader’ that collectively they had invested around R2.5-million.

It took time to receive any investment documentation and Tammy and the other investors were told to leave the investment to grow. They were also told that if they needed any of the money soon he could not guarantee where the market would be and they could incur losses.

This is fairly normal for any market-related investment as markets can fall over the short term, but it did not tie in with his story of providing a 19% per annum income return as initially suggested.

Although Tammy did receive some money from time to time, she started to feel uneasy. But then after two years of no returns they started to suspect something was seriously wrong.

“The rands began to drop and we realised we could not get hold of this guy. He never returned our calls, he would then return the calls but be in a meeting so couldn’t talk. Then we would email him with notices wanting our money back.”

From time to time he would give them a small carrot in the form of a small cash payment. “We would cling to this gesture of goodwill because we did not want to fully acknowledge that we had given our precious savings without any proof or finding out that this man was who he said he was. We went blindly on trust. It was such a wonderful feeling to trust, but so awful to be betrayed.”

Tammy also had to acknowledge the role of their good family friend. He was at the top of the scheme and had been the bait, with his initial payouts, which had caught the rest of them because they trusted him.

“Once we realised the brutal truth, our money was gone. Then began the frantic attempts to recover it, throwing good money after bad, paying lawyers to investigate which all cost more than it was worth.”

Only at this stage did Tammy do the research she should have done in the beginning. She contacted the Financial Services Board (FSB) and discovered the trader was not registered.

All she had was his ID number which was of no use. The bank they had deposited the money into was not interested that their client had committed fraud. “The fraud division would not even return my calls,” says Tammy.

Eventually Tammy realised she had to write the money off. She was at least in a position where she was still relatively young and still earning an income, but the same was not true for other people in the group. “Some had invested all their life’s savings. What kind of heartless person could do this?”

Her last act was to report the man to the police. It appeared a hopeless task. “I had already phoned all the relevant crime divisions for white-collar crimes in the country, but no-one knew the correct process or procedure to lay a charge against this criminal.”

Tammy then went to her local police station, where it was a similar story: no-one seemed to understand the crime that had taken place. “I must have stood in the police station for an hour trying to explain my situation. Eventually they gave up on me and I went home.”

Fortunately, in a conversation with a community leader Tammy was given the name of a senior officer at the police station who advised her to get the whole group of investors together to lay a charge under one case number. He told her that the larger the sum defrauded, the more likely it would be viewed as a fraud case and investigated at a higher level.

Tammy heard nothing for about 18 months, then out of the blue she received a call from an advocate who told her the man had been prosecuted and had reached a settlement.

The agreement was that if the complainants were willing to accept the terms they would each receive R100 000 followed by monthly amounts until the debts were repaid. So far he has kept to his agreement.

“What a journey this was, but my message to anyone who is scammed, is don’t just give up. Report the matter. Justice may take its time, but it does work.”

Tammy has been extraordinarily lucky ‒ partly due to her tenacity. Very few victims ever follow through or ever see their money again. 

How to spot a scam

They are not widely advertised on mass media platforms. They rely mostly on word-of-mouth by usually using a few people as “bait”. The early investors receive “too good to be true” returns and then convince other people to join.

The returns promised are always well above what you would expect from a normal investment but when the investment returns do not materialise, there is always some clause in the documents that says “these are projected and not guaranteed” even though it was sold as a guaranteed or low-risk investment.

They are not registered with the Financial Services Board or the South African Reserve Bank, and are not authorised financial services providers. Promoters or brokers are not registered with the Financial Services Board as qualified brokers.

The initiators are not accountable to anybody and can disappear at anytime.

The schemes do not have a corporate organisational structure (CEO, directors).

They do not provide any real proof of investment of your money (ie. investment certificate); sometimes they will issue you with a piece of paper with a logo, but this means very little.

They may offer a guarantee to get your money back if you are not happy with the investment. This guarantee is nothing but words on a piece of paper. Anyone can promise you a “guarantee” – it means absolutely nothing unless there is a bank underwriting it.

* Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Get Ready for the Holiday of a Lifetime!

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After a year of sweat and toil, you’ve earned your holiday break. So don’t let the planning for your holiday make you sweat and toil even more. Plan well ahead, and you’ll be able to enjoy every moment of your well-deserved getaway.

By Maya Fisher-French

I recently returned from an overseas trip that I started planning nine months ahead of time. I used the time to plan, budget and make sure that when I returned from my well-deserved break, there would be no scary credit card bills to deal with.

One of the benefits of planning ahead is that you are able to spread your payments over time. This is how I made sure my holiday was booked and paid for before I got on the plane.


Nine months before travelling: book your airline ticket

The earlier you book your air-ticket the cheaper it is. I used travelstart.co.za which gave me the best price comparisons. I booked through my credit card for convenience and also for the free travel insurance.

Another benefit of booking with a credit card is that you are also covered if the airline goes bust under a charge-back where the transaction can be reversed if the goods or services are not delivered.

As I already had funds to cover the ticket, I transferred the money into my credit card. Ideally you want to have saved the money to pay for the tickets, but if you have to spread the cost, make sure it’s only over one or two months.


Eight months before travelling: start putting money aside for spending

I calculated how much day-to-day spending money I would need and started building that up in my credit card. I don’t get foreign cash before leaving on an overseas trip as I just draw cash when I arrive at the airport , although this once did backfire when the ATM was offline.

I also don’t find the pre-paid currency travel wallets that cost-effective. But my main issue is that for both foreign cash and travel wallets you have to fill in forms with the bank and provide your air-ticket and passport – it’s an unnecessary additional hassle.

The risk is that our currency takes a nose-dive during your trip, but it could also strengthen. I take the view that I have already spread my risk by paying for my trip over nine months.


Six months before travelling: book your accommodation

Now that your ticket is booked and paid for, you can pay for your accommodation. Airbnb has made travel so much cheaper but I also used websites like booking.com and tripadvisor.com to get realistic reviews on places to stay.

In some cases you can just pay a deposit but I opted to pay the accommodation in full (refundable if I cancel before a certain time) as this took away currency risk.

With the rand so volatile I used an opportunity of rand strength to effectively peg the cost of accommodation. It also means that six months before I leave, both my accommodation and flights are paid for.


Three months before travelling: book car hire/transport

Again this is about spreading out the cost of the overseas trip and also taking advantage of rand strength. If you are using reputable global car rental agencies, you can comfortably book online and make payment. There is a refund option if you cancel in time.

I always opt for the full insurance package with no excess. It is a lot more to pay, but once when a driver went into the back of me while I was travelling abroad, I was very glad I didn’t have to worry about handling the excess in a foreign currency!

I also included wi-fi in the car – this allowed me to use my phone for navigation and generally provide free wi-fi.

I also booked a train trip online with a great online booking service, loco2.com, which covers and compares all modes of transport around Europe and the UK.


One month before travelling: book your tourist activities

Most major tourist sites allow you to book tickets online and this way you also get to jump the booking queue. Many top attractions have timed entry tickets which can actually sell out weeks in advance, so it makes sense to get in early.

A month before you travel you should already have a good idea about your itinerary, since you’ve already been researching for eight months!


A week before you travel: sort out insurance

You will receive free travel insurance on your credit card, so make sure you have the relevant contact numbers on your phone. Also make sure you know what the insurance covers and whether it is worth topping up.

Most free travel insurance is fairly basic and has limits to the cover provided. Make sure you read the fine print, such as the fact that you are not covered if you are 75 or older or for pre-existing health issues.

Top-up insurance provides higher levels of cover, including cover for pre-existing conditions, no/less excess payable on claims and also additional benefits such as cover for loss of baggage, travel documents and cash.

Also inform your medical scheme that you’ll be travelling abroad. They will cover medical expenses up to a certain point and may also offer free travel insurance, which I signed up for.

This is also a good time to inform your bank you will be overseas, as any transactions on your card outside of the country may trigger a fraud investigation and you could find your card has been stopped.

With careful planning and budgeting, an overseas trip does not need to turn into a financial liability.


*Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Breaking the Final Taboo of Marriage

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Love and romance may lead you to the altar, but a happy and healthy relationship will depend on your ability to share your thoughts on the ultimate taboo. Money. For richer or for poorer, here’s why you need to talk about it.

Whether you marry for love or money, sooner or later you’re going to have to sit down and talk about money. It’s the single biggest issue in any marriage, and talking about it an open and healthy way may be the best opportunity you have to keep love and romance aglow.

Marriage is a contract between kindred souls, bonded as one by love, trust, respect, and understanding.

What more do you need, beyond the dreamy shared gaze, the glittering band of gold, the echoes of “I do” that invite the happy couple to seal their magical moment with a kiss? Well, for one thing, you need a good lawyer.

For all the romance we associate with marriage, it is also a legal proposition, calling on both parties to choose whether to share or divide their possessions in the event that the glitter wears off.

“You need to plan for divorce before you get married,” says Kirsty Bisset, entrepreneur and blogger. “Marriage, without all the fluffy stuff, is a transaction. It’s a binding agreement to spend the rest of your life with somebody.”

That may come as a jolt to those of us who believe in the fluffy stuff, but as Kirsty made clear during a BrightRock Iris Session, hosted by David O’Sullivan, people change.

And so may your feelings for each other, 10 or 20 years down the line, which is why it’s good to have those “healthy and happy conversations” while you still can.

The chief subject, of course, being money, and how you should divide your worldly goods in the event of an irretrievable breakdown.

Psychologist Dorianne Weil, who also took part in the Iris Session, calls these “courageous conversations”, and argues that they’re not really about money after all.

“It’s really about what’s mine and what’s yours. It’s about power struggles. The mindset is me and you, not us. The money becomes the natural scapegoat.”

Dorianne, known as Dr D on radio, also believes that people don’t fall in love, as they do in the movies: “You fall in lust, and you grow in love,” she says. “The fantasies that you have are almost always positive, you’re making decisions that are going to last the rest of your life, very often without even knowing anything about the person.”

A good and lasting marriage depends on what Dorianne calls the Platinum Rule, which is: “Do unto others as they would have you do unto them.”

But for attorney Aleisha Oliver, the third member of the panel, marriage is more than a relationship; it’s a regime. And it’s very important for the parties to choose the “marital regime” that will best govern their finances: an ante-nuptial contract with community of property, or out of community of property, with or without accrual.

Either way, says Aleisha, there must be equal communication, and equal respect at the heart of the negotiation.

“Money is at the root of problems, 80 to 90 per cent of the time.”

Kirsty agrees, which is why, every few months, she sits down with her husband, Barry, to discuss finances over a glass of wine and an Excel spreadsheet.

“Money is always a huge issue between two people, so we’ve kept the conversation very open. We have access to each other’s bank accounts. You need to meet each other halfway.”

For Dorianne, healthy communication is the key to a healthy marriage. “You go into marriage with hope and an open mind,” she says. “You want security, you want friendship, you want continuity, some shared interest, kindness, concern for the other person, respect. Marriage isn’t the icing on the cake. It’s the nourishing fruit-cake underneath.”

How you choose to divide that cake can make all the difference to the way your marriage thrives and prospers, for the good of both parties.

But it isn’t easy: “It’s hard work,” says Dorianne. “You have to keep asking yourself, what if? You have to face up to certain realities. You have to sit down and talk about your hopes, dreams, and intentions.”

And if you get that right, if you manage to find what Dorianne calls the balance between closeness and intrusion, space and distance, you’ll have more than enough time to celebrate the fluffy stuff – the love and romance – that brought you together in the first place.

*For more advice and insight on making the most of your marriage and your money, visit the Change Exchange, our breezy online portal for everything you need to know about the Big Change Moments in life: Tying the Knot, Starting a Family, Landing That Job, and Making a Home.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

How to Save Your Money & Your Marriage

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For richer or for poorer, runs the familiar refrain, and it’s worth repeating in an age when money is a leading cause of marital strife. What can you do to make sure that your partnership works, and pays better dividends for you both?

By Maya Fisher-French

Money is a big issue for many couples, so much so that it is the main cause of divorce. Yet finding an equitable way to manage the household finances is a bit like finding the Holy Grail.

The main issues for couples around money are: a discrepancy in the amount each spouse earns; different views the couple may have on how the money should be allocated; one spouse is a spender while the other a saver.

There are few married couples where both earn the same income. Invariably one spouse earns more and if they have children, the husband tends to be the main breadwinner as, in many cases, the wife has taken time off to raise the children or has chosen a career that allows her more flexibility. Moreover, women on average earn less than men.

The Women in the workplace research programme run by the University of Johannesburg found that women earn 15% to 17% less than men – to put that into perspective, a woman would have to work nearly two extra months to have the same income as a man.

This inequality is due to many factors, including that women tend to select careers that are in the caregiving sectors such as nursing or teaching, which are lower paying.

Employers also view women of childbearing age as more likely to leave their employ so they are less likely to try retain them with higher salaries.

So, if one of you earns more than the other, especially if the reason is due to raising children, how do you create a household budget and investment strategy that is fair ‒ if you recognise that economic value is not the only value in a relationship.

One of the best models I heard about was a couple where the wife was a stay-at-home mom and the husband’s salary was divided equally between them.

The wife received half his salary in her bank account and together they drew up and contributed towards their household and personal budgets as well as made their investment decisions.

This is a very empowering way to manage household finances for both spouses. It requires both partners to be aware of how money is spent and what provisions are being made for the future. This will lead to better decisions.

It also allows for reasonable discussions about how money should be spent without negative power-roleplaying coming into the relationship.

This does of course only work if there is a household budget. As a couple you can see clearly how much is needed to meet your basic needs of housing, electricity/water, groceries, insurance and so on. In this model you both contribute equally as you effectively both have the same income.

You can decide whether you want to invest together or have your own separate investment plans and goals, although I would recommend you do have a consensus on retirement planning as that is income that will be shared in the future.

You can also allocate a portion of your income to personal spending. You can spend your money on the things that you enjoy and that your spouse may consider frivolous, as long as the bills are paid and the retirement savings are on track.

Other couples divide the household expenses based on percentage of income. For example, if one spouse earns 30% of the total household income and the other 70%, they contribute accordingly for the joint expenses.

This of course requires trust and openness in the relationship, but maybe if you are unable to be open about what you each earn, then the problem is the relationship itself.


*Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

How Saying No to Takeaways Totally Changed My Life

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Jolted into action by a Spring-clean of wasted food in a fridge, a lover of takeaways decides to eat at home for a change. The benefits are plain to see, not just in a  leaner credit card bill, but a pair of too-tight jeans that finally fit. Are you brave enough to give it a try? 

By Dave Luis

Three packets of bacon: eighty-seven ZAR. One delightfully pungent brie: thirty bucks. Roughly two hundred ronts’ worth of free range lamb loin chops and the same amount again of prosciutto. Throw in a hundred rands’ veg and an unopened two litre milk.

This is not some bizarre recipe for a heart-attack inducing meal for the most indelicate of palates. It is the expired food I tossed out when I was forced to spring clean my fridge because it was too full and starting to smell less than welcoming.

y pattern is this: after a long day at the office, I stop at the grocery store on the way home.

I pick up the ingredients for a sumptuous dinner, but as I am so exhausted by this stage of the day, the thought of slaving over a hot stove is torture, and so I also stop at the drive-through and pick up takeaways, telling myself “Self, tomorrow you don’t need to shop because you have enough food!”

Except that the next day I do shop, and I go through the same routine. And I always pick up a takeaway dinner.

Added to that the takeaway lunches I buy at work, and I am spending around R150 – R200 every day of the week on takeaways and I pack all that unused grocery shopping in my fridge and leaving it to rot. Shameful. I know. And a ridiculous waste of money.

So I have put myself and my credit card on a diet. I’ve even hashtagged it, because that seems the popular and responsible thing to do these days, to show you’re serious about something. For the month ahead, I am #NotEatingOut.

No takeaways. No light and fluffy melt-in-your-mouth cronuts at the office from the patisserie over the road (this is the difficult part of the challenge.)

There is so much good food at home, that all I’ve needed to do was to occasionally pick up a couple of tomatoes and onions or a fresh loaf of free-range, organic, banting-paleo bread. (Just kidding! Standard government-issue white loaf for me, thanks.)

I have planned my menus and cooked at night, even when I was tired and really, really didn’t want to. In fact, especially then. And each time I cooked I made a little extra to fill my lunch box for work the next day.

Soon I had to pack in a little extra on top of that because my work mates really took to my cooking and I am by nature a gregarious, sharing kind of guy.

Ultimately, once the sixty days of #NotEatingOut are done, I want that regime to become my monthly habit. It just makes financial and wellbeing sense.

I’ve learned a few valuable lessons along the way. Curry cannot be hurried along in an electric frying pan. Fresh garlic is better than that tasteless rubbish in a jar.

Frying bacon in a bit of olive oil is perfectly acceptable, and of course, you can never have too much bacon. But I knew that last point already.

So what’s changed? Well, there has been an unexpected health benefit. I have lost the horrible bloated feeling that a diet of mostly processed foods gives me, and the size 42 Levi’s I bought in November 2015 that I could never fit into now actually close.

Also, I’m not throwing out hundreds of rands of spoiled luxury foods, so that’s a win.

But mostly, the change that I am most impressed with is that I saved between R3000 and R4000 just in October. And that means my credit card will hate me less with each passing month.

And that means that when friends suggest a sushi dinner at that quaint place in Sea Point, I can legitimately enjoy a night out without any guilt or credit limit anxiety, and I get to actually enjoy the food as a treat and a change from my daily routine.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.



If You Value Your Children, Teach Them the Value of Money

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The biggest gift we can give our children is not that brand-new smartphone or a luxury holiday by the sea. It’s an understanding that learning to look after your money is a legacy that will last a lifetime. By Maya Fisher-French

When you become a parent, you are faced with the reality that you have to form a value system within which you will raise your children.

In a world that has become increasingly materialistic and where people are judged not on the content of their character, but on their exterior image, how do we raise children to be financially sensible and to appreciate how much they have?

Upon hearing that I was buying a cellphone as my son’s birthday present, an acquaintance asked me “are you getting him an iPhone”? No, I am not buying my 16 -year-old son a R13,000 phone!

The reality is that some of his friends do have iPhones, but some do not. My son is not particularly brand conscious so it is not an issue, but if it was, that is the sort of thing he would have to buy himself.

If I raised a child who believed that his whole social well-being depended on the type of cellphone he had, I would have failed my own value system.

Need vs Want

Then again, my younger son told me that he “needed” the latest PlayStation because the game he played at his friend’s house is only available on that platform and not on his Xbox.

I just laughed and said: “Really? Need?” Fortunately I did not launch into the “you spoilt child” speech that was forming in my mind because my son understood exactly what I meant. He understands the difference between “need” and “want” and why that matters.

I have found that the best defence against so-called peer pressure and children’s demands is to bring them into the real world when it comes to money.

Most children have no real idea of what things cost relative to the income coming into the family. They also have no idea of how much it costs just to live each month!

I don’t have all the answers and only time will tell if the financial education I impart on my children will bear fruit one day, but I have formed some sort of plan and value system and so far my children seem to be on board.

It’s okay to talk about money

We talk openly about money and finances. My children know we have a budget and what we are budgeting for.

For example, my sons know that this year our goal has been to replace our old car (and they know that we only buy cars for cash) so other luxuries will take a back seat.

We set limits on how much we will spend in total on birthdays, including the gift and party, and only pay for one additional extra mural a term, so they have to choose carefully which extra murals they want to do.

They are hardly deprived, but setting limits creates the awareness that money is a finite resource and they have to make wise decisions on how it is spent.

The best way to learn is by doing

My children received pocket money from a young age, and through this they learnt to save up for things they wanted. Probably the best lesson they have learnt is that by the time they have saved for the item, they no longer want it – their interests are short-lived.

As a result they have more money saved than they planned. As adults, too often we are still paying off our credit cards long after the enjoyment of the new purchase has faded.

What children really want is financial security

Living beyond your means in order to give your children a lifestyle you did not have, is not a gift. It is a burden.

Believe me, I was raised in a household full of financial stress so I know that children can feel the stress in a household and it will create negative money memories for them so that in adulthood they may inadvertently repeat the pattern.

Showing your children you are in control of your finances is the best way to make them feel safe. Share with them how money in the household is allocated and allow them to have some input into the budget allocations.

It will make them feel empowered and also make it easier to have the conversation around “wants” and “needs” and how they can work towards their “wants”.

Part of that security is making sure I have sufficient insurance in place to provide for them if I am unable to contribute to the family financially. I have also worked at putting away money for my retirement so that I do not have to depend on them in old age.

Leaving a legacy

My father died when I was still young and we were left in financial dire straits. There was certainly no inheritance or financial legacy, but I did still receive a good education.

That was invaluable and has allowed me to build my own future. We have one overriding financial priority when it comes to our children: providing them with best education we can afford.

Afford, however, does not mean taking on debt or neglecting our savings; it means other financial sacrifices like not driving new, financed, cars.

* Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on  mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.

* The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.

This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.

Footslogging Your Way to Fortune

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Going for an early morning run is hard work. Who among us wouldn’t rather hit the snooze button and drift back into dreamland? But in the long run, the self-discipline and commitment will pay off, and the same applies to your financial goals. By Maya Fisher-French

I recently required surgery to my ankle after sustaining a serious injury. Thanks to this ongoing ankle saga, if I ever want to be able to hike and run again, I am going to have to commit to some serious rehabilitation work. This involves spending 20 minutes each day strengthening and increasing the flexibility of my ankle.

This is chronically time consuming, not to mention phenomenally boring. Who honestly has 20 minutes to spare every day, or quite frankly wants to spend those spare minutes with a resistance band wrapped around your foot attached to the leg of a table? Let me tell you, it is hard work and it hurts!

In order to fit this exercise into my daily schedule as a working mom, I have to get up half an hour earlier than my kids, so my exercises are done before the morning chaos starts of getting kids dressed, fed and packed off to school.

And I love my sleep. I am the sort of person who could hit the snooze button endlessly. Yet I have this goal and it’s a really, really important one. My regular 5km runs and going on hikes are my passions in life; they are what keep me sane, with the added benefit of keeping the fat rolls under control.

This means I have no choice but to apply myself, because the bottom line is that no amount of physiotherapy visits or anti-inflammatory medication is going to help me reach my goal. Only my own hard work and dedication will get me there.

Getting out of debt or reaching some other financial goal is pretty much the same.

You can buy as many self-help books as you want, read dozens of articles on money management and attend endless seminars, but until you put the time aside to draw up a regular budget, and unless you find the discipline to stick to your goals and make a real commitment, you are never going to reach that goal.

It will not be an easy journey, and there will be lapses. There are days I skip my morning routine and even worse, days where despite all the work I am putting in, my recovery seems to be going backwards rather than forwards.

It is often a matter of two steps forward, one step back. But I persevere and find the motivation more often than not from the beauty that surrounds me. It reminds me that my need to walk in the mountains of Cape Town is far greater than that extra bit of sleep or self-inflicted pain.

If you are on a financial journey, find that motivation. Set a goal and imagine what it will feel like to reach it. Know too that it will not be an easy journey, but in the end it will be far more rewarding than continuing to spend money on stuff you really don’t need.

* Maya Fisher-French is an award-winning financial journalist with a flair for cutting complex money matters to their core. Find out more on mayaonmoney.co.za. Maya on Money, Your Money Questions Answered, is published by NB Publishers.
This article first appeared in The Comet, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.



What Would You Do If You Won the Lotto?

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We all know that our chances of winning the Lotto are as remote as, well, our chances of winning the Lotto. But there’s no harm in dreaming, especially if you can turn your dreams into goals. Here’s how. By Maya Fisher-French

Our family has a game where we write down what we would do with our money if we won the lotto. This is not just a fruitless exercise of “what if”, because it does show us what is important to us – what our dreams really are.

Apart from the obvious ones like paying off your bond, there are always value-based ideas that are different for each person.


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Giving to charity

The portion of my Lotto winnings I would give to charity would help more children receive an education. Education is important to me, so rather than waiting to “win the lotto”, I started a monthly debit order to the Peninsula Feeding Scheme, which feeds children across the Cape Peninsula.

With food in their stomachs, children are better able to learn, and knowing they have a meal waiting for them at school makes them more likely to come to school. I didn’t need to win the lotto to start making a difference.


Flying Business Class

On the pure luxury side, I want to be able to fly Business Class when I travel abroad. If you’ve ever compared the cost of a Business Class ticket to Economy, you’ll realise you need serious cash to reach this goal.

I thought about it for a while and realised I could do this through air miles. As I fly a fair amount locally for work, by committing myself to one airline for all my local travel, I could clock up enough points to upgrade to a Business Class ticket at least every second year.

Then I realised I could boost these points by opting for a credit card tied to the airline’s rewards programme. This means I could upgrade my husband rather than having him sitting behind the curtain in Economy class – that may have been a marriage breaker.

So I signed up for a credit card that will boost my points. It was very easy to do and the questions around my living expenses were laughable, but that is for another column.

I will pay the amount I spend each month on average into the credit card at the beginning of the month. This means I’m not going to end up with a massive credit-card bill.

My goal here is to work the system, not have the system work me. By focusing all my spending through the single card, I can work on my goal to travel Business Class without winning the lotto – the odds are far more favourable!

What are Your Lotto Dream Goals?

So how about playing the “if I won the Lotto game” for yourself? You just might find innovative ways to fund your dreams. Here are a few ideas.

I want a better education for my children

Join your school’s governing board and help improve the school. Find out about bursary schemes at schools you feel are right for your child. Consider extra lessons if you want to supplement your child’s education.

I want to take my family on an overseas holiday

Have you ever noticed how many competitions there are for family holidays? Spend a year entering all the competitions you can find. Make sure they are legit, and set up a separate email address so you don’t get spammed.


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I want a new car

Ditto on the new car. Start entering competitions.

I want to leave my children an inheritance

Start a tax-free savings account in their name. If you put just R500 away each month into a fund growing at 10% a year it would be worth R380 000 in 20 years’ time – all tax-free.

I want to change the world

There are so many charities and non-profit organisations that need time more than money. Offer your time and skills.



I want to take a year off and travel the world

There are many options. If you save 20% of your salary and invest in a fund that returns around 10% a year, you will have a year’s salary put away within four years.

There are volunteer programmes across the world where you get free food and lodging for helping to build a school, for example. You get to travel and do good.

Do a six-month house swap or build up a reputation as a trustworthy housesitter and sign up with a global housesitting service. Start investigating. You’ll be amazed at the options.

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I want to be debt free

No matter how much money you won in the lotto, if you’re drowning in debt now, chances are you’d be back in the same position within just a few years.

If you’re not managing your money now, you never will. Start by cutting up those store cards and credit cards and committing a few hundred rand extra each month to repaying those debts. You will be amazed at how quickly your finances improve.

* This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this article are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.




Save Your Life!

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Here’s how to make the most of your money and your life now and in the future.

You want to get there happily and safely, and you want to enjoy the journey. But there are obstacles along the way: potholes that can trip you up and scuttle your best-laid plans.

Life is a highway that leads you to the ultimate destination. Your future. You want to get there happily and safely, and you want to enjoy the journey. But there are obstacles along the way: potholes that can trip you up and scuttle your best-laid plans.

That’s why it’s important to get in gear for a better tomorrow, by making sure that you’re financially roadworthy. Are you in control of your spending? Do you feel financially secure? 

For almost two-thirds of South Africans, according to the Consumer Financial Vulnerability Index, compiled by MBD and Unisa, the answer, in both cases, is no.

And yet it is possible to take charge of your money and your life, says BrightRock’s Executive Director: Distribution, Sean Hanlon. As the big holiday season rush gets underway, Sean offers some pointers for avoiding the potholes and staying on track. The key to making your money last, he says, is to “start with what you’ve got”.

That means

If you pack your own lunch, instead of buying takeaways, for example, you could save up to R500 a month. There are many easy to use mobile apps, including the free 22seven (22seven.com), developed in South Africa, that can help you track when and how you’re spending your money, says Sean.

Knowing where your money is going, down to the last cent, will empower you to make the right financial decisions. Identify your priorities, and work hard at digging your way out of debt. Also see Maya Fisher-French’s article on great budgeting tips.

Pay off your highest interest debts, such as store cards and credit cards, as soon as you can. Once you’ve paid off your debts, you can start saving. And don’t forget to set aside some money, ideally equivalent to three months’ salary, as an emergency fund.

Planning is the key to financial security, says Sean. You can save an average of 10% by paying school fees in advance. If you book your holiday early, you can save up to 40%.

If you’re buying a home or car, save as much as you can for a bigger deposit. The smaller your loan or shorter your loan term, the less interest you pay. Taking charge of your finances also means being a savvy shopper. “Make conscious spending decisions,” says Sean. Shop around for the best deal, in-store and online, and negotiate, negotiate, negotiate.

Even when it comes to your medical expenses, you have the right to negotiate with healthcare providers. You can save by asking for a discount – don’t be shy! At the same time, don’t compromise on quality. For some expenses, like brakes and tyres, your mattress and your toothbrush, it’s cheaper in the long run to buy the best.

If you’re fortunate enough to get a bonus, put it to good use. Put money in your bond, pay off debt, boost your emergency fund or add to your retirement savings.

You’re in charge of your money, and you’ve got the power to make it last. But don’t try to do it all by yourself. A trusted, qualified financial adviser can make a wealth of difference. You can check our your adviser’s professional and industry credentials at www.fpi.co.za or www.fsb.co.za.

So here’s all you need to do to get ready for the road ahead:

  1. Start with what you’ve got
  2. Plan for what’s to come
  3. Stick with the plan

Please note: These tips don’t constitute financial advice. It’s important that you get financial advice from an independent financial adviser who is qualified to assist you.


This article first appeared in The Comet, an online newsletter by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes.