One minute you’re dancing on a bar, tequila in hand, singing at the top of your voice. The next, you blink, and there you are, picking out kids' names, picking up tiny socks and humming CoComelon. Life goes faster than we’d like it to. Adulting certainly arrives way before we are ready. Suddenly we realise, that possibly we aren’t as smart at life as we thought we were. Especially when it comes to knowing all we should about money.
One of my first jobs arranged for a financial consultant to meet with me. I felt proud. Like I had all the boxes ticked. I had all the things I assume you’re supposed to have. Provident fund, retirement fund, probably a few other funds – who really knows right, as you just say yes when they scare you into thinking you are going to be a poor old person. Having two degrees, I still couldn’t explain what on earth compound interest was. So I just hoped, like so many of us do, that the guy I’d trusted with the little money I had, was investing wisely.
Several years went by. My expenses grew a lot faster than my financial knowledge. One early morning while sitting in Sandton Drive traffic, I randomly called up my financial advisor. I got an increase and wanted to start putting some of it away for kids. He said congrats on the good news that a baby was coming and I was very quick to ask him to calm his farm. I was still single at the time but wanted to plan ahead. I remember joking with him saying oh well if I never meet the right person at least I’ll have a good shoe fund. I recall feeling quite proud of myself after that call. Smug at how wise I felt. Now I wish I had been braver to save more.
Today I have two loud little boys. I knew life would change having children, it was impossible to comprehend how much. Pregnancy is a consuming journey. There’s so much to read you’ll never remember. Advice that will be thrust upon you that you never wanted. Plus swelling, heartburn and lack of sleep to deal with…all while growing another human. It’s a busy time and there’s a lot to get your head around. It’s why it’s almost too late to start thinking about how you’ll afford a child, never mind schooling, which feels like a lifetime away. No advice will come close to your experience as a first-time parent. No wisdom, no comfort, no warning. It is a stark and dramatic shock to the system. No matter how old you are or how much you wanted a child. You permanently feel like you’re looking through dirty glasses. They really weren’t joking when they say you won’t often drink warm coffee. Just getting something like your last will and testament updated (don’t forget to do that!) can take months. There's always just something more pressing for the day, every day.
So, my advice is don’t start when you have a child. Start when your heart tells you it would love to hold a baby of your own. If not then, why not today? Start by making sure that when life throws you a curveball, which it will, that you’re ready. Have some money saved that you can access in an emergency - kids love to get sick on a weekend or while you're on holiday. Choose the right investment plan for you and your life. To do this just ask. Make it a topic at your next braai and baby shower. Listen, take in the advice and then do what’s right for your life, not someone else’s. There is no one perfect investment plan and strategy for everyone. It’s worth being discerning, making sure you eventually get to it on your to-do list, because it won’t go away if you don’t. There is sage, well-tested advice out there that’s easy enough to find. You don’t have to know it all or even understand it all. Today there are many incredible (and far less credible) financial influencers you can get tips from, right from your couch or in traffic. Franc sends out a short blog article once a week, aimed at people like you and me. People who don’t necessarily know everything about finance but want to know enough to feel in control. Franc also has a free Academy for people who really want to take control of their lives. What I love about this content is that I always think it’s less complex than I thought it was going to be.
Part of the financial plan for my own family is to have an account that grannies, aunts and friends can pay into for each child. If anyone is ever kind enough to ask what either of my children need for their birthdays or Christmas, I am quick to respond that they don’t need another noisy toy or something I am going to end up donating in a few weeks. I always ask for a small donation to their Franc investment account. Franc now allows you to open up an account for each of your dependents, right from your own Franc account profile. It’s a feature I am excited about and have personally been looking forward to for some time. Knowing that I can have a place where I contribute and where others can too, just by using their kids username as a reference. It’s saved me from having to open up a bank account for them at this early stage of their lives, which will incur fees. I have also locked their savings so that I don’t get tempted to dip into their funds. Another great feature Franc recently added to help us save and not dip into our piggybanks.
My child’s Godmother bought him his first little frog-shaped piggy bank for his 3rd birthday. He now raids the coins in my car and excitedly wants silver money when he remembers to put his breakfast bowl in the sink. He loves to hear the money drop into his frog’s belly. He has no idea about the value of money and currently tells us he is saving up to buy noodles. Yet his financial literacy, his financial well-being, and his financial mindset, all start in my home. I have the gift of influence over his life. Now, more than ever before, I am motivated to empower myself with the knowledge to do a better job of teaching him all that I wish I had known. So as much as I am teaching him to be kind, use the potty and share his privilege, I am serious about building up his financial knowledge so he can make wiser decisions than I did. Having started a Franc account with the simple click of a few buttons already helped me to take a step in the right direction. You don’t need to know all the answers. You don’t need to have the perfect plan. You do need to start today.
The topic of saving for dependants is a big one. Franc wants to share tips and stories so we can all learn together and hopefully have a giggle along the way too. So if you have anything to share, at any point along the way, please mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s do this together.