The phrase (when) you strike a woman, you strike a rock has become symbolic of the pivotal role South African women play in our communities. In line with National Women’s Month, the expression aptly describes the moment in history when 20 000 South African women marched together against inequality. Exactly 60 years later, the metaphorical rock that forms the foundation of many South African families is facing a different, but equally concerning challenge of accessing financial freedom.
This is according to Lizl Budhram of Old Mutual Personal Finance, who says young, single mothers are increasingly finding themselves under financial pressure, often unable to make ends meet. The 2016 Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor confirms this, revealing that only 20% of single mothers surveyed feel financially secure. “Supporting both their children and their parents; young, single mothers too often feel that they have no choice but to compromise their own financial security and jeopardise their financial goals in order to take care of their family,” says Budhram.
According to the monitor, as many as one in two mothers in South Africa – 48% of households – describe themselves as single parents, and only 12% of these receive regular support from the father of their children.
The monitor also reveals that, in addition to supporting their children, one in three South African women financially support their parents or other relatives. “Research suggests that 72% of women with children foresee that they will have to support older family members, or are planning to support their parents or family members in the future,” says Budhram.
Ironically, yet unsurprisingly, due to financial constraints, single moms saved the lowest percentage of their income towards retirement of all the groups. Likely to be closely related to this low level of savings, the 2016 monitor also reveals the highest expectation of receiving financial support from adult children in the history of the survey.
“There’s a very real expectation among these single moms that their children will assist them in achieving financial stability upon reaching retirement,” says Budhram. “Without proper financial planning, these single mothers are destined to become the financial responsibility of their children or younger relatives, perpetuating a vicious cycle of socio-economic inequality.
However, Budhram remains hopeful and believes that, despite the current challenges that they face, it is possible for young, single mothers to achieve financial freedom.
“The most common reason single mothers cited for not seeking professional financial advice was the perception that they don’t have enough money to warrant seeing a financial adviser,” says Budhram. “But it’s those with a limited supply of resources and the largest number of financial responsibilities that need a clear financial plan the most.
“The perception that you need to be wealthy to be able to afford to see a financial adviser is not true. Never think that you earn too little to be eligible for advice. An adviser can help you to understand your circumstances and your specific needs and goals. Setting goals of what you want to achieve will help you determine your priorities.
Budhram concludes that a tailored financial plan, one that is both realistic and understanding of the unique needs of single mothers, will be key to surviving the current tough economic times in order to create a secure financial future.
“Without a budget, it’s hard to know and control your financial situation. The first step towards financial security is to draw up a budget as part of a broader financial plan.”