I’m a word nerd who came to money by way of debt and journalism.
I had my own roaring twenties. Unfortunately I paid for the merriment with a credit card. By the time I was 25 years old, I was R100 000 in debt. I had no idea how to manage my money or how to get out of a bad financial situation. It was terrifying and overwhelming, as many South Africans know. As I dug myself out of crushing debt, I realised sharing my journey might be helpful to others who faced the same struggle.
I joined Finweek magazine just as I started paying off my debt and was lucky enough to use the platform to learn a lot and share my journey. There I met Simon Brown, founder of Just One Lap, where I currently work. Our podcast, The Fat Wallet Show, recently won an award for excellence in financial journalism. We’re very proud.
I am a competitive and obsessive ballroom dancer. In November my partner and I will be participating in the Dutch Open. It will be our first European competition.
I think everyone should understand how investing works, what assets are and how they help you. Once you understand that, it’s easier to make informed decisions. Perhaps share investing is not everyone’s cup of tea, but there’s more than one way to create wealth. Once you understand assets can do things that cash never can, you’re in a much better position to make good decisions about your financial future.
Oddly, the process of paying off debt accidentally created a savings habit that still serves me very well. It was an expensive lesson to learn, but I’m glad I learnt it.
Once I had paid off my debt I was so used to putting money towards financial wellness that I saved up quite a large amount of money for my first investment. I bought the Stanlib Top 40 ETF through etfSA in 2013.
At the time, the JSE had a five-day clearing period, which nobody told me about. I had transferred the biggest amount of money I’ve ever owned. In fact, I think it might be the biggest amount of money anyone in my immediate family has ever owned. That money disappeared for five days, which scared me half to death. I later learned this is completely normal and since then the JSE has shortened its clearing period to three days.
I’ve been very lucky to be surrounded by great minds throughout my career. Some have mentored me directly, others have been inspirational from a distance. I meet so many outstanding people who approach me after events with questions or just to build a relationship. I never have the guts to approach someone like that and I think it’s to my detriment. I’m trying to be less shy.
I read quite a lot, but I think the best way to make good decisions is to read widely. I try to learn as much about various disciplines as I can and then see what I can apply to my work. That said, the one book that carries the Fat Wallet seal of approval for practical, South African-centric common sense money advice is Sam Beckbessinger’s Manage Your Money Like a F*cking Grownup.
Making a wrong decision is not a failure. If you make good decisions more often than bad ones you’ll still get ahead. Don’t be so hard on yourself.
Here are some great accounts to follow: