During Financial Literacy Month last year, I attended the Money Expo 2016. Entrance was free and a large contingent of financial institutions and organisations were exhibiting different products and services. In addition, there was a range of diverse speakers engaging on a variety of financial topics. My mind was stimulated. All that knowledge in one arena.
During my eagerness to speak to the different exhibitors, I noticed something. There were very few young black people in attendance. Did we not know about this event? Were we too busy? Did we not care? I wondered. It's disheartening as a young black South African that my peers know more about Beyonce's twins than they do about their finances, that we can fill up domes for concerts but can't attend events that build us. Maybe it's our environment, a black thing, or maybe I'm being too harsh and critical. However, I think big financial institutions need to take some responsibility.
They are quick to send enticing loan and credit card-related mail, quick to dial us up from their call centres, but they do very little during Financial Literacy Month. Since May 2016, I have sent a number of proposals to these big financial institutions. I was shocked that projects targeting youth financial literacy were hardly considered nor seen as important. Fast forward to 2017 and I'm sure Sanlam will run another pointless money-saving campaign using rappers who buy two Bentleys and clearly know very little about financial literacy.
We need real campaigns, real products and information to change the way young people handle their finances. Fewer people will be blacklisted, fewer people will become slaves to debt and fewer people will live beyond their means. One would think that in a country that ranks among the worst savers in the world, Financial Literacy Month would be important. We are a society that borrows more money and saves and invests less.
We can't wait for government and institutions to wise up during this month. We are the future and we must rise, take better steps to equip ourselves with knowledge. There are numerous free products, platforms and books at our disposal. There's a great initiative by 1 life called Truth About Money. They offer a free online financial education course. They also offer debt management, counselling and will and estate planning services. Local municipal libraries have numerous financial books such as the "Richest Man in Babylon". Just One Lap is an online portal that offers free information on learning how to invest. Financial journalist Maya Fisher-French has a fantastic website that offers insight and guidance.
The reality is that information changes situations. Especially if one takes the time and effort to analyse and understand the messages conveyed in it, that ultimately become knowledge. During this Financial Literacy Month, take the time to improve your knowledge, skills and confidence to make responsible decisions that suit your financial situation and shape your future.