Strategic Steps: Cultivate Your Financial Future in South Africa

Money Smart Week SA (MSWSA) 2023 took place from August 28 to September 3, 2023. It is South Africa’s largest co-ordinated financial literacy campaign aimed at motivating and empowering South Africans to become better educated about their finances.

 

There were various initiatives taking place during this time, including in-person and virtual workshops, webinars, social media drives, and radio and television engagements in which the public could take part. Go to www.mwssa.co.za to get up to speed.

The event underscored once again, how we cannot underestimate the importance of financial literacy. To many, finances can be incredibly intimidating; filled with complex terms and concepts. Being financially literate means having a basic grasp of money matters and its four fundamental pillars: debt, budgeting, saving and investing. It’s understanding how to build wealth throughout one’s life by leveraging the power of the pillars. Put simply, financial literacy is the difference between living from paycheque to paycheque and being able to afford the things you want and need, to build wealth that works for you and your family. This is why financial literacy is so important and initiatives such as MSWSA are vital to co-ordinate the finance sector and interested stakeholders in the campaign to drive the message that financial literacy is well within the reach of anyone of any level of education.

MSWSA2023, under this year’s theme “Plan your money, plant your future”, is a joint initiative between the National Treasury and the Financial Sector Conduct Authority (FSCA) and has three objectives:

 

Increasing FINANCIAL INCLUSION – with the aim of increasing accessibility and availability of financial services to all segments of society, especially those who are traditionally under-served or excluded from the formal financial system. This includes access to basic financial products and services such as savings accounts, credit, insurance, and payment systems.

 

Ensuring CONSUMER PROTECTION – Confidence, knowledge, information and access to make appropriate financial choices a key aspects of consumer protection. Financial education plays a crucial role in the broader consumer protection environment.

 

Disseminating FINANCIAL EDUCATION – The FSCA is mandated to “provide, promote or otherwise support financial education, awareness and confidence regarding financial products, institutions and services”. The MSWSA initiative is one way it aims to deliver on this mandate.

 

How are we faring in acquiring sound financial education?

The S&P Global Financial Literacy Survey is the world’s largest, most comprehensive global measurement of financial literacy. It probes knowledge of four basic financial concepts: risk diversification, inflation, numeracy, and interest compounding. Its findings were alarming that overall, there are low levels of financial literacy across the world.

Globally, only about a third (33%) of adults are considered to have financial literacy. When looking at the data from a gender perspective, it’s noteworthy that financial literacy rates are slightly higher among men, with 35% of men being classified as financially literate, while for women, the figure is lower, at 30%.

 

In South Africa, 42% of the adult population possesses financial literacy. However, in countries like Norway and Denmark, the financial literacy rate is notably higher, standing at an impressive 71%.

 

Other key findings:

• Numeracy and inflation are the most understood concepts.

• Risk diversification is the least understood concept.

• Women’s financial literacy levels are lower than men’s.

• The young are a vulnerable group and an important target for financial education programmes.

Indeed, there is a clear need for financial education, as well as support in putting the essential principles into practice. Through MSWSA2023, the goal is to instil this knowledge and confidence in consumers. Workshops, seminars and educational campaigns provide individuals the tools they need to navigate the financial world successfully. Whether it’s understanding the terms of a loan, making sound investment choices or managing a budget effectively, financial education equips people to protect their financial interests. This is what MSWSA was all about.

The theme encapsulated the essence of what financial literacy and inclusion are all about. It’s a call to action, an invitation to take charge of your financial destiny. Think of your finances as a garden, and every financial decision you make as a seed you plant. The seeds can grow into a lush and bountiful future, with careful planning, nurturing and proper knowledge.

Financial literacy isn’t just about balancing budgets or understanding interest rates; it’s about empowerment. When you plan your money wisely, you’re investing in your future self. You’re creating a safety net that helps you weather life’s storms and a foundation upon which you can build your dreams.

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