Breaking the silence

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Gofaone Nina Tladi

Madi a motho ke sephiri sa gagwe, Money is a topic many people shy away from unless we are discussing those who have a lot of it, often in a negative light. We keep what we earn a secret or embellish, claiming to earn far less or more than what we actually do. Our challenges with money, we often take to our graves. I’ve always believed it is what you keep secret that torments you, keeps you bound and repeating the bad habits that led you to that predicament in the first place. There are many people who are winning in terms of monetary success but for the majority of us we are living paycheck to paycheck or drowning in debt. I have had a lot of discussions with others in respect of this epidemic and many agree that Batswana are in desperate need of financial education. As a beneficiary of the life changing effects education can have on a generation, I am an avid supporter of education, however, to embrace an education, one must first realise their need for it, thus admitting and acknowledging their ignorance on the subject matter. We must admit that we do not know what we are doing with money, we only know how to spend it-being transparent with regard to income is very difficult as society allocates respect in proportion to the perceived number one earns. Many people want to learn about finances but get uncomfortable to disclose how much they earn, which is the starting point of drawing up a budget, one of the most important financial success tools.
There is a lot of shame either way, when you earn a lot of it, you must eat humble pie every day to ensure others don’t feel some type of way toward you and when you do not earn a lot, you may be perceived to be lazy as “ we all have the same 24 hours in a day.” It is this shame that could be the reason so many people compromise themselves in order to “keep up with the Motsepes.” I truly believe it is not how much you make but how well you manage what you have.
One of the most crippling things is shame and shame is fueled by isolation, the belief that you are alone. The sooner we start to be open and honest about our finances, the sooner we can tackle the things that hold us back from getting our financial acts together. In her book, “ I thought it was just me- Reclaiming Power and Courage in a Culture of Shame” Brene Brown highlights that shame thrives in silence and secrecy and the antidote to shame is empathy. When we are open about money we create a society that allows people the freedom to ask questions and help one another make the right financial decisions for example, we can exchange ideas on the best investment, savings, budgeting methods as well as support for those who have challenges with money. I started my journey to financial freedom last year. I often try to recruit my friends and family on this journey and have found that not everyone is as hyped as I am to get out of debt, save, invest and give. I realise that we all get it at different times and I try to be empathetic to those who have not reached their version of rock bottom yet. If we are to change, to truly change, we have to be honest about what we make and living our best lives within that boundary, being content as we work on being better.
We need to talk about money- to break the silence in order to take control of it and not the other way around. There has to be transparency about what we make and what we can afford. The problem with the façade is that we think we are alone but the truth is we have a lot more in common. We are all in the proverbial boat of financial distress, keeping what we earn a secret thus being under tremendous pressure to live beyond our means and being crushed by the weight of debt. We’ve heard the many horror stories of people taking their lives after losing their jobs. We live in a society that does not encourage contentment, patience and hard work. We want money and we want it now, the house, the car and all the other things that come with the perfect picture of success which is almost always financed through loans. Even when the house of cards that we have built for ourselves comes crashing down, we have been socialized to not ask for help as it is seen as weakness.
Your income will approximate to about 10% of that of your closest friends over time. I know the salaries of my closest friends and vice versa, many people would think that would cause jealousy but it is the exact opposite. It is encouragement to work harder, a great way to have a friendship where money is not taboo, and we encourage one another to establish good money habits and as the broke friend they keep me accountable and call me out when I dare to live within my means or back paddle on the financial goals I’ve set for myself. Be honest with yourself, and your family about what you make and what you can afford.
We all exchange stories of being broke, “gase koo ke kwano,” “gongwe wena la gago lechono le botoka” and joke about seeking “molemo yo o ritibatsang dikoloto”, but we need to exchange ideas and support on how to get to financial freedom.
PS: You don’t have to be a hero, you just have to be what most people aren’t, consistent.