The world is changing fast and to keep up you need local knowledge with global context.
By Dave Luis*
Picture it…Cape Town, South Africa early 2017. Sitting in my car on the N2 in the interminable traffic, going nowhere as usual, hoping to make it to work before it’s time to turn around and go home.
But it was not the traffic or being late for work that was consuming my thoughts – it was money. The lack of money. The not-enough-ness of money.
I’d like to have blamed life and circumstances for my panic – a slowing economy, rising cost of living etc etc, but really, this was all my own fault. I lived like there was no tomorrow – and now it looked like financially, this was a very strong possibility.
I’d bought a brand-new car when I didn’t need to, and it had cost more in monthly repayments, and more to insure. Every time I opened my banking app and that evil little pop-up message appeared tempting me to increase my credit card limit, I willingly submitted.
I was paying off an expensive smartphone, upgraded when there was no need to. I was living and working to pay the bank, and all I was really doing was servicing the interest on my loans.
I needed to make a change. South Africa was not going to pay me enough for the work I do, for me to pay back the money. Sad, but true. So I moved to Dubai and took a well-paying job. Breathing room at last. I could pay off my interest and then some.
But then, at the start of 2018, something happened to completely unravel the sense of security I felt. A family member got really ill, to the point of being at death’s door. Suddenly I was faced with a reality of what would happen if he died? He is the only breadwinner and has a wife and two kids, with no financial planning, no insurance, no pension.
If he died, surely I would have to look after the family – and while I was earning well, I was not earning enough to keep two students at university, and another adult human alive. It felt like I was on the verge of going from being ‘single man, single income’, to ‘family man, single income’.
I went into a panic and started saving and living off the barest minimum, out of fear for the great big “What if the worst happens?” event I was sure was looming on my horizon.
So, although I was now sitting in material abundance, my mindset was even more entrenched in fear, lack, and poverty than it had been in South Africa. Sleepless nights. Anxiety. Crippling fear, making it almost impossible to function and do my job.
Cue the second major life change. I realised I was not financially literate enough to make good choices. And just like when I reached rock bottom with addiction years ago, I reached out for help. A financial advisor.
My first conversation with Paul was traumatic. Sitting there as a then 43-year old man, admitting to the most irresponsible financial attitudes, zero impulse control and no future planning. I was a walking economic disaster heading for ruin.
I guess I am not unique in this cataclysmic way of conducting myself with money, because this amazing whizz-kid financial advisor took all my confessions in his stride, like some monetary padre who has heard worse and forgiven more.
He sat and worked out a monthly budget that meant I could pay off my debt, take out life insurance, and put some money away for investments each month. Not only that, he even gave me a budget for entertainment and fun. Life, you know?
Eating out with friends. A new phone if I needed one. Shows. Experiences. Living abundantly, rather than wallowing in a poverty mindset in a world of abundance.
It took some time for me to detach myself from a sense of obligation to family members who have precious little financial buffer. Thankfully, the worst did not happen and the family member who was so gravely ill is still around, still providing for his family. Their financial reality is theirs to manage, not mine to fear as a future burden.
With the planning and investments I have in place now, I have managed to settle my debt, barring that lovely red Audi basking in Cape Town, but she’s going in a couple of months once the interest on the car is paid off, and then I will be 100% debt free. And thanks to all this, if the worst does happen, I will be in a position to help my family.
I’ve never been able to say that before, not once, in 44 years. And now I can do it while still having enough left over to enjoy my life every day. Letting go of that poverty mindset I’d lived with for years was not easy, but with some structure and planning in place, it became less mountain, more molehill.
And so now I can tootle along through life with plain and ordinary anxiety that we all have. Falling skies and missing deadlines, or worse yet – missing the launch of the new iPhone. Haha. Jokes, Paul, if you’re reading this!
- Dave Luis is a prolific blogger and is incredibly passionate about food (his Instagram and blog testify to this!) but swears he is not an emotional eater. Most of that last sentence is true. He recently moved to Dubai, from where he continues to #LoveChange in the digital world.
- This article first appeared on the Change Exchange, an online platform by BrightRock, provider of the first-ever life insurance that changes as your life changes. The opinions expressed in this piece are the writer’s own and don’t necessarily reflect the views of BrightRock.