Lessons from our parents

Today, easy access to credit enables many people to live better lifestyles, but it comes at a price — the risk of poverty in the future. As with all things, you need to learn to strike a balance, or better still, tip the scales in your favour by living beneath your means.

Lessons from our parents

By Iona Minton
Fri, 04 Nov 2005

This article is a printout from iafrica.com
Copyright © 2000 iafrica.com*, a division of Metropolis*

Fifteen years ago, South Africans spent an average of 42 percent of their salaries on debt repayment. Today, this has risen to a staggering 60 percent. As new car sales soar and credit extension increases, it is obvious that the lower interest rates have fuelled our desire to spend.

Many people complain they are worse off than their parents were. They believe that the older generations somehow had it easier but this is not the case at all. Many young people want the same luxuries now that their parents worked for 20 years to acquire.

Different lifestyles

Our parents and grandparents did not live the lifestyles that we are now enjoying. Most of them drove old cars and lived in small apartments in decaying neighbourhoods when they first ventured out on their own. They ate at road-houses and went to the drive-in for entertainment and believe it or not, many of them saved money every month.

Today’s yuppie wouldn’t be seen dead in a roadhouse (are there any left?), and upmarket eateries, ski trips, fast cars and designer clothes are the hallmark of this generation. Most of this is funded courtesy of ‘ye olde friendly bank manager’.

How things should be done

A good example of how things should be done is how my own parents managed their affairs. My father is now retired but was previously a successful engineer and by most standards, he earned a good salary. My mother’s salary was used primarily for running the household while my father saved a substantial amount each month in a joint savings plan.

As a teenager, I wished that they would buy a more upmarket car or move to a fancier neighbourhood, but they never did. But now they are one of the few retired couples I know who enjoy an above-average lifestyle. My father retired at 55 and although it was earlier than expected due to retrenchment, he was prepared.

Supporting your parents

Now, as an adult with my own family to take care of, I am really grateful I do not have to support my parents. Many of my friends are not so lucky and are paying out between R1000 and R5000 per month to support their parents. The same parents that once spent R50 000 on their wedding, bought them their first cars and showered them with gifts.

So when your children are pressurising you to buy designer cars, bigger homes and the other symbols of wealth, ask them this question: Would you rather have Mom and Dad drive a modest car, or have the responsibility of supporting us in our old age? They will think twice. Ageing parents can be expensive, especially if their health isn’t what it should be.

Live beneath your means

Today, easy access to credit enables many people to live better lifestyles, but it comes at a price — the risk of poverty in the future. As with all things, you need to learn to strike a balance, or better still, tip the scales in your favour by living beneath your means.

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