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Money stress hits women and lower-income earners hardest – survey

‘Running out of money before month end the main worry’

Half the respondents of the survey say running out of money before the end of the month is their main worry.
Half the respondents of the survey say running out of money before the end of the month is their main worry.
Image: 123RF

As of midnight, petrol and diesel went up again.

Your municipal bill also shot up as many municipalities implemented tariff hikes at the beginning of July.

You’re wondering when it will ever stop.

Price increases for food, electricity, water and other things come with a lot of instability.

You are more likely to feel money stress.

According to debt counsellors DebtBusters, at least three out of four South Africans feel money stress, more than last year.

Online survey Money Stress Tracker showed that women in particular admitted to the effects of financial stress at home,  work and on their health.

This is the second year DebtBusters has done the survey with its head Benay Sager saying lower-income earners are the most stressed, while high-earners showed more high levels of unsustainable debt.

DebtBusters head Benay Sager shares tips on how to manage your money and stretch it further.
DebtBusters head Benay Sager shares tips on how to manage your money and stretch it further.
Image: Supplied

There were 35,000 respondents, compared to 14,000 participants in 2022.

The survey, according to Sager, was conducted among consumers who are not in debt counselling.

“Of the 78% of respondents who said they feel money stress [up from 70% in 2022], 94% said it was impacting their home life, 78% their work life and 77% believed it was affecting their health a clear indication that money stress results in other types of stress.

“Short-term concerns continue to be the main reason for this stress. Half the respondents said running out of money before the month end was their main worry,” said Sager.

He said there was a 22% increase in people who are anxious about being able to make their monthly debt repayments.

“Overall, 70% of respondents spent more than 30% of after-tax income on debt repayment but the survey found that those taking home more than R20,000 per month and over had the most debt repayment pressure. Sixty-two percent of the respondents taking home more than R20,000 had unsustainable debt levels. This income band is the backbone of SA’s middle-class population.

“We advise consumers not to use more than 30% of their take-home pay on debt repayments. Sixty-two percent of respondents in the two highest income bands we surveyed are spending between 40% or more of their income to service debt. This is simply too much, especially in a high-interest, high-inflation environment,” said Sager.

He said interest rate increases featured for the first time as one the main contributors to money stress.

Other top reasons included unexpected expenses, inflation, living costs, school fees and retirement.

“While all respondents said the biggest money stress factor was running out of money before the end of the month, the next concern for people who were 55 or older was having enough to retire. People between the ages of 25 and 44 were more worried about paying off debt.

“In terms of income bands, those earning less than R5,000 a month were most stressed about paying debts and school fees. Those earning R35,000 or more, were the most concerned about interest rate increases.

“This indicates that the highest earners feel the impact of rising interest rates on their financial situation,” said Sager.

The survey showed that women and men are 10% to 15% more stressed about their finances, work life, home life and health.

Four out of five female respondents said they suffered financial stress.

Psychotherapist and transactional analyst Diane Salters explains two reasons for the higher proportion of women than men reporting high stress levels.

“Firstly, women are often carrying more of the burden of family care and responsibility than men. Secondly, women are more likely to admit to feeling stressed than men and reach out for help.

“Social conditioning often stops men from admitting they need help. Worldwide, women are more likely to use health services and social programmes. This is good because it means that women are more likely to get and use any help available.”

How do you deal with money stress?

“The first thing to remember about money stress is that often we fear the stress we dont know and understand, and in our experience at DebtBusters the stress that arises when dealing with money is because people dont necessarily understand where their money is going,” said Sager.

“They understand where its coming from but they dont always know in detail where its going to. So, the first thing to do is to understand in detail, as a family, where all the money that youre earning is going to, in an itemised way. Step by step, make sure that you know what youre spending.

“Once you know where the money is going, you can put specific interventions in place to make sure it is being allocated to the right things.”

How can you manage your money and stretch it further?

“Firstly, if its goods that youre buying for your household or for yourself, think about whether there are different brands or versions of something that you can buy that cost a bit less,” Sager said.

There are different ways of doing this, for example you could change brands or buy in bulk with other people and share the costs.

“Usually, if youre able to buy at supermarkets in larger business centres, things cost a bit less than buying at small convenience stores, so this might help to stretch your money a bit further.

“If theres a way to pre-purchase things that you use often, like electricity or airtime, try to buy these things in bulk. For example, if youre going to buy R10 of airtime and you do that 10 times a month, rather than buying R100 of airtime once a month, its going to cost you more even though its the same amount of airtime, because a purchase fee is applied to each transaction.

“Hence, try to reduce the number of transactions you do with your cellphone, and also with your bank, in terms of withdrawing money,” Sager said.


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