saving is king

Isaac Moledi

Isaac Moledi

Reserve Bank Governor Tito Mboweni may not have raised the repo rate last week but he makes no secret that he wants us to spend less.

South Africa's spending frenzy, according to Mboweni, is pushing inflation beyond the Bank's target range of 3percent to 6percent.

By raising the repo rate, Mboweni wants to make it more expensive for us to be in debt.

The rapid increase in interest rates over the last 18 months and the increase in the price of petrol and food have taken their toll as heavily indebted consumers struggle to pay off debt.

Property owners are among the hardest hit, with mortgages having increased far more than many people realise.

For instance, a mortgage payment on a R1million home loan, before the 4percent rise in rates, was R9500 a month in June 2006. This, according to Patrick O'Shea of O'Shea, Engel & Volkers, had subsequently risen to R14500.

O'Shea says in order to service an extra R5000 a month in mortgage repayments, the home owner would need to earn about R9000 more a month.

Bryan McLachlan, head of transactional and investment products at Nedbank, says there's a lot that consumers can do to shield themselves against the effect of high interest rates.

lMake a plan. This would require discipline and lifestyle adjustments, such as spending less, saving whatever you can and paying off as much debt as quickly as possible.

"Not only is saving crucial to one's financial wellbeing, but savers get good returns from a high interest rate environment as interest paid on their savings also increases," says McLachlan.

lGetting started is harder if you don't start off on the right footing. The first step is to track your monthly expenses with a budget, and potentially free up cash for saving.

A budget allows you to understand where the money goes and may help you free up cash for important savings goals.

Once you know where your money goes, look for ways to cut down on unnecessary expenses and allocate as much money as possible to paying off debt.

lYou can put your surplus money into your bond account so you can pay it off quicker. This reduces the interest you owe.

"Saving as little as R100 or R200 a month will make a difference over time," he says.

But if you are already in a debt that you can't pay back in time, the National Credit Act provides for counselling and debt restructuring services for consumers.

The act was promulgated to protect borrowers and regulate lenders.