The savings landscape across South Africa is, unfortunately, not a positive one. With only one in five people seeking financial help, it’s no wonder that many are finding themselves in a dire situation with their finances.

One of the main reasons people don’t consult a financial adviser is that they feel they don’t have enough money to do so. In fact, a comprehensive and detailed financial plan is beneficial to everyone – no matter the income level.

“Consulting a professional will help you strike a balance between your daily living expenses and medium- and long-term financial goals. With all the financial pressures facing South African consumers – from electricity hikes, petrol price increases and soaring food prices – people are struggling to cope from day to day.

So it becomes quite challenging to take our eyes off our immediate problems and think about saving for a rainy day,” says Karin Muller, head of growth market solutions at Sanlam.

She says seeking the help of an accredited financial planning professional will help you get a holistic view of your financial situation and plan for the future. “A comprehensive financial analysis will enable you to determine your specific needs and goals, identify areas of risk and pinpoint any gaps you may have,” explains Muller.

It doesn’t matter how much money you may have in your bank account; getting professional help will give you focus and clarity on the direction you want to go in. You will also receive advice on how to get there.

If, however, you feel you are too far in debt to go to a financial planner, think again. Says Eunice Sibiya, head of FNB consumer education: “Even though you may not have funds to spread across savings and investment accounts, a financial adviser can talk you through the various options that could become available to you as your money grows and you financial goals change.”

This will, she says, serve as helpful information to base future conversations about money on.

In the meantime, while you are meeting a financial planner, there are things you can do immediately to improve your financial situation. Most importantly, work out what money comes in and what goes out. Create a budget to keep track of your spending.

“You can’t plan without a record,” says Sibiya. “If you don’t know where your money goes every month, start by writing down what money comes into your account. Then record every single time any money leaves your account, whether you draw it and spend it, pay expenses or even transfer it into your savings account.

“After noting all the money that has come in and out, you need to write a budget. While it is unlikely that you can significantly increase the money that comes in every month, you are able to control the money that goes out,” she adds.

From this budget you can simplify your outgoing expenses to get you back on track. Capturing your spending in writing also helps clarify where excessive or wasteful spending is happening – and allow you to curb spending accordingly. Don’t underestimate the importance of budgeting or getting professional help.

Says Muller: “Research conducted by the Insured Retirement Institute shows that people who use a financial adviser save more and plan better for retirement, and they are more confident about their financial position.”

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