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Listen: How I transformed my relationship with money

by | Dec 11, 2023

The power of taking back control of your finances

Maya speaks to Zihle, the runner-up in the 2023 Absa City Press Money Makeover Challenge, about her personal journey and how – with the help of her financial adviser Anton Battiss – she has succeeded in taking back control of her finances and her life.

When her mother tragically passed away in a car accident three years ago, the then 24-year-old Zihle found herself emotionally and financially responsible for her two younger sisters.

To make ends meet, Zihle turned to credit. What started off as “small” loans soon snowballed into larger and larger debts. The more the repayments ate into her disposable income, the more she relied on further credit to pay the bills.

Now, just six months after embarking on her Money Makeover journey, Zihle has not only paid off significant debt, but she has seen a significant transformation in her own mindset. Taking back control means that she now sees a future for herself.

Zihle’s experience is testament to the impact that our finances can have on our mental health, but it also shows what can be achieved in a short space of time if we take the right steps.

Zihle’s story will resonate with so many young people who find themselves responsible for their family’s financial wellbeing.

Through the Money Makeover Challenge, Zihle has realised that she has a future as an individual and not only as a provider and caregiver to her sisters.

“I realise I can start to plan for my own future. I can think about what happens when they finish studying, about getting a place of my own when I am debt free and even saving for my retirement.

“Before this I could not see past my role as their caregiver,” says Zihle who has set herself a goal to be debt free in the next four years. This is giving her the motivation to stay the course and take hard decisions now.

To protect her future and not drown in debt, Zihle has had tough conversations with her sisters, especially the second born who recently started working as an intern.

She admits that they have gone through a rough patch, but that the relationship has improved as her sister better understands what Zihle is trying to achieve.

“It has been difficult; I have had to say ‘no’ to certain things that, in the past, I would have said yes to. I had to sit my sister down and warn her not to make the same mistakes I made,” says Zihle.

When her sister wanted to take out an expensive cellphone contract for a new phone, Zihle explained to her that the current phone works fine and she must now save upfront for a phone and not buy on credit.

Zihle recognises that her sister doesn’t understand the consequences of taking on debt – just like Zihle herself when she started earning.

“I showed her all my store cards and other debts. At first she was upset about not having a new phone, but now she understands why she needs to save first.”

Once her sister started earning a salary, Zihle made her responsible for the water and electricity bills. “She was shocked at how much electricity cost. Before she would forget to switch off the geyser in the morning. Now she remembers to switch it off,” laughs Zihle.


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Maya Fisher-French author of Money Questions Answered


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