A recent survey has found that many of South Africa’s youth are focusing primarily on short-term financial goals and are taking longer to repay their short-term debt as the cost of living increases. Furthermore, this behaviour appears to be at the expense of retirement savings, which means that many young South Africans may not have sufficient funds to live comfortably in later life.
Results of the recent 2013 Old Mutual Savings and Investment Monitor which surveyed 1 000 metropolitan working South Africans, revealed that 45% of the youth respondents (individuals between the ages of 18 and 35) have neither a pension or provident fund nor a retirement annuity in place.
According to the data, the vast majority of respondents (63%) prefer more informal savings vehicles, such as stokvels, burial society and grocery schemes. This figure marks an increase from 61% recorded last year.
Head of research at Old Mutual, Lynette Nicholson, says: “While it’s pleasing to note that young people are trying to save, albeit through informal savings, it’s a real concern that 30% of young respondents in our survey do not see saving as a priority.”
When asked what they were saving for, the youth responses were strongly skewed towards short-term goals: 34% indicated that they were saving to purchase a car, 31% were saving for emergencies or a rainy day and 28% said they were saving to put down a deposit on a home.
“Respondents indicated that even when they are given access to saving through a retirement fund, many pass on the opportunity as they feel they would rather start at a later stage when they can more easily afford payments,” says Nicholson.
Debt also features strongly in this market. An overwhelming 59% have at least one store card, while 19% have at least one credit card and 14% have a personal loan from a financial institution. Questions on their perception of what short-, medium- and long-term investment periods are reveals that 72% see a short-term investment as a one to three year period, with 44% of these youths classifying short term investment as “up to one year”.
Meanwhile, 55% of respondents classified a medium-term investment to be one to 5 years or less. The perceptions of long term investments were more varied – with 36% of respondents classifying long term as 10-20 years, 37% saying less than 10 years and only 27% saying more than 20 years.
“It does seem that many young people have misperceptions around medium to long term investment timelines. Furthermore, the more youth spend o¬n servicing short-term debt, the less likely they are to invest long-term, which is particularly concerning given the low yield environment that this generation is likely going to be investing in,” says Nicholson.
Many young people are also part of the so-called “Sandwich Generation”, with 45% planning on supporting their parents and a further 16% not planning to, but realising they’ll have to. Meanwhile, 55% of young mothers regard themselves as single moms and may well face more financial constraints than families with two breadwinners.
There is still a surprisingly strong sense of dependency on the government for financial support. “While 57% believe their financial situation will improve in the next six months and 44% believe their situation is better than a year ago, 31% believe the government will care of them if they can’t do so for themselves,” says Nicholson.