Johannesburg: The rising cost of food is placing a lot of strain on many South Africa consumers, with those who are over-indebted being worse off. Add to that the rising cost of tuition and medical fees and it’s not hard to see why many are affected by depression.
With 10 October 2016 recognised as World Mental Health Day, consider for a moment the statistics of those who suffer from mental conditions, courtesy of the South Africa Depression and Anxiety Group. Some six million South Africans suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder, roughly 8 000 South Africans commit suicide a year and, compared with 14 other countries, South Africa ranks second for substance abuse.
Ester Ocshe, FNB Financial Advisory Channel Head, says: “These statistics alone are sufficient to heighten anxiety levels, and if you are also experiencing personal financial pressure then your stress levels can, understandably, result in depression, impacting on your home and work lives.”
However, she believes that by taking control of your personal spending patterns, financial behaviour and planning, each and every South African can at least soften the impact of external pressures and influences on matters relating to money management.
“If you are in constant worry about mounting debt, and have over-extended yourself in terms of monthly financial responsibilities then your stress will be significantly higher than a consumer who is working towards a budget, has an emergency fund and applied a goal-based financial planning approach,” says Ochse.
“If financial circumstances are severe, a certified debt counsellor can and should be consulted, but ideally you should confront the situation early enough to make lifestyle and spending changes that work immediately. Just taking these proactive steps helps to reduce anxiety, which improves your state of mind and allows you to think rationally about your financial situation,” says Ochse.
“You cannot confront financial pressures and put in place ways to curb debt unless you first admit that you have a problem,” she stresses, noting that if you are in this situation, you are not alone; the National Credit Regulator reports that 10-million South Africans are under pressure to meet their monthly debt repayments.
Drawing up a budget and a personal balance sheet can help you gain a better sense of your financial position. “Once you are able to articulate your goals, distinguish between wants and needs and also prioritise paying off debt that has a higher interest rate, you can slowly start getting your debt under control by a steady R100 or R200 or R1000 at a time.”
While history tells us that tough economic conditions don’t persist indefinitely, the stress they cause during down cycles can be both mentally and financially devastating. “When times are challenging, confronting problems head on is a brave step to improving your state of mind and wrestling control out of a difficult situation. A professional financial planner can help you get your finances in a healthy state for improved wellness,” concludes Ochse.