#FeesMustFall, the momentous student protest that brought tertiary intitutions across the country to a standstill, has been a long time coming.
A fee hike, announced by South Africa’s major universities for the 2016 school year, was the tinder that set a nationwide fire in motion.
Predictions are that this uprising is just the beginning. Lower-income families, many of whom are attending university for the first time, are fed up with being squeezed by universities and spiralling fees, and a government that continues misusing funds.
#FeesMustFall has illustrated one point loud and clear: Everyone wants financial freedom. For the short term, however, the reality remains stark.
Thousands of students (past and current) are tied down to student loans that need to be repaid even before they can start making a decent living for themselves.
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As the Director of IMB, a Financial Services firm, I meet with people on a daily basis who approach their debt in a responsible way, yet need help and advice.
They acknowledge their student loan and fight tooth and nail to get ahead of their debt. Certain characteristics about these people stand out: A desire to succeed, an ability to adapt, and above all else, a hunger to make a success of their lives.
With that in mind, here are my five key tips for paying off a student loan.
This might seem obvious, but it’s amazing how often people overlook hard work. Whether you’re in a full-time career, establishing yourself as an entrepreneur or still a student, hard work sets the tone for everything you do later in life.
Whether that means you juggle two jobs or aim to achieve a distinction in your studies, a hard working attitude will stand you in good stead.
Ultimately, repaying a student loan is about discipline and earning power. Being unafraid to invest blood, sweat and tears will go a long way to ensuring you cover the latter.
Never lose your entrepreneurial spirit
An entrepreneurial spirit stands out. It’s knowing what you’re good at, being determined to succeed and having your own ideas. Even if you work for a boss, never lose this spirit.
Many companies encourage their staff to follow a company code. But I say that real entrepreneurs are unafraid to think outside the box.
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Believe in yourself – and most of all, believe in your ideas – and you’ll stand out in any career you attempt.
Earn your own money
The alternative? Be your own boss. It’s a tempting idea, especially in a crowded jobs market. The reality is often less glamorous than it seems on paper, but there’s good news: With a good education and the internet at your disposal, it’s easier than ever before to start your own enterprise.
South Africans young and old have the potential to start something new – something of their own – and not only further their own lives, but help the economy at large.
Stick to a budget
Paying off a loan is about discipline, and a budget is the perfect tool in your armoury.
Create a spreadsheet and plot what you earn every month, then calculate what you need to set aside to pay off your loan within the time agreed with the lender.
This will ensure you are not incurring penalities – or worse yet, interest on penalties.
Adjust your lifestyle
People who are willing to sacrifice a lavish lifestyle to pay off their student loan are the ones that succeed most often.
These are the kinds of people that are willing to walk, not drive, who will cancel their gym membership to run outside instead, who will put off buying a new TV and settle for a cheap monitor instead.
We all have the urge to indulge – especially with the festive season fast approaching, but the key is to be pragmatic about your money. Your loan isn’t getting any cheaper, and you need to set aside money every month to cover your costs.
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Ultimately, South Africa is at a critical juncture in its history. Since 1994, the country has embraced democracy and spent a large pot of money to paper over the proverbial cracks. But now this money needs to be paid back and government is scratching its head.
What can be done? My advice is simple: look after what you can control. If you’re paying off a student loan, never forget one thing: The money you owe won’t go away. In the end, the quicker you pay it off the sooner you can enjoy life’s luxuries.
Living debt-free isn’t a reality that everybody can enjoy, but by adhering to these 5 practical tips, you’ll be closer than ever to financial freedom.