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What Forward-Thinkers Are Teaching Their Children

  • 7 min read

The lessons parents taught children a generation ago around career and financial success are worlds apart from the wisdom parents need to be handing down to their children now. 

We asked four top industry leaders what lessons for success they feel the children of today should be learning for the world of tomorrow.

Lesson 1 That being an entrepreneur is a viable career option
Didi Onwu, Anzisha Communications Stakeholder Relations Associate

Years ago we were taught to look for a job at a company we could spend years at. The world of today is very different – one where you can’t rely on having lifelong employment. The career trajectory of today is a lot less linear than it was for generations past and, while traditional careers in law and medicine will remain viable, parents also need to encourage their children to see entrepreneurship as a career option.

With the youth population growing at a faster rate than jobs are being created, entrepreneurship will play an undeniable part in growing many economies across Africa. Secondary and tertiary schooling used to be gateways to formal employment, but the reality of the contemporary labour market is that there simply are not enough traditional jobs to absorb the young population, even for those who may receive an excellent education.

Adverse economic conditions, along with a mismatch between the skills taught in schools and those demanded by employers, have worsened youth unemployment, so it’s in your children’s best interests for you to have ongoing conversations with them about where economic opportunities lie.

Even with efforts to develop ‘21st century’ skills, there remains little focus at schools to better enable post-school job-seeking. Entrepreneurial skills are foundational to success in an ever-changing environment, so it’s vital to start preparing young people now for that future.

Lesson 2 – Owning property is a step towards personal wealth
Carl Coetzee, CEO of BetterBond

Buying property has the ability to create wealth over time. With bonds typically having a 20-year repayment period, it stands to reason that young adults should buy property as soon as they have a stable job and can save enough for a deposit. Yet, with the average age of BetterBond’s first-home buyers being 36, it seems as if parents could do more in educating their children on why property is a sound investment. 

All signs show that South Africa’s youth are ready to embrace becoming young investors, with figures in the recently released Absa Homeowner Sentiment Index reflecting that aspirant buyers between the ages of 18 and 24 are currently the most optimistic about the merits of investing in property. This age group also has the highest positive sentiment towards property investment in current market conditions, underpinning the traditional sentiment that property is a safe investment option, especially during challenging economic times. 

It’s also remarkable to see how women are asserting their financial independence, with 40% of all BetterBond’s applications this year being from women buyers. Bond approvals for women have also increased significantly in the past decade, from 14% in 2010 to 41% in 2020.

Young, black women, in particular, are driving the investment market, with figures from credit bureau TPN showing that the most active property investor buying in South Africa is now female and in her early twenties to mid-thirties. FNB reports that the market recovery in the R750 000 to R2 million price band is being driven by this demographic – mostly first-time buyers younger than 35.

As a parent, you should be talking to your children about property trends. Help them recognise the value of investing in a stable asset class such as property, explaining how they can expand their asset portfolio over time. It will, in all probability, be one of the most valuable long-term financial lessons you could teach them.

Lesson 3 – To always be open to innovation and new opportunities
Aisha Pandor, SweepSouth co-founder and CEO

As a co-founder of a start-up that’s had to overcome many challenges on our road to success, I’ve learned that one of the most important parts of building a business is to do so with an infinite mindset, rather than with a short-term outlook. It’s a notion that parents can instill in their children, explaining how businesses with an infinite mindset exchange short-term goals for those of achieving a lasting, positive impact on the world. Look at companies, organisations and individuals who embrace this ethos – by doing so you could be helping to shape your child into a future leader with vision. 

Parents also need to instill grit and determination in their children, especially during such a tough economic time. And show them how to empathise with people from all walks of life. It’s a skill that will stand them in such good stead when they go out into the world and need to build successful relationships with people on different levels, from bosses to friends to colleagues.

I believe it’s vital for children to be taught about entrepreneurship at school. If your child is so inclined, teach them what you can about the basics of starting a business. Build on their innate curiosity by encouraging them to be open to new opportunities, and to stay agile and innovative in all they do, especially in the way they respond to events in times of uncertainty. Of course, focus is good, but teach them about being innovative and opportunistic at the same time – important concepts that will be invaluable to them later on in life.

Lesson 4 Teach them about tax and investing for wealth
Brett Mackay, Investment Consultant & Group RA Manager at 10X Investments.

Parents should teach their children about financial concepts like investing for wealth and taxes. Set up a Tax-Free Savings Investment for your children as soon as they are born and, ideally, aim to invest as close to the maximum annual allowance of R36,000 as you can manage, and make sure you are not losing a disproportionate amount of the growth to high fees.

When your children are old enough, talk to them about this account. It will allow you to introduce them to a number of financial topics like investing for wealth, reading the small print, compound growth, and keeping an eye on costs.

It’s also important to talk to children about taxes and what to expect when they one day start working. Some people never understand taxes, why we pay them and why certain expenses – such as saving for your retirement – attract tax relief. It is a real pity that many taxpayers never get the leg up that tax incentives give because they don’t engage with them.

In our credit-mad society, parents should teach children that credit has a role to play in a responsible financial plan, but its use should be managed carefully. They should understand the difference between big, value-adding purchases, such as an education, a home or even a car, and nice-to-haves, like dinners out and new clothes.

Lesson 5 – Staying safe online
Mich Atagana, South Africa head of communications and public affairs at Google

Technology is today an integral part of any modern family. And, as children receive their first devices and embrace a digital-first approach to their education and leisure, parents should take an active role in ensuring their online safety. That said, safety on the internet is far from guaranteed, especially for children. 

Talking openly with your children about the dangers of the world wide web is a good start, but it shouldn’t end there. Parents can, for example, utilise Google Families to manage their technology ecosystem, and can set digital ground rules for their children with Family Link . With these simple and easy-to-implement strategies, they’ll be going a long way to protect their children from potential harm, while also maximising their potential for learning and creativity. These apps are available for Android and iOS devices.