The biggest things stressing South Africans out right now – that isn’t Eskom

 ·30 Sep 2022

The majority of South Africans’ mental health is most significantly impacted by their finances. A recent Sanlam Savings survey on the impact of money, indicated that 78% of people are extremely worried about their finances.

Financial stress has taken a toll on South Africans, with nearly 90% of them being stressed and 60% reportedly being extremely stressed. This is not surprising, given that just as we emerge from a pandemic, consumers have been thrust into a worsening cost-of-living crisis, noted financial services company Sanlam.

Record high food and fuel prices, an inflation rate at a 13-year high and rising interest rates, both middle- and low-income earners countrywide are struggling, it said.

A Sanlam survey focussing on the impact of money – or rather insufficient money – on our mental health, indicated that the majority of the 1200 respondents are stressed about their financial situation, yet many are not taking it lying down. Instead, they are proactively trying to better their circumstances.

This was apparent in numerous reports from participants that they are trying as hard as possible to budget and save, with some starting a side-hustle in an effort to earn extra income while others were upskilling themselves on all things financial to better their money management.

Only 30% of the respondents admitted to ignoring their money problems in the hope that it improves or goes away.

“In true South African style, the majority are trying their best in a difficult situation. We can see that even those who are unable to save every month see the value of saving. Encouragingly, only 19% of respondents claimed not to have a budget. We hope this means that the importance of savings and budgeting is reaching more people than before,” says Farzana Botha, Segment Solutions Manager at Sanlam Savings.

Another encouraging outcome was the number of consumers who were taking direct responsibility for their own finances, with only 5% deferring to their partner to manage their finances.

Unfortunately, only 19% feel prepared or completely prepared to cover their day-to-day living costs, with only 16% prepared to financially meet their future needs. Most do not have enough money to save for the future and either live for the short-term or get themselves more and more into debt trying to make ends meet.

“There is no doubt that we have a very stressed nation, and this has far-reaching consequences for individuals, families, communities and South Africa as a whole. At Sanlam, we want to empower consumers to make sound financial decisions despite these mounting challenges, especially when it comes to having savings for emergencies and preparing for retirement,” said Botha.

Here are some key findings from the survey:


  • 50% reported being short every month and that they are relying on debt or loans to help see them to month end
  • 66% have a budget, but only 18% always stick to it
  • Only 19% of the sample feel prepared or completely prepared for their day-to-day living costs
  • Only 16% are prepared for future needs
  • 35% have no additional cash so don’t save
  • 16% save when they get an extra windfall or bonus
  • 16% are only able to save every couple of months
  • 14% save the same amount every month

Stress and mental health:

  • Nearly 90% of the sample feel stressed on account of their finances, with 60% extremely stressed
  • 78% feel anxious and depressed as a result of their financial stress
  • Financial stresses dwarf other stresses regardless of income with 78% saying that they are worried about finances
  • 50% also claim that money issues have an impact on their physical health
  • Relationships are also impacted and 40% have withdrawn from those close to them

“Only 7% of respondents reported seeking advice from a financial planner or broker. It’s so important for people to speak with a financial adviser to help them create a financial plan with goal specific outcomes. After all, every day is a new chance to make better financial decisions,” said Botha.

What continues to be of great concern is the toll that financial stress is having on our mental health, with 78% of respondents saying they feel anxious and depressed about their money situation.

“This is where financial self-care is so vital. This means finding healthy ways to manage your finances, developing healthy money habits, and supplementing your income where possible,” Botha said.

“We are committed to helping South Africans live confidently by providing them with the necessary tools and financial knowledge. Being able to better manage your money is vital to enable people to build a better and more prepared future”.

Read: The dysfunctional company that’s wrecking South Africa’s economy

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