How much money South Africans consider ‘enough’ to earn each month

A new report finds that a lack of opportunity in South Africa acts as a significant barrier to success. To take a closer look at the country’s financial wellbeing, Wonga asked almost 8,000 South Africans about their current financial status, as well as their capacity and opportunity to achieve their future financial goals.

Wonga’s Financial Well-Being Report found that many people are unable to further their studies as a result of financial constraints.

Approximately half of the respondents said that financial constraints prevent them from saving money and paying off their debt and this acts as a huge barrier to achieving aspirations like owning property and driving cars.

Almost 90% of respondents said they aim to earn as much as the nation’s current top 10%. And while unsurprising, these salary expectations are concerning when compared with the current income levels, the lender said.

According to the Credit Suisse Wealth Report, of the thirty-five million adult South Africans, only 10% currently earn R10,800 a month or more.

While survey participants reported having relatively high incomes in comparison – with almost half currently earning over R10,000 a month – their future salary aspirations were extremely ambitious with 87% aspiring to earn about as much as the top 10%.

The graph below illustrates the difference between current and aspirational income levels.

Wonga’s report found that those with a higher education are 27% more likely to aspire to earning R20,000 or more and 15% more likely to aspire to earning R50,000 or more, than those with no tertiary qualifications.

Men are 12% more likely than women to aspire to earning over R20,000 a month and 11% more likely to aspire to earning over R50,000.


Education is a significant contributor to wealth and, in South Africa, the bulk of higher education graduates enter the labour force’s upper echelons, placing them in the top 10% to 15% brackets of the national income distribution.

This is an opportunity that, according to Wonga’s findings, 58% of respondents do not have access to.

Of the study’s participants, 11% did not finish their schooling and 47% did not further their studies after achieving their Matric certificate. Of those, 44% cited financial constraints as the reason, 32% said that they had to work instead of studying and 28% claimed that they had to look after their families.

Interestingly, of all the study’s participants, 40% said that they would still like to further their studies but feel unable to do so because of financial constraints.


According to Stats SA’s Household Living Conditions Survey, South Africans spend about 16% of their income on transport and the majority of the country (56%) relies on public transport to get around each month. Owning a vehicle is often regarded as a sign of wealth, particularly with the increased burden of rising fuel costs, Wonga noted.

Despite a car being the preferred mode of transport for 46% of respondents, only 40% claimed to own a car of their own. Of those, a 57% majority estimate the current value of their vehicles at below R100,000.

Although this is far below the value of most luxury vehicles, the majority of car owners still aspire to own a luxury car in the future, the report said.

This can be seen when comparing the vehicle that they currently own with those that they would like to own in the future. Out of the 40 most popular car brands, Volkswagen emerged as the current favourite, with 19% of respondents claiming to own one. This is followed by Toyota (11%), Ford (9%), Hyundai (9%) and BMW (6%).

However, when asked what make of vehicle they would like to own in future, BMW emerged as the most popular at 15%, followed by Mercedes-Benz at 12%.

According to Wonga’s research, only 38% of respondents own their current residence, with the majority renting instead.

The higher someone’s earnings the more likely they are to own their primary residence. 55% of those who earn over R50,000 a month own their homes, as opposed to 42% of those earning between R20,000 and R50,000 and 36% of those who earn R20,000 or less.

For most property owners, their primary residence is their only property, with only 6% claiming to own additional properties.

The majority (41%) of these additional properties are homes for the owner’s family or dependents, however 36% rent their additional properties out.

Read: There’s a shocking number of loan sharks in South Africa – here’s how they operate

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How much money South Africans consider ‘enough’ to earn each month