Success is not a big step in the future, it’s a small step taken right now

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Photo: iStock
Photo: iStock


Follow six ordinary South Africans as they take up the City Press/Absa Money Makeover Challenge and undergo a money makeover boot camp. The next six months will test their resolve and make them face tough decisions on every aspect of their finances. This year, all our candidates have a side business they want to develop to generate additional income. Maya Fisher-French introduces this year’s participants

Each candidate has been allocated their own Absa financial adviser who will assist them with organising their finances and reaching their personal financial goals. To assist them with their side business, each candidate will also be working with an Absa business mentor to create a business plan.

The candidates will be required to complete certain financial tasks and stick to the budgets set out for them to win incentive prizes or be selected as the final winner. 

Personal finance expert Maya Fisher-French will be sharing their stories with you and hopefully inspire you to start your own journey.

(We are not using surnames as there will be a lot of personal information in the articles.)



Nocawe is in her late thirties, and married with two young children. Although the couple both earn good salaries, they face financial pressure due to not saving and because of debts they feel they should not have taken. This is the result of a large personal loan and car finance on three cars. 

On the plus side, Nocawe has bought a rental property without a mortgage by using savings. This should soon be earning her an additional income. To supplement her income, Nocawe has started a side business offering cleaning services.

“I want to be empowered to have a healthy relationship with my finances, as well as prove to myself that I can do it. I hope to achieve financial success by being free of debt, having emergency funds and building generational wealth.”

My big dream:

To own a successful agribusiness one day. I love farming and have always had green fingers. Through my mother, I have access to tribal land and I have already started farming chickens, but we have had some problems.

My worst mistake:

Taking a personal loan to the amount of R100 000 that I didn’t really need. Also, not building enough emergency funds.

Her advisers:

Sonja Pen Lai has been a financial advisor for more than 20 years. Her goal for Nocawe is to focus on paying off her personal loan and possibly selling a car. This starts with a joint budget that the couple will prepare so that they understand how they are spending money as a household. They also need to look at how to use the rental property income to start saving for the children’s education.

Albert Nkosi is her business mentor and he will be working with Nocawe to create a plan to start her poultry farming business. 



Forty-year-old Audrey works for an organisation as a complaints investigator. She is married with four children ranging from five to 19 years old. Audrey’s most pressing concern is how to fund her children’s tertiary education while preparing for her own future. 

Her husband is self-employed and his business was negatively affected by the Covid-19 restrictions, which has added pressure to their finances. “My main problem is that we do not work together with our money. He pays his things and I pay my things; nothing is consolidated. There is also financial stress, as we have not been taught how to budget and plan for life events or even save money.”

Apart from getting her finances on track, Audrey has plans to one day open her own preschool. This would allow her to work for herself and beyond the traditional age of retirement.

My big dream:

To take my family on holiday one day, pay off the house before age 50 and buy a bigger car suitable for a family of six. I also hope to one day have my own preschool.

My worst mistake:

Taking out a personal loan to buy a vehicle – I am still struggling to pay it off – and buying my current car with a balloon payment of R60 000. Also, not saving from an early age, especially for my children’s education.

Her advisers: 

Pen Lai is also Audrey’s adviser. “I give holistic advice and direction to my clients around their needs and wants – understanding them as individuals and connecting with them on a personal basis to understand their visions they have for their future.”

Pen Lai has already identified that Audrey will be able to increase her savings if some of the store cards are paid off. “We need to check the interest earned on savings, and the interest paid on the store cards – it might make sense to pay off some of the store cards,” says Pen Lai, who is excited to work with Audrey to help her achieve her goals. 

Denise Ngwetsheni is her business mentor and she will work with Audrey to understand what it takes to open a preschool. There are not only financial considerations, but also legal ones.



Production manager Stephan is 26 years old and newly married. Like most young couples, they are in the acquisition stage of their lives and want to have a plan in place so they can achieve their goals of buying their own home and starting a family. Stephan is entrepreneurial and wants to expand on his and his wife’s vape business.

The couple have not developed a healthy savings attitude and tend to take out short-term loans rather than save for the things they want. As a result of his debt and other life expenses, such as rent and medical aid, his salary is fully spent two days after payday.

“I have been married to an amazing woman for almost two years and we have been talking about starting a family for a while now. Although everyone tells us that if you wait for financial stability you will wait forever, it is a fact that financial burdens have a huge impact on our decision-making. I know we have not always managed our money well enough and that we bend the rules on our own budget and saving plans much too often.”

My big dream:

To own multiple successful small businesses. My mind is always busy and I am always thinking in an entrepreneurial direction. 

My worst mistake:

Spending without keeping track of our wedding expenses two years back, taking big loans and making plans without a set budget.

His advisers:

Zettie Everson is a certified financial planner and has worked in the industry for 32 years. “The most important aspect for me is for a client to understand the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ in their financial planning. I take time to understand my clients to enable them to better their financial situations and establish goals.”

Everson is looking at the possibility of debt consolidation for Stephan and reviewing his budget to see where the couple could add some savings. 

“Stephan has good ideas for his business and it is necessary for him to put ideas in writing to have a clear picture of his personal and business budget. The biggest challenge Stephan has at the moment is to be aware of what is going on in his business while having a full-time job in order to be a success as an entrepreneur. The next goal is to establish a savings culture.” 

John Brink is his business mentor and they have already identified opportunities for the couple to expand on their vape shop business by focusing on developing an online strategy.



Maryke is a foundation phase teacher and single mother to a three-year-old. She recently bought a home and is finding it hard to save money, despite having little debt. Her mortgage, medical aid and various insurances take up a large portion of her salary each month.

“I have not yet started saving anything for my retirement and my only asset at the moment is my apartment, which I am paying off to the bank over 30 years.”

Maryke needs to earn an additional income and, as a foundation phase teacher, she has time during the week and holidays to focus on building her cake-baking business. She will, however, have to be careful that she balances her full-time job and being a single mother with having a side business so that she does not burn out.

My big dream:

To find another form of income in which my money works for me. I love working with my hands; I like to bake and can knit and crochet. I also enjoy giving extra classes to pupils who need it.

My worst mistake:

Not taking out a retirement annuity earlier.

Her advisers:

This is the third year that Leighanne Decker will be part of the Money Makeover Challenge, having guided previous candidates to financial success. She has been in the financial industry for 12 years. 

“The one thing that sets every other experience apart is the difference you can make in your client’s life, be it big or small, just by educating them and giving them the tools to help manage their finances better.”

Decker has identified that, while Maryke has a good handle on her budget, she has not prioritised saving. 

“Our goal is for this to become a habit rather than an afterthought, and our goals are structured along these lines, but, to achieve some of the goals, Maryke’s side business will have to work for her.”

From the business point of view, Maryke is turning something she loves doing, and has been doing for free for loved ones, into a business. She is struggling with the concept of putting a rand value on something she loves to do. She will be working with business mentor Lunga Madonela, who has already set her the task of drawing up a business plan. This will give her the ability to see exactly what she needs to do to achieve the goals they have put in place. 



Gugu is a researcher and insurance analyst. She is in her early thirties, and single with no children. However, like many young people her age, she is worried that she does not have anything to show after years of work. 

“Like many young people, I am struggling with money management skills. With the ever-increasing cost of medical and education expenses, I find myself struggling to make ends meet.” 

Poor money decisions led to Gugu’s high levels of debt and it is hard for her family to understand why, with a good job, she is complaining about a lack of money. 

“There is also a lot of emotional stress that comes with being in debt; it makes one feel like a failure,” says Gugu, who recently moved back home to cut back on expenses. This is giving her an opportunity to reset her finances, but she needs help prioritising and planning.

My big dream:

To complete my Master of Business Administration and pursue business interests.

My worst mistake:

I really had no idea how to manage the money I was making. I took out a high-interest loan and I tried to pay for school fees while bootstrapping for a business that I thought would assist me with an additional income stream. Also, using my credit card for emergencies at home.

READ | A year into financial freedom: Where are they now?

Her advisers:

Michelle Moodley has been in the financial industry for 17 years. 

“When I wake up in the morning, my mind-set is to ensure that I am going to wow my clients and that their needs are taken care off. I believe that I am here to serve and do the best I can.” 

Moodley has been extremely impressed with Gugu’s participation. “She was willing to sacrifice the luxuries to get her finances in order. She was willing to allow me the opportunity to give her advice on how to plan for the future and, at the same time, be free from stress. There was no balance in her life prior to this challenge.”

Rikesh Sewparsad is Gugu’s business mentor. Like Maryke, Gugu wants to use her baking skills to earn an additional income. However, Gugu’s big plan is to one day work full time in her own business.

Sewparsad has identified that expanding into a bread baking business could be a lucrative opportunity. 



Lwandile is in his late thirties and married with a two-year-old son. He is feeling considerable financial stress as the sole breadwinner who also supports extended family. A percentage of his income goes to paying a tithe to his church. 

Lwandile wants to learn to manage his money better.

My goal for Lwandile is to free up his own capital to invest in his business venture, to build and maintain strong financial spending and saving habits.
Theunis Prinsloo

“I want to practise my wife’s financial wisdom in our personal finances. My objective is to save enough money for a home renovation, to fix our car and to celebrate our 10-year wedding anniversary next year.”

My big dream:

To broaden our income streams. I want to help my family open a cleaning business in the Vaal region so that they can be self-reliant.

My worst mistake:

Leaving my full-time corporate job in March 2012 to start up a business. I had no financial reserves, [but I had] debt and a wedding to finance. It was not correctly planned for financially and the business failed.

His advisers:

Theunis Prinsloo has been a financial adviser for seven years. “Lwandile has a heart of gold, but charity starts at home,” says Prinsloo, who is concerned about the amount that Lwandile pays out to family and as a tithe.

“My goal for Lwandile is to free up his own capital to invest in his business venture, to build and maintain strong financial spending and saving habits. This whole journey is about changing behaviour, putting a plan into place and, most importantly, sticking to the plan – discipline is the key.”

Teboko Mooko is his business mentor and has provided Lwandile with a template for starting work on a business plan for the family cleaning business.

City Press will follow the candidates’ progress on the first and third weeks of each month, as well as online on the Money Makeover page

You can follow the story on social media #CPMoneyMakeover

Twitter: @CPMoneyMakeover


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