After working for four years and living from paycheck to paycheck, with no savings, no financial investments, and racking up bad credit, Vuyo Khumalo had had enough and set out on a journey to gain personal financial freedom. In an interview with Inside Biz, she details why financial wellness is important, and how her company has been able to serve emaSwati in financial distress.
By Phesheya Mkhonta
Q: Thank you so much for joining us for this interview. Can you please tell us about yourself, from your personal and educational background?
A: I am a wife and mother to two boys. I was born and raised in Mbabane by my mother. I am my mother’s only child, which has its perks. I did my primary school at SOS in Mbabane and then proceeded to do my high school at Waterford (UWC). After high school, I initially did a short stint in Pretoria, which didn’t quite work out as envisioned (haha). So, I eventually came back to the country and studied at UNESWA, where I obtained a Bachelor’s Degree in Commerce (BCom), specializing in Accounting.
Q: Can you share with us the “backstory” of how you got into the financial services sector, specifically as a financial advisor and coach?
A: Funny enough this wasn’t my initial plan. When I finished high school I wanted to study interior design, I loved drawing and art and I could see myself pursuing a career in that field but my parents wouldn’t have it. They wanted me to study something that would be easy to build a career in, in the Swaziland context, so I ended up settling for Bcom Accounting. So I went all in, with zero experience in accounting, so you can imagine my first year with accounting was quite the struggle. However, with time, I took an interest in finance, and I enjoyed it far more than I enjoyed debit and credit. Based on that experience, I imagined I would work as a financial analyst for a big investment firm. That was the plan. So, when I graduated I pursued that financial analyst dream and landed a job as a financial analyst for the Financial Services Regulatory Authority (FSRA), and that was my entry into the financial services sector.
What brought me to money coaching, however, was my own experience with money. When I started working, I did what most people do, which is to spend and rack up credit. I got a car, and I opened clothing store accounts. I gave very little thought to what I wanted to accomplish financially. It wasn’t until I was at a crossroads in my life, and I wanted to pursue a different career, that I found myself feeling stuck and frustrated with living hand to mouth. I had been working for about 4 years at that time and I realized that I had literally wasted money in those 4 years, I had nothing to show for all those years of work. I had no savings, no investments, nothing tangible to show and that was such a reality check for me.
So I set out on a journey to gain personal financial freedom and I started teaching myself how to manage my money better. And as I was learning I became interested in sharing all that I was learning with my husband, my friends, and my colleagues. And then it occurred to me that I could go into a career helping people with their finances. And it made so much sense because I could see the need and demand, and more so because I love helping people. I saw people around me also struggling with their finances, I worked with consumers who often fell prey to financial predators. I saw that there was a huge gap in financial literacy in the country. There is so much education about money and finances that we need to attain. And so that is how I turned to money coaching.
Q: You are recognized as a Certified Money Coach (CMC), please elaborate on what this means exactly, and please share with us how one becomes a CMC.
A: A certified money coach is a person who applies the principles of psychology and the principles of personal finance in helping people understand and transform their relationship with money. As coaches, they apply a personalized approach to helping someone manage their finances (not the mainstream-one size fits all) and they walk the journey to financial success with a person supporting them as they work towards their goals. The CMC certification is offered by the Money Coaching Institution which is based in the US but offers training online. To become a CMC you have to complete the course, which entails doing your own money work at that deep psychological level. You are also required to practice with clients and have your work with them evaluated. After successfully undergoing that, you obtain your certification.
Q: You are also the founder of Money EQ Incorporated, a financial wellness company, can you tell us about the services that your company offers?
A: Money EQ provides behavioral money coaching and financial education to individuals and groups, with the goal of helping them transform their relationship with money and create financially fulfilling lives. We help you uncover your money beliefs and help you understand how they are influencing your money behavior and we create strategies for you to overcome any challenging behaviors. We teach you the basic principles of personal finance covering, creating income, spending, borrowing, investing and saving, and protecting your income. And we set financial goals creating a plan for achieving those goals and we support you as you implement your plan.
Q: You’ve described yourself as someone who loves ‘serving’, what does this mean and why is this important to you?
A: For me, true servitude is showing up and wholeheartedly helping someone without any expectation of compensation or that you will get something out of helping them. A true service is an act of love. It is stepping into a person’s world and focusing on their needs and on how you can lovingly support them. It is important for me because I love people and I want to help people and make a real difference. And also, service is at the heart of coaching, and it is what makes a prosperous coaching practice. Coaching is the business of building relationships, and you cannot truly connect with and help people if you are only focused on what you can get out of the relationship with them.
Q: You’ve spoken a lot about the need for women to attain financial independence. Why does it seem like this is a topic that isn’t spoken about a lot in mainstream media or social media spaces?
A: The topic of money, in general, is a very taboo subject, let alone in the context of women. There is often a lot of shame and embarrassment surrounding money conversations. People often feel ashamed to speak about their struggles, and sometimes even to speak about their success, so it is a very taboo topic. Couple that with the history of women in the financial space. We know that historically there have been inequalities in how men and women participate in the financial world.
Women were generally seen as incapable of handling money; they were seen as reckless and there were barriers to them accessing financial services. For example, a woman had to obtain consent from her husband to open a bank account, or to access a loan. It’s only now that some of those systems are being removed and more and more women are starting to see the importance of being financially empowered, so the conversation has started and it is slowly growing, which is a good thing.
Q: You recently hosted classes on ‘Transforming your relationship with money with the likes of MTN, for one, how does one transform their relationship with money?
A: Transforming your relationship with money starts with self-awareness and introspection, building an awareness of your money beliefs, your attitude, and your behavior patterns and thinking when it comes to money. You need to understand how you came to form those beliefs and behavior towards and with money. Understanding that requires looking into your past experiences, growing up, looking at how your parents viewed money, how they used money, how they interacted with others in relation to money and how they treated you when it comes to money.
Understanding those experiences and how they shaped you is the first step. For example, you might realize that ‘I’m so frugal’ because my mom was that kind of person or you may realize ‘I don’t spend on certain things’ because you were brought up to only spend on the essentials. It’s essentially a long conversation that I love to have with clients where at the crux it’s about unlearning old experiences and habits and learning new habits that are positive for your money and personal growth.
Q: What is the number one rule you share with people with regard to money and financial freedom?
A: I don’t have a number one rule. There are so many things that I love to share with my clients. But one thing that I love to remind them is that they were not born to pay bills they were born to live. And money is meant to help them in creating and living a meaningful life. You can make all the money in the world, but you will never truly enjoy it or find true contentment if you miss this.
Q: In closing, what are your thoughts on the so-called ‘black tax’?
A: I think the term ‘black tax’ is a bit of a harsh word (haha), but yes, it is an actual thing, and it’s a real situation that we face in our communities. On the one hand, it may be someone’s way of giving back to the people that helped them up but on the other hand, it does come in the form of expectation from the people who are on the receiving hand.
I always tell my clients to give from a place of love and joy, that they should give because they want to and are happy to do so. Don’t give if you are doing so under compulsion, with a complaining and resentful spirit because that is not true giving. And I always encourage them to be honest and upfront with their families about what they can do for them financially. So that they don’t create any expectations and don’t put pressure on themselves to do more than they are realistically able to do.
Q: Thank you so much Vuyo, this was insightful. We look forward to you sharing more with our community.
A: It has been a pleasure.
You can reach Vuyo via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call to book an appointment at 7802 1682. Website: www.money-eq.com