Tips & Advice on how to handle Matric Dance costs
24 October 2016
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On mobile, on digital, on demand, this is Old Mutual Live, Money Coach. Hello and welcome, my name is Chris Gibbons. Spring is in the air, which means summer is around the corner, a time of celebration and in particular, South Africa’s legendary Matric Dances.
As young men and women come to the end of their time at school to start their journey into adulthood, the Matric Dance is a rite of passage. But it can also become a very expensive rite if those involved allow it. We’re joined now by Old Mutual’s Head of Financial Education, John Manyike. John welcome, good to talk to you again.
John Manyike: Hi Chris.
CG: How much of a problem is the financial burden created by the Matric Dance?
JM: Matric Dance is by far one of the most thrilling nights, maybe one could even call it a once in a lifetime dream on any teenagers calendar. They know that the peers are going to be watching them and the competition is so hyped up.
Parents don’t want to disappoint their teenagers and they go all out. There are parents who spend up to R45 000 just for that one night. R45 000 high enough to pay for a first year university degree at Wits, just for the tuition fees. That’s how much people go out to make sure that this is a memorable night for their teenager.
Is Matric Dance spend based on peer pressure?
CG: How much of this is generated, John, by peer pressure within the community? Keeping up with the neighbours?
JM: Absolutely, I think this is really a big challenge for many parents. Because I don’t think a lot of parents who are financing the Matric Dances can necessarily afford. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are parents who even go out of the way to borrow money just to make sure that their teenagers seem to be belonging. Because the competition is so hyped up.
This is where teenagers bring their boyfriends or girlfriends and they sort of are in a tight spot. That even the type of accessories that they’re going to be putting on on that day, or the outfits they’re going to be putting on, that they need to match as well. Even if you cannot afford it as a parent, but because there’s so much peer pressure, parents find themselves having to scratch the surface to make it possible.
CG: What are the main areas of expense, is it clothing, care hire, is it parties?
JM: We’re looking at top of the range designer outfits, that could be up to R20 000 in some instances. The limousine hire, the most expensive hairstyles coupled with more expensive accessories, it’s the photo-shoot. In some instances parents would even have a pre-cocktail party to send off their teenager to go and enjoy the Matric Dance.
There’s also the Matric Dance after-party. But what I find interesting about the dresses and the outfits that are being bought or designed specifically for that night, some of them are almost like, in my mind, like a wedding gown. Because they’re so expensive, you wear it for one day or one night and never to be worn again.
It’s just a life that’s being created, it’s a very artificial life that’s being created there. I think if we’re not careful how we do this as parents, we’re going to find ourselves setting a bad precedent to our teenagers. Where they think that if you want things that are expensive in life, they just happen. It’s about instant gratification.
There are other options
CG: Surely it’s just up to the parents to say: No, we can’t afford that.
JM: I’m afraid you won’t be popular as a parent if you say you can’t. You’ll talk about solutions maybe shortly, but it’s very difficult to say no. Again, it’s a case of, can you really afford that designer outfit? Or should you rather have, if you have a relative in the family who can design something at a reasonable amount that you can afford. Instead of going through the motions and really trying to acquire above threshold goods which you cannot afford that are going to leave you indebted after the Matric Dance.
CG: You mentioned the after party, one often unlooked for cost, sometimes one with tragic consequences when a child has had too much to drink at the party, then attempts to drive a motorcar. The costs of an accident, post-Matric Dance can of course be horrendous.
JM: Absolutely. A lot of things happen during those nights out of excitement. I wouldn’t be surprised that some of the teenagers are experiencing a bit of alcohol influence for the first time in their lives. But the thing is it comes with the territory.
You can’t always be watching your teenagers 24/7. There are things that they will have to experience in life and make up their own decisions whether they want to continue doing them. But those are just some of the challenges that are associated with people having to go through the Matric Dance.
CG: What are the solutions? What’s your advice to hard-pressed parents? How should they resist this kind of pressure? How do they deal with it?
How parents can approach it better
JM: I think Chris, parents are missing a massive opportunity to financially educate their teenagers by planning at least two years in advance for the Matric Dance. As a parent you can sit down with your teenager while they’re in Grade 10 which is two years before then. Say: How do we plan for your Matric Dance? I give you an allowance, I give you pocket money, you also need to contribute, you need to put some money aside.
But in that two years, actually educating your teenagers that anything good in life must be planned and saved for. It’s not something that happens overnight, just like you need to plan for your retirement. Because it’s a life event. For the life events, you plan for, like your retirement or even a wedding or having to buy your first house or first car and so on. Perhaps maybe even look at other ways of generating an income and where else do we save.
This is an opportunity to educate our teenagers and it’s not to say, do away with the Matric Dance. But it’s saying do it responsibly. Use it as an opportunity to educate the teenagers, especially in our country where we’ve got high levels of indebtedness where people are living for the here and now. Where the consumerism is so hyped up and so on. This is the perfect opportunity to have that kind of talk with the teenagers.
CG: You’re listening to Old Mutual Live, the Money Coach edition, on demand, visit dogreatthings.co.za. John, do the schools do their bit? Should they be encouraging youngsters, encouraging parents to scale back their expectations?
Are schools making enough of an effort on financial education?
JM: I’m not sure if schools are playing that role. in fact, whether it’s their role or not, is another thing. I think all they’re doing is creating a platform for kids to come and celebrate. As you would imagine, they would have spent much of their lives at school, for many years. It’s an opportunity for them to celebrate those years that they’ve been at school and preparing for a new life.
Once you’re finished matric, then there are different life challenges. You need to make life decisions after that, so I don’t think it’s a bad thing. This is something that parents need to take responsibility on, to ensure that it’s well managed. That there are lessons to be learnt in planning for the Matric Dance.
CG: And there we’ll leave it. This has been another edition of Old Mutual Live Money Coach, my name is Chris Gibbons. I’ve been talking to John Manyike, Old Mutual’s Head of Financial Education. John, if anyone wants more information about financial matters, where would they go?
JM: You can follow us on Facebook which is On the Money Financial Education programme or follow us on Twitter which is OM_OnTheMoney. I’m sure you would be directed to an Old Mutual Link through our website and you can get more information about our On the Money programme.
CG: John Manyike, thanks for being with us. Remember, please feel free to get in touch anytime if you have any questions for me or for John, topics you’d like covered here on Old Mutual Live Money Coach. Just send them direct to me at firstname.lastname@example.org. I’d be delighted to hear from you. Until the next time, thank you for listening. Old Mutual Live, on mobile, on digital, on demand.