Always read the fine print

Paying attention to the terms and conditions of financial products is crucial for the success of your stokvel

Let's recognise the power of the age-old African community savings mechanism: the stokvel. Stokvels have been the savings "engine room" for South African communities through apartheid and into democracy, and they remain very effective today, even within the context of the country’s troubling poverty.

R44-billion is saved by 820 000 stokvels in South Africa each year, and more than 11-million South Africans are currently members of stokvels. In addition, according to the National Stokvel Association of South Africa, our "stokvel market is worth more than some of South Africa’s largest businesses".

The vibrancy of stokvels is one of the reasons why most of the major financial brands have launched specific accounts and services to meet their needs. Although the stokvel has traditionally been a cash-based community savings tool, today a whopping 41% are banked and use, at the very least, a transactional account.

R44-billion is saved by 820 000 stokvels in South Africa each year, and more than 11-million South Africans are currently members of stokvels.

"There are a lot of money management options for stokvel leaders to consider," says Nkazi Sokhulu, co-founder and CEO at South Africa’s pioneering Credit Life Insurance brand, Yalu. "These range from opportunities to take advantage of the better interest rates paid by investment accounts to shopping discounts offered by bulk buying. There’s no question that with smart decision-making the group’s money can be made to work harder, but for this to be true there has to be a careful analysis of costs versus rewards."

Sokhulu emphasises the importance of examining the fine print of any financial product for additional costs, including hidden monthly membership charges, along with additional line items buried in obscure terms and conditions text.

"This is the golden rule for all financial products," he says. "You can win or lose a lot in the fine print – and if you have never even read this text or understood it, there’s a good chance your collective could be losing money."

Sokhulu explains that individual stokvel members might also be able to put away more money than they think. The key again lies in understanding fine print of financial products such as Credit Life Insurance, which members most likely pay for on their credit facilities. 

Yalu’s name has become synonymous with Credit Life Insurance, the least understood form of long-term insurance in the South African market. Credit Life Insurance covers borrowers’ debt in the case of retrenchment, disability or death. This type of insurance is sometimes mandatory and is generally offered by the same financial institution offering the loan. The premiums charged for such policies can vary, and as a result a lot of consumers find themselves unwittingly paying the maximum possible premium every month − creating room for savings if they were to choose a different provider.

"As always, information is crucial," explains Sokhulu. "Because many consumers aren’t aware of the details of their Credit Life Insurance policies, they’re losing out on potential savings every month, and this money could contribute significantly to their overall savings efforts. Once people understand this, they are more likely to take the simple steps they need to in order to reduce their monthly commitments.”

The easiest step is to visit yalu.co.za/calculator, which offers a seamless online take-up process that allows consumers to consolidate their different Credit Life Insurance policies and save considerably on monthly payments in the process. Users provide a few basic details and are then presented with a list of their different credit facilities, along with estimated monthly savings if they choose to switch their Credit Life Insurance to Yalu. A few more clicks and a process to cancel the existing policy is kick-started, with Yalu taking care of all the paperwork and administration.

"As most stokvel members are already aware, there are only two ways to improve your financial situation: spend less, or save more," concludes Sokhulu. "In both areas, paying attention to all the details of financial products and services can have a big impact on the individual, and therefore the group. If as a broad South African society, we improve this skill, our stokvel heritage will grow stronger than it already is."

About Yalu:

The name “Yalu” is short for the Zulu term isiyalu - the source of a river.  Yalu was born out of a passion to nourish and bring life to the world of credit life insurance. Our goal of delivering true value for money is evident in the transparency of our products, the simplicity of our process and the fairness of our pricing.  Simply put, we believe in doing right by our customers. By making credit life insurance easy to understand, ensuring that you pay what is fair and rewarding you when you settle your loan, we are changing the face of credit life insurance for your benefit. The Yalu Credit Life Insurance Plan is underwritten by Old Mutual Alternative Risk Transfer Limited, a member of the Old Mutual Limited group.