No money to fool around after matric!

Festivity prospects for matrics of 30 years ago were confined to a matric dance, beers in the December holidays followed by registration at university or the defence force early the next year.

A lot has been added. Balloon week festivities, the Plett Rage, the Bathurst Braai, New Year Rave etc. It all makes a welcome contribution to sin tax collection.

After New Year there is a new frivolity. A gap year. A time to wander around the world at the expense of mom and dad, “finding yourself”.

The gap year originated in the United Kingdom where for some quaint reason a gap exists between attaining A levels and entry to university in September. So the privileged few were sent to the colonies to do something useful, or even charitable. Hence the famous videos of Prince William mucking out the loos in Chile. But it only lasted 10 weeks.

Many of today’s gap year plans are not much more than a full year of drifting.

My experience is that many gap-year students simply lose the discipline to study and struggle to regain it later.

Considering South Africa’s 25% unemployment rate alternative career prospects are grim.

The challenge most families are facing is that the parents were born Baby Boomers of Generation X. They will be the first generations to retire without guaranteed pensions. And post the financial crisis of 2008/09 they probably will not have the time needed to build a private retirement portfolio.

If the tax base can be found, South Africa may get National Health Insurance within the next 10 years. But increased social security for pensioners remain a pipe dream.

If we are honest, few parents have the money to finance a gap year post matric followed by three to five years at university. And repayment of student loans will be a mountain to climb later.

So perhaps we should go back to Bill Cosby’s famous rave of “Go” to the army, go to university or go get a job. But the operative word is “Go”.

Or quote me, out of 52-million South Africans, 14-million are unemployed. Another 16-million are on social security, and you don’t qualify if you are between 19 and 65. There just isn’t time or money to fool around after matric!

Originally published in the Sunday Times: Money & Careers Tax Talk column.

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