What to do with the fear of the future?

-By Sunél Veldtman


I have never really been gripped by fear.  Until recently. Donald Trump and Brexit; the potential of Marie le Pen; and the rise of the right and the step backwards of Putin has gripped my heart with fear. Locally, there is much to be fearful about. President Zuma is going nowhere. Instead, he is massing an army of supporters to divert attention from his allowance of ‘state capture’ by referring to the influence of the West and the hold of white capitalists on society. It sounds like Robert Mugabe. Even more frightening is the prospect of Julius Malema being our own version of Trump.

What is scary is the ability of politicians to build campaigns on lies. ‘Post-truth’ is the word of the year according to the Oxford Dictionary. Emerging research shows that there are whole groups of social media accounts, real and fake, manipulating public opinion to believe lies. Telling people that they are worse off than they actually are, and that there are easy policy changes that will improve their welfare significantly, is the order of the day.

Of course, there are reasons why people feel more discontent. One of them is inequality – the wealthy have benefited more than the masses from capitalism. People look around and see how the wealthy are living and they are angry.

There is clearly a wave of discontent gripping the world. It has the potential to change the world as we know it. It is an era of rage. And there are unstable and dishonest politicans at the helm of major nations. We have reason to fear.

But how do we respond?

I met a man last week, Philippe, who told me that, he decided very early on in life, that he was going to be financially free. He never wanted to be stuck in a situation because of a lack of money. He saved more than half his salary and had three years’ of income in his bank account by the age of 30.

I asked him what made him do it. His answer surprised us both. “I had no fear.”

In other words, he believed in his own ability to craft his future.

At a time like this, the financial industry can tell you that you will be ok based on past experience and complicated models. They have no choice. They do not know the future any better than you do. Following strategies that have worked in the past is not a bad option if you don’t know what will work in the future.

In fact, history tells us that optimism pays more than pessimism in the long-run.

There is one thing that you and I can do differently. We can decide to silence fear.

We can decide like Philippe, to carve out our own destiny by controlling our own behaviour and believing in our own abilities. This is a time to save, not spend. This is a time to build wealth, not flaunt it. This is a time to live lightly.

Stop fear.

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