Sunel Veldtman chats to us about starting up her wealth management business and how women are different to men in terms of money management. She also shares her wisdom on wealth creation and management.
- How the stories she grew up with influenced Sunel’s own money – and the layers of thinking she’s discovering as she travels through life
- The foundational principles that Sunel’s dad taught her
- The huge dream she had for helping people with their money and how she transitioned from corporate to having her own business
- The fears she had to overcome, and the support she got to start her business
- The great lesson she learnt that we can all benefit from during the first 3 years of her business
- What she did right to serve her clients from the start
- How she got into teaching women about money
- The difference between how women manage money to men
- What happens when your husband dies or leaves you, and now you’re the one looking after the money
- How to make sure your money flows the right things
- How to start investing and manage your money
- Why she wrote her practical book Manage Your Money and Life Your Dream
- The skills you need to build a business, vs the skills you need to take it to the next level.
- What she’d tell her 20 year old self
More from Sunel
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Speaker 1: 00:00 Welcome to Working Women’s Wealth, were we discuss what it takes to build real wealth in a way normal humans can understand. Here is your host, Lisa Linfield.
Lisa Linfield: 00:09 Hello, everybody, and welcome to today’s episode of Working Women’s Wealth. I’m joined by Sunel Veldtman, and she is the most fantastic woman in terms of she runs and manages a financial advisory business, and has been a wealth manager for many years and has lots of great experience. Welcome.
Sunel Veldtman: 00:40 Thank you very much.
Lisa Linfield: 00:42 Sunel, you’ve managed money and high [inaudible 00:00:45] accounts for a very long time. How did you get into this?
Sunel Veldtman: 00:49 By chance, I think like a lot of us from our generation. I was in the investment industry for a long time, and then also in stockbroking, and that company actually offered me the opportunity to work with private individuals, as they were starting that kind of business. And so, I was with them for many years. I think it was about 15 or 16 years with a private client business.
And that’s how I got into it. First the stockbroking and then in the portfolio management, and then financial planning, and so it grew and I just got into the whole business.
Lisa Linfield: 01:20 And have you always been good with money?
Sunel Veldtman: 01:22 No. No.
Lisa Linfield: 01:22 No?
Sunel Veldtman: 01:23 No. With other people’s money. I’m very good with other people’s money, because I think I have the ability to see very clearly the issues from a distance and what needs to be put in place, and the strategy and so on, and what the underlying issues are for people. But with my own money, no. I have a terrible story with money. So …
Lisa Linfield: 01:41 And that story is?
Sunel Veldtman: 01:47 That’s also one of the reasons I wrote the book that I wrote eventually. But it’s just because what I realized about money is that you grow up with a lot of messages with regards to money, and I didn’t actually grow up with good messages around money. I grew up with messages that actually had [inaudible 00:02:02] like worry in my life, and not taking control but just worrying. So, you’d worry but not do anything about it.
And then, it also had a lot to do with my relationship with my husband, because he grew up in a house where his mom managed all of the money and right up to his dad’s death, she manages everything for the family. And in my house we were completely the opposite, because my dad managed all of the money. He was a financial advisor, actually, at one point in his life. And so, we just had the expectation that the other would do it all the time.
And then also having grown up in a very traditional home, I expected my husband to do that kind of stuff when I was young. This was a long time ago. And so, about 10 years into the marriage I realized, well, he was never going to do that because he’s a complete dreamer and it just wasn’t his thing. So, basically I made it my thing, and that’s when I started really to take control.
And that’s also when I started thinking about my next step and whether I should leave corporate at some stage, and I had to put plans in place and start saving to have an emergency fund in savings so that I could leave my corporate job. So, that’s really where it all started to happen. But even now I’m still uncovering layers of thinking that are so bad with regards to money, and so unhealthy, really. Not bad. Unhealthy.
Lisa Linfield: 03:26 And how do you deal with that, when you come up with a layer that you find?
Sunel Veldtman: 03:30 We were talking about it the other day at the office. One of the things that I find in myself recently is we’ve been on quite a strict budget. And so, I find if I can allow myself to buy a few small things instead of buying the big thing that we really need for the house, I feel less guilty about it. But it’s so useless, and why would you do that? And sometimes it’s got to do with your value, how you value yourself.
So, it’s just recognizing that behavior and then trying to figure out where it comes from, where is the root of that behavior? What belief do you have about money or yourself, or whatever, in that behavior. And then consciously dealing with it in an adult way, not like a child.
Lisa Linfield: 04:14 And it’s also very difficult because you come into marriage with two totally different sets of assumptions about money.
Sunel Veldtman: 04:21 Absolutely.
Lisa Linfield: 04:22 And you’ve both got to deal with what those assumptions are. And the challenge is, we very seldom think subconsciously about those assumptions of money. As you said, you and your husband both assumed the other one would be sorting it, and it drives so much behavior that we haven’t actually dealt with head on in the whole process. So, you said you grew up in quite a traditional household. Did your dad teach you about money, or not?
Sunel Veldtman: 04:48 Not really. There was one thing that he said to me when I had earned my first paycheck. He said to me, “It’s never the size of your paycheck that will determine how much is left at the end of the month. It’s always how much you spend.” And that’s so true. So, there were a few things like that that he taught me. And another is a very big fear of debt. So, we are very fortunate, as I said. We’ve never really gotten ourselves into a huge amount of debt because we both have that principle.
My dad was partly in corporate and partly a farmer. And I spent the first few years of my life on that farm. And some of the things that stayed with me and still is today is this whole thing about worry, because there isn’t really a lot you can do about the weather and the unpredictability of farming. And so, it’s the subconscious things that I picked up that were so unhealthy, that wasn’t really replaced by conscious technique, and discipline, and ideas, if I can call it that.
Lisa Linfield: 05:44 It’s amazing, because some people that would be exposed would say, “Well, I learned that there are things that you can’t control and you just go ahead.” Whereas for others it imbibes them with that sense of worry, because if you can’t control the weather, well, what can you do about it? Except that then that means that your income is not going to fit through that whole process. So, what made you start your own business?
Sunel Veldtman: 06:08 Firstly, I had a dream. Because I was in the business of advising clients for such a long time, I started seeing that there could be a better way of advising clients. And I learned a huge amount at the company that I was at, and I loved it. And it was a very ethical firm, but it was just … You’re still part of the product divider, so we were not sitting at the same side of the table as the client.
Lisa Linfield: 06:08 No.
Sunel Veldtman: 06:34 And I wanted to pursue that dream of providing holistic advice to clients in an environment that was friendly, and warm, and different to the normal corporate environment, and family-friendly. So, it also had to do with my own life. I wanted an environment where it was friendly to my family. So, that was really it. I wanted to pursue that dream, and that’s at the end of the day what drove me over the edge, as such.
Lisa Linfield: 07:02 So, you have this dream, but there’s a huge gap between dream and reality. And many people have dreams but making it into a reality is quite a huge challenge. What steps did you take to transition from corporate to your own business?
Sunel Veldtman: 07:21 There are so many things that you’ve got to do. In our industry you’re partly led by the requirement to register a company. So, it was partly forced on me. There were all these rules and regulations that I had to follow in order for me to be able to register a company. But also now setting yourself up in terms of your own finances and the plans that I had to make to make sure that there was enough money to carry us for long enough. I guess that’s a big thing.
And then, I always say it’s like the dream is out there and then you have to look at the big steps and then fill the little steps in between. So, you have an idea of what it should look like, and then you look at the branding, and then you see a branding agent, and you start looking at what color the paper should be and what even … And that’s the exciting part in it.
So, it’s just filling in the little steps, and they come to you. You can’t have them all thought up in advance. There are some that will come to you as you need to take that next step.
Lisa Linfield: 08:26 So, you go from the safety of a paycheck every month, a corporate environment with colleagues, people to bounce ideas off, a stream of customers that you’ve built up over 15 years. You have all of this in place, a paycheck that comes every single month. Did I mention the paycheck that comes every single month? And you take a step into having your own business. What goes through you through that period of time?
It’s easy to look at you and go, hey, you’re a wonderfully successful financial advisor. You impact and change the world in a regular basis both in terms of the clients you advise and the teaching you do. It’s easy to look at that from my position as a startup and go, “It was easy for her.” But what was it really like to transition from the one to the other?”
Sunel Veldtman: 09:12 It is frightening, there is no doubt about it. And you do have a lot of fears in your head. And as we were talking earlier about the fears that you have in your own head and the more you talk about the dream, and the kind of business that you want to create, and it’s not something that’s being done in the industry really a lot. So, people frown at you and they mirror your own fears to you. It’s really difficult when you do this.
I went to see a life coach. That really helped me to work through some of the fears, like just some of the steps I had to take. Just for someone to mirror that back to me so that I could just see what it was like. And then you just start. I had an example of that happening once before in my life. When we moved to Scotland years before that, I joined a business that was starting and I literally saw this man walk into the office with his briefcase, and put it down, and he says, “We’re starting a business.”
And I was his helper in everything at that time. And I’ve seen it before, how you just really take it from day one and you phone your first client. And the next day you phone the second client, and you make the second appointment. And you have to keep on saying, it’s just the one step, and then the next step, and then the next step, and we made a list of the 20 people we wanted to phone and go and see, and that’s what we did. And then the 20 service providers we had to sign up with.
It sort of unfolds. And I frequently say to my friends, is if I probably had to sit down and plan it all out, and did the budgets properly, and accounted for everything that eventually we had to spend, I probably wouldn’t have started the business. Because I think if you start any business you wouldn’t have started the business if you really looked at the numbers.
Lisa Linfield: 10:53 Yeah. And you’ve got to have a passion for it.
Sunel Veldtman: 10:56 Yeah. Absolutely.
Lisa Linfield: 10:57 Was there ever a time when you thought, “Oh, no. I’m going to give it up and I’m going to head back to the safety?”
Sunel Veldtman: 11:02 No. No. Never. No.
Lisa Linfield: 11:05 That’s wonderful. That really is fantastic. So, if you were to do it again and start right from the beginning, what would you do differently?
Sunel Veldtman: 11:15 I was hoping you wouldn’t ask that. Actually, you know what? I think I would look after myself better. Because about three years into the start of the business I had burnout, because it takes an enormous amount out of you to just keep going. And the thing that I think starting a business requires is resilience. It’s that resilience, especially if you are not an actual salesperson.
And in corporate it’s a big brand, and even if you were a part of building that brand and you were a big building block in it, it’s not you. So, when you start your own business it comes down to you, and it takes an enormous amount of energy out of you. And so, I was almost working out of my comfort zone for such a long time at such a high pace, with such a huge requirement on my energy. And then you have normal stuff, like your kids are sick, and you’ve got three kids at school and stuff like that.
And I had a complete burnout, which meant that I had no energy or relief from my business. I was sick all the time, I was depressed, it probably pushed me to menopause earlier than I would have gone. So, I had burnout and menopause hitting at the same time-
Lisa Linfield: 12:24 At the same time.
Sunel Veldtman: 12:27 … and having a business. So, if I had to do it again I …You know, I wish someone had said to me, “Look out for yourself because you’re going to run into problems if you don’t.”
Lisa Linfield: 12:35 And would that be just taking more time off? Or …
Sunel Veldtman: 12:38 I think so. And also looking after your health. I was so fortunate that at that stage I had a few health professionals around me who were looking for holistically why it happened. So, they didn’t just give me antidepressants or … But it was actually looking for the reason behind it all and we could sort it out. Women don’t speak about this, the impact of the health challenges on the businesses and their families.
Lisa Linfield: 13:05 Yeah. And I think the challenge is that the rest of your life doesn’t go away.
Sunel Veldtman: 13:09 No.
Lisa Linfield: 13:10 The children are still there, all of that stuff, and you have to actually manage this as an end, not an all. I think that’s fantastic advice because I know that myself as a startup, it’s six days, six nights, kind of … And it really is a lot of hard work to get it going. And I think … One of the things I’ve mentioned before is, I was at a leadership conference when I was at corporate and one of the guys, he wrote … We had to write our leadership beliefs, and he wrote, “Your career is a marathon and not a sprint.”
And I think the challenge is there is so much you sprint against in the beginning, which is, these expenses are going up and the revenue hasn’t yet started flowing at the same rate as the expenses. And there is definitely a financial sense of urgency to try and get yourself on an even keel, and you still have the expenses of your family to support and other things. So, you put a huge amount of pressure on yourself to balance all of that at the same time.
What was one of the things that you did right? What are one of the things that you focused on that you look back and you say, “I’m really glad I set that up right from the beginning.”
Sunel Veldtman: 14:14 So, the core of our business, one of the cornerstones of our belief, is in charging clients ongoing fees rather than upfront fees. It’s a much easier business to build if you can earn commissions right upfront. And that’s why I think it is so much more difficult to build businesses now than it was in the past. For me that was such a core belief that I’m so grateful that we did that right from the start.
That’s how we wanted to build a business, was to put ourselves on the same side of the table as our clients, so that we could look them in the eye and actually give them really honest advice. That’s what carries you through the long term. It’s your brand, it’s what people think of you. Right from the start I wanted the build a business that you could leave a legacy.
So, that’s the thing. It’s to have the end game in mind and start the business that way, and not start with what we can do today and how are we going to make it to work today, but have the picture of what you want it to look like in five years, or 10 years, or 20 years, and then do the right things right from the start.
Lisa Linfield: 15:16 That’s fantastic. And really at that stage almost revolutionary. It’s much more common now not to do a lot of that stuff because it’s the way that things are changing. But it is far easier to start a business if you can get that thing out of alignment, to get the money upfront rather than on an ongoing [inaudible 00:15:36]. But as you say, doing what’s right for the client is the longterm goal because you’ll have longer term relationships with them.
So, you’ve always championed women, even from before you started your own business. How did you get into that?
Sunel Veldtman: 15:52 So, I think it’s actually a funny story because at VJM we had, I think, something like 80% of our clients were male. So, I was very used to dealing with very powerful men in business, mostly. So, they were mostly people in corporate. So, the woman didn’t actually come very naturally to me. But one of my clients actually asked me to do a workshop for women. He said, “Why don’t you teach women about money?” Because he was a bit irritated with his wife.
And it sort of started to grow on me because I could see that mostly I saw these men on their own and their wives weren’t even involved. And then we had probably a few instances of the husbands passing away and it’s actually chaos, so it just grew on me. And so, I just developed this workshop and we offered it as one of our social responsibility events at our company, and it was very successful. There was such a huge demand for it.
And through offering the workshops I learned so much about women and money, so that I became so fascinated by women and how we deal with our money, and just everything to do with those topics. So, I had started to do a lot of research into it, and so my workshops I think became richer and richer in terms of material and so on. And that’s really how it grew. It just … When I just started it I just became fascinated with the topic.
Lisa Linfield: 17:18 And do women manage money differently to men?
Sunel Veldtman: 17:22 Yes. And whether it is because of the way that we were socialized, or nurtured, or part of our nature … There’s a big debate about it. For example, people always say women are more risk-averse than men are. So, there’s a big debate of whether that’s physiologically in our brains, there’s something that dictate that, or whether we were socialized in that way. But it doesn’t really matter. The end result is the same, but we do see those behaviors.
They’re different. Women are generally more risk-averse which is why we pay lower premiums for our car insurance. And then some of the other things that are emerging in research and that I’ve seen personally as well, is that women identify with what money can do for them. What it can do for them in their personal life, for their family, for their children’s education, for the extended family.
And women are generally also giving. So, they would give money and provide for the extended family. So, that’s a very big difference. Whereas men, I find, they will chase money as a goal on its own, so, a status symbol on its own, or a number, or so on. I think that’s one of the biggest differences. And then, when you start dealing with women, of course, the language that we speak in the industry it doesn’t resonate at all with a woman.
It’s got nothing to do with whether women understand it or not, we’ve got to dumb it down or anything like that. Nothing to do with that at all. It’s just that we don’t relate to it. It’s, I guess, still mostly written by men. So, once you deal with women you find that they relate better to a different kind of way of speaking about money.
Lisa Linfield: 18:52 Yeah. And over time … You mentioned that when you started off 80% of your clients were men. Has that changed? Are women starting to raise up and earn more, and want to invest more? Or is it still very much male-dominated from an earnings and an investing perspective?
Sunel Veldtman: 19:09 So, that’s changing very, very fast. One of my clients has seen an article this morning that was in The Economist exactly about this area. That it’s the fastest growing area of wealth in the world, is the area we … Women are actually in control of the wealth. And also in our business now it’s changed completely. If we look at our stats now, probably 80% of the wealth that we manage are managed by the woman.
So, They’re either the main breadwinner, or the decision-maker, or they’ve inherited the money, or they are driving the proceeds. We are also finding that even for couples, that women bring the couple to the table because they are interested in the financial planning process, more than they are interested in how the money will perform. We can do both very well, but that’s where we’re very strong at.
Lisa Linfield: 19:58 So, you’re in a position whereby you’re seeing the sector of women that are actively reaching out to be engaged in their money. Do you think that’s almost a [inaudible 00:20:08] or do you think in general women are getting better at taking part more in family finances?
Sunel Veldtman: 20:16 It’s definitely changing, but it’s also a generational thing. So, you still find that in your older generations, and women of kind of 50s and above are less involved in the money and will have left it more-
Lisa Linfield: 20:29 To the husband?
Sunel Veldtman: 20:30 … to the husband. But then you see almost a complete opposite from the younger generations. Absolutely. That they are fiercely independent with money and driving their own financial decisions, almost to the extent that it’s to the detriment of their relationships.
Lisa Linfield: 20:46 Yeah. What happens when a woman of the older generation, who hasn’t partaken in money decisions, what happens when she’s suddenly left to manage the money? Do they step up to the plate, or is there almost a need to absorb it to the financial advisor?
Sunel Veldtman: 21:05 You know, it varies. You do get women who absolutely step up to the plate, and it’s part of what I believe and what we do, is we want to take that woman on a journey to say, “This is your money. You need to understand absolutely what it’s about, and you need to be educated to make the right decisions, not just leave it to us.” And it’s wonderful to see that journey, because often that journey starts with a great trauma, a sudden death of a husband or a divorce.
And so, it’s really … That’s a fantastic journey to go on with a woman to see how, when she applies her mind and she realizes the power that’s within her, they become fantastic money managers. And there’s lots of research about that, that women are actually better at managing now than men now, even professional women, investment managers. So, that’s the kind of journey. In some cases women just want to leave it all because it’s too traumatic, but in most cases we find that-
Lisa Linfield: 22:01 They step up.
Sunel Veldtman: 22:02 … they step up and they’re eager to learn the language of the industry, and the terms, and the nitty-gritty of the investments and their finances.
Lisa Linfield: 22:10 Yeah. And I think I’d love to be able to protect every woman who’s gone through the trauma of losing a husband, is from vultures who just want to grab the money and run. It’s wonderful that you have a nurturing environment, that you want to nurture them into being empowered to look after it, because this is a fantastic industry and a huge ability to make huge change, but there are also a lot of people that just want to sell you whatever the latest product is.
And it’s a very vulnerable moment for women, and it’s fantastic that you have that ability to pull them in, and support and nurture them through this process. Because it must be terrifying if you’ve never managed the money, if you don’t know where the investments are or how it works, to then have to step up to the plate and run all of this, having just lost your life partner, this person who has been the other half of you for 40, 50 years and managed to look after you.
And now your love and your partner and everything is gone, and goodness, now you’ve got to take care of all the cash and [inaudible 00:23:08] that comes when you’ve lost someone.
Sunel Veldtman: 23:09 Yeah. There is a stat. I don’t know if it’s true, but they say that 70% of women fire the husband’s financial advisor after the husband’s death. That’s quite interesting, because I think a lot of women in that position, it’s the first time that they are able to make those kind of decisions. I’m talking about the older generations, where it was just not the done thing. It wasn’t expected of them to be involved in those decisions.
Yes, and then it makes them very vulnerable because then they want to make a change and then they could so easily make the change to the wrong kind of person. But what we do find is that there is a sense in the industry, this kind of paternalistic thing, that, “We’ll just make all the decisions for you. Don’t, you know, break your pretty head over it.” Which is exactly what we obviously are not trying to do.
Lisa Linfield: 24:02 Absolutely. And it’s wonderful that 70% of the women have the courage to actually say, “This doesn’t work for me. My pretty little head can be applied somewhere else, where someone is prepared to partner with me, not talk down to me.” And it is a very paternalistic industry. I was at an industry conference last week, and out of 30 speakers two were women. And yet, my husband is a CFA and he was last year at a CFA conference for real asset managers and all of that stuff, and every speaker was a woman.
So, it’s not because there aren’t female speakers out there. It just happens to be a paternalistic industry. So, it’s fantastic that women are saying, “Hey, you know what? Actually I can do this by myself. Thanks for playing, but no, thanks.” So, many of us come back from a nice holiday at the beach, and we are all ready, we’re going to have a new diet, we’re going to be healthy this year. Everything is going to be perfect and we’re going to save more money for our retirement.
And we’re going to not spend all this money on these funny things, and we’re going to really be diligent, and we’re going to build up a little nest egg.” And then two months down the line, “Ohhh, I don’t know. Maybe we don’t need to save that much.” But like our debt, maybe it doesn’t … Why don’t people stick to their resolutions of saving more money?
Sunel Veldtman: 25:16 It’s hard. It’s very hard. It’s like anything. If you are trying to change habits it’s a really hard thing. There are a lot of signs around it now, how you change habits. And if you just had the wrong habits or lazy habits in the past it’s really difficult. But I always talk about … You know, where I grew up on the farm the gardener used to water the vegetable garden. We had these little … In Afrikaans you call them [Foreign language 00:25:42].
Lisa Linfield: 25:41 Troughs?
Sunel Veldtman: 25:43 Yeah. Troughs. That’s right. And the water would go along, go along, and at some stage the gardener would decide, “Okay, this space has not had enough water,” and then he would put the little sluice gate in and then the water would flow in a different direction.
And I always use that picture for people, to think about where their money is flowing. Because if you go and look at your bank statement and actually analyze where your money is flowing, it is quite shocking sometimes to see that, because it’s not where we really want that money to flow if we don’t put the gates in place. And so, we’ve got to make sure that the money we want to flow in certain directions should be out of our bank accounts before we can even start spending.
They should be somewhere else. They should be already saved in a savings vehicle, already in the different areas. We need to understand how we work as individuals really to change that behavior. And then also, once again, you need to have the picture of where you want the money to flow. What are the things that really make you happy? What are the things that you really value? So, in our home at the moment we’re spending an enormous amount of money to send our children to the private school.
If we look at that as a percentage of our overall budget, it’s significant, but it’s a conscious decision. And so, we obviously have to save on very many other things, and so on. So, spending time with our family is important, and they’re all in Cape Town, so we spend lots of money driving back and forth to Cape Town. So, you have to find out what are the things that really make you happy, and let the money go that way because money will just flow.
And there are so many other voices. The media, and social media, and everyone will tell you to spend your money on things, and make it very easy for you to spend your money on things that are not the things that will make you happy.
Lisa Linfield: 27:37 Yeah. Your dad saying that the most important thing is not how much you earn but how much you spend. I was doing some philanthropy work with domestic helpers, and one of the women was saying that if she just earned more then it would be fine. And the reality is, it’s not if we just earn more money. My grandmother used to say, “The rich person is a person who’s got one rand left at the end of the month, who is in positive and not negative.”
And it is about where you have your expenses, because as you say, it will just find a place to flow. We all, as we go through life, youngsters, and then we get a big step up in our position and we earn more money, it’s amazing. It just flows off. It doesn’t matter how much more you earn. It just finds places to flow unless you consciously manage that. And for people who have … They’ve got to save. They say, “Okay. I need to save money but I have no idea how to start investing or what to do. What would you say?”
Sunel Veldtman: 28:31 So, find a good financial planner. Really, do. And they are people who work with different levels of incomes, different levels of wealth, different kinds of people. But really that would be my advice because that’s what we do. It’s what we believe so strongly in. And also, educate yourself. There are so many amazing tools these days that are unbiased educational tools, like your venture. It’s wonderful what you’re doing, and there are a few others out there.
So, educate yourself before even going, so that you can ask the right questions, to find the right person for you to help you take the next step.
Lisa Linfield: 29:12 Yeah. It is. It’s a really shocking thing. I was reading a stat that said people spend three hours a year on their finances. So, then you go, well, how do you expect to have enough to retire? How do you expect to have enough to take that wonderful holiday? How do you expect to have enough if you’re spending so little time on your finances, if you have no idea where it’s all flowing to?
It amazes me how often I’ll say to someone, “Can you give me the major categories of spend?” And they go through their account for the first time, and then they go, “I didn’t know I spend so much money on these things.” It was like, you can’t have the ability to be able to really grow anything. It doesn’t matter whether it’s finances, whether it’s a business, if you’re not spending enough time trying to understand it, or learn about it, or build it.
Sunel Veldtman: 29:54 Mm-hmm (affirmative). The whole concept of budgeting is such a boring thing. People don’t want to do it, they don’t want to hear about it. But the longer I’m actually in financial planning, the more I believe in the tools of a budget and a balance sheet. Once you know where your money is going, what’s coming in and what’s going out, and basically what you have and what you owe. And they are such powerful tools. Even with our wealthiest clients we use those tools every year to see where the money is flowing, what they need.
They’re the cornerstone of our financial plans, and I think if people just spend time on those things it’s a start. And then you can see how much you have to save, or how much you can gather to save so that you can have an emergency fund, and then start looking at your retirement and your other dreams and so on. And there are so many tools that can help you do it easily.
Just yesterday I was talking to someone and we were having this conversation. In South Africa there’s [inaudible 00:30:49] Statement, which can pull in your statements, it’s nice, pretty graphs, and colors. I said to her, “If we are all habitual and you just take one specific item at your local grocery store, and the minute you categorize that to be groceries, or even if it’s categorized you don’t have to repeat that thing. Once you’ve set it up it takes five minutes a month. And you can see in a pretty picture in front of you that it’s happening.
In America and England there’s … There are tools everywhere to help you make this a lot easier. All of them require a little bit of investment time upfront, but thereafter it’s there. It’s easier for you to manage. The friend I was talking to thought that she had to print it out and then manually write where everything was going. And I was like, “No, no. I wouldn’t do that.”
Lisa Linfield: 31:33 No.
Sunel Veldtman: 31:34 No, there are amazing tools now, and all the banks give you the facility to download your statements at least into an Excel spreadsheet. So, it’s a starter.
Lisa Linfield: 31:45 Absolutely. So, you mentioned that you’ve written a book. Your book is, “Manage Your Money, Live Your Dreams.” Why did you write a book?
Sunel Veldtman: 31:54 The book is for women, on money, but it’s also my own story, a lot of what I was telling you. How I realized that even though I was advising all these people I had very little control over my own money and I didn’t really have an idea of where I wanted to go with my life. Many people ask me exactly the question you’ve just asked me. “Where can I find more information?” “What are the basic steps?” “Where can I read about this?”
And then, from the workshop material I started thinking about writing a book, and then someone actually asked me if I didn’t want to publish on this topic for them. So, that’s basically how it came about. It was my story and some of my own learnings that I put in. And especially in the “Living Your Dreams” part is how I really woke up to my own dreams and what I wanted to do with my life, and how I needed to use my money as a tool to do that.
And then, the “Manage Your Money” bit is the hard questions of, well, what is a savings account, what is a retirement account? It talks about marital contracts, about wills, and all sorts of things like that.
Lisa Linfield: 33:01 And if you take this book, does it take you through from how you have your dreams, and how you break those down and into the money that you need?
Sunel Veldtman: 33:11 Yes. It’s very practical. It’s a workbook, especially the first part. But even in the second part there’s bits that you can apply to your own money. So, it becomes your own story.
Lisa Linfield: 33:22 And obviously you’ve had this dream of setting up your own business, and now it’s a fantastically successful and strong business. Have you found that there’s almost a second cove of a dream that you reach or that you’re coming through?
Sunel Veldtman: 33:36 Yes. And it’s very funny because we’re exactly at that point now. We’re sort of saying, “Well, what’s next?” And I think the first step was just to create a solid business that has a solid foundation, and we very much do. We have our values, and our culture, and our clients, and everything is in place right now. But now for me the challenge is this bit about legacy, about how do I leave a legacy? How do I leave this business one day when I want to retire as a standalone, apart from Sunel Veldtman, and a business that will continue to service our clients and their children in generations to come.
And so, that’s my next challenge in terms of my business. And then I have so many more dreams that I have. If you read my book and if you talk to me long enough you’ll hear, one of the dreams that I have is I’ve always wanted to go back to the farm, or a farm, and I want to farm with lavender.
Lisa Linfield: 34:40 Why lavender?
Sunel Veldtman: 34:41 Just because it’s beautiful. So, those are longterm dreams and now the business has to start funding my next level of dreams for me. So, we’re very much the …
Lisa Linfield: 34:53 And do you think the skill set that it takes to build a business to stability are the same set of skills from stability to legacy?
Sunel Veldtman: 35:01 That’s a very hard question for me to answer. I think you need different skills, additional skills as such. And I ask myself over and over whether I am actually the right person to take the business to that next level. And I think that question will be answered in some way in the future, but even so, I just surround myself with people who are able to take the business to the next level, and having the different skills in the business.
I love doing that because I love seeing people come to life and finding their own passion in what they’re good at and then succeeding in that, and that’s all building into the business.
Lisa Linfield: 35:39 Because it is. The startup skills requires a lot of innovation, a lot of thinking on your feet. It’s a lot of improvisation, etc., whereas the scaling, the legacy side, the ability to, as you say, it’s kind of lost without you, requires a lot more process orientation, a lot of standardization. It’s the scale element of how do you scale this whole thing without you core to the brand. And it’s a hard challenge for small-business owners.
Sunel Veldtman: 36:03 Yeah. It is a very hard challenge. It’s that mindset of creating a sustainable business. But I think that I’m almost better at that than I was at the startup phase. I don’t consider myself an entrepreneur. I just did something that I knew and went to do it in a different place in a better way, I guess. I don’t know whether you get typical entrepreneurs, and I guess maybe lots of entrepreneurs feel that way.
Lisa Linfield: 36:30 My fourth episode was the difference between what is an entrepreneur and what is a small-business owner.
Sunel Veldtman: 36:37 Yes.
Lisa Linfield: 36:38 [crosstalk 00:36:38] that I think entrepreneurs have a sense of identity that they are continuously starting up new businesses, whereas business owners have in a sense that doing what they want to do just happens a small business or that they’re growing and scaling a business. Also, I never think of myself as an entrepreneur. It’s not a part of my identity that I would even have said, you know, “One day I’m going to be an entrepreneur.” It’s more an evolution, a natural evolution of life that gets you to that stage.
If you’re looking at your 20-year-old self, the youngster full of hopes, and dreams, and passions, what would you tell her?
Sunel Veldtman: 37:16 I would tell her to value herself more that I did when I was 20, and also to expect that of others around her.
Lisa Linfield: 37:26 To value her.
Sunel Veldtman: 37:27 To value her. Yeah.
Lisa Linfield: 37:28 And why do you think in general we don’t value ourselves?
Sunel Veldtman: 37:33 I think as women we almost underrate ourselves all the time. And maybe if I think about myself at that age, it was probably my upbringing, where I found myself in a very conservative Afrikaans paternalistic environment where women didn’t really have a lot of value. And not that I’m saying that of my own home, but you just, yeah …
Lisa Linfield: 38:01 You absorb it through the culture.
Sunel Veldtman: 38:03 Yeah. You absorb it. And certain kinds of behaviors was just okay towards women, which when I look back now I’m thinking, well, why did we even tolerate that? Why did we even think that it was okay?
Lisa Linfield: 38:16 I think one of the things is that if you allow yourself not to be treated with value people will do it. It’s almost like you have to hold those boundaries and those standards so that we don’t treat others like that, anybody else like that.
Sunel Veldtman: 38:32 Absolutely. If you don’t value yourself and set a standard for other people to treat you, then they won’t actually value you and they won’t treat you in that way. And you don’t have to be nasty about it or upset anyone. You just have to be quite firm about and have very firm boundaries about what kind of behaviors are occurring around you.
Lisa Linfield: 38:53 Have you ever fired a client because they haven’t treated you or your staff with respect?
Sunel Veldtman: 38:59 I’ve had to talk to clients about it, and it’s sometimes quite hard. Yeah. And I have had to say to a client, that, “If you don’t adhere to the values that we have in our company that we don’t think we can continue to service you.” They left us, but I didn’t walk in and say, “We can’t do this anymore.”
Lisa Linfield: 39:20 I learned that very much through the financial crisis. It’s that the challenge with dealing with people’s money is that you deal with the most lowest, the lowest hierarchy of [crosstalk 00:39:30]. You deal with security and stability, because through money you provide security and stability for yourself and your family. And at that particular point I was in a bank, and people would abuse the customer-facing staff, as if the customer-facing staff had stolen their money.
The fact that the stock market had crashed, it wasn’t the staff. They would say, “Well, last month I had more money than I have this month. Who’s stolen it?” And I learned from a fabulous man, who at that time was gracious to be able to say, “If you’d be as nasty to our staff, we would prefer that you take your business somewhere else.” Also, never rude, never anything like that. As a young person, it was the first time … We always get told, “The customer is king, and our customers should always be the center of our business, but at the same token so should decency and respect.”
It was a really liberating thing that I have always carried with me. It’s that if a person’s values don’t match yours or your company’s, then it’s okay to say, “Hey, you know, I’m sure there’s a different company that will match you better.” Because at the end of the day, even as human beings we don’t all like each other. So, it’s okay because that’s your choice to be with a company that is fine with that behavior.
But it is very hard when you deal with people’s money that when things go bad people can take it off on your staff. Very hard. And so, you’re a person admired by many. Who do you admire?
Sunel Veldtman: 41:03 I don’t really have a politician, or a famous person, or anyone like that. I think the stories of ordinary women are so amazing. So, my mom, because she was always and still is, the epitome of love. She’s such a loving person and now that I have two teenage daughters I don’t know how she even managed with me. And she never, ever, ever, raised her voice at me. Never. I was one of five. And I admire my sister for her tenacity, and positivity, and my friends for whatever each one of them brings something into life.
And every person, every woman, brings something of value that we can admire. I like to find the thing in every person that makes that person tick, and I admire that.
Lisa Linfield: 41:51 It is a fabulous privilege as a financial advisor, to hear the stories of the people around us, to hear the lives of the people around us. And when you teach the stories that they come with, because there are amazing people in our everyday life.
Sunel Veldtman: 42:08 I think one of the biggest mistakes of our industry is that we position ourselves as experts to people who have made more money than we have in most cases. So, there are very few financial advisors who are wealthier than their clients. So, there’s a greater amount of freedom that comes with … When you realize that it’s okay to listen and actually learn from your clients, and even ask them what are their opinions, what are their thoughts, and which way would they go? Or give them the tools to make the decisions by themselves because in a lot of cases they are in a better position to make the decisions than we are.
Lisa Linfield: 42:49 Absolutely. And I meet my parents on Sunday for coffee with the girls, and we were laughing. One of the children was buttering her scone in the air and I said, “Amy, you need to put the scone down on the thing and butter it on the table.” And the kids ran off and I turned to my parents and I said, “I have a whole new respect for you and the amount of times you taught manners.”
I said, “I know that every single time I rolled my eyeballs and probably said something nasty in my head about the 44th reprimand of where my knife and fork should be, or any of the ‘chew with your mouth closed,’ or any of that.” I said, “Now that I’m a parent I just think you are fantastic.” And I always say, I think it’s a wonderful privilege of the circle of life to have your parents around to be able to say, ” As you go through with our children how, at each phase …”
I think my mother is just right up there. Archangel Gabriel, next to is my mom, because … And I think to myself, “Goodness, how did she raise me?” When you’re a child you think the world revolves around you. And as you become an adult you think, my mother went through all of this. My mother sat with my baby when I was in hospital. My mother sat with me when I was sick. My mother cut all those pieces of wrapping paper, and plastic, and did all my books.
Sunel Veldtman: 43:58 All the books. Yeah.
Lisa Linfield: 43:59 Absolutely. Like, all these things you took so for granted, that when you’re a mother you’re like, “Oh, she’s a saint. How did she do all this?” It’s fantastic. So, you have a business that has teaching programs, that manages money. How would listeners get a hold of your book, learn more about you?
Sunel Veldtman: 44:18 So, our website is, www.foundationsa.com. Our business is Foundation Family Wealth, so they can just search for us. All of the information is on there about all our materials, and all our courses, and everything like that. The book is no longer in print. I have a few copies in my office. So, if you go online and you contact us, then you can still get your hands on a few copies of the book.
Lisa Linfield: 44:47 That wonderful useful tool-
Sunel Veldtman: 44:49 Yes.
Lisa Linfield: 44:50 … that definitely everybody out there should get, I think. That’s wonderful.
Sunel Veldtman: 44:54 [crosstalk 00:44:54].
Lisa Linfield: 44:54 Thank you so much for spending the time with us, and thank you for all that you do to teach more women about money.
Sunel Veldtman: 45:00 Thanks very much. It was fun being here.
Lisa Linfield: 45:03 That was Sunel Veldtman. Thank you, everybody, for listening to Working Women’s Wealth, and I hope that you will support it by both rating and reviewing our podcasts. That will help it to rank higher so we can educate more people about money. Take care and have a great week.