Picture: ISTOCK
Picture: ISTOCK

Next week, I'm taking a day off to look after my toddler while his carer attends to a personal matter. I'm using the time to see my financial adviser, with toddler in tow. I expect it will be hairy, but such is life when you're a single mom.

I'm not alone. Half of all working metropolitan mothers in South Africa are single parents, according to the latest Old Mutual Savings & Investment Monitor. Only 16% of them receive regular "contributions" from the fathers of their children, the survey found.

It riles me. As does the fact that South African women earn 25% less, on average, than their male counterparts. We know that women live longer and carry a heavier burden when it comes to saving for retirement. We interrupt our working lives to have children, and in doing so upset any saving plans.

And many South African women (and men) carry the added burden of what is known as "black tax" - paid by black professionals to their families in return for the family's investment in them, or to help educate siblings and cousins, or to support unemployed relatives.

Of course, black South Africans are not the only ones supporting extended family members: Old Mutual says 28% of working people in cities are supporting ageing parents as well as our own offspring. The biggest percentage of those in the so-called "sandwich generation" have a household income of R6 000 to R14 000 a month.

This week, at a women's event titled "Invest In Self", a journalist asked financial advisers from Liberty, our hosts, how black millennials could hope to balance black tax and the call to "invest in self". The question gave rise to heated discussions. It brought to mind a column I read recently by a young black professional who told how she pleaded poverty whenever she visited home and even hid from her family that she had bought a car lest they make financial demands on her.

One hack suggested that those expected to pay black tax should use their financial advisers as "human shields". "Get your adviser to explain to the family that you can't afford to carry everyone because you have expenses of your own, including your need to save for emergencies and for your future. Throw him under the bus," she suggested to shrills of laughter.

Nice idea, except that none of the millennials there had a financial adviser. "I wouldn't know how to find one, or what I should look for in a financial adviser," said one. Many of her friends had asked each other for referrals and had ended up with a friend's dad's adviser, and when they needed anything they just e-mailed him, she said.

To my left sat an older woman, also a single mom, who said she had just bought herself a Porsche (obviously not a journalist), was debt free and had a lump sum to invest, but had been through three advisers and was disillusioned to discover they were all product floggers.

Most of the women present hadn't heard of the Certified Financial Planner designation, the highest qualification a financial adviser can attain, and few appreciated the difference between a tied agent and an independent adviser. But this was less of a talking point than the fact that old white men dominate the industry and women want to be advised by women who really "get" them.

It's encouraging that 30% of all CFP designations in South Africa are held by women and more women are entering the profession. It'sgood that the Women's Day conversation has progressed from "a man is not a financial plan" and "without a plan, you're more likely to fall for a scam" to "the value of advice". But advice is only valuable when it is from someone who is qualified and puts your interests ahead of their own.

My adviser is a CFP and he's independent. (Yes, he is a he, but he is good.) He doesn't know that he has an appointment with a two-year-old on Tuesday. It has been arranged with his para-planner (who herself is on her way to becoming a qualified CFP), a warm and witty woman who really "gets" me.

• Ardé is a senior reporter for Money @AngeliqueArde

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