Momentum and Unisa Empower South Africans with Insights on how Financial Success is a Science

Over the past 11 years, the Momentum/Unisa Household Financial Wellness Index has given South Africans practical tips from experts to empower them to get serious about their finances and gain momentum towards achieving their financial goals. Over the years, the research findings have helped South Africans to understand household behaviour when it comes to financial matters and the formula to achieve financial success in their household finances.

Over the past four years, Momentum annually holds the Science of Success festival which showcases, amongst others, the latest results of the Momentum-Unisa Household Financial Wellness Index. This year Momentum invited people to ‘Make your money moves’ by taking control of their financial futures. A hybrid event was held on Friday 25 November 2022, inviting key stakeholders and influencers to attend a physical event in Johannesburg, dressed in Valentino pink attire. The event was also live-streamed on social media platforms to share insights with the general public. In-person, the event was hosted by the well-known rapper and media personality, ProVerb, while Rorisang Thandekiso hosted online visitors.

The Momentum Unisa Science of Success Insights report was unpacked in an accessible and interactive manner to highlight how certain behaviours can accelerate or decelerate one’s journey to financial success. Guests interacted with experts to sharpen their financial skills and behaviours through exhibitions across the festival.

Momentum created a large ice cream laboratory, where visitors to the physical event could taste one of seven unique flavours of hand-crafted ice cream. In this instance, each flavour represented one of the seven major research insights that Momentum found from its research into small businesses, and side hustle entrepreneurs. This research was conducted in step with the larger Household Financial Wellness research.

Another exhibition, a life-sized digital card deck, changed its information based on the visitor’s movements. Each card shared insights from the latest Momentum-Unisa Household Financial Wellness Index and gave visitors guidelines on how to make their money moves. The academic research team from Unisa interacted with visitors in this space, encouraging them to make a financial success pledge to themselves.

The Momentum-Unisa Household Financial Wellness Index analyses and synthesises the feedback from a national representative survey of more than 2 500 households on their income, wealth, living conditions, education levels and their personal empowerment levels. The survey also includes a look at households’ financial behaviours.

In this year’s release, which covers the 2021 calendar year, South African households showed signs of recovery after the financial and emotional impact of the 2020 lockdown. The recovery follows the general improvement in the country’s overall performance but is held back from more significant improvement by what households describe as a low sense of personal empowerment and very limited net wealth. In numbers, the index has improved from 65.6 for 2020 to 67.6 in 2021. This is still some way from the peak of 69.0 of 2018.

The increase in the Household Financial Wellness Index scores from 65.6 points in 2020 to 67.6 in 2021 was mainly driven by improvements in personal empowerment and income scores. The income score increased from 4.7 in 2020 to 5.4 in 2021, while personal empowerment rose from 4.5 in 2020 to 5.2 in 2021. Household income benefitted from the economic recovery and the reintroduction of the Social Relief of Distress grant. Less restrictive lockdowns contributed to the increase in households’ personal empowerment capabilities as they felt they had more control over their lives. However, the living conditions score declined somewhat from 6.7 in 2020 to 6.6 in 2021 and the education score declined from 6.6 in 2020 to 6.4 in 2021, suggesting that both did not benefit as much from the general economic recovery and less restrictive lockdowns. The wealth score remained at a similar level as in 2020. The recovery and strengthening of financial markets in 2021 assisted households with investments in pension funds and other financial products, but higher debt levels of especially the middle-to-lower income groups detracted from their wealth.

The households are clustered into five categories to gain a better understanding of their different financial wellness statuses. Although there is an increase in the share of households whose financial wellness improved in 2021, it is still less compared to 2018. Whereas 12.4% of households were Financially Well in 2018, this was only 10.4% in 2021, albeit more than the 7.2% in 2020. The number of households who were Financially Well increased from an estimated 1.3 million in 2020 to 1.9 million in 2021, which is still less than a 2.1 million estimate for 2018 (despite population growth). The share of Financially Stable households increased to 17.8%, higher than the 17.4% in 2018 and 16% in 2020. However, the share of Financially Unstable households was at 30.8% much higher than the 27% in 2018.

What the research also revealed, is that the path to financial wellness is enabled by achieving financial success. The research showed that the more financial goals a household sets and actively work to achieve, the higher their Household Financial Wellness Index score was. Actual financial goal achievement necessitates a written financial plan with goals, an implementation plan, commitment thereto and holding yourself accountable. Unfortunately, South African households are not very good at setting financial goals. About 49% of households indicated they don’t have financial goals. Only 15.6% of households indicated they have one or more financial goal and that they were on track to achieve all their financial goals.

Some economic conditions change all the time and are largely beyond households’ control. Sometimes the changing circumstances makes it easier for households to achieve their financial goals, while it is more difficult during more stringent circumstances. The science on financial goal achievement will assist households in the difficult times to remain on the path towards financial wellness.

Click here to download the full report and visit for more information.

The Unisa research team involved in compiling the report consists of Ms Jacolize Meiring (Bureau of Market Research), Prof Bernadene de Clercq (College of Accounting Sciences, Unisa), Prof Carel van Aardt (Bureau of Market Research), Dr Jacolize Poalses (Bureau of Market Research) and Mr Arthur Risenga (Bureau of Market Research).


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