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In Hindsight – wise money lessons I wish I could tell my younger self

Restarting after bankruptcy

with David Williams


Kim Potgieter

Kim Potgieter

March 30, 2023
In my previous blog, I shared Lily Mason’s story with you. The top money tip that stands out for me from Lily’s advice to her younger self is that she retired too hastily, without taking the time to reflect and plan her next chapter. She also did not have a trusted relationship with a financial planner and no one to mentor or guide her to have done things differently. The good news is that Lily is now taking time to think about her life going forward and ways to find renewed meaning and purpose. I am positive Lily will transition from a successful career to enjoying a significant life.

This month, I’ll introduce you to David, who bravely shared his story as a business owner with me. South Africa is filled with entrepreneurial opportunities, and many of our clients are entrepreneurs. Many others have become entrepreneurs in the past couple of years – either because they have retired and now earning an income from hobbies or other interests, job losses in the current economic downturn, or just being blessed with an adventurous and innovative spirit. David shares his regrets and prudent advice that entrepreneurs and people of all ages and in every stage of learning and earning, will benefit from.

Introducing David Williams

David’s relationship with money was influenced by his father. His dad, an entrepreneur and business owner, has always lived a big life: earning well and spending well. He is still a successful businessman but, unfortunately, not a successful investor. He never believed in retirement savings, and now, in his 70s, he still works hard for his money and has nothing saved for his future. Following his dad’s footsteps, David also started his own business exporting bespoke furniture – living well, saving little and investing all his extra money into the business. Unfortunately, David’s venture went bankrupt, and the Covid pandemic had a massive impact on his ability to reset and restart. Now that life has returned to some degree of normality, he is left picking up the pieces and restarting his life.

David’s money lessons

What money messages did you hear, see and experience growing up? Did these messages influence the way you behave with money?

My father taught me that the value of a man was in his wealth. He demonstrated this by working hard and spending his money in flashy ways, buying big homes and cars. He created the impression of having wealth by owning things.
There were no messages on managing money, saving or investments other than our home. I only learnt about investments later in life when I saw other people investing longer-term in different ways.

I was left thinking that being wealthy is a bad thing. It means that you are selfish and spend your time showing off. I did not want to be that person.

You exported beautiful custom-made furniture in your business venture before bankruptcy. What did you do right that you’re proud of?

I am most proud that I created a high-end luxury brand in South Africa that competes with the very best brands in Europe and is seen alongside them.
I also had the verve to go overseas at huge expense to market and position my product as a sought-after international brand.

What led to you closing your company and starting all over again. In hindsight, what business decisions do you regret?

My strengths were selling my product, investing back into my business and growing continuously.
In hindsight, I did not manage my money, had no proper accounting, and did not take accountability for my costs against overhead. I just assumed that the next big order would save the company.
In hindsight, I recklessly grew the company by not carefully selecting the products in my business portfolio. I invested in any product that came my way – at huge cost. By the time I started to refine that, it was too late – out of 110 products, only 7 worked.

What were the business consequences of Covid?

Covid brought many businesses to a grinding halt. Apart from being unable to sell to existing customers due to logistical problems and the closing down of the hospitality industry (which made up the bulk of my clients), the rest of the world was nervous about investing in South Africa.

You now have to pick yourself up and start again at the age of 50. What life lessons do you have for your younger self?

Be fierce with reality. Do not put your head in the sand and hope things will improve. Do not wait for something to change for the better. Take control and make it happen for yourself.

Let’s talk about money:

In hindsight, what do you want to do differently now from a money and business perspective?

I no longer believe in miracles and acknowledge that I need help to manage my money. I do not want to live hand-to-mouth. I want to learn from people that know how to do this.

I understand that my business needs to operate with reserves and that I must be disciplined to build other income streams (savings and investments) other than my business.

I need to heal my relationship with money and reframe what money means to me. I have to see money as something that can be used for good and that having wealth is ok. I now know that money will enable my purpose – to create employment and establish a world-class proudly South African product range.

In hindsight, knowing what you know now, what money habits do you regret?

I regret not living within my means. I have learnt to cut my cloth to where I am.
I regret not taking control of my money and managing it. You need reserves to run a successful business.
I regret not saving and investing and building wealth for a secure future.
I regret thinking that money means something other than purely an enabler. I know now that having money and building wealth can enable me to live my purpose.

I am enormously grateful to David for sharing his story as few people have the courage to delve into a deeply personal and vulnerable space to share their biggest money regrets. I firmly believe that if we make to do the inner work, we emerge stronger and able to grow in our relationships with ourselves, and with money.

Always remember, when it comes to your money, be inspired, be brave and be on purpose,


Click here to read my advice to David