While their lifestyle cannot be compared to how the poor live in South Africa, things are getting tougher for the rich as they are increasingly having to consider lifestyle trade-offs in order to send their children to a private schools.
"Previously, education was not a major factor in the budgeting of the wealthy, who often could afford to manage the expense out of their monthly income," says Jason Bernic, financial planning coach at Old Mutual Wealth.
"However in recent years – kicking off a trend we expect to continue for decades to come – even the wealthy have been feeling the pinch of rising private school costs."
Bernic notes that although individuals with an income of above R80 000 a month are considered to be in the top income bracket, it would appear that education costs continue to rise ahead of inflation and their monthly salaries.
The reality is that it will continue to impact significantly on their disposable income.
"Increasingly, parents need to forego this year's holiday away to pay a hefty registration fee, or hold off on upgrading cars to the latest model to enrol another child," Bernic says.
An article by Business Tech hit this point home when it published the 2015 annual boarding and day fees for the most prestigious schools in South Africa in October last year (see below).
It shows that most fees per year are well over R100,000 a year – something that not everyone has at hand, particularly if they have more than one child.
Boarding and day fees
|School||Annual Fee (Boarding)||Annual Fee (Day)||Entry Fee|
|Roedean School for Girls||R181,140||R99,234||-|
|St Alban's College||R181,000*||R102,900||R55,000|
|St Andrews School for Girls||R174,860||R94,380||-|
|St Mary's School for Girls||R173,700*||R92,450||R34,950**|
|St Mary's DSG||R166,155*||R90,630||-|
|Diocesan School for Girls||R157,590||R82,320||R35,200|
|Herschel Girls' School||R157,560*||R78,960||R10,000|
|The Wykeham Collegiate||R154,820*||R83,500||R4,000|
|St Anne's School for Girls||R146,200||R80,000||R34,000|
* 2015 fees ** Refundable deposit
Source: Business Tech
Bernic adds that although in many instances, private schools offer discounts for annual fees paid upfront, these amounts are often so steep that even the wealthy elect to rather make monthly payments.
And, according to one fellow journalist that I know of, even paying monthly is being frowned upon by some private schools.
Apparently, if she were to skip a payment or pay late the school said it would insist that she pay her fees on a termly basis. Needless to say this school is watching her repayments like a hawk.
"Unfortunately, the reality is that affording a private school education is going to become harder, not easier in future. And with the phenomenon of parents having to pay maintenance and school fees for more than one family where divorce has become a factor, many HNWIs are facing a real dilemma," says Bernic.
Is it the only option?
"For a significant segment of the wealthy, private schooling is the only option they will consider for their children, but it is important that even they start making sufficient provision in order to be able to afford this expense in the future.
"Currently, the cost of a private high school education can set parents back about R1 million in fees over five years, nipping at even affluent purses. But this figure will have dramatically increased by the time today's toddlers start studying for their matric exams," says Bernic.
What's to be done?
Bernic advises parents whose children are set to receive their education between 2020 and 2035 to have an investment strategy specifically for education, regardless of other investments, in the face of soaring education costs.
But saving at the point of admission to the school is the wrong approach.
"Parents need to start their education savings as early as possible, giving the money time to grow and accumulate," advises Bernic.
"An integrated wealth management plan can assist in determining if and where trade-offs are required to realise a certain lifestyle and life's goals. While the realisation that a serious rethink of strategy is in order where people are not investing enough might not be a pleasant one, parents will at least finally be in a position of empowerment - knowing what action is needed, and how the situation can be rectified."
Yes, saving early and making sacrifices is the right approach in being able to afford private education in South Africa.
But, in my mind the fees in some cases are soaring way above inflation and it is ridiculous that they are becoming so unaffordable that even the wealthy appear to be struggling. Someone (whether parent or state) should draw the line somewhere.
The schools argue that they receive little or no support from government, but beyond that I don't see how else they can justify their high fees. There are lots of examples of schools out there, good schools, that are doing more with less.
The counter-argument to that would of course be that if I don't like it that I am free to send my child elsewhere.
But if I want the best (and I am sure most of them would claim that they provide this) then I would surely have no choice but to fork out the money.
So while you may laugh and shrug about the wealthy having to trade down from a Porsche Panamera to a three year old Hyundai iX35 to afford little Jonny's private education, just think about or ask yourself this:
Isn't it time that parents protest about the cost of education, even if it is for a private school? Why should we pay so much for 'the best'?
Why do we need to pay down a deposit that is so large that some have to save for at least a year if not more to be able to afford it?
Why are some school deposits non-refundable? Surely if our kids don't get in we should have the right, under the Consumer Protection Act, to get it back? Where is the money being spent? Is it being used in the right way?
Does the school really need that fifth tennis court?