In Interview

Marlene Bester: I have clear financial goals in place to achieve financial freedom


Marlene Bester  is SA’s only female Master Distiller. She has a Master’s Degree in Wine Biotechnology and she was appointed as manager of Van Ryn’s Distillery in Stellenbosch in 2009. Her passion and knowledge of brandy resulted in her overseeing all facets of the brandy creation process at the Van Ryn's Distillery, and producing some of the world’s most awarded potstill brandies.  In this interview, she spoke to me about her money habits.

How did your childhood influence your attitude towards money?

I grew up on a farm in the Karoo where we were taught from a very young age that you cannot take what you have for granted and that you need to save for a rainy day.  Due to the fact that income on a farm is not constant because of droughts etc, my father taught my brother and me that you have to look after you money and that you cannot spend everything expecting that it will be there tomorrow.  You have to plan ahead for the days when there is no income.  That determined how I look at money even today, many years later.

Have there been times where you’ve experienced money blocks and conflicting feelings about money?  


No, not that I can think of.

How do you define financial independence?  


Financial independence for me is to be able to live a comfortable life without having to worry where tomorrow’s money will come from.  It is having assets that generate income that is greater than your expenses.  For me the biggest thing about financial independence is that I want the freedom to be the person I want to be and to do the things in life that I want to do.

Do you and your husband share equal responsibility when it comes to your household finances? 

Yes, we share equal responsibility towards our household finances.

What money lessons do you pass along to your son?  

We are trying to teach him that you have to work for what you want.  In this age where instant gratification is a big thing, it is a huge challenge to make a child understand this concept.  He needs to understand that you cannot just get everything without working for it and if you put effort behind a dream or idea you can achieve it.

How do you deal with financial setbacks when they happen?  


I acknowledge that it has happened and then I look on what is the best way to turn it around or make the best of it.  I am a very positive person so I try to learn out of my mistakes and move forward.  It is not part of my makeup to go sit in a corner and feel sorry for myself.


What are you doing currently to ensure your family's financial well-being? 

We have a budget and therefore we have control over our expenditure.  I have clear financial goals in place to achieve financial freedom.  This helps me to put good investments in place and to keep my eye on my financials

What is your best and worst money mistake you've ever made? 

My best money decision I every made was to buy a house as soon as I could after I started working.  It helped me to get a foot in the property market and enabled us to buy a second property later, which we could sell for a profit a few years later.  My worst mistake was not putting more money into property when house prices were still very affordable.

What's your one personal luxury do you like to treat yourself to?  

I love cars, so my personal luxury is to buy a nice car every few years.  I have to restrain myself from not going overboard and to decide what I really need and what is just a nice to have.

Do you save into a pension or invest in the stock market? 

I save into a pension fund.  Because I work for a big company, a pension fund is mandatory so it disciplines you to put money away, even to put some extra money away so that I can retire comfortably one day.

Do you think brandy can be a good investment ? 


For sure brandy can be a good investment.  I am not talking about the everyday brandy, what I am talking about is the once off or limited release pot still brandies which will become more valuable over time.  These brandies are bought by people as an investment as you will never again be able to get it. These brandies are produced in extremely small quantities of a very special year or a specific grape cultivar never to be repeated and that is what makes it valuable.  Brandy production is like a long term investment.  If you put in a lot of effort and care in the beginning you reap the rewards many years from now when it comes out of maturation and you can produce an outstanding brandy.

Do you have rules for lending money to friends or family? 


My rule is to never lend money to family or friends.  I have seen too many friendships and families being torn apart because of this.  There is a reason why they say money and friendship do not mix well.

Are you comfortable talking about money with your closest friends? 

Personal money issues is not something we really talk about.  We however do talk about the financial situation in South Africa and the world as it has an influence on all of us.

What tools or resources do you rely on to keep your own personal finances in order? 


We have a very good financial advisor helping us in making the correct investments and we have a financial plan and goals helping us to stay on track.

Thanks to Van Ryn’s and 1701 Honey Nougat, I am giving away two of thse beautiful hampers. Details here


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