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My Biggest Money Regret… and the Lesson I Learned

7 March 2019

Imagine if you could see into your future and pre-empt any of the future you’s money mistakes. Here, 60- and 70-somethings share their life lessons with you, so you can make savvy financial decisions now.

“Don’t become a prisoner of your possessions”

In her 60s: Elsa Krüger, journalist/editor and founder of beauty blog Mooipraatjies met Elsa.

“My biggest money regret is about ‘stuff’. My grandmother was a product of the Great Depression. She used to hoard everything, even empty sardine tins, because ‘it may come in handy’. So I became a hoarder; it gave me a sense of security. Eventually I became a prisoner of my possessions.

“The lesson I learned from it? Use it or lose it. Everything has a shelf life and outlives its usefulness, except money in the bank. Your precious stuff is worth very little when you start downsizing for retirement. Get professional advice for your retirement and investment planning as soon as you start earning.

“I also deeply regret not engaging a good, honest financial planner as early as my early 30s. I once allowed a financial planner at my bank to ‘invest’ my savings in a draining unit trust scheme. I lost R40 000, which was a lot of money in 1992.

“I regret getting talked into buying various insurance policies, which turned out to be bad decisions because I did not read the fine print. I didn’t arm myself with adequate knowledge and trusted ‘advisors’ who made money off me.”

“Take charge of your financial destiny”

In his 60s: Freddy Masinga, business analyst.

“When I started working, it was still in the apartheid era when the living conditions of blacks were tough. It was literally a case of living from hand to mouth. As a result, a savings culture was something completely foreign to me.

“I would have loved to have been in a position to start saving and investing as early as possible and, among other things, invest in property, but again, this was simply not possible because of legal constraints. So I would say not being in a position to save sufficiently for this type of investment is my big money regret.

“I’m just so thankful that this is something of the past and that all South Africans, irrespective of colour or creed, can now be masters of their own destiny – including their money matters and saving.”

“Be patient: give your savings and investments time to grow”

In his 60s: Henry Jeffreys, former newspaper editor.

“I have several regrets about money, but my biggest regret is selling off shares prematurely. I once held a significant amount of shares in Sanlam and some other companies. Selling prematurely resulted in forgoing the benefits of share price appreciation and dividend payments.

“My biggest mistake in this regard, however, was selling shares I bought at around R100 a share, which are today trading at a staggering R3 000 a share! If only I’d then realised that investing in shares is not a 100m sprint; if you want to reap the full rewards, you must approach it like a marathon as you’re in it for the long haul.

“In hindsight, I also should have saved for our honeymoon. We paid for it with our first credit card. After we returned, we were in debt for the first three years of our marriage, paying a hefty interest rate in the region of 30%. It took the shine off a wonderful two-week holiday in Mauritius, which cost us thousands of rand. The memories, however, remain priceless.”

“Plan for the worst – even when it seems unlikely to happen”

In her 70s: Janet Jacobs, long-time widower and pensioner.

Little did Mossel Bay pensioner Janet Jacobs realise the importance of sound estate planning when she became a widow at the young age of 48.

“In those years it was generally accepted that a woman would remarry within 10 years after her husband’s death. In my case, this did not happen and 28 years on, I’m still alone. This scenario was regrettably not sufficiently taken into account during estate planning – and today I realise how important this is! A single missing sentence cannot only derail your spouse’s retirement; it may well leave you with a high, outstanding bond and other costs.

“Another regret is that I too easily surrendered my endowment policies, even though the returns did not remotely live up to predictions. And while we plan and invest, we tend to forget about future chronic illnesses. Before you know it, your medical aid benefits are depleted, leaving you with enormous medical bills. I never thought it could happen to me as I was always a very healthy person in my earlier years.

“If I could have it over, I would rather have invested in two or three new property developments. If you buy directly from a developer there are no transfer fees. By ensuring that your tenants are reputable, you would also have extra income to save for all kinds of things. And as the value of your property would most likely escalate over time, so would your monthly income.”

“Be careful who you trust – always seek professional, reputable advice”

In her 70s: Mercia Hattingh, retired fashion designer.

“My biggest money regret came at a time in my life when I was emotionally pretty vulnerable. At that stage I was quite happy with my financial situation, so when an opportunity came along for an investment that appeared like it would seriously boost my financial security, I took it.

“The offer of a ‘lucrative investment’ was made by someone close to me and whom I thought I could trust. Sadly, however, it turned out not to be the case. I not only lost my financial security, I also lost my house. This was a huge setback and ruined any dream of travelling the world.

“It taught me that one should never use money in hand on something or someone who you thought you could trust 100%. Rather consult with a seasoned certified financial planner with a proven track record.

“Fortunately, this sad experience is water under the bridge and with my new husband I’ve been privileged to see many places in the world.”

Ready to secure your financial future? Speak to a qualified financial planner to find the best options to suit you. And remember: as a Sanlam Reality member, you can get up to 100% off primary asset management fees with Sanlam Investment’s flagship funds. Find out more at www.sanlamreality.co.za.

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