One of the first conversations my father had with me (after the BIG girl talk) was about financial freedom. He told me very clearly that no matter what happens in my life, I must try to save as much as I can so that I can be financially independent.
“Don’t worry about having things,” he said, “make sure that you never have to rely on anyone for your security”. I will never forget those words, and throughout all the upheaval I have experienced in my life, I am so grateful that I listened to him.
Sadly, a lot of women do not receive the same kind of advice, and instead rely on the hope of good fortune in the future, or live in the hope that their husbands or children will take care of them.
There is no certainty that your family will be able to take of you when you retire. There are horrifying stories of women who have been abandoned by their husbands, children or extended families.
That stokvel you’ve been religiously contributing to, isn’t very secure either. There are countless stories of people making off with the collections, leaving the women in the group destitute.
I have known women who haven’t followed up on the financial arrangements in their marriage, only to find themselves saddled with crippling debt once their husbands pass away.
There are examples of women who have been completely written out of wills, who have handed over their wealth to family for safekeeping, only to be left destitute.
While this is also a form of financial abuse many women have to deal with, it is one that can be rectifed fairly easily. All it takes is a visit to the HR department at your workplace, a bank, or a financial planner to discuss what you can afford to put away.
One woman I spoke to calls it her Get Out Fund. She is happily married, her husband is devoted to her and the children and takes care of them very well, and she is involved in planning for their retirement and death.
However, she still has a secret stash that she does not touch and that her husband does not know about. Every month she puts away R10 or R1000 depending on what she can afford at the time.
“I love my family. We really are blessed to have been together for so long and to be so happy. But I still put that money away come rain or shine. It just makes me feel safe,” she said.
All of us need to take control of our finances. As much as the idea of lucrative future windfall is appealing, you cannot leave your comfort and peace of mind during your retirement to chance.
It can be very daunting. I know. I find it very difficult to have extra cash just lying about, it tempts me to spend it on something I don’t need. So, I have arranged for it to go off my account like a debit order. I don’t have to think about it every month, but it’s there waiting for me when I retire. You really can’t buy that sense of peace and freedom.
If there’s one thing I would like to urge you to do, is to take control of your financial independence. There are even insurance companies and financial services that cater specifically to women’s needs. All you need to do is take that step.
By Keshina Thaver