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How much do you know about your financial future?

What?!” he said in a raised and incredulous tone, “are you seriously expecting me to pay her half of my pension? Are you mad! Do you realise I have worked my whole life for that pension and you now want me to just give half of it to her!”.

I sat looking at the crimson face of my client’s husband, who clearly was outraged at the thought of sharing “his” pension with his wife of some 40 years, they were married in community of property, and I was not surprised at his attitude because I see the same attitude in others every day.

This gentleman was an intelligent man who had spent the majority of his adult life working for a large organisation and it was clear he had thought of and planned his retirement well. The thought of now losing half of that money was too much for him to bear. My client had, like so many others, left all the estate planning up to her husband and had during her working life only managed to contribute towards a tiny retirement annuity.

I asked him when he was planning for his retirement whether he had planned that there would be enough for both himself and his wife, he was rather affronted at the question because of course he had. So clearly the plans for their retirement had included both himself and his wife, he agreed. So why then, was he so outraged at the thought of paying her half of the pension he had so carefully planned for THEIR retirement. The penny dropped, the pension was shared.

Unfortunately many do not achieve such a state of enlightenment and will spend many thousands of Rands trying to prevent their spouse from receiving their fair share of the joint estate, not to mention the many people who are married with an Antenuptial Contract, who may not have the benefit of an accrual claim.

If you were asked today to put together your Asset and Liability Statement, could you do it? Do you know what assets you and your spouse own? Do you know what liabilities you or your spouse have? Have you any idea what liabilities your spouse has which would have a direct impact on your accrual claim? When last did you see your spouse’s bank or credit card statements?

Notwithstanding this being the 21st Century, I still see many people, woman in particular, who have no idea of their present financial situation let alone that of their spouse and have been happy to sit back and accept when their spouse says don’t worry, I have it all taken care of.

Well the majority of the time what that means is that your spouse is contributing towards a pension or other facility that is in their name and everything should be okay if divorce does not loom on the horizon. Do you have a similar amount of money going into a product in your name? Do you even know if any estate planning is being done for your retirement or are you relying on the fact that there should be enough in whatever products your spouse has purchased or is contributing towards?

Another scenario that could arise is when your illness and disability benefits are linked to a policy owned by your spouse. Did you know that any benefits paid out due to your illness or disability are paid to the owner of the policy, which may not be you!
Unfortunately I see many women in my practice who were never shown the importance of taking responsibility for their own financial future, their fathers took care of “those things” and now their husbands do the same.

Ladies, it is time to wake up and smell the coffee!

It is time to empower yourselves, find out what is happening in your own financial affairs, don’t just sign the document presented to you without fully understanding its relevance to your estate, insist on being present at meetings with your spouse and the financial planner, get educated on what all the policy jargon means, ask to see the correspondence that comes in from the financial services companies and ensure that you own your own financial products (at least equal to that owned by your spouse) so that if you are ever faced with divorce, you have some level of financial security and it is not a total financial disaster!

Bev Loubser Attorneys
Collaborative Divorce Practitioner & Mediator
1st Floor, Block B, Aspen Village Shopping Centre
Telephone: (011) 432-8605 / 8608
Cell: 082 575 9711
email: bev@loubserattorneys.co.za

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