Retirement Challenges

Glacier by Sanlam contacted me and told me about this really interesting project #FutureFWD:

“We’ve paired three young South Africans with three inspiring retirees to uncover what retirement is really like. For one month, they will share the realities of everyday life in retirement; from everyday hobbies, daily routines and future plans, to the ups and downs of financial and physical wellbeing.
We all know that saving for retirement is an essential part of life, but what are we actually saving for?”

It’s been fascinating getting to understand retirement, but I wanted to find out more about the challenges in Part 5.

Sarah and I met at the Green Point Park by the Mouille Point Lighthouse. She had brought along another retired friend, Merle, who was visiting from Durban. We took the most wonderful walk through the gardens, discovered a whole new world that I personally didn’t know existed right in “my back yard” and we all got chatting about this project and about retirement.

It was lovely to add Merles retirement story into the mix too and I just love this process of really gaining insight into their worlds.

Merle was forced to retire because the company she had worked for was shutting down their offices. She had been with the company for 20 years and was in a fortunate position to be looked after by the company.

Her Medical aid is paid for and they offered her a decent package.

Early retirement, however, was not on her agenda and she was so upset at the time. She remembers feeling devastated and out of control.

It’s made me think that retirement isn’t always a choice and you could be forced into a retirement before you’re ready – financially or otherwise.

It’s something else that’s thought provoking.

Merle couldn’t be happier now and she laughs as she thinks back about how upset she was. She says she really took a tumble and felt depressed about the situation.

She says almost exactly the same thing as Sarah – retirement affords you new opportunities. Merle has also up skilled by getting more technical with Pastel accounting and offering her new skills. She’s also started catering events purely out of her increased love of cooking and she says it’s been a natural progression.

She says it’s really important to stay stimulated and positive.

Sarah and Merle both started speaking about what they feared going into retirement. They were worried they would be left behind in technology.

Sarah: When you’re working, you’re automatically kept up to date, but when you’re not, it’s easy to get left behind.

These are the pom-pom socks that Sarah and her sister make… (you can read about them in Part 4.)

We walked all around the Biodiversity Park, whilst chatting away and eventually sat down over tea and cappuccino’s.

Bailey: What are you surprised you can still do?

Sarah: Dance and party up a storm past midnight. You might be stiff the next day but you still have fun. I can still play sport at a competitive level. I can still workout and my endurance capacity has increased.

Bailey: What do you wish you knew 20/30 years ago about your health?

Sarah: I’d like to know that I would need to take better care of my eyes. However, I wonder if I would want to know about certain ailments. Would I want to know if I need a hip displacement for example? I think if we did know, it might limit our capacity for new experiences. We’d all be be fearful. If I had known I’d have bicycle accident I might not have got on a bike and that would have hindered the wonderful experiences. I think we would be more negative and fearful. No one should be afraid of living.

Bailey: What would you tell your 35-year-old self to watch out for in terms of preparing for retirement?

Sarah: At 35 I was ignorant about retirement. I would tell her to meet with a financial planner. Learn about financial terms. Learn about how retirement funding is based on financial calculators. Learn about inflation.  Be over cautious and increase your inflation.

Sarah laughs as she tells me what Bruce’s advice is: “Marry well!”

Make sure you have really good medical cover and that you can afford the inflation as it increases.

Bailey: What old injuries trouble you now?

Sarah: When it’s could the shoulder injury and the pin in shoulder hurts a lot and my mouth implants hurt too.

On the plus side, and this really is a great thing. Any emotional scars are gone. As you get older you tend to forgive and forget. You don’t sweat the small stuff as much you did when you were younger and you certainly don’t keep negative energy!

Bailey: What’s your most regular medical expense?

Sarah: It’s definitely dental work. As I have the implants, I have to see hygienist and dentist 4x a year.

I also have to have my eye injections every 4 months and check ups. It can be really costly with the pre consultation, the scans and the injection.

Theoretically medical aid covers it, but I’m one of the lucky ones to have a good medical aid who does cover it. If I didn’t, it would cost me a fortune.

Vitamins and calcium are an expense each month and preventative scans such as mammograms, bone density scans and other preventative scans all add up.

Bailey: Are you financially prepared to cover unexpected medical costs?

Sarah: Yes because of the medical cover and savings and gap cover. It is so important to have this.

Bailey: Is your current health insurance premium adequate in terms of covering chronic or age-related illnesses?

Sarah: I don’t think ours is 100%

We are on a hospital plan but it’s coming up for review so we need to review it and ensure that we are.

Bailey: Does your health insurance premium increase every year?

Sarah: Yes by at least 11%, which can be stressful when you’re no longer earning. Sadly in this country you have to have private medical care and payments have to come out of my savings.

Bailey: Good grief… that’s quite scary, especially when you’re no longer earning.

Sarah: Yes, of course! That’s why it’s so important to ensure you’ve saved and you’re covered for retirement.

Bailey: What are the secrets to retirement?

Sarah: Bruce is very good with this and he’s helped me a lot. He always asks this rhetorical question: When is enough, enough?

Bailey: It’s obviously personal to each person, but it’s thought provoking. You’re right…people are always thinking that when they have xyz amount of money in the bank, then they will be happy, instead of being happy with what they have. It’s good to be driven and want more, but not when you’re never happy with the now.

Sarah: Absolutely! Do the homework whilst you’re young and work out what you need to retire on and learn to know how much is enough.

Plan for the eventualities, do the homework.

With more comes more responsibility and at the end of the day, we actually want to reduce and simplify. It’s vital you make the most of what you have. We look more towards experiences and less towards material things.

Bailey: This makes me think of my dad. Whenever it’s his birthday or Christmas, we always ask him what he wants. He never wants presents, and always says he’d rather have experiences.

Sarah: You just don’t know what’s going to happen.

My dad died at 50 and he never put off doing anything. He developed all his intellectual capacities and was doing a MBA before he passed away. He was a keen off road motorcyclist, a sailor and had such a zest for life.

It’s what made me realize I need to look after my health from such a young age. When he passed it was devastating for all of us; especially my mom who had a disabled daughter, me and my siblings.  It was hard and we all took on extra responsibility.

If we wanted money we had to earn it. It really taught us a lot and it taught us to embrace life.

Bailey: I can relate – I can thank my parents for the work ethic they have instilled in me. I’ve always had to work for everything I have and with that comes a great sense of pride and achievement; not a sense of entitlement.

How are you going to approach ailments that may, but hopefully not, appear in the future?

Sarah: You don’t have much choice. When they appear you have to deal with it. The Internet has made it easier to inform yourself and better prepare for what might be coming your way, but be careful not to get fixated on the Internet.

If ailments are going to happen to me, it’s important to accept it and be positive about what happens. There is no room for “poor me” …

With my sister, Samantha, who has Down’s Syndrome, it’s been important to understand her aging process and try to prepare for her next 10 years. It’s important for the family to make the right financial arrangements and understand the process. It’s a huge responsibility.


It’s really made me think that I haven’t thought about the curve balls life throws and I need to sit down and financially plan correctly. I wish this was something that was taught in school. Why don’t they teach it in school and show children how to save, how to invest and teach them the true value of money?

I really want to teach my children the importance of money and money management.

Sarah is really looking forward to that time when grandchildren come along and I have no doubt  she will be imparting her wonderful wisdom too.

It was so sweet to see this lady feeding the ducks…

Part 6 is coming next week.

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