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“How I manage my finances as a retiree”

Persistently high inflation rates are taking their toll on pensioners. We explore what three senior citizens are doing to protect their financial wellbeing in retirement.

8 February 2024 · Fiona Zerbst

“How I manage my finances as a retiree”

Inflation has deeply dented purchasing power in recent years, leaving many pensioners financially constrained, or even out of pocket. 

We ask three retirees what steps they’re taking to cope with South Africa’s cost-of-living crisis.

Tip: Debt can erode your wealth ahead of retirement. Consider debt consolidation today.

Managing finances carefully

Geoff Pillay, 83, says his frugal lifestyle has helped him overcome the financial pressures of the past few years.

“When I officially retired, I took on some part-time work at the company I’d served for more than 40 years. This allowed me to invest the bulk of my retirement payout for an additional 12 years,” he says.

While working part-time, he and his wife economised. “We cancelled our DStv subscription, and we have a domestic worker only once a week to help with the heavy lifting – housework is an opportunity for us to get some exercise,” he says.

Geoff is fortunate as the couple’s house and car are paid off.

“Aside from our utility bills, we have no fixed monthly expenses,” he says. “Our utility bills are covered by the rental we receive from letting out our small granny flat.”

Despite being in a relatively strong financial position, Geoff says the cost of food has become a concern.

“We get so much less for our weekly budget, and we no longer buy luxury items such as ice cream. Fortunately, our son pops by often with a bag or two of groceries, or a treat we wouldn’t buy for ourselves. He also pays for our Netflix subscription.”

Pooling resources

Violet Mkhize, 65, has never had a paid job, and relied entirely on her late husband to provide for her.

“He ran a lucrative taxi business, which my son took over upon his death,” she says. “In this way, he ensured I’d always be taken care of. My son covers household expenses, such as utility bills and maintenance.”

Violet cherishes her independence, so she is careful with the money her husband left her. “I’ve invested most of it and draw a small monthly allowance for groceries and personal needs,” she says.

Although some of Violet's nieces and nephews stay with her – due her proximity to school and university – together they can deal with the combined expenses. “In our family, everyone contributes what they can, whether in cash or groceries, so we all have what we need,” she explains.

Like most pensioners, Violet worries about outliving her savings.

“There’s always some emergency that forces me to draw more money every month – but I know my family will make sure I’m okay,” she says.

Relying on family

Maple Metcalfe, 79, says she relies on her daughters to some extent as her teacher’s pension is less generous than she would have liked.

“I worked for more than 40 years but have to supplement my pension funds with money from a retirement annuity, to which I contributed for 30 years,” she explains.

She says inflation and the cost of living have eaten away at her wealth.

“I often feel anxious that, although I invested my money to earn maximum interest, I’m likely to come up short in the future,” she says.

“My biggest expense is living in a retirement village. I’m fortunate that my daughters pay the additional costs – not everyone is as lucky as I am.”

Tip: Saving and investing diligently can help you secure a better quality of life in retirement.

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