Why married women must remain financially independent

by - July 27, 2016

Divorce rates in South Africa have increased over the past year by 3.4 percent, mainly initiated by the female partner.

The recent report released by Statistics South Africa has highlighted the need for South African women to be involved in household finances. Rita Cool, a Certified Financial Planner at Alexander Forbes Financial Services, recommends that married women ensure they are aware of all household assets and investments.

“Gone are the days where you could be dependent on anyone else. Life happens - divorce or death could be your reality and if you plan your retirement based on someone else providing for you, you are going to fail,” warned Cool.

Women generally live longer than men, meaning that their retirement funds will have to last longer. Their careers might also be put on the backburner for a short while as they raise children which results in a break in saving.

Cool offers the following tips for South African women to become and/or remain financial independent:

1. Know all the assets that you and your partner own and do a combined budget. It is very easy for assets to disappear into trusts and then they can’t be touched at divorce.

2. Make sure that if you are receiving income from a trust that you know what type of beneficiary you are. It is possible in some cases to change the beneficiary and then you might suddenly sit without that income after you get divorced.

3. Fight for your rights and assets if you get divorced. Don’t just give up and say you want to have it over with and let him keep all the money. It will ruin you for the rest of your life. You don’t have to be nasty about it, just fair. If you think he is hiding things get a mediator to try clear the air.

4. Women are afraid of investments but in most cases they hold the purse and do the budgeting to buy food etc. Ask questions so that you understand what investment options are available and what suits your needs. A trusted financial advisor is worth their weight in gold sometimes.

5. Make sure you have a will and that if you are in a relationship where you share assets and expenses or a bond, that your partner has a will. If your partner dies, you are the one who has to deal with everything.

6. It is possible to take out life insurance on a spouse’s life and you can pay the premiums to make sure that there is enough money after the person dies. You don’t want to realise at the wrong time that the person didn’t pay the premiums as you thought and now you sit without the life cover payout.

7. When you marry, make sure you are getting married in the correct marriage regime. You don’t have to get married In Community of Property. If you or your new partner want to start a business look at marrying with an Ante Nuptial Contract so you don’t become liable for any of their business losses. Make sure you know the implications of each regime and there is no shame in setting up a pre-nuptial agreement.

8. Make sure you are aware of the implications of what happens if your husband takes out loans etc on his business if you are married in community of property.

9. If you are a Trustee on a trust make sure the books are done correctly, that all decisions are minuted and that you understand what you sign. You can be held personally liable for decisions you have signed even if you did not understand the impact completely.

10. Appoint your own financial advisor and make sure that you know your spouse’s advisor if something happens.

“Many women are forced to remain in unhappy marriages due to financial hardship; but having financial distresses can also be the root of marital problems, so taking control of your finances is the answer,” concludes Cool.

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