Until death do us part suddenly: How a widow picked up the financial pieces

Maya Fisher French
2019-10-14 08:00
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Here’s how a widow with three young children managed to pick up the pieces both financially and emotionally after the sudden death of her spouse after signing up to be one of the 2019 Money Makeover candidates.

When Amanda’s husband passed away, it was not only an emotional trauma but a financial one too. He had left no financial plan, no insurance payout or policies for his three children’s education.

“He just never wanted to speak about it,” says Amanda who discovered that the only insurance policy he had was for accidental death. As he had died of a heart attack all those expensive premiums had been a complete waste.

“The will was signed before the kids were born. I had asked him to do a new will, he did send information to Sanlam, but he never signed it.”

As he was self-employed there were no company benefits or retirement fund. All he had was less than R200 000 in a retirement annuity which Amanda was left with to raise the children.

I had asked him to do a new will, he did send information to Sanlam, but he never signed it

Without making some drastic changes to their lifestyle, the money would have run out after just 18 months.

“I was grieving but frustrated. I had thought we still had a time to sort out the finances. Then I realised I can’t change anything, I can’t spend time getting irritated, I must make it work,” says Amanda about her decision to join the 2018 Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge. The Money Makeover Challenge takes six individuals through a money bootcamp over six months in which they transform their finances.

Amanda was convinced that she could not find any additional money in her already stretched budget. How do you educate, feed and cloth three children on a single income?

“When I signed up for the challenge I thought, ‘I don’t drink cappuccinos or eat out; where will the extra money come from?’”

Yet once she sat down with her Absa financial adviser Risette Visser, Amanda realised that there were changes she could make. In her own words “there are no holy cows when it comes to money.”

The first change was to sell her seven-seater car.

“We were a family of five. Now we are a family of 4, we don’t need such a big car.”

What Amanda discovered was that while she saved a bit on the monthly repayment, it was the combined saving of that instalment, insurance and petrol that put R1000 a month back into her pocket. This is money she could now use to start an education fund for her children–- and she has a new car.

Amanda also closed her revolving loan. She was paying fees of R70 a month for a facility that she did not want to be using. She also downgraded her bank status from private bank to premium bank.

“I must admit that was a bit of a hard one to swallow, but I can report that I am very happy with the service so far,” says Amanda who also opted for a cheaper cellphone when her current contract ended.

She terminated membership to a club that she belonged to: “I did not attend the events – it’s not fun attending social events as a single person.”

With the help of Visser, Amanda reviewed her life insurance. This was important as she was now the sole provider for her children.

By consolidating and shopping around for quotes, she was able to save R600 a month for the same cover.

She also moved medical schemes to a less expensive option. All-in-all Amanda was able to find an extra R2500 in her budget that she used to pay off her credit card and then start an emergency savings fund.

Amanda shifted her focus and unsubscribed from “spending” newsletters such as Takealot, Superbalist and Zando.

“I didn’t want to be distracted by the so-called ‘deals’ and ‘specials’. Instead she signed up for newsletters on money matters to educate herself and provide motivation. This inspired her to start her own DIY arts and craft blog, titled Wing It.

“The emphasis of this blog is that you don’t need much to be creative. Look at what is lying around in your home already and use that to make something. I believe that the sponsored posts and ads etc. will eventually become part of the blog, but for now the emphasis is on creating content and growing organically.”

The outcome of the six-month journey was more than just sorting out her finances, it was life changing. “The impact of those six months will travel with me for a very long time. I can already see in the rest of my life that the impact is spilling over. I want to get rid of the clutter, I want to sort out my weight, I want to be a more intentional mother, etc. Those six months also provided me with the opportunity to breathe again. I am a lot calmer about money matters than I was a year ago and I am excited to continue this financial journey into the future and strife to become better with money.”

The impact of those six months will travel with me for a very long time. I can already see in the rest of my life that the impact is spilling over.

If you have had a life changing experience and need a “re-boot” the Absa/City Press Competition may be what you are looking for. The Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge is once again open for applications. There are only six places available so only the most committed applicants will be considered.

The Money Makeover challenge
The Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge runs over a six-month period and candidates will receive expert help to get their finances in order and achieve their unique financial goals.

During the six-month period, each eligible participant will stand a chance to win incentive prizes upon reaching certain pre-agreed milestones.

At the end of the challenge, a cash investment prize will be awarded to the participant who best managed to remain on track and successfully realised their financial goals during the period.

The competition will run from February 2020 to August 2020.

All applicants need to meet the following criteria:

• Must be over the age of 18.

• Must have a transactional account with Absa wherein they deposit their monthly salary.

• Must earn a monthly salary/income of R20 000 or more (this can be a variable income if you are self-employed or a freelancer). Entrepreneurs with a small start-up business are welcome to enter.

• Must not be over-indebted to such an extent that they are blacklisted with legal action taken against them in terms of their debt.

• Must not currently be under debt review.

• Must be prepared to be filmed, have their photograph taken and have their first name appear in City Press and the social media channels of Absa and City Press.

• Must commit to a six-month personalised financial fitness programme

• Must successfully complete all the tasks and reach all the goals assigned to them.

If you are interested to participate, send your responses to the following questions to us by no later than October 25.

• Why would you like to participate and what do you hope to achieve should you be selected to participate?

• What are your main financial pressures at the moment?

• Are you married and do you have children?

• What keeps you awake at night?

• What has been your worst financial mistake?

• What is your big dream?


Also send your full name and surname, age, region ID number, Absa account number as well as your current monthly budget (income and expenses) by no later than 25 October 2019.


To find out more about the Absa/City Press Money Makeover Challenge you can read about last year’s contestants here.





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