Financial planning for seniors

Planning for retirement is not something we can put off until a later date. The time to plan is now.
— Bob Reid

We are currently living in one of the most privileged ages in the history of the world. A period of nearly eighty years without a major global war, with extremely high standards of living and spectacular advances in medical science. Our average global life expectancy has shot passed the 70-year mark, breaking all previous records. To put this into perspective, the average life expectancy in 1950 was 48 years! It has never been more prudent to prepare for a long, healthy retirement. Unfortunately, often this is not the case. A recent study on retirement showed that 85% of adults between the ages of 51 and 75 have done no financial planning!


One of the most difficult challenges we face in our elder years is a decreasing ability to manage the details of our lives. What seemed simple in years past, becomes more challenging and stressful as time passes. At some stage we must enlist the help of family and friends, especially when it comes to finances and estate. Whether you’re preparing to hand over your finances, or you’re preparing to help a senior friend or family member with theirs, here are a few guidelines to getting started.


If you are helping-out, take care to understand the sensitivity of the situation.

Your finances are an important symbol of independence and self-worth. Even though you are trying to help, it may feel like an invasion of privacy. Patience and understanding is key. However, don’t leave it too late to start the conversation. Start by working through a financial checklist. Assess how healthy the current financial state is by examining current monthly expenditure and debt from bank and credit card statements. Look ahead to coming years and think through how this expenditure could change. Consider increasing medical costs, inflation, care givers and future residences.



Once you have a good idea of current and future expenses, gather information on all monthly income. Sources can include pension funds, bank interest, stocks and bonds, annuities and property rental. A healthy financial state should have income exceeding expenses with room to take on future expenses. Identify which investments should be liquidated to meet future expenses first if there isn’t much wiggle room in the budget. A vital step is gathering together all the relevant documents. Ask whoever you’re assisting to take you through their filing system. If they have none, start one. For digital filing systems, use products like Evernote. With apps for smartphone and pc, you have quick access to documents wherever you are. If you would rather keep a paper filing system, use a large file with partitions from A-Z. Store documents under the relevant partitions E.G. insurance under I.


Important documents to gather include:

Tax returns, power of attorney, wills, trusts, insurance schedules, annuities, property deeds, mortgage, medical aid, asset statements, credit card and bank statements. You will also need potentially undocumented information like important contacts, financial advisors, debits and due dates.


Once you have everything together in a good filing system, set an annual review date that coincides with the South African tax calendar (Individual tax season runs from July to November). Make a master list of all investments and sources of income that must be submitted in annual tax returns. Use your annual review date to assess financial health and submit tax.


Situations to avoid

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Financial Advisors

If the person you are assisting has a financial advisor, don’t end their services unless you’re an accountant or investment specialist. They are in the best position to manage the estate. Work with them.

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Research shows that one in five people over 65 have fallen victim to a con artist. Seniors with investments are a prime target for scams. They could take place on the internet, over the phone or in person. Only deal with trusted sources and never give anyone access to accounts.

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Portfolio Stagnation

Never leave your finances alone thinking that they are in order and will remain so. Our economic climate shifts constantly and it is essential that financial portfolios don’t stagnate. Keep your details updated and keep getting good advice from trusted sources.


It’s never too early or too late to start planning for retirement and beyond. If you are well into your retirement, invite someone you trust to assist you with your future estate. If you’re worried about your parents or elderly friends and want to help, have the conversation as soon as possible. They’ve earned a little help and senior years should be happy and stress free.

Wendy Bezuidenhout