Women, Money & Language

-By Sunél Veldtman


If you don’t understand the money world, it’s not your fault – they aren’t speaking your language.

There is a vast difference between the way men relate to the world of money and the way women relate to this world. This is no surprise considering that men have dominated this industry for the past centuary and during the development of the modern industry. Even today, finance stays male driven.

Just scan the media, and look at the masculine terminology – ‘bull markets’ or ‘beating a benchmark’. It evokes images of testosterone fuelled bulls charging or war. Read further and the investment reports are all about ‘stocks to watch’ or ‘take care of expected bear market’. These articles create the impression that, in order to be successful investors you need to stay in touch all the time or watch your investments like a hawk. Furthermore, there are articles suggesting that you need to be in the know, part of a club or know the right people to succeed in investing your own money. Hardly the kind of language women relate to or an inviting environment to women, who have generally been outside of the men’s clubs.

The message to women from the investment industry, much like the message to women in the work environment, has been that you need to get familiar with this world in order to succeed. It creates a difficult barrier to overcome, over and above the challenges that men and women face in becoming successful investors.

People invest with what feels familiar. They invest with what they know. For most women, the finance world remains a foreign land. It is not familiar to them.


Women hold the wealth

However, there is a quiet but massive shift happening to the holding of wealth. In the USA, women now hold more than half the wealth. Not only are women making progress in their own careers, they have been and will be the main beneficiaries of the huge wealth transfer happening from the baby boomer generation – widely touted as the largest transfer of wealth in the history of the world.

We need to wake up to this fact and talk to women in the language that they understand and create an environment that works for women to save and invest their money successfully.

Women and men have different fears when it comes to money. When I talk about women’s fears, I am not suggesting that they are more emotional than men. We are all driven by emotion, despite us covering up those fears with rationality. It helps to become mindful of those fears.

We have found, through research and our experience in with working with women, what works:

  1. Women relate to money in terms of what that money can do for them. They will often express their financial needs in relation to the needs of their family, but particularly their children. The younger the children, the more important these needs are. When we show women what their savings or investments can do for them about their needs, they relate. This means showing how much they need to invest and how risky the investments need to be to reach these real goals. It is then also important that we measure their progress towards these real goals and not relative to a benchmark or the industry standard.
  2. Women are busy. In general, women have a lot more on their plate than men. Numerous research studies show that women stay pre-dominantly responsible for child care, care for ageing parents and managing households. In addition, it seems that women have increasingly taken over the role of managing household finances. It is no wonder that women (in general) do not get to their investments. The industry makes it difficult. If you feel that you want to give up before you start, you are not alone.There’s an impression that you must be “hands on”, or in the know all the time. It is far from the truth. A successful investment portfolio does not need constant checking up. In fact, the opposite is true. In any event, you can get a financial planner to do all that work for you so that you can only track your progress relative to your goals. In addition, we need to make it easy for women to invest and to track their progress. Complicated and time-consuming investment processes keep women from committing to their investments. Women will benefit from digital reporting accessed in her own time, after-hours.
  3. We need to create communities for women where they are encouraged to talk about their fears, goals and money stories. Not another exclusive club but environments where women can talk openly and ask the questions they need answers to. At Foundation, we have started doing this by creating workshops and events where women can meet and talk. Most of our older female clients have been forced into taking care of their finances by a sudden divorce or unexpected death of their spouse. We have seen how these women benefit from meeting other women in similar positions. Equally, some of our female entrepreneurs have shared how they have benefitted from talking to other entrepreneurs about their money stories and journey.
  4. Create financial security. Almost every woman I have met, has a deep fear of becoming destitute. In caveman language, I guess it translates to being kicked out of the tribe and losing protection. We can help by showing how our portfolios will secure your future and setting aside funds for emergencies and future income needs. We can make investments more accessible or show how they can be accessed easily. We can help by empowering women with knowledge.

We are working hard to make the world of money speak to our women clients and to make it easier and less time consuming for you. It is work in progress. Regulatory requirements and red tape work against us, but we’re pushing back. And we’re making it about you and your future.


<Foundation Family Wealth is an Authorised Financial Services Provider>



Words worth Reading

This month in Words Worth Reading, we highlight an article by The Economist on women and wealth. “Investment by women, and in them, is growing” and much of the wealth transferred in the coming decades will end up in female hands. Read more here.

We include a thought-provoking article by Nicola Aylward about mindfullness, seasons and cycles. Men – before you stop reading – she makes a fascinating example on this principle with tennis legend, Roger Federer. Read the article here.


Who gets Grandma’s ring?

-By Michelle le Roux


We all have certain ideas about what we want to happen to our assets and possessions when we die. You probably decided long ago who gets the farm, or who you will entrust the family heirloom to.  This is why we make wills, we leave our assets and sentimental possessions to other people and we expect that these wishes will be carried out once we depart.

The reality is that most people in South Africa die without having made a will. Some will have a will, but it will be invalidated for some or other reason. Or, there’s a valid will but it just can’t be found.

For those with massive estates, the implications of not having a will can be disastrous. But even the poorest of poor own a trinket or two, so let’s take a look at how an estate is dissolved without a will.

Intestate succession Act

The legislation that governs this rather-sensitive issue is called the Intestate Succession Act, and it came into effect in 1987. If a person dies without a will, his estate will be liquidated and the proceeds will be distributed according to the rules of this Act.

This is where it’s very important to look at the definitions of a spouse and a child, because although certain people are not legally defined as spouses, they do have protection under this Act.

Who qualifies as a spouse?

In brief, for the purposes of intestate succession, the following persons will qualify as a spouse:

  • Persons married under the Marriage Act, Civil Union Act, or Recognition of Customary Marriages Act;
  • Polygamous and Monogamous Muslim Partners;
  • Same-sex life partners (but not opposite-sex life partners).

A child is defined as a biological or an adopted child.

Another definition to take note of is one called a “child’s share”. This is a rand-amount, and it is currently set at R250 000. The application of this definition will become clear in the section below.

Intestate Succession Rules

What happens when…?

I have a spouse, but no children?

The surviving spouse inherits the entire estate. In the case of a polygamous marriage the spouses will inherit in equal shares.


I don’t have a spouse, but I have more than one child?

The children will inherit in equal shares (or the entire estate, in the case of only one child).


I have a spouse and children?

The child’s share formula is applied.

The rule is that the spouse inherits the greater of a child’s share or R250 000. In other words, if the estate is worth R900 00 it is divided by three (spouse + two children) = R300 000. The spouse inherits the greater of R300k or a child’s share (R250k), and the balance is divided between the children. In this example the spouse and two kids will each inherit R300k.


I don’t have a spouse or children?

My parents will each inherit half of my estate. If one of my parents is predeceased, that part of the estate accrues in equal shares to the descendants of the parent (simply put, my brothers and sisters, or half-brothers and -sisters, as the case may be).


I don’t have a spouse, or children, and my parents don’t have any other children?

In this case my entire estate will accrue to my closest blood relatives in equal shares.


I don’t have a spouse or any blood relatives?

The estate is not distributed, and if no one claims it, the State may claim the assets after 50 years.

The value of an updated will

The Intestate Succession Act gives us a lot of comfort in knowing that our hard-earned assets won’t just fall into a bottomless pit if we die without a will. It’s likely to stay in the family, but it’s probable that it will be sold for cash and the proceeds distributed to any person who is entitled to it.

What the Act won’t do is to consider any of your wishes. It’s a cold and calculated formula for paying out proceeds; it doesn’t care about the 100 year-old Cuckoo clock or the fact that you wanted to leave an inheritance to someone outside your family.

This Act also doesn’t make any provision for the guardianship of minor children. In the absence of a family member who can act as a guardian, it’s entirely possible that the High Court will appoint a random individual to look after the kids! In addition, their inheritance will be paid into the Guardian’s Fund, so that it won’t be under the control of the family.

The golden rule is to keep your will updated. Make sure it’s valid, and that a copy can be found when the time comes.

Even the simplest estate needs to have a plan. A plan that will give you peace of mind, and make things easier for those you leave behind. Contact us for a check up on your estate plan.


<Foundation Family Wealth is an Authorised Financial Services Provider>