Last week I lost a client - a remarkable woman who passed away weeks before her ninetieth birthday. I had known her for more than 21 years. I know this because she reminded me recently that she had met me before I had my first child. She was already retired by then!
At our last meeting a few months ago, she was still up to date on world events, still interested in the world, and what was happening in financial markets. But she was even more interested in my life. She always asked after my children’s development and wellbeing. She was curious about my life in Cape Town and my own welfare.
I loved working with her because there was mutual respect and trust. She was no push-over. I remember her coming to our meetings with her portfolio printed on that big roller printer paper with the holes on the sides all those years ago. She would run her finger down past all the problematic holdings in her share portfolio and ask for explanations. But she rarely interfered. She just wanted to know and probably just wanted me to know that she’s keeping an eye on me. She respected my work and in turn, I was able to implement our best work for her. We made a good team.
Although her husband would accompany her to most of the meetings, she had her own opinions and made her own decisions. It was clear that theirs was a relationship based on respect too.
She was typical of that generation in the way she managed her money - a generation who understood that everything could change in a day, who lived through a world war in their formative years and witnessed their world crumbling around them. But they were also a generation who rebuilt the world and lived through prosperity in their final decades. Many of them knew material wealth in later years, but the trauma of their formative years never allowed them to relax into frivolous spending.
I remember her fondly telling me over lunch last year, what life was like when they were a young married couple. “We never went out. We entertained at home. And when we entertained, it was not fancy. It was a roast chicken and potatoes. And perhaps a baked dessert. There wasn’t always wine but if there was, perhaps a glass for each guest. Not like now when people eat out at fancy restaurants and drink too much wine all the time.” she said.
Although she was particular about receiving the dividends from the portfolio for as long as I knew her, she hardly spent a fraction of the income she received. She would frequently bring back big cheques, she had saved from her dividends. I once suggested to her that she should enjoy her money and spend more of it. She replied: “Oh, I think I need a pair of black pants. I may splurge a bit!”
What was important to her, was her family – her children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. She remained interested in them and would proudly mention their many achievements. Her wealth was having them around her. She remained in the same house she had lived in for most of her life. She would mention how her children took care of her and ensured that everything was taken care of.
We had a professional relationship. There’s no doubt that there is a lot about her life that I never knew, and she would never let on. But to me, her life was a testimony of good choices and valuing the right things.
I shall miss you Mrs V, and remember the lessons your life taught me.
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//05 November 2021