Sunél's Blog | Small decisions make a big difference

Sunél Veldtman, | 29 September 2023

More than twenty years ago, my employer offered me the opportunity to join a pension fund. I opted out of contributing to that pension fund because I had just bought a retirement annuity from an insurance company. It was probably the most destructive financial decision of my life. Had I opted in, I would have, early in my life, contributed to that pension fund for more than a decade, which I could have transferred to a preservation fund on my resignation. Some of my ex-colleagues who had opted in are already retired, mostly because of that pension fund.

My mistake led to painful consequences. As it turned out, I later realised that the retirement annuity that was sold to me, had extremely high costs attached. I never heard from the broker again, and on cancelling the policy paid hefty penalties. Years later, an enquiry into these industry penalties forced the insurance company to repay me the penalty, but I had lost out on years of compound growth.

In the fog of my childbearing and career-building thirties, I neglected my own financial planning. I missed years of potential compounding. Even though I have subsequently put a plan in place and am making progress towards my own retirement funding, I can never make up for those lost years.

The most important lesson we can take from my early mistake is to pay attention. If I had paid proper attention to the communication at the time of that pension fund launch or when that policy was sold to me, I might have understood the consequences. Busy people (especially women with young children) often lack the time and attention span to focus on their own stuff. When you’re already stressed out, a decision requiring further focus, can just feel like ‘too much’.

If your life boils down to survival, you can miss important moments in the busyness of it all.

We all feel exhausted sometimes, but if that turns into feelings of being overwhelmed all the time, of just surviving, be warned. You may look back, like me, decades later and wonder why you missed important things at the time.  

Some moments or choices you never get to relive. Miss them and it may cost you dearly. Your health, money, or relationships may never recover from your years of fog. Take it from my life lesson. Pay attention. More importantly, create a life that allows you to pay attention.

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Kind regards,
//29 September 2023