Saving for illness

This month, we received many queries from readers who are drowning in debt, often due to family commitments or car payments. We have only published a few of these ­letters, but encourage people to take action rather than wait for the law to take its course


I am looking at my finances and realised I need to consider putting money away for my health because I am diabetic. Diabetes is an expensive disease and, in future, medication and treatment fees may go up, so I am looking for something that I can invest in for at least five to 10 years.

It is very good financial planning to be considering your future health expenses. You need to take a multipronged approach to the situation:

. Ensure you are on a good medical scheme. Because diabetes is a prescribed minimum benefit, it will be covered by all schemes, but find out exactly what your scheme provides. You can cut your medical aid expenses by opting to go to a network doctor or specialist for treatment if your scheme has these networks available.

. Consider taking out medical gap cover to supplement your medical costs. For example, the Liberty Medical Gap Cover helps you fund shortfalls up to 500% of medical scheme tariffs for GP and specialist costs in-hospital and certain out-of-hospital procedures.

. As you have indicated, it is also necessary to put money away for future expenses. As you have a longer time frame, you could consider investing in a growth investment such as a balanced unit trust fund.

This means you’ll have access to additional funds when you need them, or get the money when you retire so you can carry on paying your medical aid and other health-related expenses.

Pay the car or the bond?

Joshua writes:

I need to buy my family a car and have saved an amount of R100 000. Should I pay my bond or use it for a deposit on the car? The current balance on my bond is about R123 000. Although the monthly instalment is only R2 200, I am currently paying R5 600 a month.

City Press replies:
If you have to buy a family car, rather use the R100 000 as a deposit on the car as vehicle finance has a much higher interest rate than mortgage finance.

Do not, however, use the deposit to buy a more expensive car, but use it to finance the car over a shorter period of time. You are close to being debt-free. Make that the goal.

Unaffordable vehicle debt

Simon writes:

I cannot afford my car any more. I am spending R4 800 a month on petrol, my instalment is R6 200, and my insurance payments and vehicle tracking are costing me another R1 040. My take-home pay is only R15 000. I spoke to the dealer, but they will only offer me a trade-in and I know this is just another debt. How can I get them to take my car back, because I do not have enough money to pay my instalment?

City Press replies:
The reality is that you can’t afford to keep the car and will have to make drastic decisions. If you wait until the bank repossesses the car, you will lose money, as the bank sells the car on auction and you get even less than if you sold it privately.

Your options are:

1 Sell the car and settle the debt. As you probably owe more on the car than it is worth, you would have to repay the rest of the amount, but the bank may provide an extended loan to do this. You would be saving on that very high petrol bill and the insurance. It is a tough decision, but one that will see you become debt-free sooner.

2 Speak to the bank about extending the car-finance period. This is not ideal, but could take pressure off your monthly finances. The negative side is that, over time, the car will cost you more and, if you are already financed over 72 months, this may not be an option.

3 If you traded the car in for a much cheaper model with a lower engine capacity, you may save on petrol
and insurance.

Join a stokvel or save on my own?

Terrance writes:

I was approached by five colleagues to join their monthly stokvel and contribute R2 000 a month. If I were to join them and it was my turn to receive the stokvel, I would get R10 000.

For instance, if I decide to be number one on the stokvel list, I would have R10 000. What I have in mind right now is that I could use the money to buy myself household items because I want to move out of my mother’s house.

Should I join?

City Press replies:

A stokvel can be a very powerful way to incentivise saving because the peer pressure means you commit to putting that money away each month. However, you need to ask a few questions first:

1) What happens if someone cannot pay?
2) Where is the money kept and who has signing power?
3) What if you are number five on the list? This means you may as well have put the R2 000 into your own account each month.

Jobless and want to review a divorce order?

Isaac writes:

I got divorced a year ago, but I did not know I was entitled to a portion of my wife’s pension fund. My lawyer asked me to sign a letter waiving these rights. I am now unemployed and I want to know if I can sue the lawyer for bad advice or get the order changed.

Divorce attorney Beverly Clarke writes:

The short answer is, yes, you can do something about it, but the long answer is you really should see an attorney and explain all the facts. One would need to know things such as whether the parties initialled the deletion, whether the wife had disclosed she had a pension (or had fraudulently misrepresented the position) and what the rest of the settlement agreement said about division of the joint estate.

It is possible you could bring a fairly simple application for variation of the divorce order, but you would have to explain exactly how it came about that you waived this claim. If the variation application doesn’t work, or is not advised for some reason, you may have a claim against the attorney for negligence.

How do i identify a scam?

Morwa writes:

I found this company called Agri Smart Investments. According to its ad on the web, it has very good returns, but there is no board of directors listed on their website and I can’t find their Financial Services Board number.

City Press replies:
We would need to do more investigation, but a warning sign is that on the website under “About Us”, there is absolutely no information about them. You have no idea who you are dealing with or what experience they have. There is way too little information on the website to consider investing with them.

Monica writes:

Do you think Wealth Hub is a pyramid scheme?

City Press replies:
From what we could understand from the website, it looks like a group stokvel structure, where you have to sign on new members each week. This is definitely a pyramid structure as it requires ongoing sales to maintain the cash flow. We don’t like these kind of schemes. They eventually run out of steam and then people lose money.

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