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Dave MacDonald | 63
Dave MacDonald describes himself as one of the lucky ones … and not only because he has moved his retirement savings to 10X.

Careful planning and a dose of good luck

The 63-year-old former chief executive officer of one of South Africa’s largest listed electronics companies is on track for a comfortable retirement because, he says, he had a good job and a successful career and “had no need to chop and change and dip into my pensions savings along the way”.

“Throughout his career, however, Dave says he was saddened and often alarmed to see others making poor choices. He makes the point that this reflects an education problem. “It should be part of the schooling system,” he says.

Listening to Dave, it quickly becomes clear that he has seen first-hand how lack of transparency and unnecessary complexity in the retirement investment industry stack up against poorly informed workers and even middle management.

During his 30-odd years at the helm of a large business, Dave saw 40-50 of the nearly 400 employees reach retirement.

“The first thing they did was withdraw money from the pension pot and throw a party,” he says. “They believed they had waited for this money for so long, and they were going to spend it how they wanted to.”

Dave, a father of two, doesn’t point accusing fingers at these folk, who are almost certainly already paying for the mistakes they made.

Dave’s concern is also not reserved entirely for the people who withdrew their savings. He worries too about the many workers who save diligently, but into products where poor performance and high fees eat away at their pension savings.

“A lot of people – tradesmen for example, who don’t have the opportunity to sit at a computer all day reading up about what is going on – believe their pension savings will grow miraculously into some sort of a fund that will feed their family for the rest of their life,” he says.

“They don’t know anything about their pension, how it works, and what it costs, or, for example, that it will die with them. They think their wife and family will be taken care of after they die.”

Dave believes there should be a big educational drive explaining to people how pensions work and what they need to do to ensure a happy retirement. Few people know that, while it may not be easy, retirement planning can be simple.

The 10X Investments formula is simple: put 15% of your salary over a 40-year period into a high-equity fund with total fees of less than 1%, and let time do the work.

It was the simplicity and clarity of the formula and the products at 10X that first caught Dave’s eye.

Over his career he had saved diligently and taken full advantage of tax incentives to accumulate healthy savings in various products with the big firms. But, he says, not one of them had performed particularly well. It’s the hidden costs, in the end, that undo the good work, says Dave.

Still, he was nervous to move his retirement savings across to 10X because “it was not a big, well-known brand name”.

“You spend 50 years saving for old age, the last thing you want to do is make the wrong choice at this stage.”

But, after “really digging in to the research”, as is his way, he moved his retirement savings across to 10X.

Dave adds that, in addition to positive results of his research, he was impressed by the demeanour and professionalism of 10X retirement expert Andre Tuck.

He says Andre was always professional and calm when he came back to him with queries, which got on to “in a flash”. “This makes one feel that the place works!"

 

Dave, who describes himself as “rewired, not retired”, has few kind words for the broker system and the costs attached to it.

“It’s like gambling,” he says, “only a little worse … because with gambling you can see the cards in front of you.”

“I don’t like the set up,” he adds, besides “even the best broker can do nothing when Zuma gets rid of Nene … it’s all connected to the ‘what if’ syndrome”.

Dave says he has a problem with not being allowed to buy certain products directly. Being forced to use a broker, he says, is a way of keeping the customer at arm’s length, of not taking responsibility for what happens to the products you sell them.

Imagine, he says, a situation where a bank asked you to sign an indemnity or waiver when you sign up for a product, which he likens to “accepting you will have no comeback should they not be able to find your money”.

He laughs, adding: “It’s the same as investment companies saying, ‘We are going to take your pension savings, but if we make a real mess of things … don’t think you can come back to us and ask us to make good’!”

He also rails against the tradition of big companies having each others’ backs regardless, which he describes as a “brotherhood of wrongdoing”.

“Ninety percent of the folk who work hard and save into a retirement system believe the guys running the show will make sure their money is safe and growing at a better rate than inflation, but frequently,” he says, “they are the ones taking their share out way before any sign of growth.”

Dave says he is surprised that “in this new rainbow country this system has not been scrutinised and made transparent”.

 

Even the best laid plans …
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