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Godfrey Nyatlo | Retired teacher

Showing extraordinary foresight, this late-starter tried to ‘buy back’ the years he had lost in the GEPF

He did the work, now he can enjoy the ride

Malose Godfrey Nyatlo likes having his retirement savings invested in a 10X Living Annuity because “the management of my investment is in my own hands”, and no one will come and tell him “10 years down the line that my pension savings are exhausted”.

Godfrey, as he is better known, likes that he can see his savings “rise and retreat” via the My10X portal. He says that, even if market volatility has been known to “scare the living daylights” out of him, he enjoys the ride.

He is no cowboy, though. Rather, he is a patient and determined man. He has shrugged off hardship and setbacks, and has kept his head down, doing his homework, and finally reaching his desired destination.

Born the son of a teacher in rural Northern Transvaal in the 1960’s dark-days of apartheid, Godfrey eventually became a teacher too, but only after quite a difficult start, trying to find the right career. He passed matric in 1983, when very few opportunities were available for black students, he says, “with ministerial permission needed to study at white universities”.

Godfrey decided to train as a technician in Mechanical Engineering, but he ended up not completing the course for a number of reasons. These were very different times and “companies were mostly not ready to train black technicians … and those that did, their training officers failed black trainees”, he says. Also, scholarships were scarce and he could not afford to sit for the trade tests, so he switched to education.

After qualifying as a teacher in 1991, he started working in the euphemistically named “independent homeland state” of Bophuthatswana in today’s North West Province.

Once settled in a job and saving for retirement, Godfrey says, he quickly realised that he “had already lost about 10 pensionable years of my life”. Showing extraordinary foresight for a young man of that era he looked into the option of catching up on the missed years by “buying back” those years in the pension fund but was told that the practice had been discontinued.

Godfrey’s father had retired on a “very meagre” pension and he knew he had to worry about his own retirement. This concern fed an interest in personal finance, and he educated himself on the subject by reading newspapers like the Saturday Star and listening to radio programmes.

In 1993, he took the leap and bought some unit trusts from Investec, but his first foray into investing was to be short-lived. “A few months down the line, the upswing in the gold price saw my investment more than triple and the temptation to sell was huge,” says Godfrey, adding, “From lack of experience, I sold.”

He says that was a mistake that he was to regret for the rest of his working life.

Godfrey got married to Salmina, also a teacher by profession, and the couple had two children. The years passed with work and family filling the time, as they do.

He dipped his toe in the water a second time, supplementing his contribution to the Government Employees Pension Fund (GEPF) by buying a retirement annuity from one of the big life companies. This proved to be another false start. The financial demands of raising a family on a teacher’s salary forced him to stop contributing to his RA, says Godfrey.

He continued teaching, holding positions in various provinces, eventually settling in Pretoria. In 2018, he gave up education to pursue a career in writing, which he describes as his “hobby when he was growing up” (although he did have two short stories published in the 1980s).

He has dedicated himself to writing fulltime now and his first book, ‘Harvest of my times’ is “on the publisher’s desk undergoing evaluation”.

He says he retired from teaching not having saved as much as much as he would have liked. He describes this is a consequence of lack of financial planning, which is “a legacy of my times and several other factors”. This description sounds quite ordinary, run of the mill even, but it must have come as an enormous blow to discover later in his working life that “pension buy-back” had never been discontinued in South Africa, but only in the so-called independent Bophuthatswana, where they had their own “independent” Government Employees Pension Fund.

Godfrey can hardly be accused of lack of planning, which we know was all too common a problem in a generation that lacked access to the information and technology that is so widely available now.

Godfrey and Salmina’s children, who are both at university now, are living in a very different world from the one their parents encountered in South Africa from the Sixties to the Eighties. Notwithstanding the enormous challenges of living on the wrong side of privilege in a segregated South Africa, it is hard enough for anyone to catch up on a missing decade early in their saving careers.

To add to a difficult situation, Godfrey says, exiting the GEPF at 55 “is costly as penalties are levied on your pension”, although he discovered that these would be waived if he transferred his savings to a preservation fund or living annuity.  He had little knowledge about these funds so he set about doing his research, and it was Google that led him to 10X Investments.

“No one had heard about 10X, but a background check convinced me I could trust my savings with them,” he says. “I must add it was a difficult move to make as I relied solely on the internet and my friend who works in auditing.”

After doing more research and “discounting the competitors”, Godfrey says he visited the 10X website and filled in a request for a retirement expert to get in touch with him. 10X’s Andre Tuck made contact and assisted with the opening of a preservation fund account.

Any lingering worries were allayed when Godfrey took his pension transfer forms to the GEPF and asked about 10X. “They confirmed that 10X was a registered service provider I could trust.”

The actuarial value of his pension was transferred from GEPF to 10X Investments and, in Godfrey’s words, a “new journey began”. He adds that he soon learned that Living Annuities are not for the faint hearted.

Godfrey says he joined 10X at a very volatile period, and from the My10X portal “I could watch my savings rise phenomenally before retreating”.

He admits that it could be a bit alarming at times, but with knowledge of 10X’s “undisputed track record” and counsel from the 10X team, including Retirement Fund Administrator Alvin Whittles, he says he “quickly adjusted to the idea that my portfolio is sensitive to political and economic realities”.

Always a little ahead of the game