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Colonel John Smith

Colonel John Smith is drawing down carefully on his savings since 'longevity runs in the family’

Soldier’s ‘sell-by date’ is a new beginning

Colonel John Patrick Smith retired from the South African National Defence Force when he “hit his sell-by date” of 60, but he is “far too young to sit on his behind” so he has started a new career doing consulting work in various African countries.

After 37 years serving South Africa in the defence force – as an instructor, a commander and a staff officer – John now counts three other African countries as clients. For obvious reasons, though, he was not keen to talk about his clients, or even where he was due to fly to the day after we met.

He also chose not to name names when talking about the first company he invested his retirement savings with after withdrawing them from the Government Employees Pension Fund. “One of the big banks” was all he would say of the institution that charged him a high monthly fee (which he had not been told about) for membership of a fund that was performing poorly.

He said he hadn’t paid much attention to his investment statements until he noticed that his investment was growing very slowly, which prompted him to scrutinise the next statement. It was then that he discovered he was paying quite a few thousand rand in fees every month.

John was surprised by this since he had paid a fee of around R115,000 when he transferred into the fund. At the time, he was told that it was a once-off fee, and he had expected it to cover fees for at least a year.

When he saw what he was being charged every month, John called the broker and asked him what the fee of R8,000 a month was for, and was told it was mostly brokerage fees. “When I said: ‘You didn’t tell me about that’, the broker kept quiet,” says John.

When John told a former army colleague, Ian, with whom he does consulting work, about his experience, Ian told him he had a similar experience with another of the big banks. Ian had since moved his retirement savings to 10X.

John did some research and a few people recommended that he talk to 10X, which he did, and within a month or two he had moved his savings across.

John checks his statements these days. “The fees are a lot less, like R1,800 versus R8,000, a hell of a difference,” he says. “And my investment has been growing. It grew more in 6 months than it did in a year at the other place.”

John keeps an eye on things, but he doesn’t feel the need to talk to 10X too often. “I don’t interfere there. I trust 10X. I have checked my portfolio and am very happy with the fees I am paying and the return on my investment.”

John says he keeps the drawdown on his Living Annuity very low. He doesn’t want to eat into his retirement savings too much since they will probably have to last a long time.

This is not just the discipline of a soldier, though, “longevity runs in my family’. John’s dad is 89 and “he is fitter than I am”, he says. “I could live for another 20, 30, 40 years, who knows.”

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