I did a training at my workplace a few years ago regarding wills and succession. The session was quite engaging, interesting to note the differing views between men and women regarding property. It was apparent to me that a number of women in the room were not quite sure of the health of what they owned or whether they even owned it all.
I deem my father quite liberal. He was quite open to us about what he owned, including disclosing his salary and that of my mother to his children. When I reflect on it now, his intentions were to manage our ever growing demands on things we needed. The only way to silence us was mention the basic pay. And we were shush. He encouraged all of us to pursue our dreams, to become the best we can. Together with my mum, they made the necessary sacrifices to see us through school.
When we started working, my father was on our case. ‘What are you doing with your money? Can you consider taking up some investments for your future?’ You know how it goes when most of us get our first salaries. We want to rule the world: the clothes, travel, where we live. Funny that the pennies are never enough to accomplish most of our goals. My case was different though. In this sense. I had to redirect resources to raising my daughter unlike my agemates who had the liberty to have fun. Due to the fact that I desired that she and I live a better life, I opted to listen to my parents.
He, my father, is the kind of man who longs to be involved, not informed. We laugh now about how he would not be happy if he is only informed about certain things going on in our lives. Therefore, it is no surprise that if you were interested in say purchasing some property, my father was available to take you to the site and give his guidance. I am sure that I wouldn’t have made some of the financial decisions I made back then if it wasn’t for his positive influence in this regard. I grew up knowing that women can own property in their name and also be in control of their financial circumstances, making equally good decisions.
Fast forward. My husband and I are working on empowering our daughter to work hard and make something of herself, so that she does not grow up thinking that all she needs to do is shoot the breeze and money will somehow find its way to her bank account. We enrolled her in a financial class a couple of years ago to help her appreciate use and value of money. She works to raise money for the things she desires to have. ‘Start children off on the way they should go, and even when they are old they will not turn from it.’ Proverbs 22.6.
I have learnt a couple of lessons along the way after countless missed opportunities. As a married woman, I have learnt that my input regarding wealth creation and use of financial resources is equally important and desired by my husband. We may not necessarily agree on where to put money in different seasons of our lives but I appreciate that my husband values my involvement as a wife as critical.
We have seen numerous cases in this country, some unbelievable, of men who owned property but their wives had no clue the property existed. Other women contributed to the acquisition of matrimonial property only to realize later that the property was in the name of the husband only. The courts would have to determine how the property would be shared. In extreme cases, such property is transferred to third parties at the behest of the husband and to the detriment of the wife and children, if any. Our financial institutions have loads of cash lying in accounts with no claim to the funds. What happens? Fraud or funds are transferred to the Unclaimed Financial Assets Authority, waiting to be claimed by beneficiaries who have no clue of the existence of these assets.
Before we proceed, let us be clear that this is not an article to bash men but to empower women. Clear?
It has been noted that many families suffer at the point of divorce or death of a man/husband. It becomes apparent that things are not as they had assumed. Either they are not in full control of property owned, or that the spouse is at liberty to do what they wish to do with their share of jointly owned property, even though the intended purpose was different. In other instances, they discover ownership is transferred to another party (survivor) who owned property jointly with their spouse in the event of demise.
What do you need to do?
1. You don’t have to amass loads of wealth to know the state of your affairs. And you don’t need to be a certain age to start this. What do you have? Shares in your Sacco or listed companies, insurance policies, land, house, ideas (intellectual property), business, whatever it is. Ensure your documentation is in place. Keep copies of ownership if originals are held elsewhere.
2. If you are married, show interest in the financial matters of your relationship. Make decisions jointly. Either you or your husband may be more proficient financially to manage budgets et al. If you are not so good with the numbers, still get involved. There could be challenges of trust in a relationship. Please ensure you register the property in joint names with your spouse, either as joint owners or owners in common.
3. Use your head always, not your heart. This is important for women who neglect this part of their lives since they are ‘in love’.
4. One of our mentors told us that he made sure that all property he owned with his wife was secured in the name of a company they co-owned to protect his family in case he ever ‘lost’ it. Find a proper way of protecting the interests of your family.
5. Understand the kind of ownership of the different properties that you own and the resultant rights. For example, in the case of joint property, where property is in the name of joint owners, the property automatically becomes the property of the survivor upon the death of one of the owners. The survivor may deal with it as they deem fit. Be clear about matrimonial property, property acquired as a result of inheritance or given to you as a gift, property held in common (where the portion owned by a deceased forms part of his or her estate) or business if it is a partnership.
6. If you are considering getting married, your choice of a spouse does matter in determining a healthy state of affairs. Refer to point 3 above. Ask the right questions during your courtship regarding handling of finances. Do not leave matters to chance. Many of us ignore red signs.
7. Write a will. Spell out how you would want your property to be handled upon demise. Choose beneficiaries to your investments carefully where nomination of a beneficiary is required e.g. insurance policies, pension, Sacco shares etc as the benefits would be paid out to those you have nominated.
Trust is important in our undertakings hence why it is critical for us to be clear about what we own and know how to protect what we have acquired after all the hard work.
“She gets up while it is still night; she provides food for her family and portions for her female servants. She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”