MONEY HABITS

Muvhango Lukhaimane sees no need to showcase her hard-won success

Pension Funds Adjudicator lives below her means to not compromise her future

Resisting the urge to showcase success with material things means PFA Muvhango Lukhaimane has secured her own retirement while helping members who have complaints about their pension.

Pension Fund Adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane wins battles for fund members. /Thulani Mbele.
Pension Fund Adjudicator Muvhango Lukhaimane wins battles for fund members. /Thulani Mbele.

Growing up in a family of five girls taught Muvhango Lukhaimane the importance of working as a team to grow wealth, but also to make independent self-sustainable decisions. 

Speaking to Sowetan Money in our Money Habits series, the Pension Fund Adjudicator takes us back to her childhood in Polokwane, Limpopo. The second of five girls, she says her first money lesson came from her parents who are both academics. 

“We had a relatively large garden where my sisters and I grew vegetables. We all shared the responsibility for housework, our father would wake us up early in the morning to tend to both the house work and garden. We never got paid for it,’’ she remembers. 

A few years later, she started working for money at her father’s butchery, a business that he operated on the side during her high school years. 

She says her family life taught her to save for a rainy day and remain resilient even when something does not pay off immediately.

In Grade 11, Lukhaimane fell pregnant and was forced to temporarily drop out of school. However, backed by a supportive family who wanted her to reach her personal goals, she went back to school the following year, completing  high school with a matric exemption. 

 “I had no plan for university and aside from working at the butchery, had no real source of income. The only option I had at the time was to go to the University of Venda where my father was a professor. I had to choose between social work or law, I chose law,” she says.

I worked really hard to get it and ensure my child had a place to call home. Buying the home made me value what money can do for you if you stay the course.

Lukhaimane excelled at university, going on to pursue an LLB degree at the University of Pretoria, part of the last group of students to study in Afrikaans. She earned extra money by tutoring and saved in a 32-day account with Saambou. 

After two years in academia after graduating, Lukhaimane moved to Cape Town to take a position as a research consultant in Sanlam’s employee benefits division in 2000. There she made one of her best money decisions to invest in a home that she later sold at an attractive profit, she says. 

“It was small but is was mine. I worked really hard to get it and ensure my child had a place to call home. Buying the home made me value what money can do for you if you stay the course,” she says proudly. 

The strain of paying a bond was eased by the emergency stokvel she and her sisters set up together. This emergency fund gave her peace of mind that if she ever faced huge financial emergencies like a burst geyser, she had access to funds to take care of it, she says. 

“We were quite strict in terms of what determines an emergency. It can’t be something that you should have planned for like school fees. So we’ve kept going over the years because of that discipline.

Chuckling, Lukhaimane recalls her worst money decision was also in property – buying a second home when interest rates were high. It stretched her finances, forcing her to tone down her lifestyle. 

The experience also taught her to shut out the noise, even when its well-intentioned, and make financial decisions that worked for her. 

For her next home, she decided to buy land and build herself. “This allowed me to visualise my goal and work on my own clear timelines. I also learnt to put a rand value to every single task, even the ones that seem not to have one,” she says.

You are expected to showcase your success through material things and spending.

In 2003, Lukhaimane left Cape Town for Johannesburg, where she oversaw Eskom’s pension fund. She later moved to the National Intelligence Agency, where she remained for eight years. 

At first it was tough navigating Joburg and the money pressures that came with it, she says. “You are expected to showcase your success through material things and spending.” 

But instead Lukhaimane continued to live below her means so as to not compromise her future.

In the city of gold, Lukhaimane also learnt how a stressful life can affect your performance in your chosen career and your ability to grow your finances. She earned a new respect for good health.

When she took on the role as deputy pension funds adjudicator in 2012 and was a year later promoted to pension fund adjudicator, she continued to focus on her health.

“For most South Africans retirement funds are their biggest form of saving, making it essential for the PFA to ensure consumers get what is due to them. This means I need to be healthy enough to be able to service people effectively,” she says.

When it comes to investments, Lukhaimane prefers unit trust funds with a steady growth over the long term. She avoids investing in what she does not understand, like forex trading or cryptocurrencies.

Lukhaimane says she always encourages her children to make wise decisions with their money and think about the future. She admits that this can be challenging especially with adult children who have very different money personalities from hers.

Life is all about fulfilment, she says. A growing, healthy family and money help to facilitate that, she says. 

She envisages that one day she will retire comfortably without being a burden to her children and enjoy her golden years with her grandchildren.

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